Barry Guy New Orchestra

Barry Guy New Orchestra

Barry Guy bass, director (GB)
Agusti Fernandez piano (www.agustifernandez.com)
Evan Parker sax (GB)
Mats Gustafsson sax, fluteophone (SE)
Hans Koch sax, clarinets (CH)
Herb Robertson trumpet (USA)
Chris Bridges trombone (GB)
Per Åke Holmlander tuba (SE)
Paul Lytton percussion (GB)
Raymond Strid percussion (SE)


Barry Guy is one of the world's leading bass soloists and improvisers, well known as director and founder of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, also as a composer of new music for chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras has founded a new ensemble called the Barry Guy New Orchestra.

This all-star band brings together the biggest names in the world of contemporary Jazz and Improvisation from America, England, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.

The world premiere of the new composition Inscape-Tableaux by Barry Guy was staged in Ireland for the "Mostly Modern Festival 2000". During four days the musicians performed a unique set of trios, duos, solos and finally the new piece.

Open rehearsals and workshops provided an insight into the process of creating a new ensemble and into the intriguing combination of free improvisation and composed structures.

Evan Parker may be the most formidable saxophonist since John Coltrane. He plays Trane's instruments, tenor and soprano, and lists Coltrane as one of his principal influences. Parker is emphatically not an "entertainer," but a true artist who has developed an entirely new way to play the saxophone. He has developed the possibilities of unpremeditated music more deeply than almost anyone, creating a personal vocabulary that is simultaneously instantly recognisable and adaptable to the most varied of situations ...

Robert Spencer

His discography is so extensive that it has been published in book form and lists over 150 albums recorded over a period of more than three decades (Publisher Bandecc hi&Vivaldi by Francesco Martinelli) this will soon be updated since he has recorded a vast number of new CDs in the past few years.

Mats Gustafsson was born in Umeå, a town in the north of Sweden with a rich cultural life and an inspiring jazz scene. He is now one of the most significant new faces in improvised music. Combining great sensitivity and attention to detail with boundless energy. He has developed a close collaboration with an increasing number of top rank musicians, including bassist Barry Guy, violinist Philipp Wachsmann, cellist Günter Christmann, percussionist Michael Zerang, and more recently saxophonist Peter Brötzmann.

"Mats is the most modern of players where the genre tags of jazz, noise, experimental, avant-whatever are finally transcended to a new millennium – where compositional concepts are at once in check with open improvisation and a super-postmodernism becomes what we always wanted: rock & roll!"

Thurston Moore

Hans Koch worked first as a solo clarinettist in Winterthur and performed widely as a soloist and chamber musician. In the early Eighties he became involved in Jazz being influenced by musicians like John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker. In his first trio with Martin Schütz and Marco Käppeli he began to experiment more and more with a mixture of composition and improvisation.

Since then his career as a free improviser and composer has brought him together with Cecil Taylor with whom he played in the "European Big band", Shelley Hirsch, Butch Morris, David Moss, Andrew Cyrille and many of the leading European improvisers. With Barry Guy he has played as a Duo partner and his collaboration with the Swiss musicians Werner Lüdi, Stephan Wittwer and Fredi Studer has lead to numerous albums on the Intakt label and others.

"A brilliantly virtuosic, independent saxophonist and bass clarinettist with a beautiful, clear and convincing tone, a first class improviser, differentiated, powerful, rich in ideas and many-facetted"

Christian Rentsch

Herb Robertson is internationally renowned as an innovative instrumentalist, composer, and arranger in traditional and avant-garde jazz and new music. He has performed and recorded with Tim Berne, Mark Helias, John Zorn, George Gruntz, Bobby Previte, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, and Bill Frisell. He has also recorded five albums under his leadership for JMT.

Herb Robertson has a voracious appetite for the jazz past, with an eye toward the future ... He forced runs of superhuman length, power and density from his horn, yet his tone was amazingly clear and crisp. He used a range of half-values, split tones and mutes to introduce a breadth of tonal colourations to his performance.

NY Times

Johannes Bauer is best known for his work with his brother Connie Bauer and the bands "Doppelmoppel" and "Slawterhaus", he is one of the most dramatic and articulate trombone players in the German improvising music scene and has made a substantial contribution to free and new music since the Seventies as a soloist, composer for improvising musicians and in various ensembles. He is instantly recognisable by his amazing sound, rhetoric and the seamless blend of highly theatrical and lyrical playing.

Per Åke Holmlander is one of the leading exponents of the new generation of improvisers and new music performers in Sweden. He is known both in the new music and free improvising scene as a virtuoso on the tuba with an amazing range of colours and dynamics.

He is a member of Mats Gustafsson's NU Ensemble and Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra amongst others, and is also well know for his contribution to music theatre.

Paul Lytton, one of the first members of the experimental British free-improvising avant-garde in London during the Sixties and early 1970s, was a founder member of the London Musicians Coop and the Aachen Musicians Cooperative.

He has been building own instruments since 1969 (Incus 14 features Evan Parker on the lyttonophone), and had an exhibition of the equipment in Wuppertal in 1980. Since 1975 has lived in Belgium. Founded Po Torch Records in 1976 with Paul Lovens, with whom he has recorded three duo albums.

Perhaps most well known in the UK and US as a member of the Parker/Guy/Lytton trio and, prior to that, for working in duo with Evan Parker. However, there are many recorded contributions to other groupings, most notably the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and King Ubu Orchestru, also recently ECM released a duo recording with Paul Lytton and Philipp Wachsmann called Some other Season.

Raymond Strid is one of the leading figures in the Swedish improvising scene. He regularly performs with Mats Gustafsson, Marilyn Crispell, Barry Guy in their respective trio and quartet formations. He is also in demand all over Europe and America to play in various larger ensembles.

