‘All About Jazz’
Recorded live at London's Café Oto, at a November 2012 concert that was the last of a short series of gigs in Austria and Britain, this CD plays for seventy-seven minutes, fitting as much of the concert onto a single disc as was possible. As Eddie Prevost says in his sleeve notes, it contains the most substantial parts of that memorable concert. Although not a regular or long-standing group, the stellar trio of drummer Prévost, pianist Marilyn Crispell and reeds player Harrison Smith was bound together by the drummer, who had first recorded with Smith in 1989 (as members of the Free Jazz Quartet alongside Paul Rutherford's trombone and Tony Moore's cello), and in a duo with Crispell in 1994.
Crucially, coming at the end of the series, this gig found the trio completely played-in and in touch with one another. So, the opening track, "An Exploratory Introduction," is somewhat mistitled as all three immediately hit their stride without any tentative explorations or probing. They breeze through the track's eight minutes, playing together fluently and confidently; in particular, the interactions between Crispell and Smith demonstrate that the two work well together, sounding natural and relaxed as they trade phrases and ideas with one another.
As the track titles suggest, the music here is not based on compositions but is freely improvised by the trio. Nonetheless, the playing of all three players clearly reveals their histories playing jazz, free or otherwise; for instance, Prévost's drumming is far jazzier and rhythmic than his playing with AMM or on recent recordings with members of his improvisation workshop. The players all inject great variety into the music they play; in Smith's case, this is partly because he can switch between tenor and alto saxophones and bass clarinet, but also because his improvising is bold and exploratory, as has been demonstrated in his many years with London Improvisers Orchestra.
Prévost and Crispell are varied in different ways to Smith, both being adept at subtly moving between featured player and support player which they both do here, always making fascinating listening whichever role they are in at the time. Across the concert's two continuous sets, each of the possible combinations—trio, duos, solos—is featured at some point, but nothing ever sounds premeditated or cued in; instead, a dynamic balance is maintained between the three players, with each one being featured and contributing equally. This is not to suggest that when one player comes to the fore the other two necessarily subside; on the contrary, there are frequent climaxes when all three are playing flat-out together, creating a thrilling adrenalin rush. In contrast, there are passages of play—exemplified by "A Meditative Interlude"—in which all three are subdued at the same time, creating relaxing oases of pastoral calm. All things considered, this album is an object lesson in the art of the improviser and should be required listening for anyone who aspires to be an improvising musician.
— John Eyles, 13th March 2021