Inscape - Tableaux
Intakt CD 066

Just as the European Union (EU) and the Euro have begun to win over Continental rivalries and local currencies, so composer, orchestra director and bass master Barry Guy has decided to put together a new international aggregation that's showcased on this exceptional disc. After 28 years leading the mostly British, usually 18-piece, London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LCJO), the now Ireland-based Guy has organized an all-star tentet to perform this multi-faceted composition which took two years to perfect. As multinational as the EU, the Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) features only two other Englishmen, as well three Swedes, two Americans, a German and a Swiss national.

Most have worked with the bassist before — some extensively like Evan Parker and Paul Lytton. All are at the top of their form. It would be stupid to say that the colors brought forward by the LJCO's additional eight to 10 players can be equaled by BGNO's fewer musicians. But together these improvisers are so proficient on so many instruments and so cognizant of so many techniques that what they produce easily has the resonance of a larger band. Though scored, Guy's "Inscape - Tableaux" leaves plenty of space to take advantage of each individual's talents.

Especially noteworthy is pianist Marilyn Crispell, who as well as being integrated into the ensemble, is featured in three keyboard-centered interludes between the larger orchestral sections. Sometimes pastoral, as in the beginning of "IV"— practically a duet for her and Guy's flying fingers — sometimes powerful, Crispell seems to bring her classical chops to the fore here. Distinctively unique, her playing no more resembles that of Cecil Taylor —as some lazy commentators have suggested — than Jesse Helms' politics resemble those of Jesse Jackson's.

Trombonist Johannes Bauer's showcase comes on "V", an exploding comet of cacophony, which harkens back to the earliest days of large ensemble free jazz. Here and elsewhere his vocalized, guttural cries simultaneously suggest New Orleans tailgate and outer space. "V" also features some of Herb Robertson's best Maynard-Ferguson-meets-Cootie-Williams explosions. With only three valves, the American trumpeter is able to produce the sort of multiphonics saxophonists need many keys to generate.

Speaking of saxophonists, how can a band go wrong with a section made up of Parker's circular breathing, Mats Gustafsson's lung bursting blowouts, and on "VI", Hans Koch's top-to-bottom bass clarinet forays?

Still, this Ellington band-like aggregation of stylists shouldn't obscure that the BGNO is very much a composer's vehicle, with echoes of European New music and on "II" Charles Mingus' scores for mid-sized ensembles. Listen again to an interlude in "V" and observe the perfect clarity of Per Åke Holmlander's tuba making its way like a hippo across the Veldt as the untamed wild birds that are the horns vocally leap and frolic overhead. Like Ellington and Mingus, Guy writes with the idiosyncrasies of his players firmly in mind and the score sounds that much the better for it.

One could go on and on appending extended examples of sophisticated and eventful writing and outstanding solos, but how many more superlatives can be heaped on this groundbreaking disc of modern music? Suffice it to say that INSCAPE - TABLEAUX deserves to be heard by anyone at all interested in modern composition and the state of 21st century orchestral sound. We can also hope, that sometime in the future, this Valhalla of improvising giants will tour in this formation

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Inscape - Tableaux Part 1; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII

Personnel: Herb Robertson (trumpet); Johannes Bauer (trombone); Per Åke Holmlander (tuba); Evan Parker (tenor and soprano saxophones); Mats Gustafsson (tenor and baritone saxophones); Hans Koch (tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet); Marilyn Crispell (piano); Barry Guy (bass); Paul Lytton, Raymond Strid (percussion)