"Raymond Strid is an explorer of sounds with an extremely sensitive ear, a percussionist who creates sonic rooms. "

Jazz Review

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Behind Barry Guy's New Orchestra

Greg Buium [CODA Magazine, March-April 2002]
When the Barry Guy New Orchestra reassembled in Vancouver last June for just its fourth concert, its first in over a year, the improvised music set couldn't believe their luck. It was, by any standard measure, a coup. Considering the ten-piece group's lineup, an exceptional gathering of European and American improvisers, and the sheer size of its signature piece, Guy's seven-part composition, Inscape-Tableaux, finding a festival for its first (and only) North American appearance wasn't easy.

"We've got so many amazing players in this band we can present almost anything," Guy told me in the middle of the group's four-day whirlwind through town. "It's very hard to persuade a festival organizer to utilize the potential of the group. To say, 'Well, look: other than the big band we actually have the [Evan] Parker Trio, we have the Guy /[Mats] Gustafsson trio. Or you can have the Marilyn Crispell Trio. And more.'"

But the Vancouver International Jazz Festival didn't need much convincing. Breaking off into a variety of duos, trios, and quartets, the orchestra blanketed the festival's first few days. In some respects, the BGNO (as Guy is given to calling it) simply recreated its first performances in Dublin last year. To debut the new group Guy set-up four days of music, plotting out a compelling network of groupings and daily rehearsals, culminating in the premiere of Inscape-Tableaux. For some of the players it was the first time they'd ever met.

"The process that took place in Dublin was actually quite important," Guy explained. "One thing I wanted to do was to acquaint us all, and the audience, with the voices in the band. Kind of lay the skeleton bare before we ever came around to playing the final piece. And it was a very interesting process not only for the audience but for ourselves because all the players always listened to everybody else. So we were informing ourselves of the way the players interacted in different groupings."

It was a masterstroke – and, for Barry Guy, something not unfamiliar. For nearly thirty years with the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) he's tackled the often problematic relationship between composition and improvisation, a lifetime trying to make improvised music work in large group settings. "Guy's LJCO recordings," Bill Shoemaker recently suggested, "comprise a Teflon-like argument for the legitimacy of the composer in improvised music, as his works are casebook studies in the integration of improvisation and predetermined materials and the empowerment of improvisers to substantively shape the work." Indeed, the BGNO fits snugly into this tradition. Built on the questions (and problems) posed in the LJCO, Barry Guy's New Orchestra was born out of its predecessor's unwieldy economics.

"The genesis of the new group, I suppose, came out of the fact, the horrible reality, that getting work for the London Jazz Composers Orchestra was actually getting more and more difficult," Guy recalled. "The LJCO was always a large animal to deal with, to keep it moving. There was no such thing as funding. We funded it basically by selling instruments over the years. I suppose I can put my Baroque music days as the progenitor of the LJCO."

After the LJCO's last concert at the 1998 Berlin Jazz Festival (with Marilyn Crispell and Maggie Nicols as guests) – "a remarkable evening," Guy recalls, "because the band was on absolutely top form" – the prospects looked bleak. "The months passed after Berlin, we tried to get some more work, and basically the information coming back to us was that nobody has any money for big bands, unless you have government support. Patrik Landolt from Intakt wanted to do another album and he said, 'Look, why don't you think of a smaller band.' Which to me was the unthinkable because in a way that's my baby, the LJCO, with the size of it – the orchestration, the understanding how I could write for it. A ten-piece band seemed a proposition that was untenable. However, it was suggested as a financially easier option."

Landolt persisted. "He said, 'Why don't you just give a thought to who you'd want in the band.' That was the difficult thing because I had all the guys that were in the LJCO who'd I'd worked with for years. But I decided to just let that be, to push that to one side and find the reasons for putting a ten-piece band together – and who to get into it. It seemed to me that the best way of doing this was to almost get back to the first principles that I had with the LJCO: to gather around under this umbrella a group of players that I had recently been working with in small groups, in duos, trios. And also players that had played with each other in various groupings over the years.

"So the Parker Trio was the obvious starting point because I love working with Evan and I love working with Paul [Lytton]. And of course then there was the Swedish trio with Mats Gustafsson and [drummer] Raymond Strid. So there were two, for me, very interesting trios: one younger one, and the other established but dealing with trio music in a completely different way. I thought that would be quite an interesting focus, and axis point. And then I had been working with Marilyn in trio formations, either with Gerry Hemingway or Paul Lytton, so it would seem to be a necessity to get Marilyn in. And I was wanting to write some things for Marilyn anyway – some ballads, slower things – since she was interested in that area. And she had also made records with the Parker Trio and the Gustafsson Trio.

"I wanted a band that was reasonably international, which reflected my experiences over a period of years. I had done some excellent duos with Hans Koch and wanted a bass and contrabass clarinet sound in this ensemble because I realized that once you're coming down from the seventeen-piece to a ten-piece, coloration is quite important, absolutely vital to this orchestration.

"But I wanted to keep a strong brass section. [Trumpeter] Herb Robertson had played with the LJCO in America and Berlin. He came in and I thought he was an excellent player, kind of revitalized the brass section in a way. And he had made an album with Paul Lytton, so there was that connection. Then [trombonist] Johannes Bauer. I'd done quite a lot of duos with him in Germany, on and off. We kept on meeting. And I thought he had a very positive attitude to improvising and reading music. He's a very good reader, strong sound, and also a really nice guy, as well. I was also interested in the chemistry of the group. What I didn't want was a lot of superstars in the ensemble who would just get on each other's nerves. So I tried to find this arcane balance: to get not only the music to work but the people to work with each other, as well.

"And tuba: Per Åke Holmlander, a Swedish player that played in Mats's big band. He was such a good player, very powerful, good improviser, really nice guy, knew the Swedes well, of course. So that was the Viking Trio, in a way (with Raymond Strid on drums), a very special dimension.

"The other thing was, I had to devise music in which I could play bass instead of conducting all the time. You see, I do some conducting in this piece but also I had to imagine a piece in which I could actually step back and let the direction of several parts of it take place within the band itself. So I had to have people who had good initiative. Mats had directed his own orchestra so there was already a fellow traveler. If I needed somebody else to go, 'OK, guys, mobilize here,' he could be relied upon to do that."

