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


Pip Pyle

Canterbury Scene

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Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#156150)
Posted Friday, December 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pip Pyle played in many leading Canterbury bands at late 60s - 70s (incl. Gong,Hatfield and North and National Health). Being one of leading musical wave in Britain at their time, all Canterbury scene declined at mid 70s,and leading bands were disbanded or changed direction to more commercial trying to survive. It didn't help, but a dozen of leading Canterbury scene musicians stayed with their music and from that time for decades played in myriads of short-lived projects or solo.

Even at its best time Canterbury scene wasn't a profitable enterprise,so starting from mid.70s related musicians became almost underground artists:irregular venues and small indie labels releases became their life's attribute for decades.

Pip Pyle's debut album, released in 1987 (!) only could be named Canterbury supergroup release (if the year of release was 1970). Two Soft Machine's core-members (Hugh Hopper on bass and Elton Dean on sax) and ex-Gong reed player Didier Malherbe (plus French respectable jazz piano player and Pyle's girlfriend Sophia Domancich) - such line-up are extremely promising for every Canterbury scene fan.

And this album will not disappoint old fans: even if there are not many experimental sounds ,musically presented compositions are great jazz fusion and electric jazz in old Canterbury traditions.Tunes are great,every musician has enough space for soloing, musical material is very variable, often complex under the skin, but always attractive and accessible for listening. Full of reeds' improvs, this album is quite a rare example of Dean's relaxed,soft and even lyrical sax. Didier Malherbe plays mostly flute, sometimes - in interplays with Dean's sax. Keyboards sound is very jazzy,and in combination with plenty of soloing reeds album's dominated sound is more jazz, than fusion.

Possibly most important moment with this album is that 15 years after their golden hour unique psychedelic and full of humor British jazz fusion movement ,named Canterbury scene is still alive and can release fresh albums without vintage dust or even traces of nostalgia.This great release only confirms how many interesting solo works of former Canterbury leading artists are still not known as well as they deserve.

Report this review (#407786)
Posted Friday, February 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars An album I am not sure why and how ended up on my desk. That's a mystery I cannot solve.

Anyway, the drummer Pip Pyle was involved in a lot of the best Canterbury bands. National Health, Gong and Hatfield & The North being the most known of them. Well, for me at least. Hence, Pip Pyle has a bit of a hero status in my world. He died though five years ago and I vividly remember the pictures from his funeral. A bit sad.

Pip Pyle is the drummer here. But Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper really steals the show in my opinion and gives this album associations to a band Pip Pyle was never involved in; The Soft Machine. Sorry, but for me Elton Dean's unmistaken sound will always be associated with this, one of my favorite bands. And that is a compliment. Hugh Hopper's bass also adds colours to this album. All three has sadly passed away.

This album starts as a straight jazz album with a pretty light hearted and not so good opening track Foetal Fandango. A track which does not sit well with me. It feels like circus music and something you play when some horses runs around inside a circus. Thankfully, the album takes a turn for the better with Elton Dean taking the album into a more intense jazz direction. That's how I will remember a musician who single handed has made interested in jazz. The best track is left to the end; the intense beautiful Excerpt From 'Reve De Singe'. Inbetween, we get some good jazz too.

This album is perhaps more a trad jazz album than a Canterbury album. It is a good album though and one I like. But I have heard better jazz albums. But listening to Elton Dean is always a treat. A good album with some musicians which sadly is no longer with us.

3 stars

Report this review (#506342)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2011 | Review Permalink

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