Reviews that mention Opry Robinson

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

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 7, 2013

Various Artists

Just Not Cricket: Three Days of Improvised Music in Berlin
Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu nvnc lp001/004

Erik Carlsson & All Stars

Swedish azz Volume 1 & Volume 2

NotTwo MW 901-1A/ NotTwo MW 901-1B

Thomas Lehn, Michel F. Côté, Éric Normand


Tour de Bras DL #1

Malcolm Goldstein/Thomas Lehn


Tour de Bras DL #2

Something In the Air: Good Music Comes In Many Forms and Formats

By Ken Waxman

Standardization is a thing of the past when it comes to recorded music and listeners who get too far ahead of or behind the curve are likely to miss interesting sounds. Just as the production of movies didn’t cease with the acceptance of television, so the manufacture of LPs continued even as the CD became the format of the moment. As artisans continue to craft fine furniture despite the availability of mass-produced items, so too LPs are being created in limited quantities. This situation appears tailor-made for experimental sounds. Similarly since advanced players are often as impecunious as they are inventive, the ubiquity of the Internet means that some music is only sold through the Web. The option of not having to create a physical product is a boon for non-mainstream performers. MORE

March 15, 2013

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble

All There, Ever Out
Babel BDV 1196

Alexander Hawkins & Louis Moholo-Moholo

Keep Your Heart Straight

Ogun OGCD 039

Praised frequently as one of the United Kingdom’s most accomplished young pianists, on the basis of these discs it’s easy to see how Oxford-based Alexander Hawkins has gained this reputation. Someone whose collaborators as pianist and organist have included North Americans drummer Harris Eisenstadt, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and reedist Joe McPhee, Hawkins is also perfectly at home working with Commonwealth citizens who are veterans or his contemporaries. 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

July 3, 2010


Essex Foam Party
psi 09.07

Consisting of a group of lapsed and still frequently backsliding British acoustic improvisers, this party tracks the members’ personal accommodation to altering the their instruments’ properties with electronics.

Mixed among the moist pulses and triggered cross textures that characterize much of the music are interludes that insert keyboard comping and runs from Stephen Grew and hollow thumps and percussive power from David Ross – reminding the listeners that his instrument is a drum oscillator. Meanwhile Richard Scott’s synthesizer, samplers and Buchla lightning plus Nick Grew’s processing and transduction explore the interface displayed through watery pulsations, stop-time slides and gong-like input-output among other sound extensions. Yet the refusal to completely abstract tones to un-segmented electronics is intensified on the three longest tracks when Orphy Robinson’s vibraphone licks and rebounds plus Paul Obermayer’s sampler-driven delays, flutters and video-game-like clanks and clicks join the four for live communal sound-making. MORE

July 21, 2006


With Derek Bailey
Foghorn Records FOGCD006

Perhaps the most unintentionally shocking part of this 2004 live London gig by the British Bruise band joined by guitarist Derek Bailey is its cost, reprinted on the back CD cover: “₤5/₤3 concessions”.

While a bargain for the audience, it proves once again that no matter how well-known someone like the guitarist was in the improv world, he was still doing local gigs for the equivalent of the price of a beer a little more than a year before his death at 75. Obviously no one ever got rich – or is it comfortable, in both senses – playing improv. MORE

August 8, 2005

Tony Bevan

Foghorn Records

Floros Floridis
F.L.O.R.O. III (Further Lines Over Rough Options)
j.n.d. re-records

By Ken Waxman
August 8, 2005

Unlike rockers, classical recitalists and even mainstream jazzers, committed improvisers have a compulsion to constantly involve themselves in novel situations with new players or new instruments. For them, repetition is the same as stasis.

Thus these two CDs find accomplished reedists who have recorded noteworthy acoustic duo and trio discs, setting up more of a challenge by welcoming more musicians and electronics. Frankly, the end products aren’t as satisfying as earlier, all-acoustic dates, but the players have to be commended for their audacity and refusal to stand pat. MORE

January 13, 2003

Simon H. Fell

Composition No. 30.
Bruce’s Fingers BF 27

The compositions and performance of British bassist Simon H. Fell on this two-CD set may be the long-awaited physical flowering of Gunther Schuller’s and John Lewis’ ideas from the 1960s. Fell may also have taken those theories even further.

In the early 1960s, Schuller, a modern composer, French hornist and head of Boston’s New England Conservatory; and Lewis, pianist and music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet; conceived of Third Stream music that would combine elements of music’s first and second streams of classical music and jazz. They recorded a few albums and even put together a mixed jazz and classical ensemble called Orchestra USA. MORE