REVIEW: Confront Recordings 20th Anniversary at Cafe Oto

Steve Beresford at Confront's Cafe Oto celebration
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All rights reserved.


Confront Recordings 20th Anniversary
(Cafe Oto, 30 October 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


Confront Recordings, Mark Wastell's label has been issuing CDs from the left field of adventurous, challenging music since 1996. This concert, one of a series of events to mark those twenty years, also saw the launch of Confront's sixty-eighth, elegantly metal-boxed CD, Four Quartets, a recording by the quartet of Tom Jackson (clarinet), Ashley-John Long (double bass), Benedict Taylor (viola) and Keith Tippett (piano).

Tippett had contracted a serious chest infection and, sadly, for only the third time in his career, had to pull out of the gig. The good thing was that, in the absence of Tippett's eagerly awaited appearance, Steve Beresford played a blinder on piano, the first set of the night.

Beresford shares with Tippett a supremely inquisitive route to the potential of the instrument. The area above and within the piano wires became the playground for a train of part-predictable events which he set in motion with a variety of interventions and implements - some tiny and battery-operated with their own lives - in tandem with direct, virtuosic keyboard technique.

This two-pronged attack enshrined the aims of engaging and surprising the audience but also set in train an overlapping sequence of events which would surprise and occasionally ambush him, too. As with Tippett, jazz in all its flavours is a fundamental reference for Beresford and at the keyboard suggestions of lyrical Ellington rubbed shoulders with the attack of Cecil Taylor.

Wastell and Rhodri Davies revisited and refreshed their 1996 commission, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, with ethereal and sensitive accompaniment - on tubular bells, chimes and low level percussion from Wastell, and electric harp from Davies - to the disembodied, pre-recorded voice of David Sylvian's reading of its text emanating slightly unsettlingly from the speakers. Just a shame he couldn't join them in person.

This would have been the live debut of Tippett's quartet with Long, Jackson and Taylor. With the quartet's debut on track for a future date, the trio, with their contemporary classical and jazz crossover roots, nonetheless, delivered a finely wrought, formally-informed set of spontaneously constructed variations to close out the evening.

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