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"COXHILL ’85." SLAMCD 2114
Soprano and sopranino saxophones.
Lol Coxhill was a unique entertainer, and this is a unique performance from a musician whose music truly knew no stylistic boundaries. There was no such thing as a typical Coxhill gig. Anything could happen at any time, and frequently did. Although primarily regarded as a free improvisor, Lol never really fitted in with the improvised music scene. If indeed he drew from this particular musical well, he also drew from many other sources and would introduce these into an improvisation at any point that he felt was appropriate, moving in an instant from fierce abstraction to a remembered melody or song.
The music here was recorded informally, in June 1985, at Gibbs Jazz Club, Cardiff where Lol was booked for two nights. Throughout the concert Lol was perched upon a stool, looking relaxed and ready to play. If some of the audience were not quite sure what to expect, Lol won them over at first with his ability as natural raconteur and then with his music. In the programme Lol also plays some delightful solos on sopranino saxophone, something he did far too infrequently.
It’s a real privilege for SLAM to release this recording of a classic Lol Coxhill solo gig. Lol has been a regular artist on SLAM dating back to the second SLAM CD issued in 1990. We are indebted to Nick Lea for recording the concert, preserving it for 36 years and offering it to SLAM, also to Ulrike Coxhill-Scholz for her help and cooperation.
Gibbs was a very active Cardiff jazz club back in the 1980’s – I remember playing there myself once – must have been around the same time as Lol’s concert. A good atmosphere and keen audience, Lol was clearly feeling very comfortable there. This CD has preserved his informal dialogue during the concert – I always felt this was an important element of any Lol performance.
COXHILL 85 is the final CD scheduled for release on the SLAM label, founded in 1989.
Also available here:
CD Title COXHILL ‘85
Catalogue No SLAMCD 2114
Lol Coxhill Solo Soprano and sopranino saxophones
1 DIALOGUE 1 01:51 COXHILL
2 UNCONFIRMED 12:09 COXHILL
3 I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU 08:03 MERCER
4 DIALOGUE 2 04:20 COXHILL
5 MY OLD SOPRANINO 11:16 COXHILL
6 DIALOGUE 3 03:04 COXHILL
7 STILL FOR BUNK 05:39 COXHILL
8 NIT PICKING 07:35 COXHILL
9 BEYOND THE RAINBOW 10:34 COXHILL
10 DIALOGUE 4 12:28 COXHILL
11 NO STRANGER 05:27 COXHILL
12 JUAN FOR THE ROAD 07:13 COXHILL
Recorded Gibbs Club, Cardiff 29 June 1985.
Recorded by Nick Lea, mastered by Tim Turan, Turan Audio.
ALL through the 1970s I would hear his birdlike and beautiful soprano saxophone sound flying over Hungerford Bridge and Charing Cross as he busked to captivated and lucky passers-by.
For Lol Coxhill was one of the great masters of his instrument in the post-Coltrane years, alongside Steve Lacy and Evan Parker, and it was only after he died in 2012 that his true stature has been fully appreciated.
A dedicated and committed virtuoso, I remember how he responded so positively when in 1980 I asked him to perform at a Jazz Against Racism concert I organised, and how soulfully he played.
Now, his old baritone saxophone confrere George Haslam, also the founder of the outstanding label, Slam Records, has produced as his final album, a solo concert Coxhill played in June 1985 at the Gibbs Club, Cardiff.
Featuring Lol on both soprano and sopranino saxophones, he unbears his heart and brain in a succession of supremely inventive and rhapsodic improvisations, interspersed with genial and witty monologues.
Within the swirling storm of his improvised notes, you suddenly recognise snatches of the beauty of familiar melodies, whether it is Over the Rainbow, Stranger on the Shore, Charlie Parker’s Confirmation, Jimmy Van Heuson’s I Thought About You, or back to New Orleans beginnings with Just a Closer Walk with Thee, or other self-discovered themes which spin off his breath like those of the birds flying over the Thames.