Having, as Guy characterized it, "accepted the ultimatum that this was going to be a reality," he began to write – or to at least think about writing. "For quite a while I didn't necessarily do anything on the piece," he recalls. "But there were moments, when I was walking somewhere or sitting at the drawing board working on something else, I would suddenly visualize the BGNO and how it could come together, just sound-wise, as an ensemble. There was a period of gestation: I was having to adjust to the possibilities, the sonic expectations, compared with the LJCO. But there came a point where new things started to stir, reducing the larger orchestra down to a compact aural scenario in my head, but at the same time I was realizing that because they're singular instruments a new sonority started emerging in a very subtle and nonspecific way. An idea was forming itself in my head about clarity and sharply defined gestures. For instance, 'OK, there is one trombone. But that one trombone is powerful and it can actually have a very important and decisive effect within an ensemble.' Whereas the three trombones in the LJCO were used in a strategically different way.

"It was a slow and not very scientific way of forming the sounds of the band. But as these things were happening I found myself more and more making marks on paper, like an artist with a paintbrush. Even before this all started coming into place I'd just get excited by the imagination of a particular instrumental grouping, or one player playing against a construct. And I would just make a mark, or a series of marks, not actually writing notes even. Just a very soft pencil, just digging the paper in a way. It's almost like cavemen making marks on rocks, just images to remind you exactly what you want to do. But in the context of the other things that might have been accumulating, they made sense: something to do with a density of sound, or tailing off to a lightness. I would even change pencil thicknesses sometimes to give a sense of density change."

While a number of the drawings were eventually discarded, specific ideas began to emerge. "As I went through this process they started shaking themselves out into numbers, if you like. This is where the aural imagination, which had been just thinking of grouping, started to enter the drawing facility. I would just put 'Marilyn,' or something like that, at the end of a sequence of lines. That would indicate to me a certain type of activity ending in Marilyn, or, for instance, a specific logical meeting point of certain instruments to support this moment.

"In the early part of Inscape-Tableaux I wanted the exposition to present the two powerhouse trios of Parker and Gustafsson. Before that, however, I wished to present the brass players in short vignettes that would gradually accumulate in energy to the point where they would come together and comment on the progress of the trios as they made their way to a sonically elevated level.

"Then there was this memory of hearing Marilyn and Evan doing a circular stream of activity, and that was the first release point, where the focus changes: from the grand to the specific. And then through that process, and a little short ballad section, we actually pick up pretty much where we left off with the whole band, with the background thing coming to the foreground picking up everybody on the way. This rounds off the first section.

"For me it was important after that to dramatically change the architecture, where suddenly you've got one person in an open space. There you have Marilyn. Having exposed the whole band, I just remember having the, 'This is the Marilyn moment.' It goes right down to one instrument and that's her.

"The whole tension has changed here; the focus has changed. In some ways I think of it as highly architectural but with some cinematics. I'm not a great cinema buff but it's always interesting the way films have the ability to show the bigger vista, then they pan and bring the focus to one specific detail: it could be an eye, or it could be a hand, or it could be a small gesture. But I'm interested in how you can focus the sound. You're channeling everybody into a particular way of listening.

"The other thing that I did at this initial stage was put all the names on a list and connect up who, to my knowledge, had played with whom. There were the obvious trios and parings that had featured in my musical life. But what about Johannes Bauer, for instance. There evolved this very complex, spaghetti-like diagram. And then I started looking at the diagram to realize who hadn't played with somebody in a particular situation. So not only were there the familiar groups, but also the unfamiliar, as well – which became a useful tool to evaluate structural procedures.

"What I try to do is also think of the possibilities of it going wrong as well as right – if it deviated into an area which wouldn't be appropriate. But then you have the trust of the players. I always have the complete trust in the improvisers: they instinctively know where in the creative process it should go. There's a kind of mystery in this, as well, about how these things might work. But I try to assess the probabilities of where they might go. And it can come up with massive surprises, but on the other hand, its creativity is assured."

Inscape-Tableaux may be a monument to Barry Guy's ingenuity and these improvisers' singular skills, but it will be a balancing act to keep the BGNO a viable affair. While a number of national arts councils have generously supported the band, it's been difficult just getting everyone in the same place. "In reality, of course, it's been the biggest nightmare ever," Guy explains referring to the logistics. "The old days of meeting the London Jazz Composers Orchestra at Heathrow Terminal 2 was not to happen anymore." Still, the BGNO regroups in Nickelsdorf, Austria this August. Then there's a three-city Scandinavian tour in the fall. And next spring it seems the group will be in Paris and in Mulhouse in the summer.

With the LJCO on hold, Guy is committed to making the New Orchestra an ongoing project. Not only is he hoping to produce more music, but Mats Gustafsson has plans to write for the group, as well. And after this second spell of gigs, one might expect Inscape-Tableaux to still find its place in the band's book. "Could be," Guy responds. "Since the piece is actually taking on a good feel, people are relaxing into the music now .... The thing that I definitely want to present to an audience is something which is organic and growing in front of you. I want the process to be joyous and energizing – to breathe."

This program, from the orchestra's first performances together, is a fascinating glimpse into Barry Guy's working methods – and the nature of the creative process itself. All of the solo and small group performances are completely improvised. The "FREEZONE" segments, Guy admits, got their name from the Appleby Festival.

Inscape-Tableaux was recorded on May 18 and 19, 2000 in Zürich and released as an album (Intakt 66) under the same name.

