108CD - Archer / Keeffe / Pyne - Hi Res Heart - CD plus download

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Martin Archer

sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, Bb & bass clarinet, bass harmonica, flute, electronics.


Charlotte Keeffe

trumpet & fluegelhorn 


Martin Pyne

vibraphone, drum set, percussion, toy piano


When I proposed this trio it was very deliberately to create an instrumentation which closely matched that of the classic Leo Smith Trio of the 1970s – a line up which allows space and fire to co-exist.  Of course, the fact that Martin Pyne doubles on both vibraphone and drums gives us a few extra sonic possibilities, and these have all been exploited by the suite of 12 compositions which the 3 of us have created together.  While my own music output veers off into a wide range of bands and territories, it is when I play this music – which for convenience I will call AACM Music, as it is directly inspired by the masters of the black 70s American avant-garde – that I feel like I’m writing and playing my very best.  Of course, both Charlotte and Martin have their own different histories and perspectives to bring to the trio.  Nevertheless, that feeling that even at its most abstract , the blues is never too far away from this music, pervades the current work. – Martin Archer


Back in 1978 Bobby Naughton’s vibraphone hung notes over Leo Smith’s first album for ECM, the great Divine Love.  If music could be translucent, this was. The central line-up consisted of Leo Smith, trumpet, Dwight Andrews, reeds and Mr Naughton. It was a ground breaker.  This new album from Discus carries a similar instrumental triad.  Track 4, Song For Bobby Naughton features some Martin Pyne vibraphone but in a very different way to Naughton, building a Martin Archer melody into an improvisation.  It takes the trio on a journey almost twice the length of any of the other 13 tracks on Hi Res Heart. The ‘stretch’ is worth it, Charlotte Keeffe produces a trumpet excursion with just about every ‘out’ brass technique available.  Literally a ‘real time’ bender.


Though Mr Archer dedicates the session to the 1970’s heyday of Chicago’s AACM collective, the new album is a mid-lockdown 20/21 UK production.  Each musician contributes four pieces as initial templates for the other two players to add their own parts in response.  Isolation improv… but you’d never know it by ear.  There’s an ‘of the moment’ feel to the session.  Jean is a Ms Keeffe brainwave, squeezed brass taken over by saxophone playing a repeated Art Ensemble vamp.  It sounds perfectly aligned as if all the action comes from a direct real time encounter.  The playing is exemplary, so are the ears picking up on each pre-recorded nuance; a spine teaser (Martin Pyne’s got some bright gongs in his percussion bag).


Two of his contributions Earth Memory/Sleep Uneasy are listed back to back.  Although both have double tracked vibes over-and-under traps, each example has a different facet of approach.  Earth is a brass/reeds written-through refrain.  It switches on Martin Archer’s soprano inflexions and Charlotte Keeffe’s trumpet.  Beautifully loose limbed lead lines, tightly drawn in under 5 minutes set up the ears for Sleep Uneasy. Here almost every instrument the trio has at their disposal (to my knowledge 16 and counting) works out.  Deep drone baritone, Ms Keeffe’s brass pressed into a squeegee ball with vibes and flute emerging like a Tony Scott mantra.  It’s just short of six minutes; in truth it could have gone on purposefully for another six.  Joseph Jarman would recognise his own influence on this approach.  As would his Art Ensemble partner Lester Bowie on Charlotte Keeffe’s playful tipping-a-hat trick to the Great Pretender’s playful ‘duck calls’ on her composition Tommy. A fitting abstraction memorising 1969’s A Jackson In Your House – a circus of sounds where even ‘the riot’ is riotous fun.


What impresses with this recording is over fourteen tracks, these three protagonists get the opportunity to explore the spaces between them.  A minus turns to plus.  The enforced separation of the lockdown could have worked against them instead it’s accentuated their individuality.


These days Martin Archer is often heard in relatively large ensembles.  Hi Res Heart is stripped down creating a platform where he’s easily distinctive.  He’s able to maximise the unpacking of his range of horns.  We all know how good the guy is.  In this setting there’s an opportunity to spot-sound his personal ‘hornweb’.  Archer does as Archer is, target practicing those multi-reeds together, letting sparseness fill the space.  Just one of the attributes of the original Association of Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) was their ability to borrow ideas from one another.  It’s what happens here too.


