ALAN GOWEN & HUGH HOPPER /NIGEL MORRIS-BRACKNELL BRESSE IMPROVISATIONS (CUNEIFORM) (1980/ 1996/2021)
A welcome reissue, all the more poignant given Hugh Hopper’s sleeve notes and the premature death of the innovative and talented keyboard player Alan Gowen (of Gilgamesh and National Health) shortly afterwards. An LP ‘Two Rainbows Daily’ had been recorded and Gowen and Hopper played a one-off gig in Bracknell with drummer/ percussionist Nigel Morris, who had played on Isotope’s 1974 album “Illusion” with Hopper. This can be heard on tracks 1 to 3. The volume of each track seems to increase exponentially, the first lengthy excursion ‘Floating Path’ starting with Gowen’s rippling piano then synth and drumming/ percussion from the octopoidal Morris; the second follows a similar trajectory, the third featuring mazy synth/ treated electric piano runs demonstrating the virtuosity of the participants.
The rest of the tracks are from an impromptu tape recording by Jacky and Pascale Barbier who were hosting Alan and Hugh on a stopover in Burgundy. Hopper’s bass is more evident on these, the electric piano accompaniment presenting a typical ‘Canterbury’ sound redolent of Soft Machine. The 17 minutes of ‘A L’ouest’ reinforces this nostalgic notion as one could just as easily have been listening to Dave Stewart in Hatfield and the North as one is reminded of Alan Gowen’s (and Hugh Hopper’s) brilliance in inducing enchanting sound from their instruments, electric piano in Alan’s case. It is a privilege to be listening to such an important historical musical document. 17 minutes maybe seem a bit of a stretch but time flies as Hopper varies the pace with some walking bass - his death in 2009 was also a sad loss to progressive music. The two gentlemen go for speed on ‘Winged Trilby’ on which the symbiosis between the two musicians is remarkable.