Harry Miller’s ISIPINGO – Which Way Now


One can only be thankful to Steven Feigenbaum, who keeps retrieving fantastic archival recordings – first two CDs by Chris Mc Gregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, now this – of those fringes of English jazz that could have been lost in the darkest oblivion while instead were formed by the most active agitators of a scene that’s always been a true breeding ground for artists gifted with vision, sensibility and painful love for music. Harry Miller was a great, if undersung, bass player and a talented composer and band leader, besides being the co-founder of the famous Ogun label; this live recording captures his group Isipingo – the name was a homage to a holiday location which Miller and his wife Hazel remembered fondly – in a 1975 concert at the Post-Aula in Bremen, Germany. The band is formed by Miller (bass), Nick Evans (trombone), Mongezi Feza (trumpet) Louis Moholo (drums), Mike Osborne (alto sax) and Keith Tippett (piano). Four tracks, all around the 20 minute mark except the last one who lasts about 14, show what kind of emancipation and relentless quest for freedom a group of like-minded musicians can aspire to, even in a context where the compositions are preconceived and written by a single entity. The thematic excursions are magnificently exposed by Feza, Osborne and Evans over the rock-solid foundation built by Miller and Moholo, with Tippett switching between the roles of harmonic coordinator and second-line soloist, his piano work always a reference point to look at in this perfect six-part interplay. The solos are a thing of beauty: starting from a regular melody, a mourning phrase or a raging cry, all the involved parties take the whole content of their soul out of their bodies, remaining totally focused even in the most intense moments, never losing their way to the functioning of the piece. The music follows the same “theme-solos-theme-finale” path in every track, and each time the applause at the end is warm and convinced. High-calibre material, which we’re lucky to be able to enjoy. One of the best recent Cuneiform releases and an absolute must for the connoisseurs, this CD should be required in every music college.


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