So, I’ve already trashed three drafts of this. It’s easy to apologise for one’s music when writing about it, and I didn’t want to do that. I’m not sorry; if I’m sorry about anything it’s that my budget won’t stretch to making it into an object like a double cd, or a six vinyl 40kg limited vinyl pressing, or maybe even a scented candle that releases gaseous melodies into the air. The late, great Bobby Wellins used to say, “jazz recordings aren’t released, they escape“, but now they can be held, digitally, in some form of quarantine. Neither in nor out, a numerical cloud in a departure lounge. The Grand Opening of my new-ish release, then, is a one-click sharing of zeros and ones, hanging in the digital air waiting for walk ups.
If I am going to write anything then, it will be firstly a note of thanks to the musicians; Chris Batchelor, Shabaka Hutchings, Dave Whitford and Dave Wickins. Of course I am in this list too but I was the one holding the camera in this photo. Getting the band together is the first act of composition, determining the possibilities, mapping out the territory. They finished the music; I wrote some tunes, and like little essay plans written on serviettes they fleshed them out, occasionally letting their ideas derail my plans. Sometimes we just started with nothing, but with the intention of arriving at the piece at some point. It often takes a while.
Which is why I would advise to listen to it all the way through. It wasn’t built to dip into, things happen only as a result of what went before, and with an inkling of what may come after. The final piece, “Obscurity”, works for me on it’s own, but really it’s a coda to the rest of the music, a breathing space, that’s the place for it. It doesn’t go first in the same way that a murderer is not captured in the first chapter of a Sherlock Holmes story. To address this, I had an idea to put an inaudible tone at the beginning of this record, like a dog whistle, that simply lulled people into a charmed paralysis, completely aware of their surroundings and untroubled by their immobility, unable to do anything but listen. This is also good preparation for playing, so maybe I’m projecting here. And people can do what they want to do, after all.
One more thing; “Brother Face” is a quote from a Robert Creeley poem called “Histoire De Florida”. Creeley is an American poet who works with everyday words and makes them weird; sentences run into each other, lines lurch and stutter, one meaning becomes another. I came across him after hearing Steve Swallow’s record “Home”, where he sets Creeley’s fragments of poetry in epigrammatic and lyrical ways. Both these people have been big influences on me, combining the abstract and the familiar in ways that have opened more doors than they have closed.
In Creeley’s case, I continue to go back to his poetry and figure out what the buggery he is talking about. I don’t understand it, but there’s something in there that makes me wonder, and that’s enough.