Elton Dean's Ninesense Suite (Jazzwerkstatt, 2011) ****
This is a little bit of a strange album, with two bands performing with a year difference, and each playing one long improvisation of respectively fourty and thirty minutes.
This first track was recorded exactly twenty years ago in Germany, and features a British-German band consisting of Elton Dean on sax and saxello, Alan Skidmore on tenor, Mark Charig and Harry Becket on trumpet, Nick evans and Radu Malfatti on trombone, Keith Tippett on piano, Harry Miller on bass and Louis Moholo on drums. It is a great, though not exceptional long group improvisation, that keeps a nice lightness despite the nine musicians, with all of them taking turns for the soloing and shifting between free bop and completely free playing: intense, quite lyrical and full of variation.
The second track was recorded a year later and consists of a trio with Harry Beckett on trumpet, Harry Miller on bass and Louis Moholo on drums. Apart from their frequent collaboration with Elton Dean, this music has no relation to the nonet mentioned above. The difference is immediately obvious, with Miller's bowing and Moholo's drumming having a much clearer and crisper sound, not only better recorded but also with the rhythm section contributing more to the music itself. This performance is quite stellar and a magnificent tribute to a trumpeter who made his mark in British and European jazz in the last decades and who sadly passed away last year. He does not sustain his notes, which gives his playing a dry, non-resonating quality, yet his tone is also warm and clear, even playing is quite fast and up-tempo. He does this with a kind of natural joy that is contagious, and keeps pushing the South-Africans Miller and Moholo further on, leaving them to a great duet in the middle part of the track, one bursting with energy and lightning speed interaction.
An easy album to recommend for free jazz fans, even if you get two different bands with totally different approaches.