There's no Going Back Now

Which Way Now

[Cuneiform Records,]

Thing I love most about pianist Keith Tippett is his infinite ability to adapt. He's easily bendable between solo concerts, duo albums [especially those with other pianists] and being a key voice in a larger ensemble. One such ensemble is an almost two decade old quartet Mujician. Originally, the name started off from Tippett's daughter, when asked what her Daddy does, said something along the lines of "he's a mujician". Following a number of solo records during the 80's [all under the FMP banner], Tippett gathered three of the hottest names on the British improve scene - bassist Paul Rogers, drummer Tony Levin and saxophonist Paul Dunmall - to hone in and explore the possibilities of instant improvisation. Each of their previous five records have had fire breathing through them and each group member was an equal party in the game. This time around, the formula remains in tact. The band gets to the meat of the bone without a warm up. Tippett is all fired-up clusters on the piano, while Levin appears to be his best partner in the game. While Dunmall can really breathe havoc on tenor and soprano, this time around I feel he's somewhat more into pure melody and something that may resemble structure. Finally, Rogers takes turns between articulate arco passages and all-out pounding bouts on the strings. What the band has learned by now is the art of listening and the skill of give and take. None of the quartet members steals the spotlight. Rather, each one is allowed to state his course. No doubt about it, another outstanding release from the quartet of masters.
Back in the 70's, Tippett was involved in a number of projects. Along with his own grandiose Centipede outfit, he also played in Harry Miller's Isipingo sextet. "Which Way Now" is a key document unearthing full 75 minutes of live music. Recorded in 1975 in Bremen, Germany, the night turns out to be a scorching session for everyone in the band. One of the founders of Ogun Records back in 1974, and hailing originally from South Africa, Harry Miller was always heavily involved in promoting both British as well as African jazz. The session is a pinnacle for that love and for the drive that led him to the stage that night. All-star band is made up of trombonist Nick Evans, trumpeter Mongezi Feza, percussionist Louis Moholo, saxophonist Mike Osborne, pianist Keith Tippett and Miller taking credit for all four pieces as well as playing bass. First things first - the sound quality is incredibly crisp. Whoever is responsible for cleaning up the tapes, kudos to you as the outcome sounds outstanding. Tippett apparently remembers this to be one of Isipingo's best live dates and he's probably right on that account. Every member seems to be speaking in unison. No major disagreements are to be heard anywhere. In fact, Feza's trumpet calls have rarely sounded so vibrant or fresh. His blasts along with Nick Evan's barrelling trombone lines and Mike Osborne's energetic alto blows provide for much of the vibrancy during this concert. Tippett is his usual self - striking keys in a disorderly fashion faster than the speed of light. Moholo's pacing is extremely sharp as he revels in bright cymbal work throughout much of the record. Melodies surge out of thin air. It's almost as if Miller was pulling them straight out of nowhere. I love the way ideas get ample time to be developed [three pieces clock in around the 20 minute mark, while one is almost 15 minutes long]. Not only for devotees of Brotherhood of Breath or Dedication Orchestra, this is essential music for any serious jazz fan.

-Tom Sekowski

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