Saturday, July 18, 2009

2002 : 12 "Azure For Beginners" by Mike Adcock and Clive Bell

World Music is a phrase that comes loaded with different connotations. For some it means any non-Western music. For others, it means intercultural "fusion" experiments, often involving musicians and instruments of different backgrounds, and smoothed over with pop beats and dance electronica. Graceland and Enya. Sleep It Off (Emanem, 2002) is not a World Music disk according to either of those definitions.

Mike Adcock and Clive Bell are improvisers from the European scene, specifically London. For much of the past 25 years, European free improvisers have sought to expand the color palette of traditional jazz instruments, like the saxophone, drum kit, and trumpet by employing "extended techniques" such as playing inside the piano with mallets, scraping drum skins with bows, and breathing through the mouthpiece of the trumpet, to create textures and sounds beyond the standard tonal spectrum.

On this recording Bell and Adcock play "ethnic" free reed instruments, as well as prepared piano, Indian harmonium, the khene, and pi saw in a series of doppelganger duets. However the untraditional, extended ways they play them highlight the unusual textures (to Western ears), timbres, and microtones of these instruments. What happens when you have skilled improvisers play non-Western instruments in non-traditional ways? Musical tourism, or worse, imperialism? Westerners "going" native? Perhaps musicians simply using whatever materials are on hand to create a fragile and sensitively sketched recording? The moments of wondrous discovery and sublime juxtaposition that occur throughout this album erase any doubt about its worth.

See also: Gul 3 – Singlar 2005 (Headspin, 2005)

Darren DeMonsi

Listen: Mike Adcock and Clive Bell >> "Azure For Beginners"

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