Mostly Modern Series 2000

The Barry Guy New Orchestra
Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, Dublin

Sunday, March 5,
2:30 pm / DUO Johannes Bauer – Barry Guy, trombone, bass / SOLO Marilyn Crispell, piano
4:00 pm / Open rehearsal of BGNO
8:00 pm / FREEZONE WIND Evan Parker – Mats Gustafsson – Hans Koch, saxophones, clarinets
TRIO Crispell – Guy – Paul Lytton piano, bass, percussion

Monday, March 6
1:15 pm / DUO Per Åke Holmlander – Raymond Strid tuba, percussion, SOLO Parker, saxophone
3:00 pm / Open rehearsal of BGNO
8:00 pm / FREEZONE BRASS Herb Robertson – Bauer – Holmlander trumpet, trombone, tuba
TRIO Guy – Gustafsson – Strid bass, saxophone, percussion

Tuesday, March 7
1:15 pm / DUO Koch – Robertson clarinet/sax, trumpet SOLO Gustafsson, saxophone, fluteophone
3:00 pm / Open rehearsal BGNO
8:00 pm / FREEZONE PERCUSSION Lytton – Strid
TRIO Parker – Guy – Lytton saxophone, bass, percussion

Wednesday, March 8
8:00 pm / Barry Guy New Orchestra, World Premiere of Inscape-Tableaux

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Seeds of sound

Declan O'Driscoll
Music is sound. Sound is mystery. Unseen but felt (it can make you do the strangest things). Improvisers play music for the mind (from their fecund, instantly responsive minds) and for the body too and the spirit (wherever it may reside). The emotional impact of their music – its felt feeling – is too often ignored, but it's there in the giving and in the receiving. It is quite moving to see, and hear, musicians transforming the weight of their being into truth-bearing sound; reaching for a level of expression they understand to be crucial. There is no other reason for doing it, for being there.

When the Barry Guy New Orchestra played for the first time, at a concert in Dublin, more than a few of those present – in a capacity-straining, adulatory, munificent audience – felt almost overwhelmed by what they heard when Inscape-Tableaux was given its premier performance. A fervent complexity, an immediate communication. A beautiful sound that relocated the locus of beauty (or what is considered to be beautiful). "Much that is beautiful must be discarded/So that we may resemble a taller/Impression of ourselves."

Nothing about the composition, nor the many improvisations latticed through it paid regard to fashion. The distancing defences of post-modernism – its pasteurised lack of resolve – were ignored, thwarted by the simple statement of unselfconscious seriousness and an absolute commitment to the importance of the continuous now. "That their merely being there/means something." It spoke of vitality, it blossomed. Seeds of sound germinated and grew before us, revealing the colour and shape of their inherent energy.

The music that night suggested so many possibilities. Its astonishing blast still resonates. When it ended we were suddenly bewildered, left shaking our heads; trying to think of words that might catch the music's echo. We moved around the room, uttering the word 'amazing' to faces we knew as our pulse rates gradually regained their normal beat.

Quotations from poems by John Ashbery

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Barry Guy new orchestra

Inscape-Tableaux, Intakt CD 066
Just as the European Union (EU) and the Euro have begun to win over Continental rivalries and local currencies, so composer, orchestra director and bass master Barry Guy has decided to put together a new international aggregation that's showcased on this exceptional disc.

After 28 years leading the mostly British, usually 18-piece, London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LCJO), the now Ireland-based Guy has organized an all-star tentet to perform this multi-faceted composition which took two years to perfect. As multinational as the EU, the Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) features only two other Englishmen, as well three Swedes, two Americans, a German and a Swiss national.

Most have worked with the bassist before – some extensively like Evan Parker and Paul Lytton. All are at the top of their form. It would be stupid to say that the colors brought forward by the LJCO's additional eight to 10 players can be equaled by BGNO's fewer musicians. But together these improvisers are so proficient on so many instruments and so cognizant of so many techniques that what they produce easily has the resonance of a larger band. Though scored, Guy's Inscape-Tableaux leaves plenty of space to take advantage of each individual's talents.

Especially noteworthy is pianist Marilyn Crispell, who as well as being integrated into the ensemble, is featured in three keyboard-centered interludes between the larger orchestral sections. Sometimes pastoral, as in the beginning of "IV" – practically a duet for her and Guy's flying fingers – sometimes powerful, Crispell seems to bring her classical chops to the fore here. Distinctively unique, her playing no more resembles that of Cecil Taylor – as some lazy commentators have suggested – than Jesse Helms' politics resemble those of Jesse Jackson's.

Trombonist Johannes Bauer's showcase comes on "V," an exploding comet of cacophony, which harkens back to the earliest days of large ensemble free jazz. Here and elsewhere his vocalized, guttural cries simultaneously suggest New Orleans tailgate and outer space. "V" also features some of Herb Robertson's best Maynard-Ferguson-meets-Cootie-Williams explosions. With only three valves, the American trumpeter is able to produce the sort of multiphonics saxophonists need many keys to generate.

Speaking of saxophonists, how can a band go wrong with a section made up of Parker's circular breathing, Mats Gustafsson's lung bursting blowouts, and on "VI," Hans Koch's top-to-bottom bass clarinet forays?

Still, this Ellington band-like aggregation of stylists shouldn't obscure that the BGNO is very much a composer's vehicle, with echoes of European New music and on "II" Charles Mingus' scores for mid-sized ensembles. Listen again to an interlude in "V" and observe the perfect clarity of Per Åke Holmlander's tuba making its way like a hippo across the Veldt as the untamed wild birds that are the horns vocally leap and frolic overhead. Like Ellington and Mingus, Guy writes with the idiosyncrasies of his players firmly in mind and the score sounds that much the better for it.

One could go on and on appending extended examples of sophisticated and eventful writing and outstanding solos, but how many more superlatives can be heaped on this groundbreaking disc of modern music? Suffice it to say that Inscape-Tableaux deserves to be heard by anyone at all interested in modern composition and the state of 21st century orchestral sound. We can also hope, that sometime in the future, this Valhalla of improvising giants will tour in this formation.

Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Inscape-Tableaux Part 1; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII

Personnel: Herb Robertson, trumpet; Johannes Bauer, trombone; Per Åke Holmlander, tuba; Evan Parker, tenor and soprano saxophones; Mats Gustafsson, tenor and baritone saxophones; Hans Koch, tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet; Marilyn Crispell, piano; Barry Guy, bass; Paul Lytton, Raymond Strid, percussion

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Inscape Tableaux

At the helm or the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Barry Guy created a phenomenal body of work creating compositional frameworks for spontaneous improvisation. Over the course of 28 years, Guy’s music confronted methods for applying organizational control to an ensemble or orchestral proportions while still providing a context that inspired spontaneous freedom from a relatively consistent group of musicians of the calibre of Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Howard Riley, Trevor Watts and Paul Lytton, to name just a few. During that time Guy also participated in some of the most vigourous small group, collective improvisation as well. His long-term trio with Parker and Lytton as well as more recent collaboration with Swedish musicians Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid have provided some scorching, exploratory free improvisation.

With his new ensemble, The Barry Guy New Orchestra, Guy has created a setting where he can simultaneously mine his last three decades of musical explorations while continuing to explore new strategies for group improvisation. It doesn’t hurt that he makes use of the trios with Parker/Lytton and Gustafsson/Strid as the core of the ensemble. The double trio is extended with pianist Marilyn Crispell, Hans Koch on reeds, Johannes Bauer on trombone, Herb Robertson on trumpet and Per Åke Holmlander on tuba.

This CD captures a performance of the 7-part composition Inscape-Tableaux which moves through massed freedom to smaller interactions, using movements featuring Crispell to frame the four ensemble sections. The entire group absorbs the overall structure and dynamically shapes the flow of the piece; various sub groupings emerge to create transitions or carry the music off in a new direction. The propulsive freedom of Parker’s cascading soprano flurries against the ecstatic, hammered shards of Crispell’s piano, makes way for sections of lush, sombre melodicism. Tightly voiced brass atonalities goad expansive free flights with orchestral density that can open up into spare pinpoint interactions.

One of the welcome effects of the smaller size of the group is that Guy is able to take a more active role playing bass. A particularly potent example of his bass playing can be found at the start of the fourth movement, where Guy, Crispell and Lytton are featured in a trio of haunting beauty. Guy delivers an extended solo where he displays his mastery at combining lyricism with abstraction, slowly resolving into an ensemble section of striking elegance. From the first starting blast from the grouped brass section to the ecstatic conclusion, the piece bristles with intensity, balancing explosive power with sections of lush beauty.

In the liner notes Guy states "With the possibilities of new formations developing, exploring existing musical friendships and past chance meetings, the scenario for composing was rich and colourful." This is a recording that continues to reveal both exhilarating collective freedom and extraordinary compositional depth.

Michael Rosenstein

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Inscape Tableaux

This music is wonderfully complicated. British bassist/composer Barry Guy has taken the ideas behind his London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) a considerable step further.

The idea for the Barry Guy New Orchestra sprang from the logistics problems that he continuously encountered with the LJCO. For example, planning for the travel and accommodations for up to twenty other musicians is often a Sisyphean task. Funding is another issue altogether.

Guy and Patrik Landolt of Intakt Records brainstormed, and when the dust had cleared, the idea for the Barry Guy New Orchestra was born: an international collective consisting of ten musicians. Funding is more dependable this way, from the international angle, at least for part of the group. The Swedish and Swiss governments are quite dedicated to the forward progress of their artists. Germany too, to some extent. The British Council lends a hand when it can to its musicians, as it has for many years with the LJCO. Then there are the Americans, but that is for another essay.

Physically, it is also easier to move around ten musicians than it is eighteen. The only real remaining complication is ensuring that everyone's schedules jibe, which, under the circumstances, will often be hit or miss.

With these intricacies ironed out, Guy could focus on composing for his new group. He imagined the unification of two of his working sax/bass/percussion trios to create a base for the new project. Because pianist Marilyn Crispell had experience with these trios, not to mention that she is such a dependable improviser, he chose to include her as a sort of common ground between the two units. The backbone of the music for Inscape-Tableaux, the orchestra's maiden composition, fell easily (Guy admits) into place from this approach. Incidentally, healthy segments of the piece were written specifically for Crispell. Guy colored the composition further with equally demanding roles for the remainder of the group – trombone, trumpet, tuba, and more woodwinds.

In a class by itself, the music that is Inscape-Tableaux bears the boldness of the LJCO, the consistent intelligence of its composer, and the complexity that is inherent in such a grouping. Guy conducts the orchestra, while playing contrabass simultaneously. Crispell is on piano, with Evan Parker and Mats Gustafsson on saxophones. The brass section is Herb Robertson on trumpet, Johannes Bauer on trombone, and Per Åke Holmlander in the tuba chair. Percussionists Paul Lytton and Raymond Strid complete the (ahem) "rhythm" instrumentation. And Swiss multi-instrumentalist Hans Koch plays soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, and contrabass clarinet.

The 66-minute composition begins ("Part I") as if the orchestra has been hired for a Hitchcock film score, bright and fluttering. There is a break, and Bauer tears away with a brief trombone cadenza, which rises back into the collective. The orchestra wails again, breaks, and Robertson comes in with his own frantic lines, similar to those of the trombone. This pattern repeats itself several times, although not identically. There is a building of tension that comes with each successive break, between which different soloists make statements, sometimes in duos, larger in others. And so a barely detectable and complex pattern is revealed. "Part I" is a long, aggressive intro movement that does not cease until each musician has had his or her say, some of them bonding and some dramatically contrasting. Parker and Gustafsson have their own improvised section with the percussionists. Crispell and Parker mimic one another on piano and soprano saxophone, respectively. "Part I" momentarily becomes a handsome ballad, before returning to primary patterns, written structures interlaced with improv.

"Part II" begins with Crispell following written material, and improvising in large areas. Parker joins her on soprano, in a similar flavor to their duet from "Part I." Their improvisations are textured by glissando entries and cut outs from the brass section.

