78CD - Beck Hunters - Has It Been Found?
Some years on from their first album “The hunt is on”, the trio moves into a more philosophical domain. If you play this one quietly, you hear a delicate interplay of subtle ideas about melody and noise, harmony and space. If you play it loud, the intense energy jumps out of the music and demands attention for the different levels of interaction between all three. Perhaps in response to the more philosophical questions posed in the track titles of this album, there has to be an acceptance of ambiguity or uncertainty when it comes to some of the basics in language, truth and logic. But as performers, the musicians know that the best thing to do is still to have a good time anyway! So each of the tracks gives answers to the question posed by the album title of whether the Hunt (referring to first album) has been successful.
Track 1 (Yes and no) comprises a sax/guitar duo with drums mediating and sometimes suggesting they should stop yattering “and get a bit of this!” It ends with a sort of question and a sort of resolution. So that’s clear.
Track 2 (What is it?) finds sax messing about with some 12-tone patterns that most listeners would not interpret as such, an active sax drums duo, a delicious melodic sax guitar exchange, and a concluding ping. So there’s the answer.
Track 3 (The guardians of truth) is clearly a very complicated issue both at the philosophical and practical levels, and it requires lengthy explorations of what on earth can be done with a bassoon (supplemented by several odd whistles), great variety and dexterity from the guitar and drums (brushwork and bells in particular), crescendo and diminuendo over multi-layered guitar figures to finish.
Track 4 (Paradox and confusion): some believe these are the pillars of the gateway to truth, those things which keep truth obscured from us. Musically there is an eruption of feelings from the Trio: a delicate entry rising to the outraged fortissimo point. Is it really these pillars that cause such pain and sorrow? Then the necessary diminuendo, the resolution of tensions in the music, and a few moments of serenity to finish.
This is another heartening example of continuing communications between players from different generations.
Mick Beck – tenor sax, bassoon, and whistles
Anton Hunter – guitar
Johnny Hunter – drums
Mick Beck is no longer a callow young fellow, if he ever was. His music, as underrated even on the British scene as that of label boss Martin Archer, is full of mature thought and what can only be described as a kind of calm wisdom. He may well, as these titles suggest, embrace paradox and confusion and wonder, like the Roman procurator, what truth really is, but he doesn’t get either downcast or unduly categorical about it. It is rare to find improvised music that sounds as resolved as this, and that’s meant in every possible sense. What Is It? sets up a series of what sound like 12-tone assertions that are then treated in reasonably orthodox serial fashion, but there’s no head-scratching ambiguity left in the air at the end. It’s as nicely finished as a diatonic folk song, and I defy you not to nod your head and smile, even if you don’t know exactly what they’ve just done.
Likewise The Guardians Of Truth, which is played on bassoon and allsorts, with guitar and some of the deftest brushwork you’ll hear from a young contemporary. The double reeds enjoy only a shaky reputation in jazz, despite a few sterling efforts to bring them into the regular roster of instruments, but Beck’s the only exponent of the bassoon who really convinces, and it’s that air of stoical calm he exudes that makes it work.
