Reviews that mention Pat Thomas

September 2, 2021


Live at Cafe Oto
577 Records 5823

Part of a younger generation of British free improvisers, London-based saxophonist Rachel Musson joins slightly older UK players, drummer Mark Sanders and pianist Pat Thomas as Shifa to not so much extend the free music form as to bolster its parameters. Musson uses capricious tenor techniques in a modal Energy Music mode throughout most of the first extended track, switching to crimped soprano tones on the seven minute coda.

Someone who leads her own band as well as plays in the London Improvisers Orchestra, the saxophonist’s hard-edged bites are well-integrated into the program as is her gentler sonic outlay. Restrained in his contributions, Sanders’ subtle rolls and rumbles only harden to power pumps when strengthening the soaring climax of the first improvisation. Meanwhile Thomas’ slippery staccato slaps define the second improv, but only to the extent that his keyboard jumps intersect with reed tweets and strangled saxophone cries. The changes from peak intensity to relaxed interludes on “Improvisation 1” showcase the paced partnership as mid-range keyboard clips and bubbling reed smears put into bolder relief those interludes in which the saxophonist’s strained flattement and triple tonguing disrupts the exposition’s logical progress. Over slippery piano patterns Musson later mixes ascending screeches and foghorn-like snores into a notable double attack until the drummer’s bell-resonating clangs and resonations from Thomas’ internal piano strings plucks set up a climax where rhythmic echoes overcome altissimo reed squeaks creating a finale featuring descending sax puffs and body shakes. MORE

June 23, 2021

Black Top Presents: Drake/Mitchener/Parker./Robinson/Thomas

Some Good News
OTOROKU Roku 025

A hands-across-the-sea meeting of UK and US variants of worldly improvisation, the good news about Some Good News involves the vernacular musical lockstep depicted between London’s Black Top and the Yank rhythm team. What’s also apparent is the skill with which vocal, instrumental, acoustic and electronic textures are expressed during two 50-minute plus performances without any of the players having to put on the brakes. Familiar with the details of intricate sound collusion are New York bassist William Parker and Chicago percussionist Hamid Drake. In Britain, Black Top consists of vocalist Elaine Mitchener, pianist Pat Thomas and marimba player Orphy Robinson, who have been affiliated with innovators like Alexander Hawkins. Adding diversity to this newly created vehicle, Drake also plays frame drum, Parker, the one-string guimbri and Thomas and Robison use electronics. Mitchener’s very few words are secondary to sighs, shouts, yodels and gurgles she projects. MORE

June 17, 2021

The Locals

Play the Music of Anthony Braxton

Perhaps answering the question of what Anthony Braxton’s compositions would sound like if played by Weather Report is this classic session by The Locals, recorded in 2003 but not released until now. Pat Thomas’ astute arrangements let the UK quintet transform Braxton’s mathematical titled tunes into rhythmically sophisticated tracks that reflect ProgRock as much as pure improv. Intermingling textures from Thomas’ keyboards, Darren Hasson-Davis’ drums, Dominic Lash’s electric bass and Evan Thomas’ guitar provides the symmetry. Meanwhile the flutter tonguing, note-splaying and flattement from Alex Ward’s clarinet confirms that in this music it’s as effective as a saxophone. MORE

August 2, 2020

Rhodri Davies

Transversal Time
Confront core series/core 11

Carl Testa

Sway Prototypes - Volume 3

No Label No #

Musical programs intermingling live electronic processing with real time acoustic playing make up the cores of these decisive sessions. With the correct symmetry intact, length and approach turn out to be secondary to the intensity and clarity of mixing processed and human tones. A commissioned work, the 38-minute Transversal Time was created by Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies as part of his intermittent investigation of electro-acoustic sounds and is played by a selected nonet, including the composer. Also featuring composer Carl Testa on double bass and electronics, the other CD is the newest iteration in a decade-and-a-half application of the Sway live electronic processing system. Each of the two tracks are longer than Davies’ composition, with one performed by a quintet and the other a sextet with vocalist Anne Rhodes and Testa the only overlapping elements. MORE

