Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson – Live at the South Bank

January 01, 1970

(Smalltown Superjazzz)


He was the grizzled veteran of jazz drumming who has worked
sessions with everyone from Dionne Warwick to Sun Ra. He is the wide-eyed
wunderkind of abstract beat science who, under the guise of Four Tet and with
his recently reunited band Fridge, has delivered over 15 years of innovation in
groove that has made him the toast of the blogosphere. And together, they made
one of the most exciting pairs to ever get immortalized on black wax.


Unfortunately, when Reid lost his battle with throat cancer
in 2010 at the age of 66 after four decades of dedicated service to his art, so
too ended one of the most dynamic tag teams in modern jazz, a relationship
rooted in kindred intuition that Reid himself had once compared to the
chemistry of Miles and Coltrane and Bird and Diz. It is a genuine tragedy that
this cross-generational combination will no longer be able to make beautiful
noise together on this plane of existence, for the way Hebden’s laptop and
Reid’s economical percussion kit intertwined in a braid of sine waves and
snares was pure magic.


Thankfully, Norway’s
Smalltown Superjazzz label has captured what will now be considered the duo’s
final act together. But boy, is it one helluva swan song. Recorded in June of
2009 inside the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s famed South Bank Theater as part of
the Ornette Coleman-curated Meltdown Festival, this 2-CD set finds Reid and
Hebden joining forces with Swedish sax assassin Mats Gustafsson for a powerful
showcase of hurricane-force improvisation. The way this trio intersect
Krautrock, hard bop, hip-hop and noise rock on epic workouts like “Morning
Prayer” and “Untitled” in a tangled mess of brass, Intel, Kevlar and copper is
a lasting testament to not only Steve and Kieran’s impeccable compatibility in
spite of their disparate backgrounds, but also their collective ability to
blend their mojo so well with Gustafsson’s baritone belligerence to create something
wholly unique to the world of modern jazz music.


“I think me and Steve saw that show as a starting point for
working with some other musicians,” Hebden explained upon the release of Live At The South Bank in a public
statement, hinting at the idea that he and Reid were looking to expand their
sound beyond the duet format. But while it is truly heartbreaking that we will
never get to her what had lay ahead for the two men upon the prospect of a new
studio endeavor, this scorching set of amplified electro-acoustic spiritualism
between the pair and the mighty Mats is an effective snapshot of the potential
for what could have been.


DOWNLOAD: “Morning Prayer”, “Untitled” RON

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