Another fantastic release from the house label of the Café Oto venue in Dalston, London; ‘Improvisations’ is a brilliant album, it brought together Roscoe Mitchell (saxophone), Tony Marsh (drums), and John Edwards (double bass).
‘Improvisations’ begins with a limbering of limbs and a gathering of thoughts; in no rush to launch, it builds a quiet, considered intensity; gestures and movements stitched closely together. Mitchell twirling in ever decreasing spirals, deftly and densely; almost a psychedelic output at times, a Technicolor flood of tones and notes. Edwards, as ever, is a vital presence, laying dizzyingly deep bass foundations; never a mere roar, he sits out for periods but always re-enters with a fevered commitment, employing bowed scrapes and pointillist string bashing buzzes. Marsh is brilliant throughout; like an elastic tether, anchoring the group without setting rigid parameters, capable of sudden snapping violence: on Side C, a tremendous late flurry of activity explodes from a long droning solo from Edwards, Marsh clashing with him like a fox suddenly introduced into a chicken coop.
The technical mastery of all three artists is obvious in every moment of this recording but it is their collective imagination which really captivates. They fill the air with a full spectrum of sound, music packed with incident, reflection, considered movement, and reckless abandon; a group of fierce and beautiful ability.
As the final recorded performance of Tony Marsh before his death, this record was always going to have an air of momentousness hanging over it. But ‘Improvisations’ transcends any sense of finality. So much more than a fitting epitaph to a great musician, it stands as a testament to free thinking and freely improvised music; a twisting, screaming joy to listen to. Its multifarious tentacles encircle the brain, never loosening their grip for its hour-long duration.