Paul Rutherford Gheim Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Reissue of a long unavailable trio gig from Brit trombonist Paul Rutherford...

Peter Marsh 2003

In a rare moment of levity for the normally rather serious Emanem label, Martin Davidson's sleevenotes for this album describe it as 'great honky European improvised music'. And he's not wrong either.

Trombonist Paul Rutherford is one of the founding fathers of that tradition alongside figures like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, John Stevens and so on. While he's most famed for the pointillist artprov of bands like Iskra 1903 or the stark meanderings of his pioneering solo records, this trio was put together to give reign to Rutherford's jazzier leanings (that's free jazz in case you hadn't guessed...).

'Gheim' was recorded in 1983 and the first half of this CD originally appeared on the wonderful Ogun label. It captures the trio of Rutherford, bassist Paul Rogers and drummer Nigel Morris live at the Bracknell festival in front of an enthusiastic crowd, who even clap after the solos just like they would at a proper jazz gig (now that wouldn't happen at an Iskra 1903 performance...).

Inevitably, there's something of the festival vibe about the music here. It's high energy stuff, but it changes shape throughout with bewildering ease and fluidity, from freebop polyrhythmic pummelling to spidery ballad forms to spacey textural exploration. This is also one of those recordings that makes you stop and think 'wait a minute - how did they get there?'

This was one of Paul Rogers' first recordings, though you'd never guess that from the assured confidence of his performance. The range of his playing is incredible; he serves up guttural scrapes with the bow, rich, melodic chordings and deeply swinging funkiness. Two thirds into "Gheim Pt 1", he sets up an impossibly fast tumbling ostinato, sustains it for a good three or four minutes and then launches into a beautiful solo passage complete with Monk quotes. Bet he had blisters that night.

The little known Morris matches Rogers' every move with an equal or opposite reaction, sometimes breaking off to follow his own path for a while before returning to active engagement with his bandmates. It's thrilling, engaging, beautiful stuff, and the audience evidently love it with a passion that makes you wonder why this kind of music is so marginalised.

The rest of the CD is drawn from studio recordings which see the trio in a more textural mode. There's a lot going on, but there's a flatness to the proceedings that makes it hard going compared to the glorious flights of the Bracknell gig. But for that set alone, highly recommended.

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