August 28, 2019


Umlaut Records umcd 0030

Pat Thomas/John Butcher/Ståle Liavik Solberg

Fictional Souvenirs

Astral Spirits MF 191/AS 088

Equally proficient expressing his ideas on piano or with electronics, the UK’s Pat Thomas appears to have developed conflicting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like strategies for either acoustic or processing improvisations. On Metaphor for instance, Thomas who has worked with everyone from Derek Bailey to Spring Heel Jack, fully assimilates the role of a pianist commuted to swinging FreeBop, assisted by Swedish bassist Joel Grip and French drummer Antonin Gerbal. The six remembrances displayed on Fictional Souvenirs however meld the oscillated jitters and wiggling wave forms from Thomas’ Moog Theremini and IPad-based electronics with the distinctive reed facility of fellow Londoner soprano and tenor saxophonist John Butcher and percussion sprawls from Norwegian drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg. MORE

August 28, 2019

Pat Thomas/John Butcher/Ståle Liavik Solberg

Fictional Souvenirs
Astral Spirits MF 191/AS 088



Umlaut Records umcd 0030

Equally proficient expressing his ideas on piano or with electronics, the UK’s Pat Thomas appears to have developed conflicting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like strategies for either acoustic or processing improvisations. On Metaphor for instance, Thomas who has worked with everyone from Derek Bailey to Spring Heel Jack, fully assimilates the role of a pianist commuted to swinging FreeBop, assisted by Swedish bassist Joel Grip and French drummer Antonin Gerbal. The six remembrances displayed on Fictional Souvenirs however meld the oscillated jitters and wiggling wave forms from Thomas’ Moog Theremini and IPad-based electronics with the distinctive reed facility of fellow Londoner soprano and tenor saxophonist John Butcher and percussion sprawls from Norwegian drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg. MORE

November 11, 2016

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms
Weekertoft 1-4

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations


NotTwo MW938-2

Mats Gustafsson’ Peace & Fire

At Porgy & Bess

Trost Records TR 140

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury

enough still not to know

SOFA 548

Something In The Air: Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity

By Ken Waxman

When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and table-top guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on-and-off for 40 years. MORE

May 24, 2015

Tony Oxley

A Birthday Tribute: 75 years
Incus CD 63

A superior if somewhat inconsistent homage to British master drummer Tony Oxley for his 75th birthday, this CD concentrates more on his skills as accompanist and pioneering electro-acoustic musician than his breakthroughs as someone who worked out a new style for percussion in Free Music.

Oxley’s new drumming concepts in the mid-1960s moved him from being an in-demand London-based Bopper to early experiments with guitarist Derek Bailey and later long-time associations with pianist Cecil Taylor and trumpeter Bill Dixon. However A Birthday Tribute: is a bit patchy, since the five live tracks match two 1993 improvisations by the drummer, Bailey, keyboardist Pat Thomas and sampler player Matt Wand with three 1977 selections with different players. Using amplified percussion as opposed to an un-electrified set on the first numbers, Oxley plays one number alone, one with the late trombonist Paul Rutherford, whose horn is similarly electrified, and the longest with the still-very-active violinist Phillip Wachsmann plus guitarist Ian Brighton, who seems to have vanished from the scene. MORE

October 1, 2014


Babel Label BDV 14128

Three musicians playing together don’t necessarily constitute a trio. This live CD confirms that. For no matter how sophisticated some of the improvisatory techniques used here – and many sounds on these three tracks are definitely arresting – the billing of the Blacktop duo plus special guest is convincingly correct. High quality on an individual basis, the three players work never jells into a satisfying three-way dialogue.

