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Pip Pyle - Pip Pyle's Equipe Out CD (album) cover


Pip Pyle


Canterbury Scene

3.47 | 13 ratings

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3 stars Those members of the Canterbury scene who stayed musically active through the 80s and 90s kept themselves afloat, like many jazz musicians, by playing in a bewilderingly large number of bands and on each other's solo projects. Thus it was that Pip Pyle's Equipe Out came into being; the other players were his Soft Heap colleagues Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean, his girlfriend (and virtuoso jazz pianist) Sophia Domanich, and his sometime Gong colleague Didier Malherbe was in on the sessions as a guest player on all but the final two tracks. The resulting album is pleasant but rather generic piece of Canterbury style jazz rock with occasional inspired moments.

Although it was ostensibly Pyle's project the composition credits are divided up pretty evenly, the man himself contributing only the opening piece. Foetal Fandango has a kind of quasi Carribean groove in the spirit of National Health's The Collapso, but it doesn't quite convince despite some impressive twin horn riffing and a brace of sprightly sax solos. The following two pieces are Hugh Hopper compositions in a slightly more conventional jazz idiom Hanello is similar to the pieces he contributed to his Dutch band (documented on Alive) and is a concise 4 minutes with solos for tenor, piano and alto with a nimble bass line holding everything together. The album really picks up on Midnight Judo, a slower paced piece with Malherbe on flute turning in perhaps the most memorable piece of playing on the album. The arrangement gives all the players plenty of space, and the themes flow together very naturally. Aside from Hopper's bass it's all acoustic and sounds better for it. The next couple of pieces are by Sophia Domanich. Jocelyn is a rather airy piece that smacks of 80s winebar jazz-lite, although Hopper and Pyle give the rhythm some bite. Porc-Epic has a greater sense of urgency and uses the twin horn riffing of Dean and Malherbe to great effect, the two reedsmen sparking off each other with some real passion. The composition takes some interesting twists and turns and there is some inspired soloing along the way. Elton Dean's sole contribution is Janna, which momentarily harks back to the darker moods of Soft Machine 5, with Pyle and Hopper laying down some deep low end rumbles over which Dean's alto and Domanich's piano chase each other woozily. Domanich's Reve de Singe picks up where Dean's piece left off and brings proceedings to a close, the piece soon resolving into a stately blues with Dean overblowing for all he's worth.

Given the calibre of the musicians involved, it's hard to get too excited about Equipe Out. It feels as though there is an uneasy compromise between the vapid commercialism of some 80s jazz recordings and the truly inspired blowing that these musicians were capable of. When it comes together (Midnight Judo, Porc-Epic, Janna) it will gladden the heart of any Canterbury fan, but things are let down by the rather dated 80s synth sounds and the somewhat unconvincing funk and reggae beats that crop up on the first half of the album. There's enough good material on here for established fans, but newcomers would be better advised to start with Hatfield and the North or National Health.

Syzygy | 3/5 |


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