Beck Hunters

The Hunt is On
Discus 46 CD

Musical mythology includes many sounds defined geographically such As Mississippi Blues, the Viennese atonalists, Chicago-style Jazz and the Canterbury Rock Scene, so why not make a case for Sheffield Improv? Certainly the steel making city was the birthplace of Free Music most uncompromising prophet – Derek Bailey – and over the years a raft of others improvisers such as Tony Oxley, Paul Hession, Martin Archer and Simon Fell have had associations in the place.

All of which leads to this top-line slab of Free Jazz from long-time Sheffield affiliate Mick Beck, who plays tenor saxophone, bassoon, and whistles. Besides the notable music another point of interest is that the trio is filled out by two much younger players. They are brothers Anton Hunter on guitar and Johnny Hunter on drums, who may in fact, be interlopers from Manchester. A sturdy drummer with evidentially no desire to join the insect music crowd, Johnny Hunter’s steady beat is sometimes enlivened with pops, cracks and resounds as well as cymbal tickles, often turning the rhythm into a crescendo of irregular bumps. Anton Hunter, who also recorded the four selections at an unnamed time and place – October 2013 perhaps – offers some distinctive coloration to the tunes. Influenced by Rock like his sibling, his spindly guitar licks take more from the more sophisticated side of Chet Atkins and the less funky parts of Grant Green than anything invented by Bailey.

Almost from the first the three improvisers mesh and, for instance, when Beck turns from faint whistling and unpacks his bassoon on “Hunting for the Ultimate Chord” his wild boar-like snorts are chromatically complemented by bell reverb and cymbal pressure on one side and bulldozing twangs on the other. Eventually, following some light-hearted peeps from what sounds like a penny whistle, Beck returns to the mammoth double reed. His tightened obbligato signals a satisfying ending.

Beck is more of a Trane spotter on saxophone, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal of his righteous honking which drags the Hunters along with him as if they’re involved in a particularly invigorating hounds-and-fox pursuit. Beck’s tongue slurs, slides and yelps are always there whenever he plays, although the extended “Hunting for Young Quasars” appears even tougher – in a good sense. Lip-bubbling his lines into atonality on that track, the saxophonist’s output moves from tree-top altissimo to bog-deep chalumeau and lower. By the mid-point all three players lock into a mesmerizing AMM/Necks-like groove that stops and starts at will as if a switch is being clicked. Irregular drum patterns and strokes which suggest arco bowing as much as picking add to the effervescence that finally reaches a crescendo of freer textures. More off-centre drumming, variable string plucks and reed peeps combine as the piece slowly fades.

Proof that high quality improvised music is being produced away from better-known population centres, following the title’s instructions to seek out this disc will lead to ample musical rewards.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing; 1. Hunting for Metal 2. Hunting for the Ultimate Chord 3. Hunting for Young Quasars 4. Hunting for Water

Personnel: Mick Beck (tenor saxophone, bassoon, and whistles); Anton Hunter (guitar) and Johnny Hunter (drums)