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Hession / Wilkinson / Fell - Two Falls & A Submission

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Artist: Hession / Wilkinson / Fell

Album: Two Falls & A Submission

Label: Bo'Weavil

Review date: Jan. 24, 2012

The trio of Alan Wilkinson on alto and baritone saxophones, Simon H. Fell on double bass, and Paul Hession on drums first came together to play improvised music in 1989, releasing their first album, Bogey’s (Bruce’s Fingers) in 1991. Two Falls & a Submission was recorded in Monmouth, Wales, in March 2010 during their reunion tour of the UK to mark their 21st anniversary.

In their heyday in the ’90s, the threesome was an awesome prospect both live and on disc; all three played with the kind of wild freedom that had characterized ’60s free jazz (yes, jazz, not improv) but had not been heard much since. Around 2000, after the release of St. John’s on the Ecstatic Peace label (proprietor Thurston Moore was a fan), they went their separate ways. When their 2010 reunion tour was announced, many wondered if the three would still generate their former fire.

They need not have worried. Right from the first notes of the opener, “First Fall,” the years fall away as all three simultaneously hit top gear in a bravura display of high-energy improvisation. Wilkinson immediately grabs the limelight, straight away playing with a raw intensity that other saxophonists might hit once a night; for Wilkinson, that is the baseline from which he then builds. Alternating between saxophones, he solos relentlessly, keeping a seamless barrage of phrases flowing from his horns. When he does intermittently pause from blowing, he is likely to pour forth improvised, wordless vocals with as much gusto as he plays.

It seems entirely appropriate that Two Falls & a Submission takes its title from the parlance of all-in wrestling. Hession and Fell never act as support players. Throughout, the drummer matches Wilkinson’s intensity, never letting the pace flag so as to keep the pressure up. At times it sounds as if he and Wilkinson are involved in a one-on-one duel to see who will crack first; of course, neither of them does. For his part, Fell stokes the fire with his own propulsive phrases, constantly driving things forward and holding them together. The end result is an amalgam of three equal contributions that fit together perfectly; the absence of any one of them would make the whole feel incomplete.

Even when the three move down a gear — as they sometimes must, given the relentless pace they set — they still retain all the qualities that make this trio special: intensity, togetherness, equality. Awesome stuff.

By John Eyles

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