"Part III" and "Part IV" rival one another for the most aurally captivating "movement" of the piece. Almost entirely improvised, "Part III" consists heavily of wind and air sounds, and intermittent symphonic perturbations. These are achieved by discrete, seemingly random partnerships. "Part IV" is mostly a Crispell/Guy duo, both written and freely improvised and serves as an interim resolution amidst the controlled chaos of the rest of the piece. The piano and bass meet briefly to establish a theme before Guy launches, alone, into a free solo using a lightning pizzicato technique. He reconnects with Crispell, and the orchestra, restating the previously hinted theme.

The remaining parts of Inscape-Tableaux are a commensurate extension of the first three. They are by no means alike in sound, but similar in energy and in the conductor's employment of individual musicians. It is fascinating to listen to the music in segments, or, to isolate contrasting trios of musicians playing against or in congruity with one another. The soloists are impeccable. Herb Robertson has a few show stopping moments in "Part VI." Koch's bass clarinet is a central figure in "Part VII." But Marilyn Crispell – largely due to much of the music being written around her – is the essence of Inscape-Tableaux. Listeners can latch onto her from the get-go, clinging to the piano with one hand and inspecting the dark of the layered instrumentation with the other.

So every good idea begins with a problem, although the music of Inscape-Tableaux leaves no indication otherwise. It is an astonishing accomplishment that should be experienced.

Alan Jones

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More reviews

Der mitreissende, unter die Haut fahrende Orchester-Event mit Barry Guy's New Orchestra war neben dem Frank Gratkovvski Quartet das grosse Highlight des Taktlos 2004. Ein derartiges Ereignis musste natürlich anschliessend unter Studiobedingungen festgehalten und aufgenommen werden (in den Studios des SWR Baden-Baden). Die harten orchestralen Schläge, die brodelnden Energie- und Intensitätsvvellen, die spannenden Wechsel zwischen Komposition, Struktur und freier Form, die von Barry Guy immer wieder angeregte kollektive Empathie, vor allem aber auch die vielen expressiven bis exzentrischen Solo Flights und Duo-Sequenzen, bei denen immer wieder Bassklarinettist Hans Koch, aber auch Evan Parker, der spanische Pianist Agusti Fernandez und Barry Guy himself das Geschehen dramatisierten und energetisch aufluden, machen diese dreiteilige Komposition zu einem "zukunftsvveisenden Meisterwerk", zu einer Musik "zwischen Ordnung und Chaos, Sensibilität und Kraft, Poesie und Dissonanz".

Johannes Anders. Jazz'n'More, Juli/August 2005


BARRY GUY NEW ORCHESTRA: OORT-ENTROPY (Intakt)
Die Reduktion von Guys Ensemble auf 10 Köpfe zeigt immer größere Wirkung: vor allem die gesponnenen feinen Linien, die sich aus den Tutti-Knäuel wieder herauswinden, wirken herrlich in ihrer Dynamik und Transparenz. Auch mittels Re-Interpretationen von Guys Trio-Kompositionen webt dieses großartige Orchester unglaublich faszinierende Strukturen, in denen Künstlichkeit und Natürlichkeit ein Material wird. Ungemein sanft wie stark.

HONKER. Terz. 30.06.2005

New Orchestra nennt Barry Guy sein neu formiertes Ensemble aus Improvisatoren und Free Jazzern. Es scheint, als ob er sein in den späten 60igern gegründetes London Jazz Composers Orchestra wieder aufleben lassen würde, denn damals war die Zeit noch nicht reif für experimentelle, frei improvisierte Musik mit einem großen Ensemble. Das Publikum fehlte, und nach einigen Jahren wurde das Projekt abgebrochen. Barry Guy und seinem New Orchestra ist zu wünschen, dass die Zeit nun reif ist für seine Big-Band-musikalischen Überlegungen und dass er ein breites Publikum findet. Wird zwar nicht passieren, aber man darf doch noch wünschen!
Frisch, innovativ, unkompliziert und spontan kommen die Töne, die Stücke nehmen unerwartete Wendungen, und die Musiker nützen ihre Freiheiten, ohne sich in elendslangen Selbstdarstellungsversuchen zu verlieren. Von den Musikern seien noch explizit Hans Koch an der Bassklarinette, Mats Gustafsson am Baritonsaxofon und Johannes Bauer an der Posaune erwähnt, sie setzen absolut berührende Highlights mit ihren Soli.

akro, Concerto, Österreich, August/September 2005

S’adonnant avec ténacité au mélange des genres (jazz, musique improvisée, contemporain), restait au contrebassiste Barry Guy à régler la question du nombre. Chose faite, sur Oort-entropy, dernier album en date, pour lequel il aura dû conduire neuf musiciens au sein d’un New Orchestra idéal.
Sur un traité de décomposition oscillant sans cesse entre l’unisson d’intervenants choisis et l’amalgame de décisions individuelles en réaction, l’auditeur n’a d’autre choix que de dresser la liste des atouts remarquables - options irréprochables du batteur Paul Lytton, couleurs fauves que le tromboniste Johannes Bauer distille à l’ensemble. Volée d’attaques incandescentes, Part I connaît aussi quelques pauses, convalescences prescrites par Guy et AgustÍ Fernández, pianiste imposant un romantisme inédit.
Les notes inextricables du duo Parker / Guy inaugurent ensuite Part II, pièce envahie par des nappes harmoniques sur lesquelles se greffent des souffles en transit, la flamboyance du trompettiste Herb Robertson, ou encore, l’étrange musique d’un monde de métal (coulissant, grinçant, résonant). Un hurlement de Mats Gustafsson règlera le compte des indécisions, ouvrant la voie au chaos instrumental, mené jusqu’aux flammes par la batterie de Raymond Strid.
Si Part I déployait en filigrane l’influence de Berio, Part III joue plus volontiers des tensions dramatiques d’opéras plus anciens. Majestueux, Evan Parker déroule des phrases derrière lesquelles tout le monde attend, fulgurances aigues sur énergie qui ne faillit pas. Dévalant en compagnie de Fernández les partitions en pente, le soprano mène une danse implacable, malheureusement mise à mal par l’intervention de Strid, qui vient grossièrement perturber l’évolution de la trame, jusqu’à la rendre trouble.
Si cette erreur de dosage n’avait été, Guy se serait montré irréprochable dans la conduite d’un microcosme en désagrégation, mis en reliefs par une palette irréprochable de musiciens en furie. Abrasif à la limite du délictueux et production léchée, il faudra aussi voir en Oort-entropy une référence indispensable à qui veut s’essayer à la cosmogonie des conflits de Barry Guy.

