“On Rituals, composer and saxophonist Matt London expands his new music group Ensemble Entropy into a ten piece improvising orchestra. The musicians are free to interpret London’s language score as they see fit, the intention being to sculpt the improvisations so that the music develops and transforms along an ancient element journey. As powerful as the full ensemble can be, London maximises its impact by breaking it down into smaller groupings via two trio sub-pieces. “skelf” (Scots for splinter) is a scrabble of electric guitar, double bass and drums, while “antiphon” is an elegant interlude for strings. Tom Ward’s inquisitive clarinet and Sarah Gail Brand’s puckering trombone bring the orchestra back in over Mark Sanders’ woodpecker percussion, leading to a stately closing theme reminiscent of Eyvind Kang.” – Stewart Smith, THE WIRE
RITUALS is an extended work for ten improvisers presented on two hand drawn panels. This language score consists of various open notations, graphics plus two trio sub-pieces titled skelf (electric guitar, double bass and drums) and antiphon (violin, viola and double bass) for the performers to decipher. The intention is to sculpt the improvisations so that the music develops and transforms along an ancient elemental journey, with the composer not as a totalitarian figure of authority, instead giving the performers the guidance, the licence to explore and discover who they are within it. – Matt London
Orchestra Entropy is the large ensemble edition of Matt London’s Ensemble Entropy, a dynamic new music ensemble / group / band exploring the space between composed contemporary music and free improvisation.
RITUALS for Orchestra Entropy was shortlisted for a 2018 BASCA British Composer Award in the Jazz Composition for Large Ensemble Category.
Matt London – tenor saxophone, director
Georgia Cooke – alto flute
Tom Ward – bass clarinet
Seb Silas – baritone saxophone
Sarah Gail Brand – trombone
Rebecca Raimondi – violin
Benedict Taylor – viola
Seth Bennett – double bass
Moss Freed – electric guitar
Mark Sanders – drums
Matt London’s Orchestra Entropy perform an extended work for improvising ensemble, based on two hand-drawn panels which provide indeterminate notations, graphical cues and two interpolated trio pieces, “skelf” for guitar, bass, drums, and “antiphon” for violin, viola, double bass. Entropy is a dangerous metaphor, often misunderstood, certainly overused and not in any way the most lasting impression of this music, which has a quietly determined trajectory, like stages in a pilgrimage or holy office, but with the apparent purpose of allowing each player to find her/his own voice within the collective. Sarah Gail Brand is masterful at this. Every improvisation she puts out conveys a sense of highly collected and purposive playing, but with a freedom that few of her male colleagues ever reach. Strings are once again a regular and unsurprising feature of improvising groups, in Britain as elsewhere, and Rebecca Raimondi, Benedict Taylor and Seth Bennett have discovered ways of playing that suggest technical mastery but don’t any longer sound like orchestral players slumming. Leader Matt London isn’t widely known as a saxophonist, but has a commanding voice that cuts through when it needs to. The Discus catalogue is now large and incredibly varied. This is one of its finest moments. – Brian Morton, JAZZ JOURNAL
On Rituals, composer and saxophonist Matt London expands his new music group Ensemble Entropy into a ten piece improvising orchestra. The musicians are free to interpret London’s language score as they see fit, the intention being to sculpt the improvisations so that the music develops and transforms along an ancient element journey. As powerful as the full ensemble can be, London maximises its impact by breaking it down into smaller groupings via two trio sub-pieces. “skelf” (Scots for splinter) is a scrabble of electric guitar, double bass and drums, while “antiphon” is an elegant interlude for strings. Tom Ward’s inquisitive clarinet and Sarah Gail Brand’s puckering trombone bring the orchestra back in over Mark Sanders’ woodpecker percussion, leading to a stately closing theme reminiscent of Eyvind Kang. – Stewart Smith, THE WIRE
