1 Les (Eric Dolphy) 8.41
2 Epistrophy (Thelonious Monk) 10.42
3 Fables of Faubus (Charles Mingus) 8.51
4 Open Book (Chris Biscoe) 4.26
5 The Man Who Never Sleeps (Charles Mingus) 6.38
6 Something Sweet, Something Tender (Eric Dolphy) 0.48
7 Out To Lunch (Eric Dolphy) 15.59
8 Potsa Lotsa (Eric Dolphy) 10.36 total time 66.52
Chris Biscoe alto sax, alto clarinet
Toni Kofi alto sax, tenor sax
Larry Bartley double bass
Stu Butterfield drums
The English saxophonist Chris Biscoe follows up earlier album projects on two of his abiding obsessions, the music of Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus, with this live set combining material by or associated with both musicians. The Profiles Quartet features Biscoe on alto saxophone and alto clarinet alongside Tony Kofi on alto and tenor saxophones (both show clear Dolphy influences in their approach to alto), with Larry Bartley well featured on bass, and Stu Butterfield on drums. They form a cohesive, highly energised unit, but allow themselves ample freedom to explore the material, which includes compositions by Thelonious Monk and Oliver Nelson associated with Dolphy. Lengthy investigations of Monk’s Epistrophy and Dolphy’s Out To Lunch and Potsa Lotsa are among the highlights of the set, recorded at the Welwyn Garden City venue Campus West in 2011.
British multi-instrumentalist Chris Biscoe began playing the alto saxophone in 1963, just one year before the death of Eric Dolphy. On Live At Campus West Biscoe and his Profiles Quartet pay tribute to Dolphy's legacy with new arrangements of tunes associated with Dolphy as a composer and player, drawing on music from the American's brief but stellar career and once again placing it firmly center-stage.
Live At Campus West was recorded on January 30th 2011 and features four of Dolphy's compositions alongside Charles Mingus' "Fables Of Faubus" and "The Man Who Never Sleeps," Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" and Biscoe's "Open Book." Partnering Biscoe in the Profiles Quartet front line is fellow reeds player Tony Kofi. The pair both double on instruments—Biscoe on alto sax and the relatively unusual alto flute, Kofi on alto and tenor saxophones—and make excellent use of the different combinations on offer.
Biscoe and Kofi may grab the lion's share of the spotlight, but their success is due in no small part to bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Stu Butterfield's sterling rhythm section playing. The four men thrive on each other's energy, respecting the compositions while investing them with terrific verve and enthusiasm. The result is a fiery display of musical skill, dynamics and almost telepathic understanding between the players. There are sensitive moments too, most notably Biscoe's unaccompanied alto sax on "Something Sweet, Something Tender" and the interplay between Biscoe and Kofi on "The Man Who Never Sleeps."
Although the excellent sound of this recording readily brings to mind images of smoky jazz cellars, the Campus West referred to in the album's title is not a glamorous Californian nitespot from the glory days of Dolphy, Mingus, Monk and the rest. It's in the marginally less glamorous Welwyn Garden City, a few miles north of London—but on the evidence of Live At Campus West it was for at least a few hours one January night a place where the spirit of those great players one again burned bright.
by Bruce Lindsay
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Some of the most exciting contemporary live jazz – Alex Bonney’s Albert Ayler-inspired gigs, Dog Soup’s viscerally exciting take on electric-period Miles Davis, Liam Noble's Brubeck interpretations spring immediately to mind – involves musicians revisiting the music of figures who have inspired them, and this Chris Biscoe Profiles Quartet performance, which centres on music composed by or associated with Eric Dolphy, is right up there with the best. There is something uniquely exhilarating in Dolphy’s overall sound and approach, his music seeming to stream out of his bands in a joyful, intoxicating rush, and Biscoe’s quartet – completed by alto player Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Stu Butterfield – perfectly emulates the great master in this respect, the front-line horns meshing in a wild, exuberant wail that immediately brings the great man’s music to mind. Biscoe must be one of the most underrated figures in UK jazz, his unassuming, learned demeanour belying a soloist of passionate (and unfailingly inventive) intensity, whether he’s playing alto or alto clarinet; Kofi, as he proved so memorably in his Monk-inspired album, All is Know (and there is an impressive performance of Monk’s ‘Epistrophy’ here), is a past master at applying his pleasingly astringent tone and urgent improvisational fecundity to classic bop and post-bop jazz, so their combined force is considerable, and in Bartley (one of the steadiest yet most subtly propulsive bassists currently operating in this country) and Butterfield (all buoyancy and spring) they have the perfect rhythmic foils. There is some duplication of material (‘Les’, ‘Out to Lunch’, ‘Potsa Lotsa’) from the quartet’s 2008 studio album, Gone in the Air (Trio TR578), but the eight-minute visit to the Mingus classic ‘Fables of Faubus’ is worth the price of admission alone, and this hour-long Herts Jazz concert, recorded in 2011 at Welwyn Garden City, documents a first-rate performance from a polished but wonderfully vibrant band.