All through the album he attacks his notes in the way pioneer New Orleans veteran Sidney Bechet did with his soprano saxophone in his Paris concerts by the Seine.
I ask Haslam how he estimated Coxhill, having played alongside him.
He remembers his compering skills along with his musicianship in the "lovely quartet" with revolutionary trombonist Paul Rutherford and golden pianist Howard Riley.
"His sound was instantly recognisable," says Haslam, "always focused and holding his listeners’ attention."
Was he truly a busker at heart? I wonder.
"He certainly was a most accomplished busker," agrees Haslam, "but much more, in his orchestral works and idiosyncratic improvisations."
This new record shows his fusion of this astonishing power of improvisation and love of melody. It reminds me of his version of I Can’t Get Started on the 1990 CD A Big Honk.
I remember a gig with him when each band member was asked to feature a solo piece. When he was told it was a free gig, Lol said: "Am I free to play Autumn Leaves?"
"To me," asserts Haslam, "his most compelling legacy, beyond his recordings, is the status he gave British musicians on the world stage — and for me personally, his huge inspiration."
On Coxhill ’85 he muses to his Cardiff listeners: "I said I was a unique entertainer, I didn’t say I was good."
"I won’t say that either, for words don’t suffice, only ears. I’ll just call him an unforgettable, brilliant people’s musician who never stopped creating his own kind of instant beauty, on any street, on any stage, on any bridge, anywhere," Haslam concludes.
Chris Searle morningstaronline.co.uk/article/c/his-most-compelling-legacy-status-he-gave-british-musicians-world-stage
In these fast-moving times, the adjective "eclectic" is bound to assume a reduced connotation due to the usual loss of meaning affecting almost every significant term. Instead, "eclecticism" means to excel in different fields of expertise or to practice an art, learnt with hard labour and enthusiasm, expressed then in a myriad of possible ways. The long and happy career of the saxophone player Lox Coxhill has been an unmistakably clear example of "eclecticism". This is not a statement of principle, it is pure facts: just look at the chaotic, cacophonous list of collaborations of this Master of Music, passed away in 2021, little hair on his head, but lots of ideas, British humour and an absolute command of his favourite instrument, the soprano saxophone: Otis Spann and Alexis Corner, the Brotherhood of Breath from South Africa and Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, the Caravan, the Henry Cow. From Blues to Free Jazz via the most refined English Art Rock. Nice tribute of affection on the part of George Haslam, patron of Slam Records, to bring back this superb day at Gibbs Club in Cardiff, June 29, 1985. Relaxed and with his usual comedian-like verve, he picks up the soprano and sopranino and plays through an exciting succession of twelve pieces, with all possible stylistic references to jazz, and beyond. Impossible not to bring up the two names, part with him of the perfect triangle of the "Solo Sax": Lacy, Evan Parker. In the intermissions, those who know English well will be able to enjoy his funny comments, as well as his music. Most of the people in the audience were paying attention, some were talking out loud: too bad for them, they did not know what they were missing and what we have been able to retrieve, with appreciation.
Guido Festinese, Audio Review, June 2021. Translated from the Italian by Anna Radaelli
Late soprano saxophonist Lol (né George Lowen) Coxhill, who died nine years ago this month, still casts a towering shadow on the UK’s music scene—not just the jazz and free improvisation spheres, but the mainstream and indie rock ones as well. He played a regular/recurring role in prog-rocker Kevin Ayers’ band Whole World, with UK folk icon Shirley Collins, Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper and a varied host of others. Like his American counterpart Steve Lacy, Coxhill concentrated exclusively on the soprano (though also playing its cousin-horn the sopranino, heard some here) and they shared a penchant for unaccompanied performances. The recording quality of this 1985 performance is very good but there is a fair amount of audience-noise to be heard throughout.
