NYC Jazz Record

This is the most recent document from the cryptic and brilliant AMM, who celebrated 50 years in December 2015. The ensemble’s debut was an uncompromising journey into ambiguous sound and its production, whose genre-bending resonances the label “improvisation” would only partially explain. This version of AMM, consisting of pianist John Tilbury, who turns 80 this month, and percussionist Eddie Prévost, charts a similarly engaging course, though it is quieter than that blistering first outing.
AMM’s use of silence and space has increased over the years and this new disc certainly follows the trend toward subtlety and nuance. This is, of course, an overgeneralization and the sooner the listener becomes acclimated to AMM’s subtle shades of sonic color and depth, the more shape is perceived. One way of describing this 2012 festival performance is a series of widening and concentric arcs punctuated by silence. The timbres themselves may be fluid, as with the liquid piano sonorities and bowed tam-tam that begin the performance, or may involve the imaginative interplay of prepared piano and pitched percussion following the first silence. The commencing softer sounds also usher out the performance, giving an arc-like contour
to the whole.
As with every other AMM project, reference is both enigmatic and exhilarating. Tilbury is well known for his interpretations of Morton Feldman’s piano music and there is a Feldman-esque quality to the meditative calm with which he touches the piano, but his chords also conjure shades of Scriabin and Bill Evans, so delicate and intricate are his harmonic choices. Prévost has also established a unique aesthetic, a ‘swung’ rhythm sneaking through at key moments during passages with a harder attack. Heard in aggregate, these two players create the illusion of an ensemble of varying size and instrumentation, ranging from the sparest textures to passages of full-blown romanticism. As with all of the most recent AMM discs, the recording is first-class, allowing for every detail to be captured in a natural environment.
For fans of what is still called free jazz, AMM music is the logical next step. It embodies the freedoms inherited from John Coltrane and Albert Ayler but in a decidedly different language, of which AMM were among the pioneers. Spanish Fighters now joins the long list of testimonials to their adventurous spirits and continued relevance and vitality.

Marc Medwin — The New York City Jazz Record, February 2016