When you watch Colin Webster and Andrew Lisle play ( which I have just done) there is a wonderful energy which flows through the music and the way it is interpreted and presented.
Colin is a musician at the forefront of boundary-pushing jazz exploration. He works with other musicians and also produces solo works, which are about pushing sax and human capabilities to the extremes. His debut solo album Antennae, released by Gaffer Records in October 2013, was then followed by It’s On Like Boiled Corn from Norwegianism Records in 2015. His collaborations with drummer Mark Holub and Graham Dunning are incredible interesting works and he performs with Dutch free jazz/noise trio Dead Neanderthals. As well as this, Colin has joined forces with many important musicians including Archie Shepp, Steve Noble, Alex Ward among others. Andrew Lisle has worked together with Colin Webster before, notably with regular Cafe Oto appearances with varying line ups including Dirk Serries and John Dikeman gigs plus on Red Kite, the CD released by the trio of Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle and Alex Ward ( guitar).
This CD starts with Tangent which is a power-filled sax led track exploring various modes with steadfast, cracking percussion interjections from Lisle, there is a frenetic power running through this track which is transferred to the listener though the music, especially when Colin delivers his rolling, flutter note triplets and stut notes. Complete madness and totally wonderful. Circles and Lines is drum-led at the start with a great percussion section before the sax joins muscles, adding sharp tones and developed the textures and layers. It is not long before that energetic urgency is there and the track wends its way steadfastly towards the doors of mayhem but stops short. Colin explores nearly every note of the alto on this track whilst Andrew backs him up with precisely placed rhythmic incidents. A theme almost develops towards the final stages - almost.
Abstractions begins with lightly touched drums introducing various sounds and effects before the sax enters, echoing the delicacy and sparsely placed drum. Breathy notes and brushwork combine to make this a total contrast to the tracks before with the sax's beautiful sonorous sounds allowed to creep around in the basement, holding it together. Not so easy to listen to at first but then Colin begins to explore the limits of the instrument, developing some pretty spooky notes which combine to make this eventually a really interesting track. Raveled and Unraveled is of a playful nature with both musicians creating and extracting sounds from their instruments which surprise and yet there is a commonality between the rhythmic determination which binds the whole track. This is a track built of the bricks of texture and snippets of sounds which create a beautiful wall of sound.
Patterns Emerge is lovely in the way that different musical shapes emerge from the short themes and matrixes which are established and the changes in the emphasis of the two musicians. Building both in intensity and speed, Colin's fingers must have been on fire at one point in the scale progressions but the track is full of contrasts and very beneficial to the ears. Cross is introduced by a glorious drum solo over which the sax develops a maniacal, intense and in your face theme, shouting the delight and creativity of its deliverer. The cohesive section where sax and drums echo each other rhythmically is completely spellbinding. Parallel Space does away with any sense of cohesive rhythms and dance beats , it is odd, eerie, ethereal and grates on the ears in a good way. Sustained alto notes over deep sonorous baritone going on in the basement makes this a darker track and not unsettling. It is great when it stops. Arc is more like it - here the sax speaks out its decision to dominate over the drums whist the drums deny this in no uncertain terms. A competitive and wonderful track.
Void Into Shape is another of ethereal, sound sculptured tracks with Colin exploring the depths and tones of his sax over delicate rhythms and intricately laced percussion. The sax creates growly notes at times, short, frantic phrases at others. Lovely. Clear Aspect begins with sax repeating the theme for a time over the percussion but before long, this being Mr Webster, the theme is sacrificed for an exploration of what's around the notes, the sounds you can get and the many different ways you can present the ideas the theme inspires. You can hear the development in this piece, which is always insightful and suddenly the theme is back, albeit in varied and different forms, same notes, different expression, totally gorgeous.
Oblique Course closes the CD and is a sax led piece, the only percussive sound that of Colin's fingers over the keys initially but after a few listens you realize there is percussion, just so gentle and soft it is almost imperceptible. Yet that percussive presence is important because it gradually builds and builds, emphasizing and underpinning the creative sax playing going on and slowly but surely the piece builds in an organic way to create a wholesome and well crafted sound. The drums, once its presence is truly felt, surges and fades creating almost a breathing sense, which adds to the life and vibrancy of the music - and such life and vibrancy is here in all its glory. A great track showing the talents of both players, this is a singularly great way to close this CD.
The delight in this music of Messrs Webster and Lisle is you hear every note keenly, squeaks and all, whether intentional or not and the energy is relentless. On just a few occasions it feels like Colin is going off into a somewhat self-exploratory world and the listener is left behind but for the most part this is a very interesting and intriguing CD and the energy and sheer joy clearly felt and passed on to the listener makes it one to listen to many times, each time a guarantee of new discoveries. I pretty much like this!
Colin Webster - Alto and Baritone saxes
Andrew Lisle - Drums
Label: Norwegianism Records