Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Ken Hyder & Vladimir Miller...

This page seems to be developing a bit of a British Jazz thread, what with Keith Tippett, Trevor Watts and some vintage Howard Riley all being posted recently. A perfect excuse for yet another link to the hideous cover art from the Esmond Selwyn disc that is such a favourite on these pages!!

As my anticipation of next week's Mujician gig continues to build, I'm currently working on reviews of CDs by Brits Stan Tracey and John Butcher. I'll try to post some more reviews of home-grown talent over the coming weeks.

Those who know their Matching Mole from their Henry Cow from their Hatfield & The North should also know that Ken Hyder's group Talisker made some impressive discs during the same period.

Although this review shows that I'm not prepared to name the disc as an instant classic, there is nevertheless a lot to recommend it. An excerpt from the review appears on Hyder's website amongst comments from an illustrious roll call of reviewers, proving that people DO pay attention to what I write, at least some of the time...

Counting On Angels
SLAM (CD 251)

Hear The Fear In The Dark Forest; Angel’s Son; Siege Of Leningrad; Russian Dolls; Sayan Flying; Russian Rivers; Obshennia.

Vladimir Miller (p); Ken Hyder (d).
Recorded 2003.

Anglo-Russian pianist Vladimir Miller came to prominence almost a decade ago with a string of consistently inventive recordings for Leo Records by his large ensemble The Moscow Composers Orchestra. Combining abstraction with discipline, structure and melody, the MCO seemed natural heirs to the Ganelin Trio’s legacy. Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder has long been interested in combining folk forms with improvisation, and nowadays he splits his time between his native Scotland and the even colder climes of Siberia. As a duo they’ve performed together extensively in Russia during the last dozen or so years, and this recording, dedicated to the late Vladimir Rezitsky, is inspired by those experiences.

To me, Russian improvisation often seems to be characterised by the way in which it manages to combine classical music’s gravitas with folk music’s simplicity and a puckish native wit. The seven improvisations here largely continue that tradition, though the darkness of much of the material makes me pine for slightly more of the wit. Hyder’s unusual pairing of shamanic beats with delicate percussion filigrees meshes so completely with Miller’s tightly-drawn harmonic repetitions that you forget there’s no bass player fleshing out the sound. Using the repetitively hypnotic left-hand vamps of Mal Waldron and the forceful atonal right-hand jabs of Cecil Taylor, Miller is both rooted and free, at once inviting us into his music whilst also throwing down the shutters should we get too cosy.

Less forbidding than a typical piano/drums duet involving Borah Bergman, for example, Miller and Hyder nevertheless share a tendency to run parallel discourses rather than engaging in real musical dialogue. Each piece feels curiously unresolved, as if a fragment of a whole. Whilst I’m sure that deeper structures may be revealed with long-term listening, ‘Counting On Angels’ contains great moments yet for long periods seems merely to tread water.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, January 2004)

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