Lol Coxhill & Veryan Weston Worms Organising Archdukes Review

BBC Review

Soprano saxophonist Coxhill and pianist Weston write another chapter in their 25 year...

John Eyles 2002

If that title sounds like a Trout Mask Replica-style surrealist statement, in typical Emanem fashion, the reality is both more prosaic and more logical. This album originates from live recordings made at The Worm in Rotterdam, an organ interlude from the Red Rose Club (a bit of a cheat, eh?) and L'Archiduc in Brussels. Nonetheless, that title does conjure up images worthy of the humour of Coxhill and Weston.

The pair have been performing together for a quarter of a century, their earliest gigs predating their first recorded encounter on the fine Digswell Duets. Each is an experienced and accomplished duo player, and these encounters are testimony to the wealth of experience that each brings.

The long opening piece, "The First Duet of Worms", demonstrates the duo's strengths. Funny as they are on occasion, they can establish and sustain a serious mood, and do so here. Weston is as technically impressive as ever, a restless source of ideas. Coxhill maintains a dialogue not only with the piano but also a call-and-response dialogue with himself, reacting to his own rather melancholy melodic fragments. "The Second Duet of Worms" (historical pun, anyone?) is shorter, more upbeat, and makes a good contrast with the opener.

"Organ Interlude" is exactly that, a playful eight minutes, in which Weston extracts an impressive array of sounds from the chamber organ, with apposite responses from Coxhill. It is something of a novelty piece, but does not outstay its welcome.

The two duos from Brussels mirror those from Rotterdam (they were recorded the day after them, in March 2001), giving a pleasing symmetry to the album. At the start of the first, Weston's rippling backdrop gives the piece a romantic setting that evolves but is never lost. In the second, Coxhill takes control early, with some quiet but sustained, high pitched blowing. From that opening, which introduces a deliberate, funereal tempo, the piece slowly unfolds and picks up. By the end, without any forced changes of gear along the way, we narrowly avoid a full blown climax of "Secret Love"!

This is, quite simply, an object lesson in duo improvising, from two masters of the art.

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