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
The founder of this UK-based label, reedman/multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer and many of his longtime or more recent cohorts radiate a seemingly eternal sphere of invention. Other than ongoing projects with specific artists or ensembles, no two albums are distinctly alike. Hence, the element of surprise is a recurring element. Here, Archer and saxophonist Ron Caines co-lead the septet for a multidimensional jazz-tinged bash amid colorific textures, pulsating free-form sprees, quaint oddities and other captivating attributes throughout the 77-minute runtime.
Of particular note is that Caines was the protagonist behind the legendary 1970s British progressive jazz, jazz rock and psychedelic band, East of Eden. Since then, Caines has not recorded much, yet as they say, it's better late than never. He's a talented performer who launches the presentation with spirited improvisational tactics and intricately rendered gusts during the pensive duet with pianist Laura Cole's somber undertones on the opening track, "Haptic Space #1. But the inward-looking ballad format does not reappear until the final piece "Haptic Space #2," which is another duet with the pianist. In between the subdued intro and outro, the acoustic-electric monster is unleashed.
The album moves forward with an underlying sense of adventure, sort of like a movie soundtrack, perhaps an avant-garde flick. But with enough experimentation to offset the ultra-modern jazz passages, the band will mimic the sounds of nature, delve into oddball scenarios and create a tiered music space or kick out the jams with intense and up-tempo free-zone dialogues. Moreover, Hervé Perez' judicious live sound processing methods intersperse an opaque layer into the velvety or boisterous parts where Archer and Caines rev up the engines with stimulating interchanges, and when violinist Graham Clark intersects or streams melody lines across the extensive musical plane.
"Nymphzuruck" sounds like a classic 70s prog rock vibe due to a hummable theme, thrusted with the frontline's deterministic unison choruses, outlined with Clark's sizzling violin lines. At times this piece sparks imagery of a loosely organized protest march, but eventually takes on a spacious aesthetic due to Caines' fluid and wistful soprano sax solo amid drifting qualities and Cole's dreamy electric piano voicings. The plot takes a U-turn on "Triangulation," which is a duel sax and drums improv with furious call and response movements and highly conversational exchanges above Johnny Hunter's feisty drumming.
Remaining tracks feature alternating cadences; a little rough-housing, lyrically resplendent choruses and swelling soundscapes. Among many other positives, Archer and Caines are a formidable team. Whereas, many kudos are in order for the compassionate band-members who balance their eminent technical aptitudes with complementary support, and a degree of fellowship that is conspicuously evident throughout. – GLENN ASTARITA, ALL ABOUT JAZZ - 4.5 stars
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
Just when you’re resigned to not hearing an invigorating blast of new music, this nourishing one comes along. Ron Caines was a stalwart of the British band East of Eden decades back, the band having emerged at the end of that allegedly most heady of decades the 1960s, “freaking out” on a regular basis and cementing for themselves a place in pop culture, at least for people with an above average sense of inquiry. Today that sense is still in Caines’ music, and this meeting with Archer and a group of like-minded inquirists has resulted in a programme far fresher than a lot of the recycled same old same old that would claim the new (or should that be “nu”?) tag.
Time’s well spent digesting this music that’s free of overt influences, including the compositions. The title track for example is a semi-static affair complete with live sound processing and Caines’s soprano sax, which sidesteps every well-known player of the instrument from Bechet to John Butcher.
“Heavy Loaded Trane” finds Caines on alto sax very distantly echoing Arthur Blythe, tonally speaking, while Laura Cole’s piano nods in Alice Coltrane’s direction, and Archer’s tenor sax is somewhat out of Shepp’s bag. Such references are mere touchstones, however, especially as the overall richness of this set places it in a small field within the context of the seemingly never ebbing tide of new releases. Repeated listening will I reckon disclose riches I’ve yet to hear. That’s not an assertion I make too often. - Nic Jones, JAZZ JOURNAL
Les Oiseaux de Matisse’ is something completely different. A special album because it has a rare appearance of Ron Caines. He was an important member of East of Eden, a prog-rock band from the late sixties that debuted in 1967. A progrock band that incorporated many different musical influences like jazz and world music, etc. They debuted on the famous Deram-label (remember Egg?). Their music was related to Soft Machine and the Canterbury scene, but with their own focus. Caines quit from the music scene and worked as a painter and artist. Now that he is in his seventies, he makes a return to music after an inspiring meeting with Martin Archer. He contributes with five compositions and Archer has three compositions. Although their music is evidently related to the musical past of Caines, what they prove is that is this cocktail of influences as was exercised by East of Eden still works and inspires. Open textures giving room for inspired jazzy solo’s by sax and violin. Cole gives effective underlining and accents. - VITAL WEEKLY
Ron Caines, for those who don’t know, is a bit of an unsung hero in some circles. He’s probably best known for East Of Eden, way back when, but he’s something of a renaissance man — accomplished visual artist, composer, free musician, gurt Bristolian… Sadly, Caines’ discography isn’t as fulsome as it should be, which is the case for way too many players outside of big fancy London. Speaking of players from outside big fancy London, Discus label impresario and top horn guy Martin Archer does a great job of creating a free / jazz / whatever hub in that Sheffield, plugging away at releasing a bunch of stuff that’s not necessarily London-centric.