The trio’s first album was called The Hunt Is On, and you can read what you like into the juxtaposition of the two titles. The pace here is more collected, confident, self-possessed. The answer doesn’t matter, any more than answers to ultimate questions mattered to Ayer (who once wrote about a near-death experience that briefly shook his confident materialism; he regretted saying anything about it later, which was a bit of a habit with him), but the possibility that this kind of music can offer answers is what is important. Those of us who enjoy free improvisation sometimes wallow a bit in its ambiguities and surds, in the same way that we winced if Derek Bailey should play a consonance or hint at a tune. We really shouldn’t. Here’s a perfect specific against that approach. FIVE STARS – Brian Morton, JAZZ JOURNAL
Even a cursory knowledge of the UK free jazz scene over the past forty years would have to include acquaintance with Feet Packets or Gated Community – two of Beck’s improvising ensembles that have influenced the free scene (as well, of course, as his role as co-founder of Discus). More recently, he has turned his attention to smaller units. Here is brings his wealth of experience and sense of humour to working with much younger drum and guitar duo. Across these tracks, the trio sustains a tremendous level of energy and creativity. This is collective improvisation of a very high order; with each player picking up the baton to drive forward the musical ideas, and all three seeking to find spaces in which they offer maximum support to their band-mates. The liner notes offer some suggestions as to what is happening in the playing – I particularly like the suggestion that the track 2 (‘what is it?’) “finds the sax messing about with some 12-tone patterns that most listeners would not interpret as such…”. There is, in this phrase, a neat encapsulation of the complexity of the music on offer, and the modesty with which it is developed and delivered. Given that their debut release was called ‘The hunt is on’, it makes sense for the follow-up to ask if the hunt continues. The track titles, ‘yes and no’, ‘what is it?’, ‘the guardians of truth’, and ‘paradox and confusion’, suggest that the ‘hunt’ itself has become redefined in the intervening years, perhaps becoming a quest for something deeper and more meaningful (or, perhaps, simply placing with the theme of a ‘hunt’ as a philosophical exercise). Whatever they are seeking, I very much hope that the hunt continues, and that it continues to generate such exciting playing. - Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS
Terrifying thunders, trembling solos, vibrant and powerful climaxes, light, expressive, passionate or luminous melodies, turbulent rolls, breaking sessions, driving sequences of repetitive notes – all these elements and moods are gently combined together. The music has impressive sound – it has driving and expressive mood. – AVANT SCENA
Beck Hunters are a trio of Mick Beck (tenor sax, bassoon, whistles), Anton Hunter (guitar) and Johnny Hunter (drums). Together with Martin Archer, Beck was one of the founders in 1994 of Discus Music. He is a leading force of the Sheffield jazz and improvisation scene since the early 80s. He also leads his own band and was involved in numerous other bands and projects over the years. Johnny Hunter is a drummer and composer who has a background of both the avant-garde and the more mainstream jazz. Anton Hunter is a composer and improviser living in Manchester where he leads his 11-piece Article XI band as well as his own trio. So these players represent a lot of experience. In 2014 this trio debuted on this label with ‘The Hunt is on’, and after four years ‘Has it been Found’ is the follow-up. They make a real tight trio as this recording proves. They practice some very communicative and intense intertwined playing, that has all three players taking equally part in their extended improvisations. Especially the drummer operates in a very playful manner. They keep their focus in the quiet but also in the louder sections. They have no lack of ideas and their gestures are throughout to the point. Not a dull moment here. Great work! - Dorf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY
While Beck’s supple bassoon-work can display foghorn and other more acceptable timbres, the relevant tracks on Has it Been Found are more concerned with his tenor saxophone prowess. Someone who has matched wits with stylist like Derek Bailey, Beck’s reed command is equally proficient as microtonal elaborations, slick, alto saxophone-pitched elaborations and brawny gritty honks. The last is used on the introductory “Yes and Now”, evolving in tandem with spanked guitar frails, backed by drumming continuum. As the drummer fractures time with pops and slaps, the saxophonist moves from expressive split tone shards to organically vibrated mass note projection. Combining into piles of locomotive-like power, the trio ends the piece slurring microtones at one another. With other tracks devoted to such motifs as tongue-and-reed curlicue acrobatics, metallic guitar string echoes, enlivened by tick-tock drum beats and cymbal ringing, “Paradox and Confusion” wraps up the session with a distinctive display of high and low pitches. Starting with barely moving tongue slaps and string snaps, the strained strumming and retrained puffing evolves to irregularly vibrated swirls and arabesques from Beck’s horn as well as thickened and squirming guitar chording. With Johnny Hunter’s rat-tat-tats providing more percussive impetus the fidgeting exposition leaps to concentrated raw power and maintains this high intensity until the conclusion. - Ken Waxman, JAZZWORD
Beck interrogates the bassoon mercilessly... Anton Hunter dabbles in taut, highly strung hints of melody suggesting a kind of choppily aerated fusion, while Johnny teases with elusive rhythmic suggestions, leaving Beck with more than enough room to try our various rugged tenor poses. When the trio build up to a plateau of seething energy, it's clear that no one's mucking about - Daniel Spicer, JAZZWISE
How can such constructionists, deny a value so close to their heart, so akin to their input of concoction and abstract lingo, which speaks their notes so true? A second release by Mick Beck (tenor sax, bassoon, & whistles), and Hunter brothers Anton (guitar) and Johnny (drums). The storyline is as interesting as their music. Their debut was titled 'The Hunt Is On' (2014 - Discus Music), and this second release brings the band to answer, or attempt to answer, that very question of what is being hunted, with a number of possible results. Four extended compositions (following the same line up as their first) explore, and jump in and out of pockets, dart behind doors, walk past stop signs, and often stretch the limits of whatever surroundings are present.
