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MILLER & COXHILL

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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Miller & Coxhill biography
Lol Coxhill (1932-2012), born to a musically interested family and exposed to lots of different genres in his youth, was an experimental jazz saxophonist who had specialised in solo improvisation on the soprano saxophone. He was one of the few saxophonists who also treated his instrument with electronic effects, such as playing through a guitar amp or the erratic Gibson Maestro system. His eclectic musical influences, a ceaseless will to experiment and his habit of busking in the streets allowed him to socialise with a lot of different musicians, not only those from the so-called Canterbury Scene, but also folk rock legend Ashley Hutchings and punk group The Damned.

Steve Miller (1943-1998), the elder brother of guitarist Phil Miller, had been influenced heavily by all sorts of blues, soul and boogie-woogie music when he began playing the piano. In his whole career, apart from a brief Hammond organ solo for Caravan, he only played acoustic and electric pianos, often playing quick moves with a tight groove, but also bringing in a certain melancholy in the more introspective moments, mainly in his solo pieces.


Both played together for the first time in 'Delivery' in the late 1960s, an early Canterbury-based band in which many later Canterbury projects such as National Health and Hatfield & The North had their seeds. After Lol Coxhill played in Kevin Ayers' band 'The Whole World' for a couple of months in 1970 he did some session work for Caravan in 1971 when Steve Miller was the keyboarder of the band for a short time.


All recordings published by the Coxhill-Miller duo were recorded between late 1971 and 1974 and venture into many different realms. The pieces by Lol Coxhill are often free-form improvisations on overdubbed saxophones, but also show him experimenting with electronic percussion instruments, tapes and ambient textures. Steve Miller worked mostly on the border between pastoral piano music and tightly structured jazz fusion. What makes these recordings interesting for Canterbury afficionados are the different interpretations of well-known Canterbury compositions and the ? sometimes unexpected ? collaborations of 10 renowned musicians of that scene during the course of the duo's discography. All recorded relics with a sufficient sound quality were collected in the 2007 reissue of the band's work. Many of the recordings show Canterbury musicians from a very different angle to how they are usually regarded based on their ...
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MILLER & COXHILL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill
1973
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Story So Far... ...Oh Really?
1974

MILLER & COXHILL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MILLER & COXHILL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MILLER & COXHILL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill / The Story So Far... ...Oh Really?
2007

MILLER & COXHILL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MILLER & COXHILL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill / The Story So Far... ...Oh Really? by MILLER & COXHILL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2007
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill / The Story So Far... ...Oh Really?
Miller & Coxhill Canterbury Scene

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars 11/15P. Ever wondered what Canterbury musicians do in their free time? 10 of them appear on this highly interesting anthology of Steve Miller's (Delivery, Caravan) and Lol Coxhill's (Kevin Ayers, Delivery) collaborations. Get it if you're into the Canterbury Scene and if you're not completely against free jazz music.

Cuneiform Records published this lovingly collected 2CD set in 2007, paying tribute to the nearly forgotten work of two musicians who were too much into experimental and unconventional music to be taken along with the success of their fellow Canterbury bands. This set includes the duo's first album (Miller/Coxhill - Coxhill/Miller, 1972, 3/5P.), their second album (The Story So Far... Oh Really?, 1974, 4/5P.) and about 60 minutes of bonus live material, the sound quality ranging from 'really good' to 'excellent'.

Please achieve information about the two studio albums from the seperate reviews, this (shorter) review only intends to highlight the bonus material.