Anyway, the record. Les Oiseaux de Matisse is one of those that does a grand tour of hotspots on the map of jazz. Some one-chord-wonder business in a solemn mood with plaintive and lyrical horn lines (opener “Haptic Space #1”). There’s improvisations hitting that antiphonal back-and-forthery between Archer and Caines’ horns (triangulation, possibly named for the interplay between the two horns and the sprinkly, spidery magic of Johnny Hunter‘s drums). Oh, and there’s honest-to-goodness gorgeous tunes neatly wrapped into gorgeous arrangements (“Heavy Loaded Trane”).
So there’s a trick to making an album, particularly a jazz one, that’s a bastard to pull off. I’ve got a bunch of free jazz / improv records and they’re exciting for all of two or three tracks. Then it all gets a bit samey. Then there’s the more composed side of things, which likewise struggles to keep my attention. What this record gets absolutely spot on, for my money, is having a lush mix of compositional / improvisatory ideas, a super-keen ear for arrangements, plenty of variation and not too much of any one thing (and also a lack of discontinuous jumping around, which annoys the bollocks off of me).
I don’t think this is a touring band (sadly) but there’s some exquisite playing on it. Archer and Caines are well matched, both having a real feel for lyrical and considered playing. Laura Cole on piano has a touch that can swingly jazzly, but has enough expressive classical-ness to really bounce off, especially for the more melodic pieces. Graham Clark on violin / guitar — well, here’s a thing — something that annoys me about violins in jazz / improv contexts is the use of vibrato: too many people just throw vibrato over every note. It’s very forgiving, y’see. Clark’s having none of that — vibrato if it’s needed, but delicately and just so. Garside is someone I know fairly well as a free player, but hearing him in a supporting role, never over-playing, is a real delight.
And Hervé Perez on sound processing and shakuhachi — well, again a criticism I could lay at some people’s feet is to just chuck incongruous electronics everywhere — there’s not an arrangement on here that isn’t smart and nuanced, and Perez’s sound processing brings in timbral nuance, but never plastered over everything. The use of space and silence makes for a really sumptuous piece, and there’s (praise be) rarely any moments when the whole “group” is playing. So you can hear the interplay with the various elements, or notice the drummer’s tidy little fill, or actually dig out the wash of the sound processing, or etc.
Also, do you know what’s great? A nice package and liner notes. It’s something that was great about older jazz and classical records and, as a nipper, that was the stuff that helped you navigate your way around, find other players and give you more of a grip on the world the record came from. Overly modest quietism with regards liner notes is unnecessary. This is a lovely package. Full marks Mr Archer (and Mr Caines, who did the cover art). It’s even an agreeable typeface (as a type geek I have to say I’m very often disappointed with type on sleeves).
So. In summary: it’s a banger. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Lush arrangements, plenty squawking horns but also plenty hummable melodies and smart ideas. Buy buy buy. And maybe then we can see a few more Caines records out there, because he’s a well underrated player. – Kev Nickells, FREQ
A welcome, overdue and pleasurable return...The programme stretches from pensive ballads to free improvisation and fluttery decentered collage. Caines pays tribute to John Coltrane. Archer pays tribute to East Of Eden; their eclectic convolutions are his way now. - JULIAN COWLEY, THE WIRE
