Like the last few recordings, the tracks for the aptly-titled Alive in the East? were laid down in front of an audience, amidst a modest setting (in this particular case, East London’s Total Refreshment Center). Binker Golding (Tenor Sax) and Moses Boyd (Drums) enlist the company of vets from around the London jazz scene, in a blazing set.
“The Birth of Light” opens up the set, with a solo drum performance. There’s room in the recording to hear the crowd’s anticipation increase, just as Blinker and guest Evan Parker enter in with dual sax. Drums lay back a bit while the horns establish their melodic motives to kick-off the second track “How Land Learnt To Be Still”. Carefully interlaced saxophone lines welcome the drums back into the fold, along with (what I swore had to be piano, but the inter webs only mention) harpist Tori Handsley (and if that truly is the case, this is some remarkable playing on her part). No matter the instrument, the quote of Ellington’s “Perdido” midway is brilliant and played with a confidence and chutzpah necessary to make so simple a line work over the cacophony of what else is going on at the same time.
“A River’s Tale”, “How Fire Was Made” and “How Air Learnt To Move” are the back-to-back-to-back third, fourth and fifth tracks in the set. Each divergent from the genesis of the set, as well as to each other. The first, puts forth a simple melodic and harmonic statement that resonates throughout the entire piece. The second, reminiscent of some of Coltrane’s latter work with Interstellar Space, but with two sax’s and a trumpet, instead of a lone horn! …Which ultimately leads to a solo tenor performance to close the third.
The tempos tend to slow down as the evening progresses. No less innovative, but certainly less energetic. However, this abeyance is almost certainly not due to a loss of stamina, but a conscious shift on the collective’s part toward playing more deliberately and more steadily (and there are occasional hints of chaos thrown in, for good measure)
If free jazz is about defying norms, Blink and Moses (and company) does just that, with consistency and courage, all the time ensuring that soul and groove are omnipresent throughout their entire performance.