"I Thought About You" manages to strike a nice balance between pensive meandering and gutsy exploration of this well-known standard. Coxhill has a fluid approach and coaxes a big soulful, rhapsodic tone from his horn and drives the chestnut with gregarious swing. "No Stranger" finds Coxhill engaging in rich blues playing; the audience sounds on this track are a bit of a distraction but Coxhill’s earnest soulfulness and potent swagger draw the listener’s attention to where it belongs, his full-bodied sound, a bit rippling, somewhat tart and full of natural/unhurried swing. Speaking of swing, "My Old Sopranino" is packed with it, bristling with rollicking, good-time-y verve and so much puckish drive listeners are unlikely to miss bass and drums. "Still For Bunk" is gorgeous balladry with small touches of existential ache and regret.
This set also features a few tracks entitled "Dialogue", preambles containing samples/examples of Coxhill’s obliquely droll verbal wit—for example, he tips his hat to the old-school showbiz-ism: "I’ve been asked to play…(and) been asked not to play…".
A set of solo saxophone is clearly not for the casual listener but, for devotees of Coxhill, a master of the straight reed instrument, those who cannot get enough of it and/or simply those seeking something different, Coxhill ’85 is an album that will clearly keep giving to our collective present/future.
Mark Keresman, New York City Jazz Record, July 2021.
Lol Coxhill was an English saxophone player, largely known for playing soprano and sopranino saxophones. He began playing aged 15 in 1947 and later in that decade, organised club sessions where he introduced music from the jazz coming from the US. He later toured with musicians in America. Back in the UK, he played with Otis Spann, Jack Dupree and many other musicians. Coxhill was unconventional in so many ways. Rather than a permanent trio, quartet or collaborator, he played with a host of different combinations across his career; many of them were long-lasting, but some less so. He even busked to make ends meet whilst he studied music in London. This led to gigs in clubs.
He played with Carol Grimes, Steve Beresford, Tony Coe, Steve Miller, Derek Bailey, Mike Oldfield, Django Bates and Hugh Metcalfe, to list just a few. He was eccentric and held a place in many jazz enthusiasts' hearts. A Coxhill gig was rarely as billed.
Coxhill was known for his banter with the audience and his wry sense of humour. He would sometimes introduce his music by saying, 'what I am about to play, you may not understand,' and sometimes he would stop during a performance to explain something to the audience and occasionally because he lost interest in the piece he was exploring. In the early 1970s, Coxhill was busking, something he returned to when times got hard - and the DJ John Peel came across him on London's South Bank. He signed Coxhill to his Dandelion label and Ear Of The Beholder was a double album that included Coxhill in collaborations with Ed Speight, Robert Wyatt and others. He was part of the London Musical Collective during the 1980s and was known for his pleasant singing voice as well. He played across genres, never limited or dictated to and was an original. He played with diverse groups including The Damned, R & B bands, ska, punk and performed straight-ahead jazz as well as improvised solo concerts.
Coxhill was a unique musician and performer. One of his traits was to switch from fierce improvisation to a remembered melody or song - explaining why he did so - or not- to the audience.
On 29th June 1985, at a performance at Gibbs Jazz Club, Cardiff, Nick Lea made a recording on the second night of a two-night booking. Coxhill talks to the audience, explains and introduces numbers, changes his mind and also blows the listener away with his playing. Nick says, "I was working at the club and had been bowled over by Lol's playing the previous night and asked him if I could make a private recording of the concert. He agreed, and two copies of the recording were made; my original and a copy for Lol. The concert was recorded very simply using a radio/cassette recorder which I had at home, and I used 2 mics; one in front of Lol and one suspended from the ceiling above him as he played.
I mentioned this recording to George Haslam of SLAM Productions and sent him the cassette to listen to. George liked what he heard and transferred it to digital files and took these to a studio Oxford with a view to releasing the material on the SLAM imprint so that this wonderful music could at last be heard."