Orchestra Entropy is a ten-piece version of sax player Matt London‘s Ensemble Entropy and here they have taken two hand-drawn panels with graphics for the players to decipher, then play according to their interpretation and allow the players to evolve as translators as the piece itself evolves. The opening section comes across as a woodland game of hide and seek, the players chasing one another, highlighting what each has to offer and what the different instruments can draw from the others. The bass, guitar and drums scatter random patterns of falling leaves in part two, but the sharp tone of the guitar against the almost translucent texture of the bass is a rather lovely sensation, the spacey textures bringing the two together, whereas the growling and wailing horns of part four collide with the scattered percussion. The bass hijacks this section and brings drama juxtaposed with a subtlety in the quieter passages. The violins are honey sweet in part five, but they have a sense of the siren about them too. Something is just a little off, a meander that is slightly confusing to the listener and tries to draw them into unfamiliar spaces, spaces that almost crowd the players into generating noise before the track is taken away from them. The clarinet is rude and pressing in part six, harrying the trombone as the percussion tries to keep the peace, and the dark woodland vibe is continued as the flute takes over in part seven. Here, it is sweet yet risky, again a draw to the listener but one that holds a certain danger. The juxtaposition between silence and sound is like a switchback here and the gentle sections swoop like owls chasing mice through the forest. The percussion on this album is sublime, providing exactly what is required and when, but stepping up and pushing to the forefront when a little momentum is needed. Part eight finds the drummer adding lovely textures, skittering and skipping with the dancing saxophone which is caught in the wind, surfing and sailing. The final section almost grinds to a halt with the lightness that has gone before being reduced to a shuffling unfolding, like a slow moving pan around a landscape now bereft of the thrills that were present just a few moments before, and is perhaps the perfect way to see the piece out. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ
Of course, the contemporary British avantist doesn’t really need to have a smattering of the intuitive capabilities of a Bletchley Park boffin, but if by chance, he/she does…well, it’s aces all the way. Especially so when tenor saxist/composer Matt London’s graphic score for “Rituals” is laid out for fellow band members of Orchestra Entropy to inwardly digest. A ‘get out of jail card’ when notational drafts were found to be slightly wanting. “Rituals” is cut from the same cloth that had its origins with a number of kindred spirits from the late sixties/early seventies. The bewitchingly colourful charts of Crumb, Ligeti, Earle Brown and Berberian (C), now surely deserving of equal billing with anything hugging precious wall space in art gallery world. As sleeve note details are a little skimpy, it appears that Matt’s requirements of the players were contained on just “two hand-drawn panels”… which relayed “various open notations and graphics plus two trio sub-pieces for the performers to decipher…” The sole aim being to chip away at the improvisations, so that the resulting music builds and transforms itself, with the composer coming on not as some mad-haired tyrant shooting lightning bolts from his baton, but instead as a kindly tour guide, not too worried if a few of his flock deliberately wander off route occasionally. A live recording, made at Jerwood Hall, LSO St. Lukes, London in 2018,, this nine-parter sees the expanded version of Ensemble Entropy on a relatively unhurried blimp ride over a series of fairly level playing fields, with the five brass/woodwinders (positioned in the gondola section naturally), calling most of the shots. Be they “Part One’s” rumbling belches from the trombone of Sara Gail Brand or the green-faced queasy blarts and snorks of “Part Seven”. For me, the most arresting fragment is the oddly named “Skelf”; which plants the spotlight beam on Moss Freed’s tweaked out-of-shape six- string and what might be a tiny army of key-wound percussive toys with drummer Matt Sanders simultaneously channelling Crimso’s Jamie Muir (minus the moustache wax and blood capsules…) and those light of touch Chris Cutlerized interludes found on “Legend”; Henry Cow’s debut sock hop. Racking up its eighty-fifth release, you don’t really need me to tell you that Sheffield’s premier imprint has continued to maintain its strong manly grip on quality control. Orfeo 5, The Keith Tippett Octet, The Caines/Archer Axis, Weavels…and now The Entropy Ork! Another piece clicks firmly into place. – Steve Pescott, SOUND PROJECTOR