Never falling into the doodling mode, the trio keeps an exceptional focus, being playful and expressive in a highly academic way. The painting for the cover art by Marion Rout (who did their debut cover also) is outstanding, and once again represents the music in a most perfect manner. 'Yes And No' (track 1) has constant interplay among the instruments, representing the patience of a proper answer yet not completely. 'What Is It?' (track 2) includes some 12-tone patterns, a segment of sax, accompanied drum solo, and quite a lot of contemplative intrigue. The music is at once curious and forward. Through the following pieces, the trio has made an effort to continue answering questions, however it is at the same time, posing more. In fact, the listener may very well walk away with no answers at all. But then I suspect the purpose was not to complete such a tremendous undertaking. That could leave out the possibility of a related 3rd album? (hint)
Beck Hunters are a superior impressionism band. The musical portraits they create truly allow the imagination to both stray and focus. The skill to put together works which have such a consummate balance of mystery, anticipation, fearlessness, and restraint, all in an astute formula, well that is special. With a close fitting outfit such as Beck Hunters, the studious projections of whatever their thoughts may be, can be put into musical language that tickles the senses, quizzes the mind, and diverts your attention into bigger regions at any given moment. This is free music with a unique organization that has an appeal, that takes apples and oranges, and makes lemonade. - ©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 2 - 23 - 2019, BIG BEAUTIFUL NOISE
Beck Hunters strike again. Mick Beck is on tenor sax, bassoon and whistles here, with the Hunter brothers on guitar (Anton) and drums (Johnny). In relation to 'The Hunt is on', the trio has since evolved towards a more philosophical stance, not least in the track titles of this album (yes or no, what is it?, the guardians of truth, paradox and confusion). A quiet listen allows us to hear both melody and 'noise', harmony and space. At an increased listening volume, one is struck by the intense energy coming from this music, which requires close attention in order to single out the different levels of interaction between these three musicians.
Take the track 'The guardians of Truth' for example: Beck, on bassoon here, refuses any practical limitations of the instrument, with Anton H's guitar work resembling an inquisitive Derek Bailey, and Johnny H's brushwork and bells fillling the spaces, everything delivered with a delicacy which is furious at times; all of this in a track which lasts almost half an hour. 'Paradox and confusion' is aptly titled; at once both water and fire, the tenor sax climbs to the upper registers here, the guitar striking repetitive chords and the drummer furiously hitting toms and cymbals, before the piece finally falls silent. - IMPROJAZZ
Beck Hunters‘ Has It Been Found? is all about improv. A trio of guitar, percussion and sax/bassoon, they have generated a series of responses of sorts to their 2014 album The Hunt Is On.
Now I must confess, I sometimes struggle with some free music, particularly if it is too insistent and abrasive. There is a time and a place for it and you really have to be in the right mood. Beck Hunters are almost the antithesis. It is playful and sensitive and each player is so conscious of how their element will interact with the other two that you can almost hear them tiptoeing. That isn’t to say that they don’t know how to push the song along when needed and they are fortunate to have such a responsive and subtle drummer who know just when to hold back and when to let loose.
The album is spread over four tracks of varying lengths (one is half an hour, but somehow never outstays its welcome) and you feel that these tracks have a natural length, subconsciously agreed on. Opener “Yes And No” has subtle, taut drums, playful sax and exquisite high-end guitar. It doesn’t feel too serious and the players are constantly testing one another, but always leaving plenty of space for the others to colour in. Sometimes you feel that there is a half-remembered tune in there somewhere, but they grow bored and nip off at a tangent. I kept having an image of a troop of fox cubs bouncing and play fighting, circling one another and zipping off into the undergrowth.
