Weavels. The Living Puzzle. Discus 51CD
“The Living Puzzle” is the second release for this unusual trio. Weavels comprises Chris Cundy (bass clarinet), Mick Beck (bassoon and whistles), and Alex Ward (electric guitar).
Mick describes it as a group which is humorous but intricately purposeful. Ken Waxman in his Jazz Word review (July 2011) of their first album says, “Weavels’ watchword is textural collaboration, not blustering bravado”, and this release develops that theme in a thoroughly convincing way.
The first 5 tracks represent states of living. The last two are live performances, recorded at the Freedom Of the City festival, London, in 2012.
Studio recordings and disc master preparation by Alex Ward. artwork: ‘Puzzle’ by Chris Cundy (ink and water soluable oil on paper) . Thanks also go to Martin Archer of Discus Records, and AkcentMedia for production.
1. “Welcome Home”
2. “Improving The Dining Room”
3. “The Sun Room Avoids Invasion By Rats”
4. “Busyness On The Stairs”
5. “Farewell To Arms”
6. “Mine Live Head”
7. “Living Puzzle”
Buy Weavels – The Living Puzzle at Discus Music
Discus 46CD – Beck Hunters – The Hunt Is On
Mick Beck – tenor sax, bassoon, and whistles
Anton Hunter – guitar
Johnny Hunter – drums
Buy Beck Hunters – The Hunt is On at Discus Music
It’s been a while since Beck put out one of his trio releases, but The Hunt Is On emphatically shows why threesomes are his favourite means of creating dynamic music and performance. A first release from a refreshing mix of generations and styles partnering Beck’s experience and power with the younger talented Hunter brothers. They easily span free music and free jazz, even making incursions into the wild west and middle European fantasies. The group was formed about 18 months ago and immediately caught the attention of critics and audiences: “…truly mind-blowing, ranging between a cardiac arrest, epileptic fit and a nervous breakdown. The trio are extremely tight, threatening to unravel before skilfully coming back into sync. There is some jaw-dropping guitar work and Mick is a maestro on the saxophone, the music oscillating between anger and desolation.” – Rob Aldam, Now Then Magazine Oct 2013″
The album has 4 tracks, each of which explores the group’s varied relations with different idioms in depth.
1) Hunting for Metal. Somewhere between rock and a hard place, this is found. Sax and octavided guitar over some tumultuous percussion, a new element is forged.
2) Hunting for the Ultimate Chord. The bird-like ocarina and the human whistle suggest some options, followed by off-reed bassoon, pizzicato guitar and delicate stick on metal. Double diminished explorations come to a temporary resolution. Then the hunt is on again via pitched percussive interventions and low growly sounds of a distinctively questioning kind. Is the answer found? Yes of course in the sense that there isn’t one.
3) Hunting for Young Quasars. Perhaps appropriately, this is the longest track, given its astronomical significance – the borderline between brilliant light and a black hole. What starts a bit like amphibians in a jungle and morphs through weird sustained wails into intricate swanee whistle assaults and dizzy slides. It moves into a stonking jazzy section, a strange conversational duo between sax and guitar, and then a sustained assault led by a drum barrage sounding much like the new year’s Thames firework display. The intergalactic analogy can’t be sustained too much given that sound doesn’t travel across outer space very well, but you might get the general drift…
4) Hunting for Water. Bassoon with insertions from recorder, nose flute, train whistle, acme thunderer and vixen call. Self explanatory. Who wants water when there’s beer anyway?
Musical mythology includes many sounds defined geographically such As Mississippi Blues, the Viennese atonalists, Chicago-style Jazz and the Canterbury Rock Scene, so why not make a case for Sheffield Improv? Certainly the steel making city was the birthplace of Free Music most uncompromising prophet – Derek Bailey – and over the years a raft of others improvisers such as Tony Oxley, Paul Hession, Martin Archer and Simon Fell have had associations in the place.
