Martin Archer Trio
See You Soon Or See You Sometime
Discus 127CD
(2022)
Available formats: CD/DL

 

“From Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman to Evan Parker and Steve Lacy, the trio line-up has produced classic recordings. This See You album carries the weight of history. Critically Martin Archer/Michael Bardon/Walt Shaw meet the challenge head on, by the time your ears get to the final track, Improvisation In Traditional Form, I promise you’ll hear a superb spontaneous elegy song stirring all those ‘improvising masters’ mentioned above as well as creating enough space to form their own distinct lines of language.” – Steve Day

 

I have wanted to make a trio recording – that simplest and yet most demanding configuration for any saxophone player – for many years, but had been unable to decide who the other players should be. It was only when I heard Michael’s solo work that I realised that his approach to the bass, combined with Walt’s textural playing, would make the foundation which I was looking for. I wanted a trio sound where the saxophone could inhabit the music from within – as opposed to riding upfront in the role of the soloist hero. However, I chose to play mainly tenor saxophone, (supplemented occasionally by sopranino and saxello) to maximise the contrast between jazzier horn lines versus the more abstract playing from the other instruments. Anyhow, grand concept aside, once we met we just played all day, using some simple notated and graphic scores, plus some ideas generated on the spot. We hope you enjoy the resulting sounds. As ever when I play in this style, I have AACM music in mind. – Martin Archer

Martin Archer – tenor and sopranino saxophones, saxello
Michael Bardon – double bass, cello
Walt Shaw – drums and percussion

27CD - ASK

Reviews

If you are interested in Martin Archer, and presumably you are because you’re reading this review, you’ll know that the saxophone maestro has been working with percussionist Walt Shaw for years in various combos. So why is this particular trio album significant? Crucially, saxophone/bass/drums trios are always potentially special, they are the pared down presentation of the ‘art of improv’ – the place where there’s nowhere to hide. From Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman to Evan Parker and Steve Lacy, the trio line-up has produced classic recordings. This See You album carries the weight of history. Critically Martin Archer/Michael Bardon/Walt Shaw meet the challenge head on, by the time your ears get to the final track, Improvisation In Traditional Form, I promise you’ll hear a superb spontaneous elegy song stirring all those ‘improvising masters’ mentioned above as well as creating enough space to form their own distinct lines of language. What See You starts with is a fragment piece by Archer, the wonderfully provocatively titled Rotten Star. The little twinkle extends into something close to a regular deconstructed ballad for tenor sax – an almost cubist blues. This is what I like about it; the fact that the leader doesn’t overplay the virtuoso. These are simply lovely lines hanging like Coleman Hawkins might have hung them back when The Hawk Flies High, but here in Sheffield on 26th August 2021 they’re carried by Bardon’s busy double bass structuralism and Mr Shaw’s simpatico cross-talk into something very contemporary. Wisely Martin Archer has approached this session clearly sharing the frontline position with his collaborators. To listen to Michael Bardon working fingers and bow across Walt Shaw’s Evabje graphic score is to hear a 21st century man taking up where Barre Phillips left off, turning the bass fiddle into a tuning fork of fractures. A word about Walt Blues; melody with all the colour of indigo playing like a possible contender for Jazz Record Requests – full of eastern promise it could be an Ellington tune springing from one of Duke’s Far East Suites. It plays into Chime Scene, another Archer notation that has too much abstraction for Paul Gonsalves but plenty of positive ‘Arched’ angular exploration… truly signature sounding. I know it does not seem to work like this these days but an album such as See You deserves a UK tour with a dozen gigs and a grand final out on London’s South Bank followed up by a five star rating in The Guardian. See You Soon Martin and Sometime I hope you, Michael and Walt are given the keys to Sheffield… if not the Queen Elizabeth Hall. – Steve Day, March 2022

Some written annotations, some graphic scores and the ideas emerging from the improvisational interaction. These are the main ingredients of the music of the trio formed by Martin Archer on saxophones, Michael Bardon on double bass and cello and Walt Shaw on drums and percussion. The record is convincing. The 6 tracks offer a sound between free jazz, modernist abstractionism, free improvisation. Here and there the typical riffs of Archer’s music are proposed as a supporting structure; in other cases (Walt Blues) it is the form that offers a reference; in still others (Chime Scene) the cultural appeal through the timbre and sound effects proposes an anchor for listening. But in general, and as the title of the last track suggests (Improvisation in Traditional Form) to act as a trait d’union between the songs and as an internal glue to the different tracks is improvisation, precisely in the traditional form of a performance that generates its own normativity through the sound training process. Mixing suspension and incisiveness, dialoguing with attention and responsiveness, exploring sound through its construction, the three musicians manage to bring the listener to the heart of the creative forge of a concert where music is invented by playing it. A nice result. – A G Bertinetto, KATHODIK \https://www.kathodik.org/2022/05/23/archer-bardon-shaw-see-you-soon-or-see-you-sometime/