STEVE MILLER, NIJMEGEN, 1972

Firstly, the responsible persons unearthed some rare footage of Steve Miller playing solo in Nijmegen (NL) in 1972. The sound quality is better than decent - it's mono and slightly reverberated, but a transparent soundboard tape without audience noises. On grand piano Miller performs Chocolate Field and One For You, two tracks from the Miller/Coxhill debut album. Chocolate Field, a rework of a Caravan track whose name I don't mention in order not to spoil anything, is shortened and now lacks the saxophone soloing, which makes the listening a lot easier. A beautiful and concise performance which is more pastoral than the studio version. One For You follows the same structure as the studio version, but allows Miller to improvise a bit more. The booklet includes an interview with Steve Miller in which he reveals his self-consciousness about his improvisation skills, which, especially in the early 1970s (when he played with great improvisors such as Coxhill and Sinclair) made him want to learn to play the piano anew. Of course, the improvisations of Dave Stewart, for instance, are more majestic and extremely great, but I too enjoy Miller's restrained and more melancholic motives and ideas a lot. These live recordings are the right ones to consult if you want to explore the unspoilt talents of this man. On the Wurlitzer electric piano Miller plays an abbreviated God Song and Big Jobs No.2. God Song, originally a piece dominated by its lyrics and the singing voice, is hard to recognize as a romantic jazz piece for the electric piano. Both in God Song and in Big Jobs No.2 treats the Wurlitzer heavily with the wah-wah pedal, either painting gently swelling slopes or performing wildly distorted solos on top of some tight vamps. It's really nice to listen to these bits and parts of classic Canterbury material as performed solo by a person who contributed to the definite shape or even composition of these pieces.

THE 1974 JAM SESSION

The more than 20 minutes long track Coo-Coo-Ka-Chew is a collective instrumental improvisation of Laurie Allan, Richard Sinclair, Steve Miller and Lol Coxhill, recorded live somewhere in 12.1974, making it the latest recording on the set. It's an absolutely rare recording and it's a miracle that these amateur tapes survived over all those years; the sound is doubtlessly worse than on any other recording on these CDs, but it still easily transcends the bootleg level. Both the sound and the line-up of that session remind me a bit of Miles Davis' classic record Bitches Brew. Whilst this is definitely fusion it's maybe the most bewildering track on that set, lacking any kind of stable rhythm or leitmotif. A most striking thing about this performance is how well Richard Sinclair, who usually implanted his wicked bass lines into catchy music, works in this free jazz context. Of course, however, such recordings might well be only relevant for trained free jazz listeners and, how I'd call myself, people who are interested in the projects of the Canterbury-related musicians. You surely aren't going to listen to this track more than two times a year either. This is neither Bruford- or National Health- like stuff, nor - as far as I'm concerned - an essential masterpiece of fusion, but I'm grateful for its addition nonetheless.

DELIVERY, 1972

The arguably most important bonus on the reissue is the 20 minute BBC recording by the 11.1972 Delivery line up - mono, but excellent quality throughout the three tracks. The presence of Pip Pyle, Phil Miller, Steve Miller, Lol Coxhill and Roy Babbington isn't astonishing - that's the line-up which also recorded the Delivery album. More striking is the fact that Richard Sinclair appears here as well - but only as a vocalist due to Babbington's presence. This pretty quirky line-up appears because Delivery were actually reformed on the occasion of this session; Hatfield & The North, usually called the 'follow-up band to Delivery' by critics, had by then already played two gigs in Folkestone and London with Dave Sinclair on organ.

Needless to say, this whole gig sounds a lot more like Hatfield & The North than like the original Delivery. Coxhill and Miller, who are the reason why this concert was released on this set, nonetheless give the whole matter a somewhat rougher edge.

God Song, a collaboration of Phil Miller and Robert Wyatt from the second Matching Mole album, appears here in one of two definite versions. (The other definite version is sadly officially unreleased and was sung by Julie Tippetts with Dave Stewart and band on the occasion of Robert Wyatt's Drury Lane concert in 1974.) Pip Pyle begins with a slowly shuffling groove, Lol Coxhill stays politely in the background with some quiet sax notes, Phil Miller uses the wah-wah pedal on his electric guitar, brother Steve Miller adds some slippery scales and also Roy Babbington's bass guitar gets a full wah-wah treatment. Then, after a minute or so, the vocals enter. And as much as I like Wyatt's voice I think that Sinclair's smooth and elegant voice fits this particular song most perfectly, crooning gently in lengthy cascades through the elegic verses of the song. And whilst the Tippett-Stewart version reached a peak at the very last verse, this version stays calm, and also remains calm in the lengthy instrumental part with extended soloing by Phil Miller. Steve Miller, in the end, plays - as a quasi-solo - around Wyatt's beloved whole-tone scale and lets the song ebb away.

