72CD - Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis - Les Oiseaux de Matisse
Ron Caines was the mastermind behind East of Eden, whose groundbreaking first two albums Mercator Projected and Snafu, mixing psychedelic rock, jazz, bluebeat, poetry, electronics and studio experimentation, were massively influential on teenage me at a stage when I was starting to explore the limits and possibilities of music. It is a massive honour to be able to record with Ron all these years later. This CD is a collision of pure jazz skill happening in real time and studio collage. We hope, even though the music is quite different, that it contains a spark and continuation of the "arts lab" ethos of Ron's early work with E of E.
- Martin Archer
The 60s were a heady mix, a time when all purified categories were dissolving and being remade. East Of Eden emerged at the end of the decade, now seen as prog rock revolutionaries, psychedelic pioneers. A cult band appearing on the UK college and university circuit and making a tremendous impact at the Actuel Festival in 1969. The revolution was happening, and music was part of it. Society had been grey, authoritarian and elitist. East Of Eden determined to be accessible and share in a democratisation of culture. The violin references Bartok and Mussorgsky and well as the anthemic Third Stone From The Sun and Eight Miles High. Marcus Junior and Confucius, two ska compositions by the now legendary Jamaican trombonist Don Drummond, became staples of the programme. Original material by Ron Caines referenced surrealist sources and spoken word poetry.
Improvisation was a key element in the stage show. According to Paris critics this amounted to a “deconstruction of the idee-fixe, then a return to the familiar”. We called such moments “the freak out”.
The music on rock-pop label Deram became a condenser for emotions and ideas. Ideas were freighted in under the radar of the record company. We were a kind of proto art-rock group before the 70s and the era of niche sophistication.
After three years of successful music making, guitarist Geoff Nicholson and myself left when personnel changes, management difficulties and musical policy issues imploded the band.
“Music is played in the moment, and then it’s gone” said Eric Dolphy. Now, once captured in the recording studio, music no longer belongs in the moment but can be processed, transposed and transformed and relocated in space and time. Creative use of the studio becomes a “ghost performer” and we experience new landscapes of collaged sounds. Looking back, early efforts of East Of Eden aimed at a collage effect like pop art, Rauschenberg etc. But studio tools are much more proficient now.
From art school days I have felt defined as an outsider or outrider. Fixed in “the underground” East Of Eden did not become mainstream or enjoy commercial success. We were eclectic, inclusive, experimental. A willingness to be unacceptable, difficult, leading to experimental music deemed as elitist. A music of resistance for the contrarian.
In the end it is this aspect of inaccessibility that intrigues me. The authentic moment. To that end I develop musically through instinct, impulse and the intelligence of feeling.
After years in Bristol, away from London, I subsequently moved to Brighton and have been hiding out on the south coast. This is where I met Martin and we played together. I thank him for this opportunity for my voice to be heard.
- Ron Caines
Ron Caines - alto and soprano saxophones
Martin Archer - saxophones, clarinets, software instruments
Laura Cole - grand piano, electric piano
Gus Garside - double bass
Johnny Hunter - drums
Hervé Perez - live sound processing, shakuhachi
Graham Clark - violin, electric guitar
This is outstanding! Loose and supple playing. Hints of Mingus at his freest, mixed with Eastern influences and even traditional jazz. Really strong compositional 'springboards'. Record of the week!! - MATT PARKER, BRITISH PROGRESSIVE JAZZ
Veteran saxophonist Ron Caines makes a very welcome return with this fascinating and inspiring collection of themes and improvisations, ably joined by Martin Archer and others from the Brighton (sic) music scene..
The first line of Caines’ CV is usually that he was a founder member of East of Eden, best known for their 1971 hit single Jig A Jig featuring the violin of Dave Arbus. East of Eden were so much more than this novelty record – an eclectic powerhouse performing music influenced by rock, jazz, folk, Bartok, ska, Dada and more, contemporaries of Captain Beefheart and early Soft Machine. Go back and listen to Jig A Jig today and you will hear a building intensity quite at odds with the jaunty tune, giving tension and uncertainty. It seems clear that this hit record was the beginning of the end for East of Eden; the label wanted more in the same vein, at odds with the band’s aims.
A better start to Caines’ CV might mention that he has spent much of his life as an artist and painter, studying with abstract artist Paul Feiler, teaching life drawing at Bristol Polytechnic and gaining critical recognition. A part of the Bristol music world in the 1970s and 1980s, he worked with Keith Tippett and also led Parker’s Mood, a quartet dedicated to the music of Charlie Parker. Hearing them was awe-inspiring – Caines had the ability to take an old standard like Lover Man and then play it on alto sax as if he’d just that moment thought of it. Moving to Brighton in 1995, he continued to paint and gave up performing following a tendon injury.
In recent years, however, Caines has begun to perform again – initially with the Brighton Safehouse Collective. Now 78, he teams up with fellow saxophonist Martin Archer, with both contributing tunes and themes, as well as some highly effective tracks resulting from improvisations in the studio with live sound processing from Hervé Perez, recombined and edited somewhat in the manner of Teo Macero’s work. The violin of Graham Clark plays a prominent role, rather reconnecting us with Ron Caines’ roots in East Of Eden.
Caines himself contributes five compositions including Various & Diverse, a theme he composed for a joint project with Keith Tippett in 1983. His tunes have a majestic quality, a strength which allows considerable scope for the accompanists to spread out. Laura Cole’s piano is never less than sympathetic, rippling effectively and spaciously on both Haptic Space tracks. The double bass of Gus Garside stomps aggressively into Labyrinth, a tune which brings echoes of dark European folk dances into hard-hitting unison passages with sax and violin.
Martin Archer bring three of his own contributions to the disc including the title track with its bird-song and sax textures and Nymphzuruck, which borrows its format ‘shamelessly’ from East of Eden’s Nymphenberger and combines another huge theme with plentiful free-flowing soloing. Caines and Archer share joint credit for The News From Nowhere/Mazeep, a 15-minute journey which brings together all the various elements of this talented ensemble into a thrilling climax.
While this album might appear to be based on some rather ‘retro’ elements (rock influence, free-ish improv, electric violin, stereo split saxes, studio sound processing), it actually adds up to an impressive and original collection – one of the most worthwhile CDs I’ve heard this year. In the sleeve notes Caines thanks Archer for giving him this opportunity for his voice to be heard. It’s a voice that is well worth your attention. Listen to Labyrinth on the Discus Records website and hear for yourself (link below). And while you’re there, consider buying a copy of Keith Tippett’s The Nine Dances Of Patrick O'Gonogon CD (link to Patrick Hadfield’s LJN review below) – all proceeds are going directly to Keith Tippett as he recovers from serious illness. – Mark McKergow, LONDON JAZZ NEWS