Four Compositions for Orchestra by Pat Thomas
features Oxford Improvisers Orchestra and various solo players.
The extracts below gives an idea of the kaleidoscopic sound worlds Pat conjures up:
Opening section, featuring Ahmed Abdul Rahman ( Erhu )
Beginning of a concerto for Philipp Wachsmann (Violin)
The CD can be purchased from FMR,
It is also available at a special price of £8.00 + £2.00 P/P email us a firstname.lastname@example.org, and will be on sale during the festival at the various venues.
Description: The thing about British keyboard wiz Pat Thomas that amazes me is that he approaches each project so differently. Considering that he has worked with Derek Bailey, Eugene Chadbourne, Steve Beresford, Mats Gustafsson & Lol Coxhill, he is hard to peg down to any one idea. The Oxford Improvisers Orchestra includes names we know like Alexander Hawkins (piano), Dominic Lash (bass) & Phil Wachsmann (violin), as well as exotic instrumentation like kora, erhu, darabuka & tabla. Each of the four long pieces involves different strategies and each is fascinating in its own way. “Composition 786” features erhu (Chinese violin), kora (African harp-like instrument) and steel drums as the soloists while the rest of the orchestra weaves their way around them in three independent sections. I dig the intense interaction between the soprano sax, piano, ehru and kora, as the various cultures are blended a new concoction. “Tales (for Story Teller, Female Voice & Orchestra)” is completely different. The story by Mulla Nasruddin is told by Miles Doubleday while Vida Kashizadeh twists her voice into odd shapes near by, the orchestra providing an ongoing dialogue around them. Although we can’t hear all of the words that Miles speaks, we do get a sense of what the story is about. “Shock Tactics” was inspired by Charles Mingus and the two saxes sound like they are playing some Mingus-like melodies while other instruments (accordion or organ & piano) swirl around them playing different counter themes. One of the highlights here is the dynamic interplay between the soprano sax (Steve Williamson) and piano (Alexander Hawkins from the Convergance Quartet). The final piece is called “Concerto for Philipp Wachsmann” and that what this is. Mr. Wachsmann is one of the UK’s most distinctive string players, having played with just about all of the heavy improvisers (Derek Bailey, Barry Guy, Evan Parker & King Ubu Orchestra). Philipp is featured here soloing while the rest of the orchestra sails in waves around him, especially the other strings. Wachsmann likes to push things further out and the rest of the orchestra do their best to match wits with him. This is a most adventurous and demanding disc, one of this year’s most uncompromising treasures. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Review of CD Four Compositions for Orchestra
1:44pm Wednesday 30th March 2011
By Paul Medley
Small group improvisation has a long history, going back to the very early roots of music. But free improvisation with a large orchestra can be more complex. Many players improvising together can, without some form of agreed intention, easily collapse into musical mayhem. This difficulty can be addressed though the use of ‘conduction’, in which a conductor directs the music by the use of signals to the players indicating form, length, pitch and exact players throughout. The success of this approach depends, of course, on the skill of the players but most importantly on the ability of the conductor to create a piece of music ‘within the moment’.
Pat Thomas, renowned for his improvisations on keyboards and electronics and recently nominated for the 2011 Paul Hamlyn Award for composers, is uniquely gifted at realising the shape of a piece of music and getting a large group of improvising musicians to realise his ideas.
This CD (FMRCD293-0810), recorded live at the Jacqueline du Pré, is the result of funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, allowing Thomas to bring musicians from different ethnic backgrounds together with the Oxford Improvisers Orchestra. The resulting four tracks are a fascinating combination of conventional jazz instrumentation alongside ehru (a one-stringed violin), tabla, kora and pan drums. The proceedings were enhanced by the presence of saxophonist Steve Williamson.
Composition 786 begins with a solo passage on the ehru into which other sounds from the orchestra are slow added leading to sax solos over the shufflings of various percussion and short stabs from brass and reeds while the ehru continues, a delightful mingling of timbres and harmonic modes. Shock Tactics, featuring Steve Williamson on soprano, is more in the mode of a recognisable jazz idiom, whereas Tales, for voice and narration of a Nasruddin tale, swings back East. Concerto for Philipp Wacksmann puts the violin of this classically trained player in the forefront. These Four Compositions for Orchestra show just how rich free improvisation can become when under the direction of someone as insightful as Pat Thomas.
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