Miller/Martino/Northover

The Dinner Party
FMR CD 469-1117

Steve Noble/Adrian Northover/Daniel Thompson

Ag

Creative Sources CS 489 CD

June 14 and 15 2017 were obviously very busy two days for saxophonist Adrian Northover. Recorded on those days with different associates,the CDs show off Northover's talents in live and studio situations. While both are respectable instances of in-the-moment improv, neither reaches first rank.

Constantly experimenting, the London-based soprano and alto saxophonist is part of groups like the Remote Viewers and The London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO) and the other players here have as distinguished pedigrees. Ag also features percussionist Steve Noble, who has plied his trade beside everyone from Derek Bailey to Pat Thomas; plus largely self-taught acoustic guitarist Daniel Thompson, who has played with Evan Parker, Guillaume Viltard and the LIO. The other diners at The Dinner Party are pianist Vladimir Miller, who often moves between the UK and Russia, playing with the likes of Vladimir Tarasov and Ken Hyder. Bassist Pierpaolo Martino is not only a researcher in English Literature at the University of Bari, but has played with sound explorers like Marc Ducret and Eugenio Colombo.

Despite these skills, The Dinner Party is the weaker disc. Recorded on the second day, after the concert that makes up Ag, the session starts of well, but starts to dissolve into compliancy after the first couple of tracks. To look on the bright side “Bridges” matches processional toughness from Miller’s keyboard with sweeping spiccato from Martino’s double bass that is further powered by Northover’s squeaky narrative. The line surges to genial swing when the three parts combine. Miller’s slowly modulating pianism also impress on “The Window”, as he creates a theme of moderated Impressionism but without every falling into passive Bill Evans-like rhythm impediments. The bassist’s closely spaced plucks reinforce the beat as the saxophonist’s tone seeps smoothly with s Konitz-Desmond-like sway. Unfortunately most of the other improvisations move from exciting to enervated as the session progresses. Coy and dream-like pieces seem to recall 21st Century Cool Jazz, emphasizing the gentleness and subtlety of the keyboard and reeds, but lacking enough oomph to buttress movement. A few smacks, plucks and shifts are added but rhythm is definitely at a premium.

There isn’t any need for additional percussiveness on Ag however since Noble is one of the most virtuosic of drummers. At the same time this trio evolves interconnected improvisations with the first demonstrating their massed skills and the third as a sort of coda to the nearly 30-minute “Second Improvisation”, which stretches concepts to their limits, stabilizing into tripartite chromatic unity. Overall the performance is introduced with swift stick-across-the-cymbal-top reverberations, finger-style and twanging guitar plinks and reed flutter tonguing. Variations of this formula helps build up to a climax then calms the sequences. Most descriptive on “Second Improvisation”, the band begins by melding rim scrapes, string clipping and undulating reed puffs, whorls and whistles into a crying narrative paced by Noble’s bell-ringing. While Northover display a touch of circular breathing, the idea is to not produce excitement via individual showiness, but through group efforts that blend wooden drum pops, intermittent reed peeps and slurred string fingering into a vibrating whole. With drumming continuum as ballast any pretzel-like asides are finally straightened out for a solid climax, leading to the downshift-dissolve on the final track.

In the position of Hank Mobley whose respectable 1960s LP were fine, but nothing like what John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins were producing, Northover – and his associates here – have produce sounds that are perfectly acceptable. But considering the parameters of improvised music can be stretched so much further, that’s a goal he and they may only attain on further outings.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Ag: 1. First Improvisation 2. Second Improvisation 3. Third Improvisation

Personnel: Ag: Adrian Northover (alto and soprano saxophones); Daniel Thompson (acoustic guitar) and Steve Noble (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Dinner: 1. Bridges 2. The Window 3. Amuse Bouche 4. Otic Repast 5. Take Away 6. 3 Moods 7. Cuts and Bruises 8. The Echo Chamber

Personnel: Dinner: Adrian Northover (alto saxophone); Vladimir Miller (piano) and Pierpaolo Martino (bass)