This is some deep listening…. Martin Archer has a real voice on his instrument….. it deserves your full attention. – Dereck Higgins, online video blog

A classic lineup, not with the sax positioned in the traditional role of the dominant soloist. All three players make their mark in what is often more a group improvisation. Immediately evident in the opening phase of the first improvisation, ‘Rotten Star’. All three equally take part in carefully building up an intertwined conversation. ‘Evabje’ starts in an answer-response manner, with short gestures by Shaw and Bardon as a response to Archer’s statements. ‘Walt Blues’ is an excellent blues with nice bass lines by Bardon, sometimes in a battle with Archer. ‘See you soon or see you sometime’ kicks off very spirited and exciting. Great interplay and very together. An improvisation with many breathtaking moments. I hope they continue their collaboration as a trio! – Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY http://www.vitalweekly.net/1329.html

Featuring Martin Archer on tenor, sopranino & saxello saxes, Michael Bardon on contrabass and Walt Shaw on drums. Saxist, keyboardist, producer & Discus label head, Martin Archer, a long list of projects that he records with. I’ve heard most of these bands/discs and still can’t believe how successful he is at producing so many challenging/fascinating groupings. This is the first sax trio project that Mr. Archer has done and he has obviously put a good deal of thought into its execution. His partners here are Michael Bardon (age 36) on contrabass and Walt Shaw (age 76) on drums. Mr. Bardon has a recent solo bass CD out (on Discus) which shows him to be an most impressive bassist. Walt Shaw has worked with Mr. Archer on several projects (Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, mainly) as well as with Paul Dunmall and a quartet with Bruce Coates (reviewed here in 2014). At first I though that this disc would be just another free jazz sax trio session but there quite a bit more going on than that. The cover art is based on the graphics used on all Naxos contemporary classical discs with a picture of an abandoned petrol station in North Wales. I gather that Mr. Archer wants this disc to be taken more seriously and thus be placed on Contemporary Classical section of informed record stores worldwide. There are six pieces here, mostly written by Mr. Archer with a graphic score by Mr. Shaw and closing with a traditional/free improv piece. What I find most interesting is this: on most of the other projects that Mr. Archer has recorded, he rarely gets a chance to stretch out on sax, often playing keyboards, synth, doing arranging, composing and producing for a wide variety of projects. “Rotten Star” is first and we get to hear Mr. Archer on tenor sax, playing warm, cool, sumptuous, Trane-light in tone, with thoughtful yet skeletal playing from the rhythm team. The main theme has a ballad-like melody that the trio play in close harmony. “Evabje” is the graphic score by Walt Shaw (which is displayed in the liner notes) and Mr. Archer is playing sopranino, softly twisting his notes inside-out similar to the way Roscoe Mitchell a sopranino. This piece has a sparse yet focused Braxton-ish overall sound. The title track, “See You Soon Or See You Sometime”, is the long piece here and starts off as a powerful free/jazz tenor sax blow-out, slowly winding down through different freer sections with some strong interplay between all three musicians. “Walt Blues” was written by Mr. Archer & Mr. Bardon and it is a tasty blues song, with a strong bowed bass anchoring that churning ancient sounding melody. The final piece, “Improvisation in Traditional Form” is freely improvised yet we can hear the way this trio works together, connecting the dots as far as direction and development. I’ve listened to this disc several times over the past few weeks and I am enjoying it more and more as I become familiar with the way it unfolds and inspires us serious listeners. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG NYC

