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ECLECTIC MAYBE BAND – BARS WITHOUT MEASURES (2023)

Guy Segers of UNIVERS ZERO is the mastermind behind this project. The press release suggests that Guy “takes the improvisations as raw material and sculpts them into finished pieces.” Cited genres are rock, jazz, electronic and ‘abstract landscape’. MARTIN ARCHER is not only facilitator but participator.

I liked the funky groove of the rhythm section here and there, no surprise since Guy is primarily a bassist, but the drummers also do a fine job especially on ‘Painting with Illicit Pigment’, with its HOLST-ian menace. Distinctive singer Julie Tippetts appears to good effect with her vocalisations on the funky ‘Senseless Ostensibly’ (great violin and guitar here too) and on the haunting 7-minutes of avant-jazz on ‘Gratitude’ with its quirky time signatures (I could certainly hear the ghost of Univers Zero in this with Segers’ busy bass providing the undertow and sparse piano chords).

‘Quarantine’ is a short angst-ridden free blow prefacing ‘A Move to Unchange the Place’ with fine ensemble brass playing and ‘conversations’ between the musicians involving piano and guitar either picking out staccato notes or unleashing short fluid and occasionally coruscating breaks. I could not help but think FRANK ZAPPA meets ROBERT FRIPP here – Zappa would certainly have been proud of the arrangement of this fine piece. A repetitive guitar motif over-laced by sax graces the hypnotic ‘Rhésus Rétractible’, on which once more Guy Segers’ distinctive bass playing can be appreciated; the piece kind of ‘dissolves’ half-way through: expect the unexpected, essential for truly free and inventive music. A steady drum beat and chunky flute enhanced groove is the final variation. Prize for the best title must surely go to ‘Are You Out of My Mind’, a playful piece with electric piano and strings – the offbeat drumming is a joy reminding me of BILL BRUFORD’s wonderful jazz rock fusion excursions; another quixotic melange to listen to over and over. Dark cello begins ‘Isolation’ – the bassoon and bass clarinet combining to good effect in a strange and mysterious way.

Expect some free blowing on opener ‘Cassanova’ (Martin Archer’s saxello to the fore) before settling into a groove – don’t stop your journey there as many memorable musical moments follow. The following instruments all feature at one point or another: clarinet, bass clarinet, saxes, trumpet, trombone, flute, oboe, bassoon, violin, cello, keyboards and guitar. Eclectic? Certainly! Maybe? No -definitely! “Bars without Measures” is released on the Discus label/ Bandcamp.


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