“What Is It?” comes across like the aural equivalent of a magic eye picture. If you stare with your ears into the middle distance, everything comes together like some alchemical transformation. The whistle blasts that permeate the track are a bit of a shock, particularly as they are not afraid to drop to near silence. The twenty-nine-minute ‘Guardians Of Truth” really pushes the limits of the listener’s hearing. Some of the sounds slip out of the speakers like wraiths residing in a rambling mansion. Outside, young Victorian ladies are playing hide and seek in that indolent way of people with a lot of time on their hands while inside, we move through apparently empty rooms, fleeting snatches of movement seen out of the corner of our eyes. Back outside, the sax circles like an ominous bird of prey, the sound looms awkward and gnarly, but gradually diminishes to some half-seen, barely remembered image, the rustle of bells and tiny guitar notes signalling the conclusion.
The trio’s subtlety is a joy and final track “Paradox And Confusion” comes over like and enormous, abstract tapestry that closes the album out and leaves us with as many questions as when we started but that is the point. Beck Hunters are making us question our perceptions of sound, and you can’t ask for much more than that. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ
Od víceméně dychtivého lumpačení (berte s rezervou) nás album Beck Hunters Has It Been Found? zavede do filozofujících traktátů (i to je třeba chápat s rezervou, neboť oba kolektivy /si/ vystřelují i jinooblastně), traktovaných Mickem Beckem s tenorsaxem, fagotem a irskou flétnou, Antonem Hinterem s kytarou a Johnnym Hunterem u bicích. Což bylo nahráno v Sheffieldu 10. března 2016. Typická pro toto pojetí je skladba Yes And No, oscilující mezi napínavou řádivostí a zprekérňovanou hamtavostí, kdy si sax pohrává se vznesenými variantami ad libitum, spontánní bicí ho sugestivně podestýlkují i postrkují a kytara útočivě horempádní. Tato trojka je neustále v pohybu, zdá se, že je nepolapitelná, nezastavitelná, výmluvně hybatelná; dílčí proklidněné pozastavení znenadální do rvavého i řvavého galimatyášování. Otázka, zda ano či ne, je nevysloveně nastolena, takže může přijít na pořad dotazování druhé: What Is It? Odpovídání je namátečně v(y)zývavé, dohadovačně uždibcované a vytočivé s horempádnou vzrušivostí. Vrkočný sax , pospěšně rozvíjivý, trumfovaný zapekelcovanými bicími a zároveň vzrušivě triumfující, se proveslovává k melodičnosti s kytarou, je však rozvíravý i pozavírávaný, nahánivý i odhánivý. Ale zdá se, že odpověď nebyla zastřena ani zabortěna. Vyvěravé The Guardians Of Truth zřejmě problematiku crescenduje a diminuenduje, pročež si vyžádá téměř třicetiminutovou metráž. Je znepokojivě vyzáhadňované, tu bručivě svíravé, tu navnadivě vycvrlikané, jinde nahánčivě provrzávané nebo vyšmodrchávaně propisklé či šelestivě prošumlované, prostřídávaně zahazardňované a proklidněné až k záklidné marnosti. Víc: zesnoubí zkoumavý fagot se zvonkovou vytěkávaností bicích, úlisnou usilovnost se z(a)mořenou a třepetavou nátřasností, zjitřované probičování s hamtavým, až hajdaláckým obmotáváním. Celou anabázi zatěkaně dotříbí šestnáctiminutový Paradox And Confusion, vytřibovaný od delikátní zamýšlivosti a zadýchané stráznivosti, vzletně i záletně objímavé, přes výskučivé procábrování a zahučivé rozdmýchávání až do štvanicového poběhlictví, smýkavé útočnosti a eruptivní obskurnosti. Rozhoroucněnost se tu prostřídá se zbrklostí, vrtošivost s nenechavostí, utrhovačnost s rozkomíhaností. Ať se odpovědi na dotěrné otázky dozvíte nebo ne, jisté je, že vás umane hudba sama o sobě, její diverzita a sugestivnost, její energické rozpětí. Co naznačilo před několika lety první album tohoto tria The Hunt Is On, se nyní jeví jako jednoznačně ověřená definitiva. - Zdenek Slaby, HISVOICE