If you are keeping a careful eye on new approaches to improvisation coming out of Europe, you’ve probably come across Sebastian Lexer and Christoph Schiller. Lexer, a mainstay in Eddie Prévost’s Workshop, has been charting out the interactions of acoustic piano and real-time electronics processing with his piano+, working with musicians like Seymour Wright, John Tilbury, Steve Noble, and Grundik Kasyansky.
On their fourth album, and the third on Matchless, saxophonists Bertrand Denzler and Jean-Luc Guionnet, guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage, pianist Frédéric Blondy and percussionist Edward Perraud deliver three more impressive examples of musical teamwork, recorded in February and April last year in Lille and Poitiers. It's not hard to see why Hubbub music appeals to Matchless MC Eddie Prévost: apart from AMM, I can't think of another outfit in improvised music that has worked so hard to forge a group sound, a musical identity that's more than the sum of its parts.
I have to admit I had to look up the meaning of the word "penumbrae" as my astronomical terminology is a bit rusty. The reference to "the partial or imperfect shadow outside the complete shadow of an opaque body (such as a planet)" clicks right in to place when listening to this superlative duo of violinist Jennifer Allum and percussionist Eddie Prévost. Allum, a member of Prévost's weekly workshops, has been performing regularly around London in improvised settings as well as with the Post Quartet, a string quartet which she helped found.
The great surprise with the French quintet Hubbub comes with seeing them in performance before you’ve heard one of their recordings. Five men walk on stage, two carry saxophones, one a guitar, the pianist and drummer sit down at their instruments. It looks like a conventional notion of a band, the sole concession to the world of electronics the Gibson Les Paul, itself a guitar design that has changed little in the past sixty years. Every instrument carries with it the expectation of a characteristic envelope, the attack and decay of individual sounds.
It is given to very few artists to have created a language entirely their own, but that is what the British band(?) AMM has done over the years, in various line-ups and configurations, with Eddie Prévost on drums as the only unifying element since 1965, and with John Tilbury on piano for the last two decades, here with just the two of them. You may like them or not, but they have made history, and they still do, with lots of young musicians moving into the broad avenue they created.