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Bob Downes' Open Music - Diversions CD (album) cover


Bob Downes' Open Music


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.00 | 2 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars The first of Downes' second batch of releases, Diversion is drawn from a collab with LCDT (a dance company), but by this time Bob had his own group called Open Music Trio, which was more of a jazz formation rather than a rock group

Although the music is played from the trio base, knowing two musicians are a drummer (Denis Smith) and a bassist (Barry guy in most cases), this leaves most of the show to Bob Downes and his flutes and somehow it works fine enough to make this type of album more than interesting. I say this because these commissioned albums from dances or theatre do not always provide music interesting enough to be listened to out of their context (and this is certainly not the case of the atrocious Episodes At 4AM), but here there are moments where the music is fascinating, including the opening Spanish Plain where Barry Guy induces the flamenco through his bass, Smith marching on along on the warpath, and Bob's fascinating flute flying all over the lace, from full dramatics to free form improv;

Further down the line, Sea Shore is an interesting tune, and Jeff Clyne's distinctive bass style (see Nucleus), but Bob's flute reign as queen of the show. Opening the flipside, in the album's centrepiece called Seventh Wave, Downes tries his luck with a tenor sax and pulls a very convincing trick for the 11 minutes of duration. Clearly Bob is another John Coltrane fan, and is coming close to the Africa/Brass sound and Barry Guy's bow on the contrabass adds to the illusion, especially when getting dissonant. Maya is a up-tempoed live-recorded track that features manic flutes, Downes' semi-scat-like vocals, some wild percussion/drums and a suitable end to the album.

However there are some real duds on this album and Naked Forest is one of those, because Bob's flute alone can't pull it off, and our interest wades from boredom into oblivion as the next The Dream track offers more of the same plus some VCS3-induced wind and space noises. Samurai also prefers trying the flute alone although it's "helped out" by banging a piano's keyboards and wooden case and having the mike inside the piano. Frank Zappa would do this stuff some 15 years later with Civilization Phase 3, with as little success. Requiem is again mostly a flute-only thing, although it gets the company of the bass and drums, shy at first, than slightly more present after, to end up as a soft jazz by its end.

So the album is resting on a strange formula where of the four pieces aside, there is two almost-solo flute-only tracks, sandwiched between two group tracks, the latter four being of much greater interest than the other four. A rather interesting album, hardly perfect, but the better moments outnumbers the weaker ones, this is a sure pleaser to flute fans.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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