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eddie prevost quartet | larry stabbins | marcio mattos | veryan weston | continuum + | & concert, v

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Eddie Prevost Quartet

Continuum +
Matchless / MRCD07

Larry Stabbins / soprano and tenor saxophones, Marcio Mattos / double bass, Veryan Weston / piano, Eddie Prévost / drums.

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Eddie Prevost and Veryan Weston / Concert, V
Matchless / MRCD37

Eddie Prevost / drums Veryan Weston / piano

The two latest issues from Prevost’s Matchless label are nicely paired; a quartet gig which has acquired a certain amount of status over the years as one of those events you were glad you were at if you were there, or you pretended you were at if you weren’t, together with a chance to hear half of that quartet indulge their fondness for the duet format together.

The quartet played a forty-minute continuous set at the Bracknell Jazz Festival in 1983, a set which was released on LP at that time and is re-issued here along with almost as much music again recorded by the same group in a studio nearly two years later. The music is forceful, energetic free jazz, but it only occasionally deploys the kind of assault and battery which people sometimes fear from music like this. Indeed, it has as many moments of tenderness, and of good-natured swinging, as if does of bruising rough-and-tumble.

All four are wonderful free jazz players, but what’s nice is how differently they all come at this music. Stabbins, probably the least familair name on the roster, was a key mover in Working Week and has played sideman to a long list of avant-jazz folk. His playing is boppish and funky, rather reminiscent of Lol Coxhill; he’s certainly not, as some detractors have remarked, an Evan Parker clone. Prevost, on the other hand, is best-known for his role in AMM — indeed, some would say, his role as AMM, since it’s possible to find no common musician across all of the AMM catalogue besides this versatile percussionist. As a result, his straighter jazz playing can be undervalued compared with a timbral sensitivity for which he is widely recognised. That’s a mistake: Prevost can swing, and here he proves it.

Weston is a great player, a swirling dervish of a pianist with more than a little of Marilyn Crrispell about him. He’s a more brittle, excitable player than Crispell, however, less interested in pacing himself and more in running amock on the keyboard, making the music surge about as if in a storm at sea while still managing to place the notes, more often than not, in a way which meaningfully interacts with Stabbin’s curlicue lines. Marcio Mattos, meanwhile, reminds us of his powerful propulsive force. His real voice may be heard better in more reserved settings than this, but he launches himself into this set with admirable verve.

The studio pieces bring plenty of new scenery. There’s a slow ballad with a head which sounds composed, giving Stabbins the chance to smooch up to the mike like Lester Young; a fast, exotic mutation of bebop which has them writhing all over their instruments trying to keep the thing on the rails (they do); a jerky thing called “Pair of Braces”, which gets closer to free improv than jazz, a situation in which Stabbins seems ill-at-ease; and a fascinating piece of work which seems caught between a quick, shuffling rhythm and a slow, turgid dirge. Excepting “Pair of Braces”, which isn’t quite successful, the rest of these earn their place as more than just CD filler; as far as can be devined, they are previously unreleased, and fans of any one of these four musicians will be very pleased to have them. The disc also has a sleeve designed by young tenor lion Simon Picard, and since it’s very atractive it rather seems that that very promising reedsman has another talent under his bushel.

“Concert V” isn’t a concert recording, but one done in the studio; Prevost is quoted in the sleeve notes as saying it “refers to the verb meaning of the word”, although, since there is no verb “to concert”, it would appear that he has invented it. No harm in that, as it makes a fine verb: concert (con-’cert), v, to bring together with premeditated determination. Or something. Anyway, it does rather shed a light on the differences between this duo and the quartet which occupies their sister release.

Here there’s much more space to work with and, rather than filling it, Prevost and Weston are, more often than not, willing to pepper it with sounds, sprinkling them none-too-liberally around the music. That’s not to say this is all quiet stuff, but tracks like “Symphony of Surfaces” which work up to a spiralling complexity which baffles the ear nevertheless seem to emerge from silence, and sit on top of it like a thin layer. Perhaps that’s because Weston favours the upper octaves of his piano so strongly; the music seems to have great gaping holes in it, and it’s all the better for that.

This is a record which is obviously made with an intense degree of concentration. Although the quartet disc is also very focussed, it has a sort of knockabout sense of enjoyment which these duets seem to have abandoned in favour of something slightly more severe. Maybe it’s a part of Prevost’s ideas about malleability — in terms of musicians with over-arching theories, Prevost is the anti-Fripp incarnate — or maybe not, but the differences between these two discs aren’t differences in quality so much as in attitude, ambiance and approach. They require different approaches from the listener, too, and they reward them richly.Richard Cochrane