80CD - Martin Archer - Another Fantastic Individual
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This is the first time I've made an album on which I'm the only performer. I've been playing AACM style saxophone for more than 40 years now, and this collection - a mixture of solo and small ensembles, sometimes with percussion or minimal electronics - presents everything I've learned about the instrument as a player and composer in that time.
Between 1983 and 1993 my sole performing band was Hornweb Sax Quartet. During those ten years we made three albums and performed dozens of concerts. One of my favourite reviews from the time, by Ben Watson, described Hornweb as “a mixture of searing abstraction and roots”. That succinct description would, I hope, apply to my music generally - although in my own case those roots are tangled, and reach down into many sources of nutrition. I’ve always regretted that all our recordings came from the first half of the band’s life, and that later versions were never captured – it was much more difficult to make and release records back then, and perhaps the line-up changes were just too disruptive for the band ever to quite settle down in its later years. Certainly at the time I remember wondering what the band might sound like if I were able to play all the parts myself….. Well, a quarter of a century later I’ve found that answer to that question. Hornweb itself came back to life in 2018 as a loosely organised and very occasional improvising group of anything up to twelve saxophonists. This recording is quite different and is one which I hope is true to the firmly AACM based concept of the original band.
baritone, tenor, alto & sopranino saxophones, saxello
bass clarinet, flute, recorder, melodica
acoustic and sampled percussion
software instruments, electronics, keyboards
A fantastic (the title has the right word) and most delicious day trip to many unusual and curious places, as the listener lays down the welcome mat for the brilliant and inventive world of Martin Archer. This is the first true solo album of a marvelous and outstanding saxophone player, but as you will see, he is also a well seasoned multi-instrumentalist on baritone, tenor, alto & sopranino saxophones, saxello, bass clarinet, flute, recorder, melodica, acoustic and sampled percussion, software instruments, electronics, piano and organ. His 40 plus years of devotion to the The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which is all about "nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music," is fully realized here.
For those who are in the dark, Martin also founded (along with Mick Beck) Discus Music in 1994, which is a broad music business that provides the world with amazing artists that range from dreamy to abstract, jazz, and fusions of many sorts, from extremely inventive musicians with varied backgrounds. Once you tap into the catalog, you will be hooked. I'd also like to brag about the Discus label having their CDs produced with such nice packaging, going the extra mile, with plastic disc protector sleeves, which cuts down on scratches, and they are also anti-static. A+++ for that alone.
This solo Archer has done ('solo music for woodwind, percussion & electronics'), is quite a collage of magic, playfulness, intrigue, mystery, flirtation, humor, risk, nobility, and creative display. Never mundane, and nothing routine, 'Another Fantastic Individual' (which Martin said is a frozen ice cream treat) has so many dimensions, you will lose yourself as the recording continues. An amazing storyline type performance, it is highly animated, full of movement, so lively and quizzical. It is like taking an entire week off, to visit a circus and carnival (one with all those odd mirrors, a funhouse, plenty of wild rides, and clowns), a zoo (with beasts and fowl you have never seen or heard before), stopping at a street corner to watch a puppet show, and perhaps viewing a series of silent television shows from the masters of comedy - Laurel & Hardy, with this being the soundtrack to them all. Then you find a small swing band at another street, full of joy and good vibes.
If you fear hearing another album of squealing and wailing out of control sax solos, no worries. Even when Archer does impressive high speed runs on his various winds, he keeps the volume perfectly tame and actually soothing. His many years of playing showcases his virtuoso touch. With plenty of orchestrated percussion and other instruments, the entertainment factor is gigantic. These are 13 pieces that have so much life and energy, if you blink you will miss something. I asked about the process he used to make the album, and he most definitely composed it all, with lead lines being laid down first, and then additional tracks as they worked out. He said that it would be near impossible for a band to perform any of the numbers live, since their is so little actually written down, and much of it was done in repeated auditions and times. If a great, yet small ice cream treat inspires this type composing and playing, please have another one of those soon Martin.