Charlotte Keeffe retains her own thing.  She’s not faking either Wadada Leo Smith or Lester Bowie, but she doesn’t ignore them either.  This is a musician who continues to work in a lot of different contexts yet keeps the essential ‘Keeffe’. Given the context Martin Pyne could have played safe and stayed close to Naughton’s role.  He does a bit of borrowing but this ain’t 1978, Mr Pyne is now.  High resolution, many pixels at play, this is truly a 2020’s album, music of its own time.  - Steve Day: 2021 



THE RESOURCEFULNESS and technical achievement in this trio recording, alone, tell an impressive tale. But, much more than that, the lockdown-enforced concept of collaborating at distance (due to the global pandemic) to shape a seamless melting pot of musical creativity has produced an enthralling home-studio performance of composed/free jazz.


Hi Res Heart is the collective work of saxophonist/woodwind player Martin Archer, trumpeter/flugelhornist Charlotte Keeffe and vibraphonist/percussionist Martin Pyne; and both the ingenuity of their experimental process and the resultant dialogue is quite remarkable. All twelve tracks are listed with a three-character code (e.g. a – p – k) which identifies their remote order of construction (in this case, Archer – Pyne – Keeffe), with each trio member writing and recording the foundations of four pieces. These are then elaborated on and completed by the remaining two players, in different sequences. The breadth of the soundscapes is fascinating, not least because each instrumentalist brings to the project their own experiences and interests – for instance, Martin Archer specifically draws inspiration from the masters of the black 1970s American avant-garde scene (an area in which he says he feels like he is writing and playing his very best).


These 65 minutes feel very much a personal expedition for musicians and listener alike, their multifaceted evolution sure to elicit a multitude of responses. To the uninitiated, the oblique freedom at the heart of this album may initially seem bewildering, perhaps even cacophonous – and, at times, they wouldn’t be far wrong! But to listen closely and emotionally interact with it is experientially satisfying, only in a quite different sense to more straight-ahead jazz. From the rambunctious clamour of Silena’s Fire, through the almost New Orleansian stomp of Keeffe’s G.E.M. and sassy, percussive resonance of big-band-style Seduction Dance, to inebriated, comedic Jean, the trio build compelling, unpredictable mélanges of timbres and rhythms.


Raw, bluesy riffs and japes in Looking for Gene bring to mind Blakey Ridge’s famed Back Door, though threaded with fidgety vibraphone improvisations; and the ‘noir’ mood of June is disconcertingly peppered with abstract trumpet (often forced through the mouthpiece), toy piano and reedy, melodramatic phrases. Pyne’s Earth Memory takes on an eastern flavour, its descending and chromatic melodies hypnotically buoyed by his perpetual undercurrent of strong, weltering rhythms, while Sleep Uneasy’s didgeridoo-style drones, sputtering ‘duck calls’ and misterioso flute certainly wouldn’t provide the ideal background to slumber!


Over eleven minutes, Archer’s Song for Bobby Naughton interlaces tenor sax, bass clarinet and muted trumpet in a markedly free and pensive progression, the saxophonist’s rich extemporisations partnering well with Pyne’s sustained, chiming vibraphone. The brief, brash plod of The Story in the Mirror and cartoonish squeal of Tommy (both of which momentarily try their hand at swing) are irresistibly fun, while closing Dolly Grip disjointedly sallies back and forth with jocular high trumpet utterances, reedy interjections and erratic percussion towards a frenzied B movie conclusion.


Martin Archer references US trumpeter Leo Smith’s trio of the late 1970s (with Dwight Andrews and Bobby Naughton) in terms of matching its instrumentation. But considering music’s development in the forty-plus years since, and the unique, combined influences on Archer / Keeffe / Pyne, it doesn’t feel outrageous to suggest Hi Res Heart offers an even greater attraction. That they produced it all ‘down the wire‘ seals it. - Adrian Pallant, AP Reviews



You are with great fortune to hear this. A masterful trio of deeply rooted, dedicated with all their soul and minds, to make musical art that transcends the academic library of avant-garde jazz improv, and scales the walls of all that is called holy grail.  If I ever knew an artist and label owner, who both ran a selfless music company, and contributed vast amounts of his own skills on many winds, brass, and various percussives (tuned and not, BUT certainly In Tune) etc, who was deserving of the title Keeper of the Flame, Musician for AACM Music, and person in pursuit of spreading the high talents of other mates, it is Mr. Martin Archer, who is 1/3 of this magnificent trio.