Bossa Nochance/Big Jobs is the missing link between the 1972 Caravan jam session Any Advance on Carpet (released on the The World is Yours box set) and the Hatfield & The North debut album. Bossa Nochance, another example of the shuffling bossa nova stuff Caravan loved to do, is well-known from Hatfield & The North and appears here in a nearly completed version. Richard Sinclair engages in his trademark wordless scatting, frequently doubling the lead guitar with some spectacular melodies. Lol Coxhill enters the manege late, approximately two minutes in. The Big Jobs part is, at least in the end, plain jazz pop and doesn't bear much relation to the floating Big Jobs No.2 which was part of Miller's Nijmegen concert. Again Richard Sinclair shares the soloing with Phil Miller while Steve Miller's electric piano never really comes in the spotlight for a solo or so - he is responsible for the ever-winding scales in the background.

Betty, also called Drummond's Dilemma, written by Phil Miller and Richard Sinclair, is an instrumental piece of fusion which, thus, doesn't feature Richard Sinclair at all. It is written in 5/4, but not in the 5/4 of Dave Brubeck's Take Five, but in a snottily galopping rhythm which always seems to brake after the fifth beat, just to start again in the next measure. Compared with God Song, in which Coxhill didn't play much, actually the first half of Betty is an extended solo by Coxhill on the soprano saxophone. After a time in which Coxhill and Phil Miller solo simultaneously Phil Miller moves into an about equally long guitar solo with some really ace fuzz effects until Coxhill returns for the last minute or so. During Coxhill's first solo the rhythm section gets more intense with Pyle hitting through the eighths instead of swinging lazily through the fourths.

OVERALL

Needless to say this 2CD compilation shall be your choice if you want to explore the work of these two British jazz musicians. If you're willing to get the original albums you're out of luck - they've never been reissued separately and the original LPs were cheap and rare. This also was the reason why these albums have been remastered from LPs for this reissue - the Caroline label wasn't Branson's biggest flagship.

I'm slightly dissatisfied that Plum didn't find its way on this record. Coxhill and Miller recorded this 7-minute track in 1973 for the Not Necessarily "English Music" EMF sampler and it cannot be found elsewhere. Most probably there were contractual obligations which kept the reissuers from releasing it on these 2CDs.

Apart from this this is a lovingly restored set with lots of music to explore. Somehow it's all rooted in jazz, but strays freely into classical music, avantgarde, rock, ambient and blues. Get it if you're a follower of the Canterbury Scene and if you're willing to explore something truly new and 'underground' - it's absolutely worth the money!

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 The Story So Far... ...Oh Really? by MILLER & COXHILL album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.00 | 1 ratings

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The Story So Far... ...Oh Really?
Miller & Coxhill Canterbury Scene

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars 11/15P. The friendlier Coxhill/Miller album - get it for Coxhill's ambient saxophone soundscapes and Miller's inspired piano pieces. Even Mr. Ayers and Mr. Wyatt have their fun in a 6-minute jam piece!

In 1973-74 much had changed in the Canterbury Scene. Steve Miller had left Caravan, unwilling to be the organist of the band, and was followed by Derek Austin and - finally - by Dave Sinclair again. Coxhill's and Miller's Delivery had now become Hatfield & The North, featuring Dave Stewart on keyboards. Robert Wyatt had fallen down a window, returning from hospital with paraplegia and sitting in a wheelchair, which meant that the Matching Mole project would never be continued again. Kevin Ayers had a backing band comprising Archie Leggatt and Ollie Halsall and released his huge The Confessions of Dr. Dream and other Stories album in 1974.

A few of these changes leave a trace on this album. The Ayers-Wyatt-Coxhill-Leggatt jam is striking in its chronological proximity to Wyatt's accident, the Hatfield & The North musicians who contributed to the first Miller/Coxhill album were seemingly busy recording their first album, and Archie Leggatt and Laurie Allan (who worked closely with Wyatt in 1974) are the two only 'session musicians' who played on the genuine album sessions. And Steve Miller, free from all band obligations, sounds more relaxed on The Story So Far - Oh Really?, completing his first LP side of real solos - with contributions by Laurie Allan, but lacking Coxhill's playing which was featured on the Miller pieces of the debut album.

