London-based prolific saxophonist, bandleader and Raw tonk label founder Colin Webster has put together a brand new large ensemble that comprises many of the leading players in the current generation of improvising musicians. This new octet features long-time comrade, Belgian experimental guitarist Dirk Serries (they play together in the Kodian Trio and countless other projects), and like-minded from the London free music scene – tenor sax player Rachel Musson, baritone sax player Cath Roberts, trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe, electronics player Graham Dunning, double bass player John Edwards and drummer Andrew Lisle (who also plays with Webster in the Kodian Trio and many other projects) – and its debut album, as well as its performance, First Meeting, was recorded live at Cafe OTO in London in August 2022. True to the DIY aesthetics of Raw Tonk, Webster did the artwork and Serries did the mixing and mastering of the recording.
Like other bands and ad-hoc projects of Webster, the Large Ensemble stresses his interest in working with extreme, uncompromising sonic palettes – from the minimalist and sparse, and sometimes even lyrical and surprisingly intimate to the maximalist, ecstatic and explosive, constantly pushing boundaries and equipped with a razor-sharp, punkish spirit. It is clear why Webster chose these musicians for the new Large Ensemble, as the free music flows naturally with its own restless logic, and moves from one stormy climax to another. Throughout the two extended free improvisations, all intensify the powerful, stormy dynamics with their strong individual voices, deepening the democratic interplay and are not shy of taking risks or experimenting with challenging timbres.
Half of the Large ensemble, the free-improvising quartet of Edwards, Lisle, Serries and Webster was recorded at the same location, Cafe OTO, in January 2022. Out Of Nowhere is the sophomore album of this quartet, following Peck and Fleet (Raw Tonk, 2021). The quartet plays a 36-minute piece, first informed by the acoustic guitar playing of Serries and the minimal percussion set-up of Lisle that triggers a more intimate, introspective and almost chamber dynamics. But soon the quartet adopts a more ferocious interplay, with Webster employing circular breathing and other extended breathing techniques but also singing instant melodies, while still maintaining an open, spacious atmosphere that encourages extended solos from all four, experienced and resourceful improvisers, highlighting their idiosyncratic voices.
Colin Webster (as), Rachel Musson (ts), Cath Roberts (bs), Charlotte Keeffe (tp, flh), Graham Dunning (elec), Dirk Serries (el.g, ac.g), John Edwards (b), Andrew Lisle (dr)