Track 1 is a spoken introduction and an insight into how Coxhill created a dialogue with the audience. He tells how he accepted a list of requests from the management largely to be nice, but there is no guarantee he will play any of them - but then again, he might. He even explains why he takes his glasses off before playing. The first musical track,'Unconfirmed', is just over 12 minutes of free and sublime playing. Coxhill swoops and soars, adds intricate and evolving phrases which follow the scales and changes are introduced with almost every breath. Covering the entire range of the soprano sax, Coxhill shows not only the diversity of this instrument but just what it can do in the hands of a virtuoso.
Jimmy Van-Heusen/Johnny Mercer's 'I Thought About You' is given the Coxhill treatment resulting in a delicious exploration of every variation of the theme imaginable and probably some unimaginable. Barely recognisable, the tune is hidden beneath layer upon layer of Coxhill's masterful improvisations, yet there it is, emerging now and again, still apparent and still held in the mind of the musician who so dexterously delivers his variations.
'Track 4 ' is a dialogue where Coxhill tells how he was offered a sopranino saxophone that cost too much, so he stuck with his 1920s original. He then launches into a short, fierce, and intricate display before introducing 'My Old Sopranino', a track not, Coxhill explained, dedicated to those he did not enjoy working with. He also explains the dialogue is there to help people get closer to the music. The track finally begins with Coxhill demonstrating the beauty of a sopranino, veering from familiar phrases to crazed rock-infused motifs and squealing rises, falling away to the lower register and once again returning to melodic phrasing. A gentler, relaxed middle section gives way to a hefty change of pace before a return to the frenetic speed of Coxhill's delivery.
'Still For Bunk' is introduced with a long narrative about a (fictitious as it turns out) sax player Coxhill knew called Bunk Funk who thought he would walk with God. Coxhill comments that Bunk should find out if he could walk with God soon as he is very old before apparently receiving a message that Bunk died the day before. The number itself starts with melodic, deeply expressive, carefully phrased offerings, laced with snippets of ' Nearer My God To Thee' before Coxhill stops and tells the audience he just made the story up, apologises and says he will begin the set again and can they forgive him? 'Nit Picking' more than deserves the audience's forgiveness. It is full-bodied and full of intrigue, little rivulets of sound introduced, improvised around and delivered with a light touch. ' Beyond The Rainbow' is a play on the familiar song of a similar name, which can be heard at times through the looped, sped up and slowed down improvisations around the tune; it seems Coxhill takes two bars at a time, improvises the heck out of them before eventually moving to the next two. Clever and decidedly immersive, especially as the latter half is freer with superb intonation, returning to the last 2 bars of 'Over The Rainbow' to finish.
After a brief dialogue where Coxhill states he has been asked to play 'Stranger On The Shore' by some and not to play ' Stranger On The Shore', by others, 'No Stranger' turns out to be five and a half minutes of energy-driven improvisation with subtle references to the number he was asked not play/not play. Travelling at speed, Coxhill melds and forms improvised phrases around the tune. 'Stranger On The Shore' emerges pure and sweet from the sopranino in the middle section before Coxhill lubricates the channels of improvisation with his slick delivery once again. So, he manages both to play and not to play 'Stranger On The Shore'
'Juan For The Road' is an adventurous journey of a track, veering from melodic phrasing to snatched improvised episodes. Coxhill seems to snatch a related note from the key and work with it before discarding this idea and taking off in another direction. Characterful and atmospheric, the pauses offering as much texture as the notes themselves. As the noise of the audience grows in the closing stages, there is a sense of Coxhill in the zone, that other place where music can take you and this is reflected in the soaring quality of his playing.
This live recording is special and offers an experience that is different and unique. It is said no jazz performance is ever the same, and with the added flourishes of genius which Coxhill adds to both his repartee and his music, enjoyment is guaranteed. It would be impossible to repeat the performance. One of his jokes in the narrative is that he is billed as a unique musician. 'but,' 'he adds,' they never said I was good'.