It is a surprise to find Archer in a trio setting, given the varied combinations of instruments with which he is more often involved. In the liner notes, he says that he’s wanted to make a trio recording for many years but needed to choose the other players. His ambition here was to create a “…trio sound where the saxophone could inhabit the music from within – as opposed to riding upfront in the role of the soloist hero.” What this means in practice, is that the relationship between the three instruments is much less that of rhythm section making a scaffold for a lead player to play the tune and improvise, and much more a co-creation of sounds with equal contributions from the players. Often, an improvised set has lengthy sections in which nothing much happens, with the players offering suggestions or ideas germinating very slowly. What is enjoyable about this set is the immediacy with which the ideas take root and develop, influenced by the players’ confidence in their own playing and trust in their bandmates. Sometimes this can take the form of bass and sax echoing each other, as the closing bars of ‘Rotten Star’, which opens the album. Sometimes it can take the form of a bass and sax engaging in a squabbled trading of phrases, as in the opening bars of ‘Evabje’. In this track (and the closing track, ‘Improvisation in traditional form’) the trio blend experimental sounds from their instruments with a clear sense of direction through the different choices that they are making. At times it feels as if each bar offers two or two directions for the musicians to take and rather than a bomb-burst scattering in all directions, they have a shared sense of where the tune is heading (even if the joy for the listener in not knowing what route is being followed). In part, this is beautifully (if slightly bewilderingly) depicted by Walt Shaw’s graphic score for this piece – which looks like a sketch by the French Surrealist Yves Tanguy more than a musical notation. I liked the humour in the title of the closing track, in that improvisation ought not to have a traditional form and there is certainly nothing here that makes you think the trio have found a blueprint to follow. And yet, there are plenty of hints and allusions to, and echoes of, the spirit of improvised music, particularly in the European and UK scenes of the 1970s to give the phrase ‘traditional form’ meaning. – Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS https://www.jazzviews.net/martin-archer-trio—see-you-soon-or-see-you-sometime.html

Another trio is from the UK. These are musicians less known in these pages, but widely recognizable in those lands, especially the saxophonist, who among many activities also runs a label, indicated as the publisher of this album. Thus: Martin Archer – tenor saxophone, sopranino and saxello, Michael Bardon – double bass and cello, and Walt Shaw – drums and percussion. The musicians have prepared six improvised pieces for us, at least some of which give the impression that they are based on composed material. We do not know when and where these recordings were made, but we do know that they last a total of almost 57 minutes. The first three improvisations, based on open jazz phrasing, are built by artists extremely calmly, very freely, with great attention to sound and dramaturgical details. Archer starts with a tenor saxophone, but often also reaches for lighter versions of the instrument, also during the same piece. The trio seems to create a narrative as if on the foreground of free jazz. Sometimes a step is enough to escape into an interesting expression, but as a rule, everyone is in no hurry here. The story is full of open, untainted by excess sounds of space. Even if the musicians stick to the ballad tempo, they often sew the stitch with quite nervous phrases. When they focus on dynamics, even in the third part, their half-gallops are beautifully defined by the concept of kind of free jazz. A sensitive double bassist usually spins jazz stories here, but when he reaches for the bow, his flow immediately acquires a sensual, intimate aftertaste. Equally stylish here is the drummer, who does not focus only on drumming, but also beautifully colors in any aesthetics. In the second improvisation, the musicians successfully explore sound textures using the question and answer method. In the third, they juggle the pace and techniques of the game in an interesting way, not shying away from unspoken solo exhibitions. The fourth story escapes into neo-folk melody, and cello and saxello appear in the game. In the last two pieces, the musicians return to the aesthetics of open jazz. They decorate the improvisation with percussion trinkets, they successfully play both on the inhale and when they gently release the reins of expression. Again, they do not shy away from preparation and searching for intimate alleys. In the final part, the double bassist is particularly well realized, who plays the phrases pizzicato and arco in one dramaturgical sequence. A stable tempo gives you a chance to see many nuances and the internal melody of the whole story. ­ – spontaneousmusictribune.blogspot.com/

Archer says he has wanted to make a trio recording for many years but could not decide who to recruit for it until he heard Bardon’s work on The Gift Of Silence (also issued on Discus, Archer’s own label.) With the trio once formed he wanted the saxophone “to inhabit the music from within, as opposed to riding upfront in the role of soloist hero”. However, he said he chose the tenor as the main horn to “contrast between jazzier horn lines versus the more abstract playing from the other instruments”. This is particularly relevant to the long, episodically varied and sometimes frenzied title track and to some passages in the absorbing Improvisation In Traditional Form, although even on these the trio operates as a balanced and integrated unit very effectively. Walt Blues is pleasingly funky and slinky, with Bardon providing a strong and solid core using both arco and pizzicato techniques. Chime Scene rings in (sorry) a contrasting approach, freer and more abstract, ranging from hushed passages threaded through with delicate cymbal and gong textures to jagged all-in ruckuses. Most tracks are launched from simple notated scores, but Improvisation seems to be just that whilst Evabje is derived from Shaw’s graphic score, which is reproduced inside the tri-fold sleeve. I admit I didn’t make much of a connection between that and the music and I’d have interpreted it very differently, but then it’s not my band and not my recording. Like all the best improvised music (or any music for that matter) this album delivers more from repeated hearings, which it merits. Discus, founded by Mick Beck and Archer, has been going for 28 years and still maintains a steady stream of releases. It is heartening that there are still enterprises such as this that continue to give opportunities for adventurous left-field musicians to record and for fans to hear music such as this. – Barry Witherndon, JAZZ JOURNAL