Again the 'Miller side' is side A, and it begins with G Song, featuring Laurie Allan on drums and Miller on Wurlitzer (chords) and Rhodes (solo) electric pianos. This charming little opener is not too far away from the pastoral jazzy instrumentals Rick Wright composed in 1969/70 around the Zabriskie Point sessions. Think the interludes in Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast, for example. The two electric pianos are tightly cogged, but together they form a softly sparkling layer on the fairly 'earthy' drums.

Both F Bit and More G Songs are solo performances on the grand piano and are good examples of how Miller combined impressionist piano music with jazz phrasings. Connaisseurs of solo piano music will surely find a lot more facets and details in these tracks than me, but the elegic and melancholic atmosphere, the unpredictable metres and the occasionally dissonant lines are also really compelling without needing to be compared to other artists' similar output. Incredibly suited for a walk through the landscape on a hazy day in late summer.

The menacing Songs of March makes a difference, sounding hectic and industrial due to the ever-changing rhythms and Laurie Allan's metallic cymbal crashing. Many electric pianos tower above each other and the basic electric piano vamp, only consisting of slightly overdriven Wurlitzer power chords, sounds like early Math Rock. Interestingly, when you listen to Adam Holzman on Steven Wilson's Get All You Deserve tour band, you might think that he knows this Steve Miller track very well. He also plays his electric piano through a ring modulator and a wah-wah pedal, and even his playing style, most notably on Luminol, seems to be not only influenced by the well-known Dave Stewart, but also by the way Steve Miller performs on this album. As a former Miles Davis collaborator Holzman might be better acquainted with the American fusion pianists, but at least those who like his style could try out Miller as well.

Does This? continues this ragged and savage mood, but this time Allan doesn't hammer through a mechanic beat, but rather loses track after a while, just like drummers do when they're halfway in a drum solo. Actually it's Miller who keeps the timing this time, playing some pumping clusters on the electric piano while Allan drifts away. Listen to the feathery wah-wah chords in the very beginning - then listen to No Twilight Within The Courts of Sun live!

The Greatest Off-Shore Race in the World appears both in a fast and in a slow version, the latter entitled Reprise for Those Who Want it Slower (btw - I love those track titles). Both pieces are dominated by Coxhill, but - probably owing to time issues - were outsourced to the first LP side. This time the presence of Archie Leggatt seems to ground the jam session on a stable rhythm and a stable harmonic background, and indeed it's nice to hear Coxhill and Miller (on grand piano) perform a piece of jazzy blues rock.

The short Tubercular Balls, most probably a pun on Oldfield's Tubular Bells which was also published by the Virgin label, is another recording of that cool Wurlitzer electric percussion (Coxhill played with Oldfield in Kevin Ayers' band from 1970 to 1971). This could have been a bit longer.

In the case of Soprano Derivativo/Apricot Jam the fruity title already suggests which man appears here. It's indeed Kevin Ayers on acoustic guitar who took part in this jam in October 1973 with Archie Leggatt, Lol Coxhill and a Robert Wyatt who shortly before was released from hospital after breaking his spine during a party - this might well be the first recording Wyatt, here on vocals and percussion, did after his accident which took place in June 1973. Not astoundingly the whole piece sounds Caribbean, the group shuffles slowly along Ayers' lazy guitar strumming, but Coxhill's honking saxophones and Wyatt's croaking vocal effects give the session a typically Canterburian surreality.

The film soundtrack piece In Memoriam: Meister Eckart is the most captivating true saxophone solo I have ever heard. Of course there are Colosseum's Rope Ladder to the Moon and Pink Floyd's Us And Them, but Meister Eckart is a real solo: no drums, no piano, only a church organ drone tracked by Coxhill in a cathedral and Coxhill soloing on top of that. The interesting thing is that Coxhill makes heavy use of modal scales instead of sticking to the usual blues and jazz scales.

When I listen to this piece I understand what made Coxhill perform the short saxophone solos on Claudy Banks, a traditional British song from the Albion Country Band's folk revival album No Roses in 1971, which are solos I adore extremely much. Coxhill wasn't only a British jazz saxophonist, but also brought in influences of his culture into the jazz music he mostly played. Whenever I listen to the first bars of this recording they stick to my mind for many hours. All fermatas and breaks in this track are totally unexpected, but the huge mass of different melodies is kept together tightly by the swing and unique phrasing of Coxhill's voicing. And the drone and big reverberation of the church and its organ give the piece a haunted and ancient vibe - it's simply an amazingly good piece of music.

