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Travis & Fripp: Live At Coventry Cathedral

Robert Fripp is a figurative deity amongst experienced musicians and music aficionados. As the founder of King Crimson (considered by many to be the first true progressive rock band), Fripp is one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of the last fifty years. While branching out to new styles is always welcomed, Fripp should always, at least partially, stick to what he's known for, which is why his newest collaboration with jazz legend Theo Travis, Live At Coventry Cathedral, is so disappointing. King Crimson always had countless things going on at once; Travis & Fripp do almost nothing together.

Fripp has appeared on some of Travis' previous albums, but the duo first collaborated officially on 2008's Thread. King Crimson always incorporated jazz instruments, rhythms and chord progressions into their music, and Travis has covered a number of their songs, like "21st Century Schizoid Man". Clearly the two aren't opposed to playing engaging music, and they're quite good at it, so the fact that Live At Coventry Cathedral is the exact opposite is surprising. This record is merely a step away from being total silence.

Live At Coventry Cathedral flows like one piece of music, which would be fantastic if it evolved at any point. It doesn't; instead it's basically extended saxophone and flute notes accompanied by Fripp's ambient, pastoral soundscapes. For seventy-five minutes. It's like the opening of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" if Dave Gilmour never ended the spacey opening with his signature timbre guitar notes. For seventy-five minutes.

To be fair, "The Offering" does have some energetic woodwind interaction and electric guitar aggression, but it's minimal, and the fact that that seems like a highlight shows just how boring the rest of it is. The duo also features a reworked version of "Moonchild," which appeared on King Crimson's debut, In the Court of the Crimson King. Originally, its three minutes of song were followed by eight minutes of nothingness. Here we don't even get the song.

This record doesn't dissatisfy and anger because it isn't full blown progressive rock craziness. Only the most closed minded listener would demand artists deliver exactly what they're expecting. Fripp and Travis are free to express themselves however they want as a team, and they do here, and it's not listenable. The album opens with an audience clapping because they see two great musicians on stage together. They clap at the end because, presumably, they're done enduring the performance they served as the middle. Live At Coventry Cathedral plays like the opening anticipation to a very involving work. But that never happens; the introductory music just keeps going. For seventy-five minutes.

Track Listing
1. The Apparent Chaos of Stone
2. Field of Green
3. The Unquestioned Answer
4. Blue Calm
5. Duet for the End of Time
6. The Offering
7. Angels in the Roof
8. Moonchild
9. Lamentation

Added: March 6th 2011
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1445
Language: english

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Travis & Fripp: Live At Coventry Cathedral
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-03-06 09:01:09
My Score:

Robert Fripp, founder of King Crimson, needs no introduction in these pages as he is as legendary as one gets. London based saxophonist Theo Travis is younger in years but no less worthy of praise as he is a phenomenal player. There is no doubting the pedigrees of both musicians who just so happen to have a new release Live at Coventry Cathedral. This is the duo's second album, the first being the 2008 release Thread.

Do not expect anything like King Crimson on this one as Fripp concentrates on his more ambient side similar to his work with Brian Eno on the 1973 album No Pussyfooting. The music on Live at Coventry Cathedral is as minimalistic as it gets as Fripp prefers to weave his moody soundscapes around Travis's soprano sax and alto flute. There is no denying the talent of either performer and the music is largely improvised as compositional form is pretty much abandoned.

The starting piece is the intriguingly titled "The Apparent Chaos of Stone" where Travis's flute intertwines with Fripp's subtle guitar phrasings. It is all very subdued and if you are waiting for the music to explode with fervor you will be disappointed as this is not that kind of scene. The focus on this song is on the ethereal and atmospheric and that is the case with the entire album. On "The Unquestioned Answer" Fripp's delicate and clean guitar notes and Travis's soprano sax gives a warmer vibe whereas "The Offering" features more meaty guitar work slicing through moody soundscapes and some excellent sax work.

The biggest surprise is the reworking of King Crimson's "Moonchild" from In the Court of the Crimson King although it does not sound much like the original as it is molded into Travis and Fripp's ghostly soundscapes and heightened by Fripp's clean guitar passages.

The album's last song is the densely atmospheric "Lamentation" but at nineteen minutes is perhaps a tad too long. Fripp does add some darker touches on this one though and his guitar work has a little more bite at times.

This will certainly not be for everybody and is an album that I will probably not play all that much but when the mood arises I just may pull it out from time to time. If you like minimalistic ambient music this will probably be more your cup of tea.

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