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28 August 2011

Lol Coxhill - 'Toverbal Sweet' (Mushroom)

Lol tells us in the liner notes that he's not really the band leader here, and if the record had come out in Holland it would probably be Pierre Courbois or Jasper Van't Hof listed first. This trio appears on Ear of Beholder and here stretches out a bit as a reeds/piano/drum trio. Side one is broken into a bunch of shorter tracks that really flow as one live performance. Van't Hof's piano is repetetive and melodic, owing far more to Mike Ratledge's Soft Machine style than any jazz precedent. Throughout the entire album, there's a repetitive four-note theme that sets an almost rock tone; when Coxhill is soloing over it, it really feels like a jam band, but with jazz instrumentation. Despite the melodic, chordal focus, this doesn't feel "easy" or cheap; instead, it's infused with a splendid history and awareness of antecedents. This is jaunty jazz that strides with a spring step; it's miles away from Miles, and only gets into out-scrapings on the last track, 'The Un-Tempere Klavier and Heavy Friends'. This Berrocalism recalls the 'Rasa Moods' piece on Ear of Beholder, and while not quite as distant (or verbal), it has that same casual quality that emphasis performance over studio fidelity. It gets ferocious only at the very end, and they show they can hang with the big dogs. There's a few solos on side one - Courbois's drum solos are understated, even feeble, but I mean than as a compliment. The hot piano sound is really going to make or break your feelings on Toverball Sweet; I myself find it pretty "sweet" indeed, but I'm a former ivory-pounder myself. Side one's closing minute, just titled 'Toverbal', is an elegiac moment of Coxhill's magical wind, and I don't know why they didn't choose to close the whole album with it.

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