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20 March 2015

Friendship Next Of Kin featuring Selwyn Lissack - 'Facets of the Univers' (Goody)

I used to know a guy who used 'Selwyn Lissack' as his Internet handle, which is a wonderfully obscure choice. This is the only LP by this group, a free bashabout led by two South Africans, Lissack on drums and Mongezi Feza's inimitable pocket trumpet. There's a bunch of British stars of the time present, most notable Harry Miller and Mike Osborne, who are no strangers to playing with these South Africans. And unlike Miller's own band, or the Chris McGregor Brotherhood of Breath, this is much more akin to the continental sounds of the time (1971), sounding like it could be an Italian band with Steve Lacy or something like that. Side one gets revving with the title track, with 'universe' spelled correctly on the label and song title, just incorrectly in the album title. There's some piano that is uncredited, though the Internet tells me it's second bassist Earl Freeman, and it's sparse enough to really set the tone when it's audible. This has that sorta shitty recording quality that affects so many jazz records from the time; Lissack's clattering is all sticks and cymbals with some ramshackle thuds; the highs of Osborne's alto and Feza's toy cut through everything and there feels like no middle. But despite all of this, it's great. It rumbles and growls, and when the brass erupts it's pretty intriguing, though I'm not sure if my verbal description here differs from any of the other free jazz records I've written about in these annals over the past six years. The b-side is one long track bearing the name of the group, which starts as a quieter exploration under a long spoken poem. I'm not sure who is speaking - the voice is male, and sounds African-American - I don't think it's Lissack cause there's no South African accent, but possibly the American Freeman. The recording is still as lackluster as the first side, especially on the spacious parts, which sound like they were recorded from down a long hallway. The spoken word is one of the more colourful passages of its type, with spirited absurdities and an earnest timbre to the delivery. When the two basses take over (one bowing, one walking) it moves the proceedings into a somber area that feels incongruous with the first half. But then it explodes, and this is where Lissack shines, pounding away with determination and style. The piano makes long glissando runs and Feza is once again the star. At times, there is a 'swing' vibe to this, but it never goes out of control or becomes too formulaic. Despite the flaws of the recording this is a favourite of mine, particularly due to the quite impressive scope of sounds explored on 'Friendship Next of Kin' (side B). Lissack apparently turned to painting in the late 70s but also appeared on the über-rare Ric Colbeck The Sun is Up LP, which for some reason still hasn't been reissued.

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