Archer, Bardon and Shaw achieve an admirably broad array of sounds and styles within the saxophone trio format. Martin Archer (born 1957) is a multi-instrumentalist who is best known for his work as a saxophonist. He is also the proprietor of Discus Music, the Sheffield based label that champions improvised and experimental music in the UK and beyond…..As a label Discus Music is highly prolific and during the course of its near forty year existence the imprint has released literally hundreds of titles. Discus may not enjoy the high media profile of Edition or Whirlwind, but its contribution to British jazz and experimental music is incalculable…..Archer’s own output is voluminous and ranges from jazz and improvisation to electronic music and beyond. It has featured his playing in a wide range of contexts and with a broad array of like minded collaborators…..The album sees Archer working in the classic ‘saxophone trio’ format first pioneered by Sonny Rollins and finds him in the company of bassist / cellist Michael Bardon (born 1986) and drummer Walt Shaw (born 1946). The album cover states the birth dates of all the players, suggesting that Archer is keen to emphasise that this is a genuine inter-generational project….. I know Bardon’s playing best from his appearances at the Queens Head in Monmouth where he has performed on more than one occasion as part of a freely improvising trio alongside German saxophonist Hans Peter Hiby and drummer Paul Hession. He has also visited the venue as a member of the Nat Birchall Quintet. I have to admit to being previously unfamiliar with the work of former schoolteacher Walt Shaw. Based in Derby Shaw is a highly creative artist who divides his time between music and the visual arts, frequently combining the two. This album features the Shaw composition “Evabje”, which is based on a graphic score created by Shaw and which is reproduced as part of the album packaging. It represents a perfect example of the visual and sonic arts working in tandem. Readers who wish to learn more about Walt Shaw and his work are directed to his website https://www.waltshaw.co.uk/. The programme for the album features a mix of composition (graphic and notated) and improvisation, with the focus very much on the latter. The album commences with Archer’s composition “Rotten Star”, which is introduced by the ethereal chimes, shimmers and rumbles of Shaw’s cymbals and drums – he’s a musician who regards himself as a ‘percussionist’ rather than a drummer. Archer’s tenor delivers snatches of melody around which the trio conduct an erudite tripartite discussion. As Archer observes in his notes this is very much a trio of equals, with Shaw’s “textural playing” very much at the heart of the proceedings. Bardon also makes a huge contribution through the medium of his fluent and highly mobile bass commentary. One can almost hear the protagonists thinking and also sense that they are all listening closely to each other, a quality enhanced by the clarity of Archer’s production. The album was recorded at his own Discus Music Studio in Sheffield. “Evabje”, Shaw’s graphic composition, is even more loosely structured. It commences with free-form scribblings featuring bat like sax squeaks, the rustle of percussion and the eerie sound of bow on bass (or possibly cello). With only the vaguest of musical maps to guide them one senses that the trio are navigating their way through the graphic score largely on improvisational instinct. Extended techniques are featured prominently with Bardon featuring both with and without the bow and with Shaw delivering an astonishing variety of percussive sounds. I suspect that this may be the track where Archer is featured on sopranino and saxello. Again it’s a deeply intense listening experience for both the players and the listener. The title track is a fifteen and a half minute tour de force with the trio improvising robustly around Archer’s composition. The leader is most definitely back on tenor and the opening section finds him erupting over the polyrhythmic rumble of Shaw’s drums, these allied to Bardon’s muscular bass lines. Subsequent discussions are slightly less frenetic and more varied, with Shaw again generating an impressively broad variety of percussive sounds. His playing is a revelation throughout this album, I’m only sorry not to have discovered him before. An even more loosely structured section represents a (comparative) pause for reflection and features the use of extended techniques, with Bardon delivering some astonishingly low frequencies with the bow. He’s then left on his own to play pizzicato, before a star-burst of sax and percussion explodes around him as the piece resolves itself with a rousing finale. “Walt Blues” is jointly credited to Archer and Bardon and commences with the sound of the latter flourishing the bow, Structured around the blues form it’s the most formal composition on the album and is reminiscent of the music of Ornette Coleman. Bardon’s bowed bass figure underpins the tune, supplemented by the dedicatee’s drums and percussion. Archer appears on saxello (I think), which brings something of a Middle Eastern feel to his playing. The piece features a truly virtuoso performance from Bardon, who also delivers a spectacular arco solo. The ring of Shaw’s percussion ushers in Archer’s aptly named “Chime Scene” (great title), setting the mood for the improvised conversation that follows. The often ethereal sounds of Shaw’s percussion are now augmented by the sounds of Bardon’s grainy bowing and the hooting and fluttering of Archer’s saxes, with extended techniques again in evidence. It’s ironic that wholly improvised music, originally intended to grant musicians maximum freedom, can sometimes become idiomatic, a fact that is not lost on Archer who awards the title “Improvisation In Traditional Form” to the concluding piece on the album. Credited to Archer / Bardon / Shaw it’s the only 100 % spontaneous track but the title is a nod to such familiar improv tropes as the quiet, exploratory intro featuring sax, double bass and the furtive rustle and rumble of drums and percussion. Subsequently the music becomes more full on, Archer’s tenor scything its way through the polyrhythmic rumble of Shaw’s drumming. There are also pauses for quieter reflection, such as the dialogue between Bardon’s plucked bass and the chimes, shimmers and rumbles of Shaw’s percussion. Shaw is then left to his own devices to create a neatly constructed solo drum / percussion feature that emphasises his skills as a colourist. Archer’s return presages a knottier section featuring the sounds of multiphonic tenor, bowed bass and the scrabble of percussion. At times this section recalls the earlier “Evabje”. Finally we have the long, slow fade, with Bardon’s bowing again prominent. In truth the narrative arc of “Improvisation In Traditional Form” is actually less predictable than its title might suggest. This is something that is also true of the album as a whole. Yes, it’s a ‘free jazz’ recording, and therefore not to everybody’s taste, but it’s a fine example of the genre with Archer, Bardon and Shaw achieving an admirably broad array of sounds and styles within the saxophone trio format. Taken on its own terms this is a highly successful album and one that amply fulfils Archer’s stated aims for the project. I’d love to see this trio come to Monmouth to perform at The Queens Head. – Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann https://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/martin-archer-trio-see-you-soon-or-see-you-sometime

