SLAM CD 2110

Out of left field – or at least from the Hermon Chapel – comes this disc of eloquent free improvisation. During six intense tracks, recorded in a chapel turned arts centre in Oswestry, a small town between Liverpool and Birmingham – saxophonist Bruce Coates, bassist Trevor Lines, guitarist Barry Edwards and drummer Ed Gauden prove that not all imposing players have migrated to the big city. Part of the music faculty at Newman University, Birmingham, Coates has played with Han-earl Park and Paul Dunmall; Edwards with Dunmall and Mark Sanders; Gauden with Edwards and Mark Hanslip and Lines as part of the South Leicestershire Improvisers Ensemble

Peculiarity enough Edwards doesn’t make his presence felt until the second part of the program so that the first half of the disc unspools as if it was by an exemplary trio. Because of this most of the interplay is between either of Coates’ horns and bowed or plucked guitar lines. Advancing curlicue smears at a moderate pace at the top, when Coates unleashes the tenor saxophone on “Locked In” his vivid expressiveness becomes more dissident and vigorous. Paced by equally thick bowed double-bass variations, only a detour into bugle-like doits confirms the saxophonist’s individuality. He then trills it into nearly unaccompanied coda.

Arriving in a circumspective manner with Morse-code-like patterns which attach themselves to soprano saxophone trills, the guitarist come into his own on “Locked On” as the bassist retreats to undulating plucks and the drummer maintains his self-effacing clatters and pops. Edwards then asserts himself just as Gauden adds maracas-like shakes and power ruffs and Coates builds his part out of slurs and squeals climbing from basement to skyscraper height with timbres that often sound as if they’re being forced through a metal plate placed against his horn’s bell. All this is in response to pointed frails and shrill plucks on high-pitched strings from Edwards so that the conclusion is as jagged as it is judicious. Propelling the interaction through pinches reed notes and incessant strums from Edwards, the two, later joined by the bassist and drummer, subdue the variations to attain a warmer connection that squirm to diffuse concluding vibrations.

While none of the four players is a household name – even in the UK improvisational community – on evidence of this CD alone, all deserve to be better known.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Locked Up 2. Locked In 3. Locked Jaw 4. Locked Out 5. Locked On 6. Locked Down

Personnel: Bruce Coates (soprano and tenor saxophones); Barry Edwards (guitar); Trevor Lines (bass) and Ed Gauden (drums)