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Coxhill/Miller, Miller/Coxhill: The Story So Far...Oh Really?

Two things about this one: First, it was originally a budget release on the Virgin label. Before the Airlines, Space Tourism and Profoundly Disturbing Business Deals with The Carlyle Group, Virgin offered exposure for artists and ready, low cost access for listeners to interesting, non-commercial music through the budget version of their label, the main thrust of which was then known for presenting some of the leading edge music of the day -- Henry Cow; Hatfield and the North; Gong; Faust and many other artists whose work continues to imprint that of many more. Second, this album was my first exposure to avant jazz, nudging me out of the relative comfort of the ill-informed and all too narrow default preferences of my yute. Over time, such nudgings prove to be crucial to any and every musical education.

The original "concept" is lost here: one side of mostly Miller with one side of mostly Coxhill dissolves in the single-sided two-dimensionality of the digital era. But much, much more is regained. That little exists of Steve Miller's work (not to Fly Like an Eagle, but brother to Phil Miller) is a painful reminder of the Market Forces at work within the music business and the culture at large. ("Market Forces" being a polite term substituted for the more blunt "Where the Money Gets Made And Who Makes It" – see "The Carlyle Group" above.) Unlike the relentless machinations of our modern day Virgin and tactically Medieval Carlyle Group, Cuneiform does us all a tremendous service by including many other musical artefacts authored and performed by Miller. His "Chocolate Field" which opens the album is a perfect example of his particularly light and deft touch. What begins as a charming and melodic soto voce piano phrase is gently taken apart and abstracted. The remaining two pieces of the original Miller/Coxhill side grow gradually more complex, finally deploying a fully-realized ensemble populated by many long-time favorites. The Coxhill/Miller side favors further abstractions and still sounds fresh enough today. What strikes this listener so many years on is that the music remains full of ideas, full of adventure and utterly lacking in any sort of aggressive arrogance. This is a positive trait, and it points to some curious undercurrents affecting experimental musics during the past 30 years.

As are the original components, the additional recordings are remarkable documents and interesting well beyond that definition. Three pieces by Delivery, the proto-Hatfield and the North line-up, show off some remarkably finished-sounding work that isn't yet "finished", two by Miller and a full second disc that offers more from the Miller/Coxhill, Coxhill/Miller sessions.

Just a note on the sound. The Virgin budget releases were OK and a few of the tracks here were restored from the LP. Linn fans take note: the liner offers a rundown on the table, cartridge, arm and mods employed. With this in mind, along with the budget designation, the sound is much better than you'd guess. In all, this is a musically and technically excellent release that restores access to a disarming and still important set of recordings.

Track Listing
Disc One
1. Chocolate Field
2. One for You
3. Portland Bill
4. Will My Thirst Play Me Tricks/The Ant About To Be Crushed Ponders Not The Where Withal of Boot Leather
5. Maggots
6. Bath 72
7. Wimbledon Baths
8. Gog Ma Gog
9. Betty (You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Chances)
10. God Song
11. Bossa Nochance / Big Jobs
Steve Miller
12. Big Jobs No.2
13. God Song
Disc Two
Steve Miller
1. Chocolate Field
2. One for You
"The Story So Far..."
3. G Song
4. F Bit
5. Songs of March
6. More G Songs
7. Does This
8. The Greatest Off-Shore Race in the World
"...Oh Really?"
9. Reprise for Those Who Prefer It Slower
10. Tubercular Balls
11. Soprano Derivativo
12. Oh, DO I Like to be Beside the Seaside?
13. In Memoriam: Meister Eckhart. From The Welfare State Epic of the Same Name Starring Randolph Scott
14. A Fabulous Comedian
15. Coo-Coo-Ka-Chew

Added: October 11th 2007
Reviewer: Kerry Leimer
Related Link: Cuneiform Records
Hits: 3471
Language: english

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Coxhill/Miller, Miller/Coxhill: The Story So Far...Oh Really?
Posted by Ryan Sparks, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-10-11 06:14:20
My Score:

Coxhill / Miller – Miller / Coxhill: The Story So Far… Oh Really? is a double CD release from Cuneiform Records which documents the early 70's collaborative recordings of pianist Steve Miller (Delivery, Caravan) and saxophonist Lol Coxhill (Delivery, Derek Bailey, Robert Wyatt). This excellent re-issue compiles two full studio releases, three unreleased songs taken from one of the last Delivery concerts, four solo piano recordings, as well as a twenty three minute improvisation piece from Miller, Coxhill and featuring Laurie Allan (Delivery) on drums and Richard Sinclair (Caravan) on bass.