As always with the excellent, if not extraordinary, Discus label by Martin ARCHER, there is bound to be a question of top level orchestra and improvisation of a stratospheric degree. Besides, come on, let’s be clear from the start, the Rituals that we are going to talk about are on track to obtain the prestigious BASCA 2018 which rewards in England the best jazz composition for an orchestra. So, what is the originality that makes these Rituals, by composer Matt LONDON, so highly qualitative? Let’s say that beyond being a wonderful composition, Rituals is above all a path, a process, where each musician has his own share of initiative. To be clear, Rituals is neither a composition, with all that is rigid and predictable, nor an improvisation, with all that includes risks and uncertainty, it is an intermediate concept. There is therefore in each interpretation of Rituals both a part of the known, coming from the composer, his personal universe and his rigor, and a part of the unknown, coming from the imagination or even the fantasy of each musician, and his talent of course. To make this point more colorful, let’s say that we can for example imagine the beginning of Rituals as a part of instrumental hide and seek. And as the musicians play, have fun, in addition to playing, their instrument, there is inevitably a share of excitement and obvious pleasure in the interpretation of the work at that time. The composition comprising 9 parts, it is therefore 9 patterns or climates of improvisations which are in turn explored. I wish you a pleasant and exciting discovery! – RYTHMES-CROISES
Matt London is a classically trained tenor saxophonist, playing contemporary composed music, aswell as jazz and improvised music. In 2013 he debuted with an album (‘Speak Now’) ofcompositions for tenor sax, composed by contemporary composers from the UK. Nowadays he isplaying mainly improvised music if I’m not mistaken, with Paul Dunmall as an important influence.Orchestra Entropy is the extended ten-piece version of his Ensemble Entropy and this project isabout combining composition and improvisation: ‘Rituals’ is “presented on two hand-drawnpanels. This language score consists of various open notations, graphics plus two trio sub-piecestitled skelf (electric guitar, double bass and drums) and antiphon (violin, viola and double bass) for the performers to decipher. The intention is to sculpt the improvisations so that the music develops and transforms along an ancient elemental journey, with the composer not as a totalitarian figure of authority, instead of guiding the performers, the licence to explore and discover who they are within it”, Matt London explains. It is an approach that we know from early work by John Zorn and projects by Butch Morris for instance. Performers are Georgia Cooke (alto flute), Tom Ward (bass clarinet), Seb Silas (baritone saxophone), Sarah Gail Brand (trombone), Rebecca Raimondi (violin), Benedict Taylor (viola), Seth Bennett (double bass), Moss Freed (electric guitar) and Mark Sanders (drums). Matt London plays tenor sax and director of the ensemble. ‘Rituals’ is a work in nine parts. A multi-coloured work, as different (combinations of) instruments play the lead in these nine chapters. The musicianship and interplay are very much okay. I especially enjoyed playing by Sanders, for example in part 2 and 8 of this lengthy work. He is a driving force in many of the interactions. There are many engaging moments to be enjoyed in this multi-sided work, although there are also moments where the improvisation continues too much along well-known pathways to be satisfying from start to finish. – Dorf Mulder VITAL WEEKLY
An extended work composed & directed by Matt London for 10 improvisers inspired by two hand drawn panels. The only names I recognize here are: Gail Brand (who played at DMG once), Benedict Taylor (whose trio I once reviewed) and Mark Sanders (drum master for Evan Parker, Paul Dunmall & Jah Wobble). There are two sub-trios here (guitar/a.bass/drums & violin/viola/dbass) who are sub-directed as well. Recorded November 11, 2018 at Jerwood Hall, LSO in London. Although this music seems free at times, there is some direction going on. Seven of the nine pieces here each feature solos, a duo or trios, all of which are well-connected so that it sounds as if there are some tight or written or carefully crafted segments with intricate current-like movements. The two pieces which don’t feature solos, duo or trios sound like Penderecki/Xenakis-like sonic fragments floating together. There are some extremely quiet sections which are also well-handled plus this disc is cleanly, warmly recorded. Although the personnel and instrumentation changes on each piece, this entire disc flows as though it is a suite, the overall vibe is continuous. When the full 10 piece unit enters on two pieces, things open up and get more expansive and intense. Considering that the title of this disc is ‘Rituals’, it brings to mind the way that creative music making and serious listening are ritualistic from the inside and outside view of things. Since the pandemic forces most folks inside 10 months ago (March or 2020), the ritual of going to live gigs has dried up and gone on line. So, we end up doing or creating our own rituals indoors, with fewer artists interacting live, it is a more private ritual/experience. I really do miss live gigs but inspired records like this sure do help as sonic medicine. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Rituali musicali basati sulla notazione grafica aperta e sull’alternanza di due brani, Skelf e Antiphon, da cui si dipartono gli assoli. I due brani sono destinati a sottosezioni dell’orchestra entropica. Skelf è per contrabbasso, batteria e chitarra elettrica ed è quest’ultima (suonata da Moss Fried) a prevalere; Antiphon è invece per violino, viola e contrabbasso (ed qui in particolare Rebecca Raimondi a risaltare con il suo violino). Tra i solisti, a segnalarsi sono il flauto di Georgia Cooke e il trombone di Sarah gai Brand. Al direttore e ideatore Matt London (sax tenore) va il merito di aver ideato un viaggio musicale dal sapore quasi ancestrale che dà molta soddisfazione alla fantasia improvvisativa dei musicisti, offrendo agli ascoltatori un’interessante proposta tra il jazz d’avanguardia e la musica colta contemporanea. – A G Bertinetto, KATHODIK
ORCHESTRA ENTROPY est la version étendue à 10 musiciens (essentiellement des cordes et des souffleurs) de l’ensemble Entropy du saxophoniste britannique Matt London. Ce groupe dynamique explore l’espace entre la musique contemporaine composée et l’improvisation libre. Même s’il n’est pas le seul actif dans ce domaine, il aborde son travail comme une sculpture musicale d’improvisation autour d’une structure composée, ce dont témoigne l’album « Ritual » – Guy Stuckens, Radio Air Libre
Komprovizace na této desce Matt London nepojmenovává, je to prostě devět rituálů, které ozvláštňuje sólistické prostřídávání jeho spoluimprovizátorů, což jsou Georgia Cooke s altovou flétnou, Tom Ward s basovým klarinetem, Seb Silas s barytonovým saxofonem, Sarah Gail Brand s trombónem, Rebecca Raimondi s houslemi, Benedict Taylor s violou, Seth Bennett s kontrabasem, Moss Freed s elektrickou kytarou a Mark Sanders u bicích. Tato skutečně (ná)silná skvadra neponechá jedinou hudební epizodu plonkovou. Hned rozdurděný úvod, ve kterém exceluje Sarah Gail Brand, rozmetává zatajené téma (ale co zatajené? pokaždé jde přece o jiný rituál!), připadá mi jako propauzírovaně rozstříhaný, střídavě povzlínavý a rozsochatý, podrastičtěle rozchaotizovaný, ale i uvýskaný rozmařilým trombónováním. Na druhém opusku vrtošivě humpální trio Freed, Bennett a Sanders, je nahánčlivé, propeskované, ba porozmlacované (místy ocvočkované) bicími, zakytarované a podbasované, což ústrojně zamění zaujaté zapřemítání, porozbíjeně opřestávkované na hranici podrastičtění. Třetí vstup zamění rozviolované vrzukání za odsekávaně (zá)chvatné propotahování, rozcapeně podbíjené a posléze utiš(t)ěné. Sled pokračuje pokřičnou průtažností a holedbavou roztěkaností, srostitě srocovanou a vyvazovaně přetrhdílovou, až vymykavě vymycovanou, zatímco pátá část, ozvláštněná především velebivým prorůstáním houslí, violy a basy, je vyličována záslibnou provábeností a hemživou hebkostí, posléze rozklížené do náhmatné potichlosti. Šestý úvazek rozhicovávají basklarinet s trombónem, jsou rozkřičně namátkové i záškubně pozběsilostné, horempádně vzrušivé i rozlíceně rozrušené, zatímco nejdelší pasus (téměř dvanáctiminutový) dává příležitost potajemněle úkradkovému sólování altové flétny a posléze úsilně namnožované úlitbě barytonu; celek pak je vynáhlovaně, leč neunáhlovaně prováhaný, může připomínat cestování po zcela rozdílných, značně rozvětvených krajinách, po kterých drkotavě vrkotavě putujeme, tu promeškáme šanci k obratu, tu zase zabočíme do vyvřelinové provalivosti. Předposlední akce vyvažuje i vyvazuje tenor, basa a bicí, všechny tři nástroje jsou výmluvné i zámluvné, občas vydůrazněně protáhlované, občas obmanivě titěrňující, melodizující i protišné. Závěr pak je zanášivě prošuškáván či zahutňován, je rozveleben do vzdýmavosti, rozprekérněn do jitřivosti a rozkonán do rozvřetenování, ústící do nekonečného prázdna. Každý pes jiná ves, a přece prohoufován do styčně objevného vynásobení, plného překvapivých zvratů, souvratných nebo mimovratných. Jen na jedno není na tomto kompaktu, nahraném 11. listopadu 2018 v londýnské Jerwood Hall, prostor: na nudu. – HISVOICE
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