The reason is simple. Even this early in the partnership of marimba player Orphy Robinson and keyboardist Pat Thomas their shared expertise in astute free music has forged a common bond. Meanwhile guest Steve Williamson, although a constantly employed saxophonist, still seems to take his cues from more popular music. In other words Williamson, who has backed the likes of Courtney Pine and Iain Ballamy while searching for his own jazz-funk fusion, is committed to entertainment. The others, whose collaborators have included players who probe sound’s farthest reaches such as Derek Bailey, Lol Coxhill, Don Cherry and Henry Threadgill, try more complex strategies to reach more profound goals. MORE

October 24, 2013

Pat Thomas

Al-Khwarizmi Variations
Fataka 4

Matthew Shipp

Piano Sutras

Thirsty Ear

Julie Sassoon

Land of Shadows

JazzWerkstatt JW 127

Agustí Fernández


Sirulita 1201

Less of a arduous challenge than a literal record of a keyboardist`s skill at a particular point in time, the solo piano disc is still a milestone in the career of any improvising musician. Although much more common than in years past and latterly joined by innumerable other unaccompanied showcases by reed, brass, string and percussion players, the historical heft of a piano disc is still significant. MORE

November 30, 2011

Pat Thomas/Oxford Improvisers Orchestra

4 Compositions for Orchestra
FMR CD 293-0810

AIM Toronto Orchestra

Year of the Boar

Barnyard Records BR0322

Spurred by the world-wide conduction projects of Butch Morris and their results, improvising ensembles in Europe and North America have been organized to advance the concept of playing free music on a larger scale.

Although there are notable orchestras in expected places such as London, New York and Berlin, often the most remarkable, and certainly the most original, large group interpretations come from bands in smaller centres. Working with a group of like-minded musicians in his hometown, for instance, British pianist/electronics manipulator Pat Thomas has composed dissimilar pieces for the Oxford Improvisers Orchestra (OIO) on this CD. Involving voices, non-Western instruments, a tribute to a Jazz master and a literal violin concerto, each moves in a different fashion. Toronto’s AIM Toronto Orchestra (AIMTO) on the other hand plays pieces by four different composers on its seven-track CD. However under the direction of artistic director/soprano saxophonist Kyle Brenders, who penned the two lengthiest pieces, a harmonic uniformity exists. MORE

June 10, 2011

Festival Report:

Freedom of the City 2011
By Ken Waxman

Electronics, percussion and home-made instruments were prominently featured in many contexts during London’s annual Freedom of the City (FOTC) festival, April 30 to May 2. In spite of this, some outstanding performances involved the hyper-traditional piano or saxophone.

A snapshot of contemporary, mostly European, creative music, FOTC encompassed sounds as different as electronic processing from the likes of Adam Bohman and Lawrence Casserley; rarefied ensemble minimalism; unabashed free jazz from saxophonist Lionel Garcin’s and pianist Christine Wodrascka’s quartet; an entire evening devoted to the massive London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO); and pianist John Tilbury’s and bassist Michael Duch’s interpretations of Cornelius Cardew and Morton Feldman compositions. MORE

January 29, 2010

Common Objects


Although the concept may appear clearer to the musicians involved than the outcome, the programs created by the Common Objects are supposed to reflect the relationship among the players, their instruments and selected objects about which they improvise. For this iteration of the group, British saxophonist John Butcher selected four objects from Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum for reflection hoping to evoke considerations of water, air, earth, spirit, ritual and utility. Definition of each entity is open to interpretation. But certainly characteristics of the first two and fourth seem discernable. Formed by electric harpist Rhodri Davies, the sextet is filled out by some of the UK’s most sophisticated sound explorers: violinists Angharad Davies and Lina Lapelyte, plus Pat Thomas and Lee Patterson, who deal with electronics and processing. MORE

September 26, 2005


Responses, Reproduction & Reality

Outgrowth of a Butch Morris-led conduction that took place in London a few years ago, the London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO) has evolved into a once-a-month gig where some of the British capital’s best improvisers get together to try out new ideas.

Involving a revolving cast of 30-plus players as well as different conductors and composers, the LIO has taken on an identity far beyond that of a BritImprov kicks band. However as these seven tracks, recorded at 2003’s and 2004’s Freedom of the City festivals demonstrate, the outcome is still inconsistent. MORE

October 6, 2003


Zone K

The three b’s
fencing flatworm recordings ff019

Putting electric keyboards into a trio with reeds and drums can sometimes overbalance the sonority, so that it moves away from pure improv and closer to rhythmic simplicity. Because the gizmos are set up to hold and accentuate notes, it appears to be easier to create riffs, vamps and blends then investigate more cerebral experiments. This tendency can be further exacerbated if the keyboardist’s playing partners lean towards simpler syncopation as well. MORE

August 18, 2003


Rossbin RS 011

Yet another example of the Oslo-London concordant, CDs like this one prove -- as if there was any doubt -- that musicians from different countries cooperate a whole lot better than their political counterparts.