I think anyone listening to this would beg to differ.
Sammy Stein https://www.freejazzblog.org/2021/05/lol-coxhill-coxhill-85-slam-2021.html?m=1&fbclid=IwAR1DlFN3FPa79qk9FatYZqYEeI5kzRDjSPAQlp2zl4OaeXEeaYCkMK9fSnk
Questa incisione live A Cardiff del sassofonista Lol Coxhill risale al giugno 1985 e è qui disponibile al grosso pubblico per la prima volta. Lol è stato un personaggio eclettico piuttosto conosciuto in Inghilterra, presente su incisioni e band di tutti i tipi, dal rock al blues fino alla techno della band Ultramarine, ed alla musica improvvisata, restando in ogni caso originale e mostrando nelle incisioni la sua forte personalità. In questo live si presenta in una dimensione per lui consueta, il suo sax soprano (in alcuni brani anche al sopranino), una sedia, un pubblico di ridotte dimensioni ma attento, ed una musica tutta sua che sfugge ad ogni genere, fra free e melodie ed anche qualche standard jazz, ad esempio su Unconfirmed appare un tema di Charlie Parker. Il pubblico lo ha apprezzato (lo si sente in sottofonodo) e lo apprezza anche oggi, a distanza di tanto tempo. La buona qualità della registrazione permette di apprezzare il suo inconfondibile suono memtre il concerto si spiega fra dialoghi, qui sono quattro, improvvisazioni ai sax soprano e sopranino ed uno standard, I Thought About You.
Vittorio lo Conte, http://www.musiczoom.it/?p=32459#.YKF956hKi1t
This live recording in Cardiff by saxophonist Lol Coxhill dates back to June 1985 and is here available to the general public for the first time. Lol was an eclectic character quite well known in England, present on recordings and bands of all kinds, from rock to blues to the techno of the Ultramarine band, and to improvised music, remaining in any case original and showing his strong personality in the recordings. . In this live, his soprano saxophone (in some songs also the sopranino), a chair, a small but attentive audience, and a music of his own that escapes any genre, between free and melodies and even some jazz standards, for example on Unconfirmed a theme by Charlie Parker appears. The public appreciated it (you can hear it in the background) and still appreciate it today, after a long time. The good quality of the recording allows you to appreciate its unmistakable sound while the concert is explained between dialogues, here are four, soprano and sopranino sax improvisations and a standard, I Thought About You.
Lol Coxhill was noted as an immensely versatile player and a decidedly talented improvisor with a sense of humour. Both of these characteristics are immediately obvious from the opening echoes of this album from 1985, recorded live at Gibb’s Club, Cardiff. The positive ambience of the club and its audience is heard here and revealed again in the musician’s responses to the environment.
One factor of Coxhill’s music is that it seldom recognises any particular genre; he seems to draw from an eclectic range of music, of many different kinds. It may seem odd, then, that he was also widely described as a free improvising saxophonist, but I think this may be, in part, due to his so often playing solo: busking. Also, he played with such as Mose Allison, Kevin Ayers (Whole World), Derek Bailey, Django Bates, Brotherhood of Breath, the Damned, Champion Jack Dupree, Morgan Fisher (Mott the Hoople, Queen), Joe Harriott, Tubby Hayes, Steve Miller (Delivery, Carol Grimes), Howard Riley and Otis Spann. Fair to say that he knew no musical barriers and understood, clearly, the sheer wit of punk.
Coxhill ’85 exhibits one of his commonplace techniques, the use of vibrato, possibly achieved in different ways in woodwind (though the rule book says ‘never on the clarinet – except in jazz’!). Here his playing comes in waves; at times, it’s like the sudden arrival of a quarrel of sparrows, upside your head – then, no, it’s a mutation of song thrushes. That’s different.