I believe I found the track Oh, Do I Like to be Beside the Seaside? as a brief fun encore somewhere on a live compilation by Dave Stewart's band Egg, but there seems to be no big relation because the Coxhill track is neither funny nor brief. During the course of about seven minutes Coxhill sends you through thick carpets of echoed recorders and saxophones, reminding me quite much of Terry Riley and the organ loops Mike Ratledge in turn did on Out-Bloody-Rageous in 1969. Coxhill's stuff, however, is outright spooky and a lot more rough around the corners. What makes this piece differ from his previous saxophone experiments, such as Bath 72 on the Coxhill/Miller debut album, is indeed the use of the tape loops. Tape loops highlight the melodic components a l and this makes me like tracks like these a few tads better.

A Fabulous Comedian is a street recording of Coxhill telling a story to a group of people. I think that's the kind of substance of which Coxhill created big parts of his surreal Ear of Beholder double LP. That album is, by the way, the right one to buy if you cannot get enough of the weirder stuff on the Coxhill/Miller set. Kevin Ayers and Mike Oldfield also appear there once or twice.

All in all I listen to The Story So Far - Oh Really? way more often than to Miller/Coxhill / Coxhill/Miller. It's an album which is plainly enjoyable, especially on a warm summer evening, without needing to sit through lengthy and complex free jazz pieces. This doesn't mean that the debut album is bad, it's exciting on its own merit too, but in an overall rating the second album should be granted a slightly better rating.

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 Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill by MILLER & COXHILL album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill
Miller & Coxhill Canterbury Scene

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars 10/15 P. Welcome to a most cumbersome record somewhere on the ridge between jazz and cacophony, performed by a load of more or less well-known Canterbury musicians. A fascinating and unexpectedly colorful view at the hard edge of the so-called Canterbury Sound.

... a general introduction

Coxhill & Miller is a line-up which, first of all, doesn't exist any more. Steve Miller, a gentle and often self-conscious musician, died way too early of cancer in 1998. Lol Coxhill, the quintessentially British saxophonist with his typically wry playing style, passed away in 2012 aged 80. Both musicians were part of Delivery, one of the embryonic bands of the Canterbury Scene, which - mostly due to Carol Grimes' presence - was too much about conventional blues rock to let these two eccentric musicians do what they were supposed to do: experiment, improvise and compose.

Lol Coxhill later had the possibility to stand in the spotlight with Kevin Ayers & The Whole World, a band which challenged the listeners with a hard-to-digest mix of sunny pop music and avant-garde jazz.

Steve Miller's mere moment of publicity was his brief stint with Caravan in 1972. He audibly wasn't satisfied with that job. The management apparently tried to press him into the role of former organist David Sinclair who had doubtlessly defined Caravan's sound more than any other band member, but after all Miller was a piano player. Miller's brief organ solo in the last part of Caravan's Nothing At All was pretty awful, but an interesting example of what happens if a musician is forced to leave his individuality behind.

Only by chance I found out that these two guys recorded two duo albums together which were lovingly restored and enhanced in 2007 by Cuneiform Records - and I was quite astonished at which musicians contributed to these two records. Nobody seems to know these albums, and most rock websites don't mention them - for a lack of rock in that mixture. This is why I'm glad that the Progarchives decided to add this duo to the Canterbury category, particularly since I believe that these records reveal the true and formerly concealed qualities of both musicians. They are - arguably - the pinnacle of Steve Miller's musical work; I don't know Lol Coxhill's solo albums, but I suppose they are even more exhausting for a rock listener because they mostly don't touch rock music anywhere.

This debut album spawns a different, free, radical and distinctly British take on jazz fusion - and there are more than enough references to the 'Canterbury Scene' to make it a compelling listen for fans of the music which would later be subsumed under that name.

...the album itself...