All of which leads to this top-line slab of Free Jazz from long-time Sheffield affiliate Mick Beck, who plays tenor saxophone, bassoon, and whistles. Besides the notable music another point of interest is that the trio is filled out by two much younger players. They are brothers Anton Hunter on guitar and Johnny Hunter on drums, who may in fact, be interlopers from Manchester. A sturdy drummer with evidentially no desire to join the insect music crowd, Johnny Hunter’s steady beat is sometimes enlivened with pops, cracks and resounds as well as cymbal tickles, often turning the rhythm into a crescendo of irregular bumps. Anton Hunter, who also recorded the four selections at an unnamed time and place – October 2013 perhaps – offers some distinctive coloration to the tunes. Influenced by Rock like his sibling, his spindly guitar licks take more from the more sophisticated side of Chet Atkins and the less funky parts of Grant Green than anything invented by Bailey.
Almost from the first the three improvisers mesh and, for instance, when Beck turns from faint whistling and unpacks his bassoon on “Hunting for the Ultimate Chord” his wild boar-like snorts are chromatically complemented by bell reverb and cymbal pressure on one side and bulldozing twangs on the other. Eventually, following some light-hearted peeps from what sounds like a penny whistle, Beck returns to the mammoth double reed. His tightened obbligato signals a satisfying ending.
Beck is more of a Trane spotter on saxophone, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal of his righteous honking which drags the Hunters along with him as if they’re involved in a particularly invigorating hounds-and-fox pursuit. Beck’s tongue slurs, slides and yelps are always there whenever he plays, although the extended “Hunting for Young Quasars” appears even tougher – in a good sense. Lip-bubbling his lines into atonality on that track, the saxophonist’s output moves from tree-top altissimo to bog-deep chalumeau and lower. By the mid-point all three players lock into a mesmerizing AMM/Necks-like groove that stops and starts at will as if a switch is being clicked. Irregular drum patterns and strokes which suggest arco bowing as much as picking add to the effervescence that finally reaches a crescendo of freer textures. More off-centre drumming, variable string plucks and reed peeps combine as the piece slowly fades.
Proof that high quality improvised music is being produced away from better-known population centres, following the title’s instructions to seek out this disc will lead to ample musical rewards. – —Ken Waxman JAZZ WORD
Buy Beck Hunters – The Hunt is On at Discus Music
MICK BECK – RATHER DIFFERENT.
AVAILABLE NOW ON DVD
ONLY £6.50 INCLUDES ALL BONUS MATERIAL
“RATHER DIFFERENT” – Freenoise
Mick Beck is one of the world’s best virtuoso tenor sax and bassoon players. He began free improvising in the hotbed of 1980’s London jazz scene, citing Sonny Rollins and Eric Dolphy as his main influences in the genre.
Moving to Sheffield in the 1990’s he met and played with Derek Bailey and through to 2004, along with Martin Archer, John Jasnoch and Charlie Collins, he was one of the lead organisers of Sheffield’s Other Music, a bastion of the UK ‘s free music scene for 22 years. He continues to play with and influence many people from all over the world, both while travelling and regularly opening up his own home as the underground venue known to locals as ‘Over the Top’ or simply ‘Mick’s House’.
Mick has worked with many great musicians such as saxists J.D. Parran to Alan Wilkinson, guitarists Derek Bailey to Hugh Metcalf, percussionists Tony Buck to Steve Noble and Paul Hession, bassists Marcio Mattos to Simon Fell, pianists Chris Burn to Stephen Grew and Pat Thomas. In recent years he has worked with Chris Cundy, John Edwards, Alex Ward, Paul Hession, Chris Corsano (Bjork, Sunburned) Phil Marks, John Russell, Phil Morton, Charlie Collins, Tom ‘Squarepusher’ Jenkinson and many more.
In this revealing documentary Mick is interviewed by Jonny Drury about his personal and public musical life, from childhood to present day. The fast paced, yet reflective film is interspersed with much live footage, recordings and photographs, demonstrating truly exceptional diversity in over thirty years of playing. Interviews with a number of Mick’s contemporaries bolster the view that Mick is at the centre of the dynamic powerhouse of spontaneous composing. The film is a fast paced and fun yet deeply revealing foray into a most misunderstood form of creative expression, known as free music.