Martin Archer often heard in larger group contexts, such as the Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, but he recently formed a trio under his own name, apparently after hearing the bass-playing of Michael Bardon (showcased on that solo record The Gift Of Silence). Percussionist Walt Shaw (from Deep Tide Quartet, Engine Room Favourites and other Discus-related projects) complete the trio for See You Soon Or See You Sometime (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 127CD). On this August 2021 date, they’ve come up with a remarkable set, in places closer perhaps to a form of art music than conventional jazz. Even though it’s a classic jazz set-up with tenor sax, bass and drums, there is much free improvisation, and also one instance of a graphic score, provided by Shaw. At least three of the six tracks here are chilling in their minimalistic and elliptical form, every player throwing stark shapes and creating a rather cold, abstract music, haunted by a rather stern and disillusioned air. ‘Evaabje’, from Shaw’s graphic score, is my personal favourite in this vein, although the opener ‘Rotten Star’ comes a close second; Shaw’s score is reproduced inside the gatefold, occupying three of the six panels, resembling a Kandinsky painting with just a few simple letters and numbers to guide the players across its unfamiliar landscape. Fans of more conventional blowage will enjoy the hot blasting of the title track, possibly the one piece here that comes closest to realising Archer’s AACM aspirations; and ‘Improvisation In Traditional Form’, with its very bold dynamics, unexpected interplay and episodes of deep brooding. I can see how Bardon is bringing a lot to the “foundation” that Archer claims to be looking for, and he shines more brightly here than on that solo record, which seemed to me more of an exercise in technique. Walt Shaw is the revelation for this listener, being given more than enough space to demonstrate his avant leanings and strange sounds, but I also admire his modesty and restraint, as of one not wishing to boast about his powerful innovations. Between them, this trio have come close to remaking Sun Ra’s Strange Strings in their own image. – Ed Pinsent, SOUND PROJECTOR

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