Miller - Coxhill / Coxhill - Miller is a most complex and tense album, more so than the (relatively, of course) relaxed, catchy and sometimes pastoral The Story So Far - Oh Really?. Both records share the principle of allowing Miller and Coxhill to dominate one LP side each - with variable contributions of the other one.

The debut album was recorded around 1971-1972, a time in which Steve Miller, Lol Coxhill and Phil Miller contributed to Caravan's Waterloo Lily album and in which Miller and Coxhill were soon to revive Delivery which, after several personnel changes, became Hatfield & The North.

SIDE A:

Thus it's not astonishing, but certainly a surprise, to hear that Chocolate Field is actually an instrumental, extended and chamberish take on a pretty obscure Caravan track (I won't directly tell you which one - the surprise effect is worth it, even if you only check out the 30-second-sample on Amazon or iTunes). Steve Miller is on grand piano, Lol Coxhill on soprano saxophone, and the pop of the Caravan version is completely replaced by some highly atmospheric parts (for instance 0:35-1:25) with huge piano chords and a lonesome saxophone crying on top of it. At this point it all sounds quite noble and well-behaved, no reverb or delay effects at all, somehow as if Colosseum had recorded their Valentyne Suite in 1840. It's jazz, of course, but it's played as if it were an sonata - dressed up with some very dry humor. Halfway through the track Miller engages in a lengthy piano solo which moves effortlessly from sustained impressionistic notes to dissonant clusters. As soon as Coxhill returns again the whole affair shifts gradually from an unusually liberal fantasia to a completely surreal atmosphere, especially when Steve Miller reduces his accompaniment to pushing down the sustain pedal (plus maybe some keys to enhance the effect for specific notes), allowing the piano strings to resonate with Coxhill's playing. Don't wait for the pleasant main theme to return again - 'relaxation' as such won't come until the next piece.

One For You has been added as a bonus track on a reissue of the Delivery album. I don't know if it's the same or a different take which found it's place there, but this album is where this piece originally belongs to. Around a pretty simple downward chord progression Miller (on grand piano) leads a line-up consisting of Pip Pyle (drums), Richard Sinclair (bass) and Phil Miller (lead guitar) through a captivating mid-tempo jam session; at least it's captivating as soon as you've gotten used to Phil Miller's wicked distortion and the overall overdrive of the record. Lol Coxhill doesn't appear on this track - all soloing is done by Phil Miller, unless you call Richard Sinclair's busy playing 'soloing', too.

The general hi-fi 'overdrive' on the record appears because Coxhill & Miller recorded for Richard Branson's Virgin low-budget Caroline label. The Cuneiforme 2007 reissue is mastered from (mint condition) LPs since there were no master tapes available. Details about the signal chain are mentioned in the booklet. Loud passages sizzle and overdrive a bit, but it's a very good quality after all - a warm and well-defined high-end without any irritating crackles.

With Portland Bill the first signs of the following madness appear. 'Portland Bill' is the name of the southernmost bit of the peninsula of Portland, a beautiful place close to Weymouth (UK). Its beauty is sadly spoiled by lots of plastic rubbish, and by the production of the famous Portland stone. At a high storm force the North Sea spills salty water in the grey sky and the waves crash around the Portland lighthouse which, in turn, warns the seamen with its horn.

I mention this just to give you an impression of a place I 'accidentally' visited at storm force 11. (Fortunately I had this track on my iPod when I was there.) This rough atmosphere is perfectly expressed in this piece, but an easy listen it is definitely not. The background is set by Archie Leggatt - Kevin Ayers' musical partner on Bananamour - who fiddles around on a low-tuned bass without a discernible tonality, and by Laurie Allan - the one who drummed with Gong and (in 1974) with Robert Wyatt - who bangs the cymbals in the background. On top of that Miller and Coxhill celebrate free jazz in its most atmospheric form. It's an endlessly flowing and meandering set of intuitive melodies and noises, and the whole effect is both terrifying and compelling at very same time. But don't wait for a motif or a riff - you'll be disappointed!

SIDE B

Side B, the 'Coxhill side', also comprises three pieces, but it lacks the classicistic influences and rather sticks to some pretty unusual experiments with electric percussion and tapes. Especially this percussion stuff makes it all sound more like 'ambient' than like Stockhausen.