Mick Beck – Life Echoes (Discus 2009)
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“Sheffield based reedsman Beck has been a fixture on the UK improv scene for a quarter century, and graced countless recordings as a sideman and collaborator – but this is his first solo venture proper: 13 single take live-in-the-studio tracks that, in Beck’s own words “explore the ever fascinating boundary between conventional harmonies and looser playing. Largely , that means spontaneous improvisations showcasing a confident mastery of extended tenor saxophone techniques and an inquisitive dedication to unravelling the possibilities of the bassoon. In Beck’s hands, this normally quaint and sedate woodwind , rarely associated with improvisation, becomes by turns a vicious, snarling entitiy or a sonorous well of complex overtones. This CD includes a couple of ttunes by Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, and the final track….. with its playful tinkering with ocarina, recorder, swanny and tin whistle also reveals the influence of Roland Kirk – but for the most part, this is the work of an underrated British original.”
– DANIEL SPICER, JAZZWISE
“MICK BECK’S album, Life Echoes, is not conventional listening. But seldom do instruments speak so loudly, or take on characters of their own. Opening track The Crocodile sounds like a conversation between two ducks. Indeed, Beck’s album dwells on music’s ability to speak in a literal sense. Many of the tracks would be well suited for a silent movie or a theatrical performance. The album, released on local label Discus Records, comprises a plethora of instrumentation. Throughout it Beck alternates between bassoon, whistles, saxophone, swanny, vixen call recorder, with each taking on a theme. But there are tracks, however, where he enters a conventional musical format. Three Twice is a melancholic number – somewhat downbeat compared to its jovial counterparts. Spanning many moods, many creatures and many sounds, Life Echoes does exactly what it says on the tin. And, much like life, it is impossible to fathom.”
– Rachael Clegg SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH
Two bass register instruments and guitar might sound heavy, but here Weavels skip energetically through varied landscapes of experimentation from jungle to garage, and certainly to the Nether Edge.
On At Nether Edge (DISCUS 34CD), you can hear the assorted atonal free-improv whoops and bleats of UK players Chris Cundy, Alex Ward and Mick Beck, calling themselves Weavels for this outing. Alex Ward usually plays clarinet I think, but here he opts for amplified guitar work with a very slight avant-rock inflection, and leaves the woodwinds to Cundy, while Beck plays a very craggy-sounding bassoon. Each performer is allotted a solo cut to showcase their skills, but the CD really only works for me on the trio pieces – especially the farmyard-themed ‘Geese’ and ‘Sheep’ cuts. On the latter, they sound like a particularly worried flock of woolly bullies. – SOUND PROJECTOR
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|BLISTRAP: On Stage
Full, live sets in London, Edinburgh and Manchester 2008. Beck with Jonny Drury (electric guitar / electronics) and Stefano Giust (drums). Released on Italian label Setola di Malale.
” An incredibly powerful trio driven by Italian drummer Stefano Giust, who never loses energy throughout the 40min improv. Complimented by the often textural, often piercing guitar of Jonny Drury and the ever-inventive Mick Beck on sax and slide-whistle. The three seem to blend well together and yet not afraid to follow their own ideas with conviction, a great combination for free playing. Afterwards a friend said to me ‘amazing to be able to start with such intensity and then still take it up even higher.’ This is free-jazz turned up to 11…” The Noise Upstairs, Manchester 2008.
Setola di Malale
||Meanwhile, Back in Sheffield …
(Derek Bailey guitar, Paul Hession drums, Mick Beck reeds, Discus 21 CD, Spring 2005. “
The opening track “After The Red Deer ” is a 30 minute evolution through many sound scapes. “Raining” develops into dense ensemble jostles, with the raucous entry of Beck’s bassoon. And on “Buckets”, the three players trade phrases as though hurling a hot coal back and fourth. These last two titles celebrate the apparent passage of the Sheffield rain through the roof, an event sure to convince free improvisers that there definitely is a god. – The Guardian
||Shkrang: Some thoughts about. (Discus 25 CDl 2006))
(Mick Beck, Dave Tucker guitar and laptop, Paul Hession drums,
“A top avant garde pick for 2006” (All About Jazz review) and “ One has to look back as far as early Amalgam to find free jazz / improv as compellingly rooted and adventurous as this” – The Wire
||Grew Trio, It’s Morning (Discus 22 CD, 2005).