Creators are Martin Archer (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones, Bb and bass clarinets, flute, bass harmonica, electronics), Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics),  & Martin Pyne (drums, percussion, vibraphone, toy piano). One would assume they spent years holed in an intimate studio, carefully putting this intricate puzzle of perfection together. And one would be totally incorrect. Unlike the satirical introduction I spilled out,  Archer / Keeffe / Pyne have decades of experience, supernatural abilities to communicate in the all so tricky art of instant telepathic transference to arrange anything without former preparation (apart from a quote from Martin himself -as I spoke to him about this recording). From every multi-dimensional corner, with each mood, all bends and morphs, piece by piece, a pronounced wizardry of such. What sets this apart from the ordinary, even the parallel, are the many aural doses of visual and fertile scenery the band offers the listener. Ripe with many atmospheres, a trio rarely delivers this generous of a cultivated feast for the ears. You may think you have all you can handle with 'Sleep Uneasy' (track #9) arrives, but this partly dreamtime, otherworldly, and sometimes dark corner piece, rakes in even more points for outright over the top inventive inception. When I asked Martin about the preparation and any rendering of this release, he replied the following : "No we had no discussion about the music in advance and we didn't physically meet.  Each trio member put down 4 solo parts, then passed the file to the next trio member, and then on to the final member to complete.  We did this in every possible order within the trio.  My own Song For Bobby Naughton is pretty close to the Leo Smith tune (same instrumentation), but I didn't ask for anyone else to do make parts in this style.  Everyone did their own thing.  I don't consider this to be an improvised record.  Clearly there are tunes and arrangements present in most of the tracks.  But these were arrived at without anything being written down. It was just a case of picking up on what one of the other players had already done.  So, I guess it is improvised but with the benefit of studio time to plan each part". I say, sagacity in motion.

While no one except the ones who still exist and were part of that 70's scene of black music provenance in the avant-jazz world can know what elements made their works what they were (although blues is a definitive component), Archer / Keeffe / Pyne certainly respect and give great tribute to the era with this zenith titled "Hi Res Heart" (abbreviated "High Resolution" and translated to 'big hearted' in this instance). . And it might very well surprise those who think stereotypes, bathe in xenophobia, and/or just never did dip your ears into the beauty of this music, to take a chance and spend some time absorbing this showpiece. Three musicians sound like five or six more times than not, yet the pieces are never crowded, overdone, or filled with waste. This is a pure example of seasoned artists who create something special, although each member comes from a different background, based in diverse musical styles, the beauty of it as a whole, is just that. The chemistry is magical, the musicianship is second to none, and the interchange between all seeps in like fast blood as spectacular. HUGE RECOMMENDATION. - Lee Henderson, BIG BEAUTIFUL NOISE https://www.bigbeautifulnoise.com 



It will captivate and hypnotize your brain for hours, as even the abstruse can be comfortable.  “Nevertheless, that feeling that even at its most abstract, the blues is never too far away from this music, pervades the current work.” – Best Of Jazz https://bestofjazz.org/


Archer has a wide range of musical interests that are reflected in many of his projects. His interest in the AACM-music scene of Chicago is a very important one for him. No wonder several of his releases focus on this scene of black avant-garde jazz music. For his latest project ‘Hi Res Heart’ he had the trio of trumpeter Leo Smith in mind. A trio that operated in the 70s was completed by Dwight Andrews (reeds) and Bobby Naughton (vibraphone, percussion). Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Martin Pyne (vibraphone, drums, percussion, toy piano) who were invited by Archer for this project, introduced their own inspirations for this collective enterprise that has Archer playing sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass harmonica, flute and electronics. The result is a very remarkable album in more than one sense. First because of how it came into being under the Covid-conditions. Secondly because of the musical quality. And one may feel triggered to ask if it is despite or thanks to the procedure they followed. “Each member of the trio wrote an initial idea for four pieces, recording their own part first. Sometimes multitracked. The other two players arranged and recorded their own parts in response” in a subsequent order that is indicated in the booklet. The sequence is indicated in the booklet for each track. Implying that the full intensity of reciprocal movements was not possible due to the circumstances it is surprising and wondering how tight and together this recording sounds. So corona was no obstacle in the end. In twelve compositions they offer us a varied journey with loose and entertaining works like ‘Looking for Gene’. While others like the most extensive work from this release, ‘Song for Bobby Naughton’ are of a more abstract and free atmosphere. ‘Earth Memory’ has an eastern flavour. ‘The story in the Mirror is a fun miniature that almost swings. ‘Sleep Uneasy’ is a very open and free excursion. Each composition has its own differing characteristics. The playing by all three is very dedicated and concentrated, and I especially liked the trumpet playing by Keeffe. Also, I prefer Archer in small jazz-oriented lineups like this one instead of his larger ensembles of prog-oriented music. - Dorf Mulder VITAL WEEKLY http://www.vitalweekly.net/1289.html