The first piece, bearing the totally Canterburian title Will My Thirst Play Me Tricks/The Ant About To Be Crushed Ponders Not The Where Withal Of Boot Leather, forms kind of a trilogy with Maggots and Bath 72. It starts off in a free-form fashion with bicycle bells, clean guitar playing by Phil Miller and some weird piano and bass guitar noises. After forty seconds Pip Pyle's drums enter, but ironically it's the most unusual device, a primitive drum machine by Wurlitzer, which lends the piece some structure. Both Coxhill and Miller are credited with performing on that machine, and this gives the track a stoic sixteenth rhythm with its mechanic knocking. This is where the whole band revisits a slightly more conventional fusion sound with fuzzy guitar soloing and jazzy licks on grand piano and bass guitar, never abandoning this hectic knocking of the electric percussion. The last thirty seconds are Coxhill's solo of a tuned component of this machine, perhaps the 'marimba' registration, creating a pretty spacy and drony part which I appreciate a lot. No saxophones here - but instead a Wurlitzer percussion solo. Weird, but inspiring!

Maggots is more of the same, but adds disjointed saxophones which swing and dance in their own peculiar way until Richard Sinclair plays a simple bass riff in inconstant time intervals. Bath 72, finally, is the peripety of the cacophony which Coxhill has gradually prepared over the last few minutes. All electric percussion are now replaced by field recordings of water bubbles, playing children and urban noises which presumably were taped by Coxhill when he was busking in Bath. Roughly in the first four and a half minutes Coxhill plays his imaginative but awkward saxophone lines on one saxophone, then a second (electric) saxophone adds a counterpoint and finally returns some rudimentary tonality. Multi-tracked saxophone sounds, emulating the sound of ducks in a pond, appear in the very end and end this 12-minutes-plus cascade of British free jazz abruptly.

Wimbledon Baths, a short piece for two or three soprano saxophones, reminds me of a pervert form of chamber music. There are some motives and melodies, but Coxhill doesn't work them out. He simply mentions them once or twice. Nobody would argue that this ain't far-out and freaky music, but this distinct mixture of witty humour, a good sense of ambience (or atmosphere), free jazz music and an independent way of soloing (both of Coxhill and Miller) makes this anarchy of sound quite enjoyable for me - even though I'm usually not too much into free jazz.

The relentlessly flowing Gog Ma Gog, which features Miller's only performance on the Wurlitzer electric piano on this album, recalls the boogie music, which - apart from classical music - was the kind of music Steve Miller grew up with in the 1950s. Especially his (few) solos on Waterloo Lily depict this inspiration very well. In elaborately wound moves and vamps Coxhill's and Miller's playing is entangled, but the blues scheme is again 'surrealized' by the occasional weird twists such as Coxhill's trademark saxophone cascades (3:10-3:16, for instance), some stiff cluster chords (around 5:13) and, in general, Steve Miller's deliberately anti-swing playing: where most jazz players groove and play in a laid-back fashion, always a few milliseconds behind the cue, Miller sometimes plays aggressively stabbing, right there on the eighths. This playing style, and the way how Coxhill and Miller approach to and depart from each other regarding the notes and frequencies they're currently playing, are quite amazing and keep me concentrated at least through most of the eight minutes.

Taken together...

...it's pretty clear that this a hugely demanding album. I suppose I would never have made the efforts of obtaining it, weren't it part of the 2007 reissue. But the eclecticism which these two guys injected into free jazz here, taking influence from electronic music, classical music, genuine fusion and blues, is pretty exciting. Furthermore this work allows one to explore the Canterbury Scene, and quite a lot of the participating musicians, from a pretty unusual perspective.

As I've already mentioned, free jazz isn't what I'm usually listening to; this is why I'm only able to decide if I do or don't like this album - I can't rate if there's any album out there which might be better in one way or another. I like this album, but - just like the question how good Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge is - I'm not quite sure how I should rate this. The Story So Far - Oh Really?, however, is the album which touched and inspired me more - maybe because it's closer to the kind of music I usually listen to, maybe too because it's by far less atonal and anarchic.

Overall, a good three-star rating appears reasonable, a rating which intends make you curious about what you find here.

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Thanks to saltyjon for the artist addition.

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