An outgrowth of the ever-shifting, large band No Spaghetti Edition, Hiss pares down the members of that larger group to four, who then proceed to run through five instant compositions in about 46 minutes. Recorded in London, the session makes up for this geographical imbalance by featuring three Norwegians and one Englishman. Each of the Norwegian players, though, is quite comfortable improvising in the low-key BritImprov style. MORE

February 3, 2003


Pasta Variations
SOFA 509

Apples of Gomorrah
GROB 429

The glue -- or maybe it’s the spittle -- that holds these two sessions together is the oral work of British performer Phil Minton. One hesitates to call him a singer since his vocal tones seem to range from improvising instrumental emulation to aural recapitulation of all the intonation related to the Seven Ages of Man. And all that is mixed with cartoon character voices, operatic snatches and animal calls. MORE

June 29, 2002


Certain Questions
Unit UTR 4134

One of he most heartening signs of the continued health of so-called free music is the number of new players who migrate to it every year. Today, with a few decades of history to look back upon, free improvisers are arriving from other places than the jazz tradition.

There are already a small number of former rock musicians attempting -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not -- to play free, and an even greater group of musicians of European classical heritage turning towards the genre. One of them is Swiss violist Charlotte Hug, who demonstrates here how traditional training and idiosyncratic bowing techniques can be brought together for experimentation. Like many other young musicians she ups the ante by adding electronics to this mix as well. Still, she has some personal insurance in the form of her collaborator, keyboardist Pat Thomas. MORE

May 17, 2002


Floating Phantoms
a/l/l 001

Saying that the members of The B.I.M.P. Quartet created an electrifying performance on this CD recorded at 1999’s Total Music Meeting in Berlin is as amusing as it is accurate. That’s because the four represent two generations of British improvisers who wholeheartedly embrace the different textures available from arching kilowatts, and have long been bending machines to do their bidding.

Leader and figurehead is percussionist Tony Oxley, who with guitarist Derek Bailey was one of the seminal figures in BritImprov as long ago as the mid-1960s. But, like his contemporary -- and on-again-off-again-playing partner -- pianist Cecil Taylor, he keeps adding new torque to his initial non-linear conception. Oxley, who now lives in Viersen, Germany, has played so-called electronic drums since the 1970s. MORE

February 1, 2002


Imitation of Life/Double Indemnity Atavistic Unheard Music

3 Pianos

Versatile from the get go, since moving to London in 1974,

multi-instrumentalist Steve Beresford has probably been involved in more undertakings than any other British improviser.

Although he’s a full-fledged member of the jazz/improv community with appearances at guitarist Derek Bailey’s Company week and recording sessions with the likes of saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Han Bennink -- among many others -- on his resumé, he hasn’t limited himself to that. Over the years he has also been a member of punk and reggae bands, created middle-of- the-road pop music, and fully scored music for film, TV, dance groups and corporations. Additionally, he has taught audio production, piano and improvisation at different times and places, as well as produced CDs for other free improvisers. MORE

August 27, 2001


Listen … and tell me what it was
SOFA 506

Rugged coastlines, lengthy fjords and Jan Garbarek's wimpy saxophone, more-or-less sum up what the average jazz fan knows about Norway. But while the geography hasn't changed over the past three decades, a new generation of improvisers has come to maturity. Their restless experimentation has more in common with the free form breakthroughs of other European and American musicians than the cold, ethereal meandering which have given so-called Nordic jazz the reputation it has.

Case in point is this CD, a biggish band project which links 10 committed Norwegians with British keyboardist Pat Thomas and German trumpeter Axel Dörner for eight instant compositions. Results are impressive, proving once again that these sorts of spontaneous in-the-studio creations aren't limited by geographical boundaries. MORE