Il sassofonista Ron Caines, protagonista del rock-jazz progressivo e della psychedelia britannica anni ’70, e Martin Archer (sassofoni, clarinetto, elettronica) guidano un settetto di grande valore: con Laura Cole al piano, Gus Garside al contrabbasso, Johnny Hunter alla batteria, Graham Clark al violino e alla chitarra elettrica, e Hervé Perez, responsabile anche del live sound processing, allo shakuhachi (un flauto giapponese). Le composizioni sono dei due leaders (a parte Various & Diverse, un brano cofirmato nel 1983 da Caines e Keith Tippet). Haptic Space #1 apre l’album con un duetto riflessivo di piano e sassofono (quello di Caines). A seguire il contrabbasso dà il ritmo a Labyrinth, prima che due composizioni di Archer (Les Oiseaux de Matisse e Nymphzurück) ci riportino al sound del British progressive anni ’70. Triangulation e The News From Nowhere/Mazeep percorrono invece, in modi diversi, le strade dell’improvvisazione e del suono atmosferico. Completano il lavoro due brani di Caines: Heavy Loaded Trane, in cui il richiamo all’ultimo Coltrane è evidente non solo nel titolo (anche qui Laura Cole mostra di cogliere perfettamente il mood di Caines) e Haptic Space #2, che chiude il disco così com’era cominciato. Assoli convincenti, gran senso del fare musica insieme, amore per la sorpresa e insieme rispetto creativo delle tradizioni. Un ottimo CD di un’ottima band. – 4.5 stars - A G Bertinetto, KATHODIK
Ojedinělým spojením je tentokráte na CD Les Oiseaux de Matisse Ron Caines / Martin Archer AXIS, protože se tu Archer (se saxofony, klarinety a elektronikou) vrátil ke svému idolu z mladých let – Ronu Cainesovi (alt a soprán saxofony), druhdy psychedelickému rockerovi, představiteli formace East of Eden. Přizval si k tomu ne neobvyklou ekipu, hned pianistku Lauru Cole, o které právě byla řeč, dále kontrabasistu Guse Garsidea, bubeníka Johnnyho Huntera, hráče na shakuhachi Hervého Pereze, který se postaral i o živé zvukové procesování, a houslistu Grahama Clarka, který výsledné znění doplnil i o elektrickou kytaru. Nahrávání devíti kompozic, na nichž participovali rovným dílem Archer a Caines, se odehrávalo v rozmezí května a července 2018 ve studiu Discus Music. Celé album rámuje Haptic Space 1 a 2, a to se skečovou náruživostí a rozkurážeností. Výstřelky jsou (po)zapomenuty, nahradilo je rozvážné a mírumilovné vyhmatávání s plnými saxy a rozvíravě chlácholivým klavírem, vše je zde malebné, odhodlané, nelomeně rozevíravé, v závěrečné fázi pak hebce dokružované, lichotně lahodné a dokrouživě vlichocované. Labyrinth je, jak už pojmenování naznačuje, prošmodrchaně výzevný se sevřenou kolaborací basy a bicích, je to čistopisně pojatý nechaotický chaos, bloudivě překotný, občas i zaváhavý. Titulní kompozice je ptáčnicky švitořivá, až cvrlikavá nebo štěbetavá, dvojsopránová, rozhaluzovaně rozmíchávající volně rozcimprovanou improvizaci s překypností pevného tématu. Možná vyznívá poněkud namátkově, její propíravá zátočivost je však pokojná a smířlivá. Naopak rozdychtěná nábřesknost rozproudí Nymphzurück, hudebníci se tu houfují prohánivě i předhánivě s pozbrklostními vrypy jako opřekot, promíchávají se ve vznosných nástřelech, výprskných i průtažných, násypných i prokolísaných. Táhlou vehemenci dostává do pospěchu, až cvalu sled sól, ve kterém se uplatní snad všichni, nicméně snad nejosvěživěji zapůsobí housle. Various & Diverse vzniklo už v roce 1983 za Cainesovy spolupráce s Keithem Tippettem, vévodí v něm zatromlované saxování, diverzifikovaně rozehrávavé, nabádavé, vždy znovu vytroufávané a poletušné, podporované odhadovačným klavírem nebo prokladnou basou s bicími. Občasná střemhlavost vyůstí v pokojnost, ve které má každý nástroj šanci a také ji bez nervozity využívá. Improvizovaná Triangulation s pročnívajícími saxy a proskočnostním souhraním dvou trií doznala konečnou podobu až v Archerově doaranžování, a její kompletizace jenom zdůrazní její zabalamující promlouvavost, závitňující vzhřímání a harašivé potřešťování (bicí). S pnoucím obtěžkáváním a náběrným prozátěžńováním se vyváženě pozdvihuje Heavy Loaded Trane (bazírující na poemě Teda Joanse), klavír je doklenuje, nenechavě promiskuitní saxování trojčivě rozviřuje do jasnozřivosti. Až symfonicky procábrovaně působí podvojnost skladeb The News from Nowhere a Mazeep (obou autorů), ale je opět zásluhou postprodukce, jak vyznívá shodnost melodie a dodatkových prozvuků, jak sesouvavě, nicméně s neustálou vehemencí, plnou napětí, mísí a prosouvá berkdeberní rozkurážování, jak je tu veškeré (více než patnáctiminutové) dění neustále na vážkách. Plnostní procítění, autentičnost, citlivostní záběrování a velebnění bez nadbytečných výstřelků – to je základní linie alba, oscilujícího s lehkostí mezi tradicí a abstrakcí. A ještě Archerův dovětek, vztahující se k hudebnímu kolektivu Les Oiseaux de Matisse: „Tihle mládenci jsou schopni splnit cokoli, co si zamanou, a nikdo jim nevysvětlí, že by to nemohli učinit.“ – ZDENEK SLABY, HISVOICE