EDQ – They All Be On This Old Road: The Seven Dials Concert
(Ogun OGCD 048. Album Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)
The last few years have seen some excellent re-issues of British albums from the late 60s and early 70s that have presented a free-er approach to the music: The Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s Karyobin with John Stevens, Evans Parker, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland and Derek Bailey, Splinters, a short lived freely improvising group with Trevor Watts, Tubby Hayes and Stan Tracey, and Joe Harriott’s Chronology are examples.
This was a time when jazz was said to be facing difficult times with the rise of rock music and the consequent loss of young audiences. But albums such as those mentioned above give the lie to that idea, and show that the scene was creating excellent innovative music and on the evidence of the applause on the live recordings jazz was still attracting good and enthusiastic audiences.
The re-issue of a live recording of EDQ, the quartet led by Elton Dean with Keith Tippett, Chris Laurence and Louis Moholo-Moholo, is another case in point. The session was recorded in 1976 at the Seven Dials in the Covent Garden area of London, and the re-issue on CD includes the whole concert with four tracks that were not on the original LP.
The recording captures a regularly working quartet in a period of transition for British jazz. The quartet’s approach is open and improvisational, with up tempo numbers with a lot of interaction between the four players, but also ballads such as Coltrane’s Naima, and show tunes such as Here’s That Rainy Day, Nancy (With The Laughing Face) and Easy Living.The first two tracks, Edeeupub and Here’s That Rainy Day, neither incidentally on the original LP, capture the variety of the set; Eddeupub starts at quite a pace with a characteristically passionate statement from Dean on alto sax followed by an equally tumultuous solo from Tippett, mostly at the bass end of the piano using repetition to build up the intensity. This is followed by a bass solo from Laurence with support from Tippett, again interestingly repetitive and with occasional interruptions from Moholo. Then Dean comes back in with a joyful but intense solo. Throughout the alto sax solo on this track and, indeed, throughout the set, Tippett provides all kinds of interesting support to Dean’s solos such that they are effectively an integrated series of duets.
The quartet moves straight into Here’s That Rainy Day with a long duet between bass and drums that acts as an interlude with a strong groove between the end of the first track and the statement of the melody. Dean enters with a statement of the melody and a series of variations on it.
There is quite a long version of Naima with all soloists keeping to the mood of the original; Dean is particularly fluent and expressive on this track. This is followed by Dede-bup-bup, which has more of a bop feel, both in the melody and in Dean’s solo. As before, Tippett adds very interesting lines in his support of Dean’s solo.
There is a slightly odd sequence with four short tracks: a fairly gentle interpretation of Nancy (with the laughing face), then Easy Living played fairly straight by Dean on the saxello, and then a kind of coda over two short tracks, Overdoing it and Not Too Much. It could be that it was the end of the first set, or even the beginning of the second, or perhaps they were pacing themselves over a long 75 minute set.
The Cd concludes with two longer tracks, Attic written by Dean and Echoes written by Tippett, the former played by Dean and Tippett with a blues feel, and the latter creating an attractive, rather melancholy mood. Echoes features Dean on that unusual member of the saxophone family, the saxello.
This Cd captures an important, if somewhat unheralded, group at its best. The cohesion of the quartet is impressive, and they clearly enjoy playing together. Laurence and Moholo provide very strong rhythmic support and the interaction between Dean and Tippett is stunning.