In fact, this is for both the multiple sax lover and ones who might never want to touch a solo with sax on it. Now I knew Martin was a great sax player and music label hero for us new music seekers, but I didn't realize what a fine composer and creator with all the other various instruments he was. I can't compare it to any single other artist/band, but parts of it made me think of the fabulous avant-garde tricksters such as Picchio dal Pozzo and Henry Cow. However, I don't feel it should be bogged down with comparisons, as it is certainly his own masterpiece. It does have the free jazz spirit, yet keeps coherent, and is fully entrancing. It is beyond what anyone would expect, and that is saying a stuffed mouth full. I was glued to my chair from start to finish, and then again on another day's repeat listen. A GIANT RECOMMENDATION!" - ©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 6 - 10 - 2019, BIG BEAUTIFUL NOISE
Another Fantastic Individual” is out now on “Discus Music”. All the compositions were recorded by only one performer – it’s Martin Archer (baritone, tenor, alto & sopranino saxophones, saxello, bass clarinet, flute, recorder, melodica, acoustic and sampled percussion, software instruments, electronics and keyboards. Martin Archer is saxophonist, performer and composer. His music is a fusion of avant-garde and experimental jazz, free improvisation, mainstream, contemporary and modern jazz. All these styles make a great combo with experimental music, electronics, electro-acoustic music, contemporary academical music and academic avant-garde. The musician is combining various ideas and conceptions – his music is filled with synthetic forms, old traditions, very well-known or specific and experimental ways of playing, moving culminations, the fundaments of academical music, modernism or expressionism who joined to roots of avant-garde jazz and other similar styles. “Another Fantastic Individual” is filled with various themes, actions and fusions of styles. Improviser manages to make a great combo of avant-garde jazz and contemporary academical music. He switches without any effort from the one mood to another. Composing and improvising, experimenting and arranging, exploring and using of classical fundamentals – the compositions are based on synthesis between traditional, fundamental and experimental ideas. Avant-garde jazz, experimental music, free improvisation, electronics, electro-acoustics, modern and contemporary jazz styles, some allusions to mainstream jazz, fusion, bebop, post bop, minimalism and contemporary academical music – all these styles are fused together and contain great and universal musical pattern. The music is engaging and contrasting. Gentle and subtle solos meet melodic and lyrical contemplations, bright explosions, expansion of technical abilities, special effects, moving and wild free improvisations, minimalistic and repetitive series and many other elements. Acoustics and electronics gently fit together – composer shows the difference between these two groups of instruments. Synthetic tunes are against warm, natural and bright acoustics. Loops, special effects, computer’s sounds, electronic devices, glitch, drone, ambient, sonic system, strange tunes, weird timbres, original and experimental ways of playing – that’s just a little part of electronics. The electronics contain moving and gorgeous background. The acoustics keep the base of music. Solid, bright and independent melody line, harmonic and rhythmic patterns are created and kept by saxophones, saxello, melodica, flute, bass clarinet, recorder and keyboards. Vivid and fluent melodies of saxophones are filled with hot splashes, bright sparkles, dizzy passages, strange timbres, wild and frantic culminations, roaring riffs or contemplative and lyrical pauses, minimalistic pieces or hypnotising excerpts. The bass clarinet keep the bass line of the compositions – it’s filled with deep and slow or mid-slow solos, moving and bright explosions, energetic and sharp excerpts and tight and solid bass line. The sounds of keyboards are full of different moods and expressions – from lyrical and dreamy mood it goes straight to evocative and expressive sound, experimental innovations of contemporary academical music, sharp and perturbating sequences, breaking sessions who are accompagnied by sampled and acoustic percussion. Composer demonstrates his musical knownledge, wide stylistic variety, original style and bright musical language. The instrumentation is based on universal kit – the traditions and experiments meet here. Experimental, specific and innovative ways of playing are connected to traditional fundamentals of electronics and contemporary academical music. The percussion’s section is interesting and bright – that’s the place there meets original ideas, weird timbres and all kinds of rhythms. The music of this album is bright and inspiring – it has fresh, touching and original sound. - AVANTSCENA
For Discus‘s eightieth release, Martin Archer has decided to go solo again, while also attempting to reproduce some of the sounds of his hornweb sax quartet that was active between 1983 and 1993. Not only that, it appears also as a kind of love letter to those saxophonists that have influenced him over the years of his playing, from the likes of Paul Desmond and Lester Young through Maceo Parker to Ornette Coleman and Evan Parker.
As you can probably judge by that list, this album finds Martin’s freer sensibilities wandering hand in hand with a more rootsy sound that makes for a very cool end result. Opener “Pressure Shocks” sets the tone with a wild blast, squawking happily that naturally rolls into a sultry, slowly unfurling more traditional piece. The many layers of saxes that he spreads across the track give a smooth, easy sweetness, with the rich baritone lending depth as the lighter sounds escape into the stratosphere.
The solitary crowing notes of the title track are the complete antithesis, however, coming across like spare footprints in undisturbed snow, creatures scattering in all directions as you make your way across a frozen lake, constantly waiting for the ice to crack. The album does this, veering from one form to another with whatever whim Martin chooses to follow. The smooth, smokey and subtle “Song For Zara Grace” is the sort of thing that would have people swooning into their drinks at Ronnie Scott’s, while “Behind The Sun” finds deep, resonant sounds scouting through the undergrowth, a slow release tension maintain a kind of locomotive base.
There is plenty of questing here, from the high-pitched seagull lament of “Song For Corey Mwamba” to the gentler bird-like conversations of “Point To Point”, and although Martin is known for his saxes, there is also clarinet and melodica as well as piano, electronics and some measured percussion. There is a splash of piano on “Rose Bomb / Oreogasm” and fantastic cymbal textures that are a bit of a shock, while the melodica in “Owls Join In With The Morning Birds” adds a kind of soundtrack-y subtlety to the subterfuge underpinning the track. A touch of ragtime on Roscoe Mitchell‘s “Jo Jar” brings things down to earth for a little while, before it lets loose again.
The shakers and percussion bring an African feel to “Battle Lines”, and here the tone is so sweet and the brushing and shuffling texture feels like shoes scraping on sandy ground while the sensual, repetitive baritone of “Dig Yourself” holds all the other pieces up as they churn and torment in the background. Final track “Baribop” is a post-bop blast of joy and freedom with a good-time walking bass-line that sees Another Fantastic Individual out in fine style. The album covers so much ground, and feels like a real labour of love that is for any fan of the saxophone, but particularly Martin’s idiosyncratic approach to melding so many different styles. Bravo! - Mr Olivetti, FREQ
A really intriguing record from an individual who’s made some fantastic but scarcely noticed records in recent years. - Brian Morton, JAZZ JOURNAL