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Alan Tomlinson / Steve Beresford / Roger Turner - Trap Street

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Artist: Alan Tomlinson / Steve Beresford / Roger Turner

Album: Trap Street

Label: Emanem

Review date: Sep. 2, 2003

Trombone Theatrics

Once again the UK’s Emanem label has provided us with an essential document of that country’s renegade improv scene. For those unfamiliar with the label, think of Knitting Factory with a lot more attitude and less irony.

Emanem’s latest document Trap Street, teams obscure and under-recorded trombonist Alan Tomlinson up with the more renowned improv personas of Steve Beresford and Roger Turner; making this the first recording by Tomlinson since 1986’s Ferals with Hugh Davies, Phil Minton and Turner. The lapse should not be misconstrued as lethargy, mind you, as he has been a member of both the London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra and Beresford’s London Improvisers Orchestra in addition to working with the likes of Peter Brötzmann and John Stevens. As for his partners in crime; Beresford has spent time in the legendary Portsmouth Sinfonia, Slits, Flying Lizards, various On-U-Sound projects, and so much more; Turner has recently been sighted with Konk Pack and can trace his roots way back to the Canterbury scene of the late ’60s, in-between: work with the likes of Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Alan Silva and Cecil Taylor.

The sound of Tomlinson’s trombone is unlike that of any other player. In one of his more peculiar techniques, he imitates the animal kingdom – apes, tigers, elephants, a kitten’s purring, it’s all there. Notice the monkey laugh that permeates “E2” amidst the scattershot percussion and xylophone sampling. “N1” provides another angle on Tomlinson’s unique attack, here ascenting to a violent speech-like impediment that dissolves into a free jazz structure, fusing with Beresford’s electronics and producing a whirlwind jumble of sonic abrasiveness that only Turner’s insistent percussion can calm. Refusing to settle into a particular groove, several of the pieces on Trap Street are surprisingly quiet – both “N2” and “W7” are not afraid to play within the confines of both lower decibels and silence.

Though all three musicians work as equals throughout the disc, the exploratory trombone work of Tomlinson acts as the focal point, with both Turner and Beresford providing varying moods. The improvisations within Trap Street follow an almost inscrutable logic in which every sound, note, progression, and angle leads to a foregone conclusion. Nothing feels out of place and likewise nothing feels excessively daring. The three gel together as one, refusing to upstage one another, instead choosing to focus on a cohesive end result.

By Everett Jang Perdue

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