Advertisement
Advertisement

The peace of Pipedream

A discographical postscript on Keith Tippett, underlining the idea that music is very much of the place and time it's in

Keith Tippett’s recent passing sent me scurrying back to the percentage of his discography that I have on record; the exercise disclosed facets of his music that had previously escaped me. The trio of Tippett on organ, zither, piano voice and bell, Mark Charig on cornet and tenor horn and Ann Winter on voice and bell recorded the Pipedream album in January 1977, and the Ogun label, that modest concern which documented so much of the vibrant British / South African jazz of the 1970s, put it out under Charig’s name.

Those bare details reveal little of the music’s richness, which with casual listening discloses resemblances with Tippett’s work with Ovary Lodge. Deeper, more focused listening reveals the shortcomings of blithe comparison, however, for this is a set which stands as a unique document in both Tippett’s and Charig’s discography, while as far as I’m aware it captures Ann Winter’s sole appearance on record.

Advertisement

Given the music’s gravity, however, there is in a sense another, ethereal “participant”, in the form of St. Stephen’s Church, Southmead, Bristol, because the acoustics of the space the music was recorded in seem to play an “active” / passive role. Indeed in his original sleeve note Charig refers to how the atmosphere and acoustics suggested the totally improvised music, a turn of phrase which I feel undersells things a little, because for me the album amounts to one of those oddly rare occasions when ample rewards can be drawn as much from the interplay between musicians and the room they’re in as they can from the quiet austerity the music is imbued with.

In music, as in any other field of artistic endeavour, abstraction can peel away preconceived notions, leave a void for the imagination to fill, and while the tolling of the church bell as carried out by both Tippett and Winter notionally marks time, the moments throughout this set, which in many positive ways is something of a discographical anomaly, are commemorated by music so of those moments that it encapsulates Eric Dolphy’s assertion to the effect that once music is over it’s gone, in the air.

The business of recording, despite any misgivings about the pointlessness of trying to capture an ongoing process, of work destined always to remain unfinished, in this case has captured a body of unusually deep resonance.

Latest audio reviews

Advertisement

More from this author

Advertisement

Jazz Journal articles by month

Advertisement

Eva Novoa: Satellite Quartet

Novoa seems to have made a comfortable home for herself in Fresh Sound's new talent roster and this is a good thing as her...
Advertisement

Obituary: Bill Smith

Clarinettist and composer Bill Smith, or William Overton Smith to give him his full name, was best known as a member of the octet...
Advertisement

Rosie Frater-Taylor: rolling up Benson, Mitchell and more

“I don’t like labels because labelling fights your urge to just make music the way you want to,” asserts fast-rising London singer-songwriter and guitarist...
Advertisement

Nothing But The Music: Thulani Davis

American writer and political activist Thulani Davis wears her poet's hat for this trawl of her work from 1974 to 1992, which springs from...
Advertisement

Billy Bang: Lucky Man

This film follows violinist Billy Bang as he returns to Vietnam in 2008, where he served as a young soldier 40 years earlier, and...
Advertisement

JJ 04/60: Chuck Berry – Let It Rock / Too Pooped To Pop

"Let It Rock" is typical of Chuck Berry's better performances - the amount of swing generated is breath-taking, and the lyrics, for a change,...