Many musicians and audience members would be seriously distracted by the buzz of some of the listeners in the club, just audible in the background. Not Coxhill. He continues blithely, ensuring that he is heard clearly, helped by the timbre of his instruments. He picks up some lengthy, sequential lines, uncoils them and takes them for a walk. His music, his playing is a breath of fresh air and it is so good to have another opportunity to hear this recovered from the past. It’s excellent. Ken Cheetham https://www.jazzviews.net/lol-coxhill---coxhill-lsquo85.html
LOL COXHILL - Coxhill ’85 (Slam 2114; UK) Featuring Lol Coxhill on soprano & sopranino saxes and recorded at Gibbs Club in Cardiff, UK in June of 1985. I have been a big fan of British saxist, Lol Coxhill, ever since buying his first record, ‘Ear of the Beholder’, a 2 LP set for just $1.00 at a Sam Goody’s budget outlet in midtown NYC in the early seventies. Mr. Coxhill played exclusively soprano sax (like Steve Lacy) and was a member of Kevin Ayers’ band, the Whole World, endearing himself to Canterbury fans worldwide. He also worked with Robert Wyatt, members of Henry Cow and an odd combination of musicians from varied genres. I was fortunate to have heard Lol Coxhill perform in a duo with guitarist Gerry Fitzgerald at the 100 Club in London in December of 1975, after which we hung out and became friends. We got together later that week so I could loan Mr. Coxhill a cassette of the gig that I taped, drinking several large pints of tasty beer and getting somewhat sh*tfaced. Sometime in the early nineties, after losing touch for many years, Mr. Coxhill called me (out of the blue) at the first location of our store and said he had won a trip to New York and asked if I could get him some gigs. I was honored to do that so I got him a gig opening for Carbon at the Old Knit and a set at the store, a duo with saxist Ivo Perelman. I did catch Mr. Coxhill in a trio called the Recedents at the Victo fest way back when and invited to play at The Stone when I curated there for a month in December of 2006. Mr. Coxhill couldn’t make it then due to health issues but we remained friends anywhere. Sadly, Lol Coxhill passed in July of 2012 and I have continued to collect his often rare albums ever since. Considering that Mr. Coxhill played mainly soprano sax only for his entire music career, he did have his own distinctive sound. Lol also had an odd yet distinctive sense of humor and would break into a song, singing the words, telling a joke, just being himself, all within a set. There have been very few posthumous releases featuring Mr. Coxhill, mostly a quartet date on Otoroku (with Joe McPhee & Evan Parker) and a few guesting with the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra. Which brings us to this CD…
This is a previously unreleased live set recorded at a small club in Cardiff in England in June of 1985. Mr. Coxhill starts things off with a short spoken word introduction which is rather funny and somewhat revealing his charming self-effacing sense of humor. When he does start playing, we hear his unique style: playing those curlicue notes in a most enchanting way. Unlike many free improvisers who like to push the limits on their respective instruments, Mr. Coxhill sounds like he comes from a more festive, almost vaudeville-like tradition at times. His playing is often melodic with unexpected twists and turns going on. The one cover that Coxhill does is called, "I Thought About You". This is a delight, sad yet so lovely. Although it is quite rare, Mr. Coxhill switches to a sopranino sax for one long piece here, his playing stretching out into the higher range and going further out. At times, I hear Mr. Coxhill playing a fragment of a recognizable song and then scooting off elsewhere. Coxhill does four monologues here which are charming in their own way bridging the gap, feeling-wise between the extended improvisations. There is some audience talking in the background here at times, yet Lol Coxhill remains focused at creating his own world, which seems to bridge the gap between ancient and more modern times. Mr. Coxhill covers "A Night in Tunisia" and does a splendid version of it. This is some 70 minutes long, containing two complete sets and does a fine job of showing Lol Coxhill as his best. This will be one of the last discs that the Slam label will be releasing so it is a fitting tribute to a fine label that has documented quite a bit of the British Creative Music Scene. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG Newsletter for April 23rd, 2021