“This release carries the hallmarks we’ve come to expect: an uncompromising and intense approach to non-idiomatic free music, delivered with an irrepressibly mischievous sense of humour. Ridiculously entertaining” – Jazzwise
||Beck Drenching Pleasure: A Low Carbonation,
(Discus 28 CD, Beck/Drenching/Pleasure, June 2006)
A Low Carbonation immerses you in the interface between plumbing and low tech – this sound of music is more about construction of new forms than Mary Poppins.” – Discus
|Beck Drenching Pleasure, Live at HOTS-OD
(FHB 023 2002)
||Fine / Beck / Hession: Motion Ejecta (Cadence Jazz Records 2003)
Fine: clarinets / Beck – tenor sax / bassoon / Hession: drums)“It took Milo Fine, Mick Beck, and Paul Hession 56:43 to make this album. You’ll be listening to it for a lot longer than that!” Cadence Magazine , USA ,“This is free Jazz at its most uncompromising and it’s all the stronger for that. Able to double- and triple-tongue on a double reed, Beck creates dissonant textures you wouldn’t associate with the usual orchestral instrument”.Cadence Jazz Records Cadence
Beck: tenor sax. Drury: electric guitar / electronics. Giust: drums.
Remotion is the first project in collaboration between these artists devoted to improvised music, Mick and Jonny together in England and Stefano in Italy. A distance work. The sessions were then mixed with some effects, three tracks are the result of ‘cut ups’. The speed of execution – 30 days – is an indication of a ‘drama’ focus throughout the process to achieve by playing the disc, this work aims to be relevant as result of a pure musical experience. (sleeve notes)
“Funny, smart, jazzy and t the same time enjoyable.” – Sodapop Setola di Malale
|Something Else: Start Moving Earbuds (Bruce’s Fingers 1993)
Beck: tenor sax / recorder. Hession: drums / Fell: double bass)
“Amazing…..simply one of the best English improv recordings I’ve heard in ages.”
– Stefan Jaworzyn Scum List
|Something Else: Playing with Tunes (Bruce’s Fingers 1996)
Beck: tenor sax / recorder. Hession: drums / Fell: double bass)
” An impressive range of moods and timbres, from spirals of bop melody to fast and bulbous blasts of abstract anguish, intensified by Fell’s gargantuan basslines.”
– Chris Blackford The Wire
|Beck / Grew Duo: Picture August (Bruce’s Fingers 1999)Beck plays tenor with conviction that can border on lawlessness. The music overall has a quality of formal order, enhanced by the chapel acoustics of the recording space, yet continually under threat from the duo’s wry humour and teeming musical ideas.”
– Julian Cowley – The Wire
|Feetpackets – Listen! (Discus 1CD)
What’s that sneaking around the corner? Is it the rising tide of social unrest behind the iron curtain? Is it the march of PCs into offices and the click-clack exit of staff from typing pools? No, it’s Feetpackets! In 1989 this band of 14 improvisers based in or near Sheffield had, under Mick Beck’s leadership, a full and frank developmental experience of musical composition and structure combined with free individual expression. Touring England three times in the period 1988 to 1990, the music of the band stamped itself indelibly in the memories of many improvised music fans. Mick still finds people at his current gigs who hark back to Feetpackets at London’s Seven Dials or the Outside In festival at Crawley. This CD (made at a time when no-one else in the band owned a CD player) was recorded to capture some of its ideas, their uniqueness at the time in the UK (possibly Europe), and the energy of its performance.It is historical and in places very moving. It contains pieces by six of the band, and has a wealth of compositional ideas.
The 3 Bs (Pat Thomas, Paul Hession, live at the Termite Festival, Leeds ).
… To Play Music, (Stephen Grew Trio, live from Liverpool ).
Contributions to Simon Fell’s Compilations 4 and 3 and Piece for 10(0);
Contributions to many of Martin Archer’s releases such as recent Outward Sound’s Thunder in a clear sky.