The first 8 tracks of Disc 1 consist of their first album which was titled Coxhill/ Miller – Miller / Coxhill, to emphasis the collaborative nature of the project, released in 1973. This section of music finds both Miller and Coxhill performing in a few different formats, solo, duo as well as accompanied by the traditional format of bass and drums. Miller's structured jazz approach coupled with Coxhill's free from style makes for a very effective and unique sounding combination. While the solo piano pieces naturally tend to be more subdued, some of Coxhill's contributions are downright abstract in nature. Take for example the short track "Maggots", which features Miller's Wurlitzer percussion underneath Coxhill's flurry of notes. This segues into one of the stranger pieces "Bath 72" which consists primarily of Coxhill squeaking and squonking on his soprano sax for 7 minutes! Things begin to get a bit more interesting by the time you hit the live Delivery tracks which run from 9-11. This was recorded in mono towards the end of 1972 and as mentioned was one of the last live performances ever given by the influential jazz outfit. The first track "Betty (You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Chances") features some incendiary guitar from Steve's brother Phil Miller as well as more of Coxhill's frenetic sax work. The remaining two cuts are more straight ahead numbers which feature vocals by Sinclair. The first disc concludes with two of four tracks recorded by Miller and performed on electric piano and wah-wah pedal, during a solo concert recorded in mono in Holland also from 1972.

The second Disc begins where Disc 1 left off, continuing with the last two tracks from the Holland concert as both "Chocolate Field" and "One For You" are performed in an abbreviated version. The remainder of this disc consists of Miller and Coxhill's 2nd release "The Story So Far…" and "Oh Really" which originally came out in 1974. This album finds the duo once again applying the same formula used on their first album. Once again the first half, or side 1 back in the vinyl days, concentrates on Miller performing on either piano, electric piano, Wurlitzer or Rhodes accompanied only by the fantastic, rhythmic drumming of Laurie Allan. Coxhill's contributions once again tend to be the more eclectic of the two and in fact Miller only appears on one track here, "Reprise For Those Who Like It Slower". The highlights are the funky "Soprano Derivativo / Apricot Jam", which features guest appearances by both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt from Soft Machine, and the solo piece "Oh, DO I Like to be Beside The Seaside?" This track begins with Coxhill's soprano sax, with recorder echoes to seemingly mimic the sounds of seagulls. This goes on for almost seven minutes but the sounds that resonate from his sax are rich and full and the piece while quite experimental comes off quite well. The last number of Coxhill's contributions concludes with another lengthy piece entitled "In Memoriam: Master Eckhart. From The Welfare State Epic of the Same Name Staring Randolph Scott". This meditative number features a Cathedral organ for a backing track while he delivers a melancholic solo over top. The final track on this compilation is the improvisational jam called "Coo-Coo-Ka-Chew" which features Miller and Coxhill accompanied once again by Richard Sinclair and Laurie Allan. This is a brilliant jam which features the crystal sharp electric piano work of Miller who sounds like he wouldn't have been out of place in Miles Davis' electric band circa Bitches Brew. Sinclair serves up some meaty sounding bass work, and Allan is stellar behind the kit while Coxhill once again solos his cojones off! This twenty three minute nugget brings this magnificent re-issue to its fitting conclusion.

These recordings have been out of print on vinyl for over twenty five years and now thanks to Cuneiform Records they are being released on CD for the very first time. Lovingly produced and remastered by Michael King (who also wrote the liner notes), this is a great chance to revisit this long lost music or discover it for the first time. Also included in the text is the last interview Miller gave shortly before he passed away from cancer in 1998. The collaborations between Steve Miller and Lol Coxhill were about experimenting and pushing the boundaries of jazz and improvisation and it's great to finally be able to have all these recordings together in one collection.

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