Christoph Gallio, Dominic Lash & Mark Sanders: Live At Café Oto London

Improvising sax, bass and percussion trio reminds of both Ayler and Webster as it drives, disintegrates and reassembles


Recorded live at Dalston’s Cafe Oto, home of improvised music and performance, this sees stalwarts Dominic Lash and Mark Sanders with Swiss saxophonist Christoph Gallio. In his sleeve notes, Andy Hamilton makes the good point that 60 years of development in free jazz has meant that its rhythmic complexities and subtleties are now seen as common practice.

Although the music avoids accepted structures, Gallio plays with a formality, a pulse running through provided by the percussive pyrotechnics of Sanders and more noticeably Lash, whose bass provides much of its feeling of swing. Gallio continually presses forward, often raw and intense, carving out figures and using riffs and motifs, however coarse and harsh they appear, with an Aylerish vibrato swagger.

The collective passages are balanced and unified, moves anticipated before the music flies off at tangents. Gallio gives way and sits out at times, enabling Sanders and Lash to work together, the bass casting dark shadows over Sanders’ percussive touches, scrapes and descents into hollow voids. The music is dismantled before being reassembled and relaunched with ferocious propulsion.

The titles characterise the music to a certain degree: it’s into the poultry house for the fragmented stutters of Wildlife Part 3; hens clucks and geese honk as we enter an extended serenity before the mechanisation reasserts itself. Ben Webster walks into the room in Homelife, a calm stability hanging heavy and permanent in the air. Sanders’ reassuring tom-toms and drum rolls signal a gear change; Lash’s bowed energy gives way to a clock-ticking bass, restoring a sense of decorum.

This recording captures the spirit of a compelling live set, as one passage segues into another with collective vigour, tension, anticipation and tangential flights.

Wildlife Parts 1, 2 and 3; Homelife Parts 1 and 2 (59.16)
Gallio (as, ss, c-mel); Lash (b); Sanders (d, pc). Cafe Oto, London, 18 December 2022.
ezz-thetics 1050