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A Church Is Only Sacred To Believers CD

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Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Song One 6:19£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Song Two 6:19£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Song Three10:32Album Only
Listen  4. Song Four15:25Album Only
Listen  5. Song Five14:44Album Only

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CD LINER NOTES In 1999 I took part in the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium in Ontario, Canada. During this festival I presented a key-note talk, played some drums and presented some ideas in a music 'clinic.' After my practical demonstration and discussion with the audience, LaDonna Smith a violinist and an improviser of long-standing, enquired whether I offered this 'workshop' practice on a regular basis. To which I replied that I did not. To which she responded by saying that I should. On the long flight home from Canada to England I began to reflect upon LaDonna's words. And, finally I resolved (given I was reaching a let us say maturer period in my life) that such an initiative might have some merit. I made myself the promise that I would start a workshop devoted to improvisation with an emphasis upon what I think of as an 'experimental' kind. The promise included the caveat that I would continue to do this until people stopped coming. With the initial help of the London Musicians' Collective I found a place to hold a weekly session in central London and, mostly through the grape-vine, people began to arrive. Nine years later they are still coming. And, I suppose it means that I will have to continue. But contrary to whatever vision I had of any outcome, the experience of being involved in the Friday night improvisation workshop in London has produced innumerable, unmeasurable and unexpected outcomes. Not least being meeting with some very remarkable people. For at the date of this CD, some three hundred people have been to this workshop, representing over twenty different nationalities. So, it is not particularly surprising that half of this ensemble are non British. Bechir Saade is from Lebanon and Nicolas Christian is from France. What is surprising however, is the seriousness of the engagement. For in this most informal and fragile of musical forms, in which the musicians are searching and simultaneously reviewing new sounds and new configurations and responses, it would be a surprise if there were no doubts about this practice and numerous failures. But of course, negotiating failure (whatever that might be!) can be the route to other kinds of success (whatever that might be!). One thing of which I do feel certain however, is that in an enquiring and open-minded engagement, of the kind that characterizes improvisations such as on this CD, requires the development of an unconventional intelligence. In the looking for new sounds and new musical (and social) relationships the mind accesses (and maybe thereby enhances) a cognitive fluidity. For to make music of meaning for the moment the musician has to go beyond what is understood as the 'musical'. Paradoxically, the 'notion of music' is perhaps an inhibiting factor in making music. Music for the world at large had perhaps become a fixed idea and often institutionalised. Possibly forms of music have become kinds of a church that is subtly alluded to in this title for the CD. Whether or not we too are creating a church may be an open question. Certainly the way we work, individually and together, suggests and encourages methods and an ethos very different from any other kind of music I know of. If it is becoming 'a church' (and co-incidently the weekly London workshop takes place in the school room of a Welsh Chapel), then it is extremely open and tolerant of all approaches. All that it seems to abhor is unthinking responses and intolerance itself. Eddie Prévost - 30th September 2008


Eddie Prévost seems to enjoy writing about what he does almost as much as he enjoys doing it, and several recent releases, not only those on his own Matchless imprint, have come with copious and informative liner notes, this quartet outing on the splendid Lebanese Al Maslakh label with bassist Nicholas Christian, violinist Matt Milton and bass clarinettist Bechir Saade (the Lebanese connection) being no exception. Prévost's text gives reviewers like me (and others who enjoy quoting liner notes and press releases call it laziness if you like, but I've learnt more about music from reading the backs of albums than I ever did in 14 years of music school) plenty to get their teeth into: in this case it tells the story of the genesis of his Friday night workshop, that hotbed of activity and breeding ground for new talent including these musicians in the already fertile field of improvised music in London, of whose importance much has been made lately. "If it is becoming 'a church' (and co-incidentally the weekly London workshop takes place in the school room of a Welsh chapel)", the percussionist writes, "then it is extremely open and tolerant of all approaches. All it seems to abhor is unthinking responses and intolerance itself." Fair comment, though I do detect in this release and in the series of CDR snapshots of the new London scene (I'll refrain from capitalising the "new".. we already had New London Silence and that didn't last too long) that Simon Reynell's Another Timbre released earlier this year an emerging consensus, a search for a lingua franca. The emphasis is placed firmly on overall group sound, on fitting in, on being part of one of those communities whose virtues Eddie extols in No Sound Is Innocent and Minute Particulars, rather than in asserting an individual point of view. I've recently been listening again, for the first time in years, to Stockhausen's Aus den Sieben Tagen cycle (prompted to do so by Richard Barrett's description of it in these pages as "one of the pinnacles of achievement in improvised music"), that rather notorious collection of hippy-trippy verbal scores dating from 1968 (when else?), and was pleasantly surprised by Kommunion the other day during a quiet lunch break at work. One of the instructions for that particular piece is "play or sing a vibration in the rhythm of the molecules of one your fellow players", but the contrast between the Stockhausen ensemble's 1969 recording and the communal activity of A Church, which, as alphabetical order would have it, was cued up to play right after it on the trusty mp3 player, was striking. While I have no reason to suspect that the members of Karlheinz's band weren't trying to follow his instructions as faithfully as possible (!), there's still a clear sense of individuals resolving (or not) their differences, a real musical argument, which is harder to find in Eddie's congregation. Not that Church is risk-free, pale and unadventurous far from it: much of its texture is uncompromisingly rough but one longs for more in the way of friction than Milton's scratches and Prévost's scraped cymbals. I know it's dreadfully passé and old hat these days to wax nostalgic over real notes, but the most aurally satisfying moments on this disc occur when pitch either high-end, from the bowed metal, or low-end, from Christian's Scelsi-like bass asserts itself, imposing a harmonic identity on proceedings and reining in Milton and Saade's coarser sonorities. At such moments one really feels the presence of a fifth member of the group: the group itself. You might call it playing in the rhythm of each other's molecules. --Paris Transatlantic | Dan Warburton

Extraordinary free improvisation (and let's face it, the word "extraordinary" is used far too often these days) tends to be sound that reinvents the significance or implications of music. These days, whenever percussionist Eddie Prevost involved in the process, the extraordinary becomes the custom. The session in London grew out of Prévost's regular workshop for improvisers, and features fellow Brit violinist Matt Milton, plus Lebanese bass clarinetist Bachir Saade and the French bassist Nicholas Christian. While Milton and Prévost have worked together and Saade and Christian have recorded a duo, this is the first outing for this particular quartet. At lower volumes the music can be barely perceptible as a live recording, because the four interact and work as one sound unit. No flights of soloing or noise runs are heard. Saade's breathy bass clarinet recalls Axel Dorner's trumpet vocalizations, organizing his sound around breath and the meditative implications of sound, or the absence of sound. Likewise, Prévost, Milton, and Christian are complicit in this prayer. The quartets' inconspicuous playing might be mistaken for an ambient recording. That is at low volume. Turn up the amplification and the listening experience changes. What was once ambient is now a flurry of activity. Like peering inside a beehive, the musicians are in constant motion. Their activity, barely noticeable on the calm surface, creates this bubble of sound. In other words, these musicians are hard at work, their seemingly ordinary sound is, in fact, extraordinary. --All About Jazz | Mark Corroto

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