KIERAN HEBDEN/STEVE REID/MATS GUSTAFSSON: Live At The South Bank (Smalltown Superjazzz)


Posted on Nov 24th 2011 01:38 am

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Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live At The South Bank

Live At The South Bank
Smalltown Superjazza whz 2011
06 Tracks.82mins55secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | LP Boomkat: CD | LP

Recorded a year before his death, this record marks the apogee of Steve Reid’s five year collaboration with Kieran Hebden, which generated four albums published on Domino and a considerable number of live performances. The pair met by chance in 2005 and, following a successful first jam session in Paris, decided to record and tour together. A first album, The Exchange Session Vol. 1, was recorded in London and published in March 2006, followed by a second installment a few months later, with Tongues and NYC coming in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

A jazz drummer who had played with anyone and everyone from Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman or Sun Ra to James Brown, Fela Kuti or Martha And The Vandellas, Steve Reid’s work was miles from that of Kieran Hebden, a guitarist with post rock band Fridge who branched out into electronic music with his solo project, Four Tet, at the end of the nineties, yet the two forged a strong partnership in a very short period of time. If this association proved hugely satisfying for the two musicians, it sometimes felt as if their records, especially the early ones, suffered from slightly excessive stylistic posturing and overblown messy structures, their collaboration falling on occasions short of its potential.

Live at The South Bank was recorded in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of the South Bank Centre, during the Ornette Coleman curated Meltdown Festival in June 2009 with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, who brings a new urgency to the tracks collected here. Although spread over two discs, this was performed as one uninterrupted set. By the time of this performance, the Hebden/Reid partnership was a finely tuned, and their combined effort on the slow progressive Morning Prayer proved so fascinating to observe that Gustafsson simply forgot to play for the first twenty minutes of the set. He comes in a couple of minutes into Lyman Place with characteristically tense strips of sax, and his presence becomes even more prominent through People Be Happy as Reid stumbles upon his own beat and alters his game almost constantly as Hebden stand back and observes, only injecting occasional electronics.

As the music continues to unfold, Hebden and Reid take on a krautrock-ish tangent on the motorik Untitled, which Gustafsson lets grow for some time before jumping in again. 25th Street is a slightly more hectic affair than its original NYC incarnation, but it is also one of the quieter moments on here, as Gustafsson takes the lead, first with plaintive tones, then with a recurring double two-note motif, before the trio throw everything they have left on The Sun Never Sets, breaking up the flow for a while toward the mid-way point before cranking up the tension again for the last few minutes, as Gustafsson layers some of his more melodic moments as Hebden dispenses a hazy kaleidoscopic drone and Reid winds things down to fittingly conclude.

While their records have often been the product of improvisations, this live set show Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid under slightly different lights, and the addition of Mats Gustafsson brings up a much more contrasted and fiery attitude. On hearing this record, one can only regret that this trio will not be given the chance to record together again, as they here only give a glimpse or something which could have proved devastatingly awesome.


Kieran Hebden | Steve Reid | Mats Gustafsson | Smalltown Superjazz
Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | LP Boomkat: CD | LP

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