Chroniqué par Grisli, France, August 2005, www.infratunes.com

For the last four decades, British bassist Barry Guy has continually charted a personal path in advanced improvisational settings. His endeavors range from free contexts to arranged ensembles; from solo work to orchestra; from long-term groups to ad hoc meetings; from Baroque music to electro-acoustic experiments. Through it all, his balance of formal structures and dynamic improvisation is always at play. These two recent releases are further proof of his mastery.
After decades working with the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, the challenges of assembling such a large ensemble on any consistent basis led to thoughts of forming a mid-size group. Formed four years ago, the synthesis of the Barry Guy New Orchestra came from Guy’s working trios: the longstanding Evan Parker trio with Paul Lytton, the more recent trio with Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid, and a trio with Marilyn Crispell and Lytton. Filling out the group are bass clarinetist Hans Koch, trombonist Johannes Bauer, trumpet player Herb Robertson, and tuba player Per Åke Holmlander. Agustí Fernández recently replaced Crispell, a musician recommended by his predecessor and someone many in the group had worked with. As one might expect, it is Guy’s compositional form that shapes the three-part piece. The basis for Oort-Entropy are themes originally written for the trio with Crispell and Lytton. Starting each section of the piece with a bass/reed duet, the ensemble takes off , bustling through full-on collective playing, settling into smaller sub-groupings, or opening up for solo statements. But there is never the sense of bravado that too often overcomes the Brötzmann Tentet these days, nor is there a feeling that this is simply a scaled back version of the LJCO. Guy knows how to make the most of the musicians, massing the entire group, piling skirling reeds over low end brass, or hocketing lines back and forth over cascading piano. Fernández does a noble job filling Crispell’s seat, bringing a more percussive attack while playing down the melodic cells of the music. With a group like this, one expects strong solos all around, and of course no one disappoints. This is particularly true in the final section with the ensemble punching out clarion rising phrases against Parker’s cycling lines surfing the waves of the paired drummers and then releasing to a section of low brass against piano flurries. While not quite as strong as Inscape-Tableaux, their resplendent premier disk, this is still well worth searching out.

Mixing Baroque composition and contemporary improvisation on a single CD could easily end up as a contrived, overly-precious disaster. This is, of course, unless the musicians at the helm are Barry Guy and Maya Homburger. Guy is one of the rare musicians who is equally comfortable in both worlds having balanced four decades of improvisation with professional performances of Baroque music including a stint in Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music. As a preeminent performer on Baroque violin, Homburger brings a deep-seated understanding of that vocabulary into the world of improvisation. For several of the pieces, percussionist Pierre Favre is added to expand the sonic palette. Guy’s compositional sense comes through even in this intimate setting. The program mixes pieces by 17th century composers H.I.F. Biber and Dario Castello with improvisational forms by Guy with an introductory improvisation based on the Roman Catholic hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus.” Biber’s “Passacaglia” for solo violin and his “Crusifixion, Mystery Sonata X” along with Castello’s “Sonata Seconda”, both for violin and bass, are performed with a stately grace. The two players invest the pieces with a natural freedom that resonates with Guy’s pieces. On “Inachis,” Homburger plays composed parts against Guy’s improvisations, and here the structural abstractions of Guy’s form bristle with spiraling momentum. The 19 minute title piece adds pre-recorded electronics as well as Favre’s percussion. Here, Guy’s orchestration intermixes soaring composed themes, interludes of free bass and percussion interplay and lush taped soundscapes to create a piece full of knotty layers and evolving juxtapositions. “Peace Piece” pairs Guy with Favre, starting out with an extended extrapolation of the theme by Guy and then slowly weaving in percussion colorations. At 75 minutes long, this is a demanding listen, but the individual components show Guy’s breadth in creating forms for collective collaboration.

Michael Rosenstein, SIGNAL to NOISE , USA, August 2005

Big-Band-Jazz für das nächste Jahrtausend.

Nick Liebmann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

The momentous music marks the auspicious recorded debut of Barry Guy's newly retooled and streamlined large ensemble, concisely christened the New Orchestra. His well-established London Jazz Composers Orchestra held a reigning position as the preeminent grand-scale improvising ensemble in Europe and abroad for years. This new assemblage builds upon the strengths of its predecessor while striking out in bold new directions. Rather than a distillation of the earlier colossus, it's more of a reimagining. Expanding the pool of suspects from a predominately British cohort to one drawing from a broadly multinational base, Guy's outfit remains redoutable in its ability to flatten the skeptics. As in previous meetings of the LJCO, the new piece balances complex composition and free improvisation with an Ellington-like emphasis on individual voicings. the rallied players are among the most formidable and unique in the global improvisatory community and Guy's score maximises their choices for individual and collective invention. The musicians in turn seize upon the structured freedom, rallying through an inventory of inspired combinations.Crispell's piano is a guiding beacon throughout much of the melee, manoeuvring the group and joining together the piece's myriad sections. The shifts between lyrical and the tempestuous are so sudden and numerous as to become dizzying. Sections of relative reverie intersperse moments of collective and concerted high impact blowing, bowing, pounding and bashing. In the first segment alone Bauer, Parker, and Gustafsson self immolate in instrument splintering solos above a percussive conflagration. Crispell's piano and Parker's circular blown soprano burst forth from the ensemble trailed by the unctuous brass of Robertson. Bauer and Holmlander only to resurface again together in the early minutes of 'Part II.' Later Guy and Crispell meet in a sombre contemplative duet commented on by growling, suspirating horns. It's a pairing they return to and explore more fully in the opening minutes of 'Part IV' only to be joined again by the horns and percussion, this time in meditative confluence. The disc is filled with these sorts of diadic interactions, initial forays that are eventually amplified through renewed associations in subsequent sections of the piece. 'Part V' quickly redeposits the group in dissonant surroundings, eventually parting for soaring turns from Bauer and eventually Robertson. Crispell's categorical clusters part a path for first Holmlander on deeply resonating tuba, and then Koch on register bucking bass clarinet during the initial segments of 'Part VI.' The concluding 'Part VII' offers a final descent into the maelstrom with individual solos giving sway to volley after volley ensemble energy – a fitting end to hear the group converge a full muster. Guy has effectively reshaped his most renowned composing vehicle into a new entity every bit as arresting as its predecessor. Engineer Peter Pfister deserves special commendation for capturing the massive sonic complexity of the band with such pristine clarity. Each instrument is clearly and concisely discernible even during the most opaque and violent moments of full ensemble release.

