Neil Ardley Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows: Live ’75

Deftly played ensembles, strong soloists and an Ellingtonian flair for writing for the players at hand distinguish this unissued 1975 concert


Admitting that this is previously unreleased music – the complete Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows suite as originally imagined by Ardley, over twice as long as the version that appeared on the Gull studio album the following year – the concept still sounds remarkably fresh.

I suspect this is due in no small part to the individuality of Ardley’s writing which, while there’s nothing that could be described as Ellingtonian about it, still has a similar air of a composer who knew how to write for musicians as characters, as opposed to functionaries who merely “sounded” the notes off the page. Furthermore, a strain of minimalism that’s neither Morton Feldman-esque nor Eliane Radigue-like keeps that writing grounded in its own space and far from derivative.

Ardley’s written notes for the piece refer to an approach involving taking a small element of music and expanding it into a large construction by improvisational means. That sums it up nicely, but it doesn’t make reference to the fact that the writing (as I hear it) has shades of Gil Evans about it, principally via the judicious juggling of reeds, which ensures that of the four such players present only Tony Coe sticks to a single member of the family.

On Interlude 1 the presence of Ken Shaw’s guitar is noticeably felt in steering the music in the direction of fusion, but the fact that the result still keeps within Ardley’s overarching vision is tribute to the more general sympathies of the musicians involved, and the same goes for Paul Buckmaster’s cello on both this and the following Rainbow 2, where his lyricism coaxes something special out of the spare writing.

Given the assembly of British jazz talent (and Kiwi in both Dave MacRae’s and Brian Smith’s case) the deftness the music’s handled with comes as no surprise, and the same goes for the quality of soloists, all of whom take care of business in a manner that makes me wish I had been there on the night.

This digipak double CD comes with colour booklet and liner notes by Sid Smith and is produced in a strictly limit run of 500 copies.

CD1: Intro; Prologue / Rainbow 1; Interlude 1; Rainbow 2; Interlude 2; Rainbow 3 (incomplete) (39.36) CD2: Rainbow 4; Rainbow 5 / Rainbow 6; Interlude 3; Interlude 4; Rainbow 7; Rainbow 8; Rainbow 5; Rainbow 9; Epilogue; Outro (63.09)
Ian Carr (t, flh); Bob Bertles (ss, as, bs, f); Brian Smith (ts, f); Tony Coe (ts); Barbara Thompson (ts, ss, f); Geoff Castle (elp); Dave MacRae (elp); Ken Shaw (g); Paul Buckmaster (clo); Roger Sutton (elb); Roger Sellers (d); Trevor Tomkins (pc); Neil Ardley (cond). Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 20 October 1975.
Jazz In Britain JIB-21-S-CD