26CD - Hornweb - The Rosemary Songbook
Back after a twelve year break with a new lineup and a new CD, Archer and Saw are joined by longtime associate Collins for a series of compositions using each players multi-instrumental capabilities.
The Rosemary Songbook celebrates the 25 year marriage of John and Rosemary Coldwell, and Hornweb wish to thank John Coldwell whose very generous financial support has funded this release in full.
Although not initially conceived as a Hornweb project, as soon as the trio had begun work on this CD the nature of the music implied such a strong continuity from the earlier group that we decided that the "brand name" should live once again.
Hornweb was, of course, initially a saxophone quartet and latterly a quintet including trumpet or trombone, while this new version of the group is a multi-instrumental trio. But the nature of the music itself - jazz based, horn led, and in the AACM tradition - clearly indicates a line of continuity directly from the old group.
In the intervening 12 years Hornweb prime movers Archer and Saw have switched their primary instruments from saxophones to electronics and brass respectively. Collins rehearsed with a large group version of Hornweb in the late 1980s which never actually performed, and of course has been a long time associate of the other two. He too has switched from woodwind to vibraphone and percussion over the last period.
This new recording comprises a series of short tracks - nothing longer than 3 minutes - in which percussion and electronics create structures for composed and improvised horn parts. The group's intention is to play this material live following completion of the CD.
Martin Archer - sopranino and alto and baritone saxophones, bass and Bb clarinets, recorders, violin, hand drums, software instruments
Derek Saw - trumpet, tenor horn, tuba, tenor and baritone saxophones
Charlie Collins - vibraphone, lamellophones, metal, Arab percussion
Together again for the first time, the 25-year-old Hornweb band reunites for another recording session after a hiatus of more than a dozen years. The reason why this memorable 25 [!] track CD is a debut as well as a reunion is that the group, which was founded by Sheffield-based Martin Archer and Derek Saw, has gone through many permutations since its first LP in 1983. An all-horn - mostly a saxophone quartet, then with trumpet or trombone added - aggregation until it disbanded 10 years later, Hornweb is now a trio. Yet there are probably more and different instruments heard on The Rosemary Songbook than on any of the band's previous discs. During the years since 1993, Archer has concentrated on electronics-based studio work and on this CD brings along the software instruments and loops he now favors. Happily he has also been playing more acoustically in the past few years, so his instrumental collection - sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones, bass and Bb clarinets, recorders, violin and hand drums - is featured as well. During the same period, Saw has expanded his horn collection as well and now plays trumpet, tenor horn and tuba as well as tenor and baritone saxophones. The third member of Hornweb - who serendipitously enough was a guest on the band's first LP - is Charlie Collins. But Collins who usually plays reeds in bands with multi-string player John Jasnoch, here concentrates on vibraphone, waterphone, mbira, marimbula, darabuka, tar, mazhar, bendir, desk bells and metal percussion. The Rosemary Songbook's challenge, and ultimately the responsibility for its accomplishment, as well as some frustration, was to limit the compositions and improvisations to around three minutes each. With the same number of tracks as the years of marriage as honorees John and Rosemary Coldwell - hence the title - the three musicians may have spread themselves - and the sounds - a little too thin. As good as some work here is, about half as many tracks would have given the music more room in which to develop. That said there are several excellent miniatures that are enjoyable from beginning to end, especially when a variety of instruments are brought into play at the same time. Especially notable are the three jazz-musician tributes: "Song for Yusef Lateef", "Song for Juan Tizol" and "Song for Jackie McLean". While the last shows that Archer has lost none of his facility on alto saxophone with a long-lined legato solo; and the first use both the exotically rhythmic mbira plucks and a contrapuntal face off among trumpet grace notes, saxophone obbligato and bass clarinet buzz to highlight Lateef's hard bop and African interests, "Juan Tizol" is the masterful mix. Here African and Middle-Eastern percussion such as mbira, marimbula and darabuka take on Afro-Cuban characteristics, while above this friction and concussive slaps, are the mellow tones of low-pitched clarinet, fluttering trumpet and steadying percussion. Are Hornweb's members replicating themselves as the Ellington band's trombonist - Tizol - clarinetist Barney Bigard and flashy drummer Sonny Payne? Another, perhaps inadvertent, early-jazz reference may be that Collins' vibraphone textures, which is a constant on the majority of the pieces, are used in a strictly rhythmic function, much closer to Lionel Hampton's style, then any of the vibists who followed him. Ornamental, the shivery textures from the keys provide an ostinato bottom as well as decoration for many of the horn sounds, which range from squeaky reed bites and tongue slaps to plunger tones or waves of triplets from the trumpeter. Referencing New Orleans parades as well as European marches, the three produce lines like "La Salle Street Strut", a jolly romp for hocketing tuba, ornamental vibe rasps and a diminuendo ending from the clarinet; and "Terra Firma", a friendly adagio march featuring a chase in double counterpoint between ringing percussion and honking baritone sax. Creations like those and "Small Town Parade", which intersect lowing bass clarinet and darabuka thumps, suggest that the foot-lifting procession begins in the Crescent City or the Casbah and ends up in Sheffield. Then there's "Sei A Mensch", an Arabic-tinged, Klezmer-like tune with a German title, willowy, coloratura-register clarinet twirls, pitter-pattering drum beats and freylach-style trumpet work. Suspicion exists that the "loops and software instruments" in Archer's arsenal are extending and adding supplementary timbres to the acoustic horn and percussion lines. Meanwhile there are the free-form, irregularly situated multi-saxophone tongue slaps and snorts on "Drag" that climax in protracted coarse textures. Rather than being a drag, the performance suggests that allowing a wider range and greater scope to the improvisers would have produced an even better CD. As it stands the disc proves conclusively that the members of the newly constituted trio have no problem singing from the same songbook. Now, though, they should escalate from songs to longer forms. - Ken Waxman - Jazz Word
A pleasant surprise to see a resurrected Hornweb making a new release. Thankfully the AACM vibe is still very much in evidence, with a clear desire to join the dots between different elements of jazz heritage - very convincingly carried off. A satisfyingly adventurous release. - Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise
An album proposing a series of instrumental settings where a broad palette of musical atmospheres and traditions are articulated thanks to an enhanced approach to timbre and a careful weaving of real time and studio overdubs and processing. The flexibility of the resources is fully met by the musicians’ chameleonic theatrical travestissement. - Modisti
This is an odd little CD. I think that you are either going to love it or hate it. The style is freeform, though some of this had to be pre-planned because it has very light musical moments that skirt the new age/ world music envelope. The crazier stuff is full of all of the scratchy, blips, bleeps, scrapes, squeals, and chaos that you would expect. The mixing of the CD adds a lot to the listening pleasure. I recommend trying it with headphones, so that you can hear some of this stuff bouncing back and fourth like a ping-pong in your head. The more structured moments are still interesting, but still less extreme. I can still really squeeze some interest out of the more conventional music because of the inclusion of such fun and less-used instruments such as the vibraphone, waterphone, mbira, marimba, darabuka, tar, mazhar, bendir, desk bells, and metal precussion. If you think that you are going to pick up any random CD on the streets and hear any of that, you got another thing coming. You get a really exotic sound when you blend in all of those unfamiliar sounds. People are going to listen just because they haven't heard it before. Thats what we are all about here at Neo. Are you going to flock back to it. I'm going to have to give this CD probably a week's worth of spins to really get comfortable with it and decide if it goes into the regular rotation. It is just way too complicated to make a quick judgement. In my experience, most of the stuff that I stick with for years takes that kind of exploration. - Neo-Zine