Derek Taylor, Cadance, N. Y., October 2001

There are so many levels on which this magnificent set of performances led and orchestrated by bassist Barry Guy can be appreciated. What he calls his New Orchestra is essentially a pared down version of his larger London Composers Jazz Orchestra, but this smaller group is no less potent or any less convincing. For one thing, there is Guy's brilliant writing, which permits the players – and these include some of the cream of the European jazz avant-garde – to flourish through individual solo contributions wrapped around kernels and flashes of magical insights. Saxophonists Mats Gustafsson and Evan Parker exemplify the high level of improvisation, but there is a wealth of talent everywhere, including pianist Marilyn Crispell, trumpeter Herb Robertson, and trombonist Johannes Bauer. At heart, Guy is a landscape artist who paints broadly and passionately, but who pays careful attention to details. His own voice on bass is heard here more than with his larger conglomerations – an additional treat. In the end, it is the broad strokes, the vision, the grandeur that most impress. A magnificent achievement.

Steven A. Loewy, All Music Guide, March 2001

Bassist/composer Barry Guy aligns a multinational band for this newly released CD featuring other modern jazz/improvising luminaries such as Guy's longtime musical partner, saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Marilyn Crispell, trumpeter Herb Robertson, percussionist Paul Lytton and others. Basically, the music might elicit notions of one huge traffic jam amid moments of subtly stated interludes and the soloists' quietly energetic exchanges. Overall, the bassist's new effort is a noteworthy entry into the ever expansive British Free/Euro jazz movement. Hence, Guy has always been a significant and altogether important player in these modern jazz and improvisational based genres.

Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz, USA, Juli 2001

British virtuoso bassist and composer Guy continues to explore the ambiguous area between improvisation and composition, this time exchanging his London Jazz Composers Orchestra for an all-star tentet. In addition to being frequent collaborators in smaller bands, all of the participants have specialized abilities Guy puts to good use – such as Mats Gustafsson's percussive saxophone pointillism, Johannes Bauer's trombone brashness, drummers Paul Lytton's and Raymond Strid's crisp, unsystematic accents, and the rapid articulation of saxophonist Evan Parker and pianist Marilyn Crispell. Inscape-Tableaux, in seven sections, ranges from quiet and tranquil to jagged and volatile; passages of intense improv distill down to concentrated statements, with scored episodes offering respite and focus. As the instrumental combinations multiply and divide, there's a friction of unexpected voicings, and sparks fly. Though the reduced forces allow more flexibility and freedom, the music benefits from Guy's guidance.

Art Lange

Inscape-Tableaux is breathtaking – right off the bat. As the ten-piece orchestra spits up a screech, bustling, Per Åke Holmlander's tuba bumbles in, a lopsided lorry settling into a complex landscape. Bassist Barry Guy's New Orchestra is, simply, an extraordinary collection of European and American impovisers: Marilyn Crispell (piano); Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Hans Koch (reeds), Johannes Bauer (trombone), Herb Robertson (trompet), Holmlander (tuba), Paul Lytton and Raymond Strid (percussion). Guy, Lytton, and Parker's recent work with Crispell is always close to the surface: the 'tableaux' – a suite of seven multi-layered pieces clustered with frightening discord and stark, irreducible beauty – builds up around them. Indeed, Crispell is in exceptional form. Frequently presented with open spaces, she unleashes labyrinths or tears pockets of space into chasms. Even when she runs below the ensemble, Crispell can set you into revierie or run you flat up against a wall.

Coda Magazin, Canada, July/August 2001

Barry Guy ist einer der Väter des europäischen Free Jazz. Stets haben den Bassisten und Komponisten die Wechsel von Dissonanz und Harmonie interessiert. Oft siedelte die Dichte des Klangs nah an den akademischen Neutönern Europas. Leichte Kost war das nie. Mit zehn Musikern ist das neue Orchester kleiner. Hervorragende Solisten, voran Marilyn Crispell und Evan Parker, bieten eine robuste Melange von Eksatse hin zu erhabner Einkehr umd umgekehrt.

Leipziger Volkszeitung, 12. April 2001

Bisher meinte ich noch in jeder Einspielung von Barry Guys Jazz Composers Orchestra ein Haar in der Suppe zu finden. Das BARRY GUY NEW ORCHESTRA macht mir dagegen bisher ungetrübten Spaß. Was für eine Besetzung aber auch. Auf der 7-teiligen Suite Inscape - Tableaux (Intakt 066) spielen Marilyn Crispell (piano), Evan Parker und Mats Gustafsson (sax), Hans Koch (clarinet, sax), Johannes Bauer (trombone), Herb Robertson (trumpet), Per Åke Holmlander (tuba) und die beiden Perkussionisten Paul Lytton und Raymond Strid neben dem Komponisten selbst am Kontrabass. Vereint im Bewusstsein, dass "music is sound ... truth-bearing sound ... beautiful sound that relocates the locus of beauty". Guys Comprovisation entwickelt unmittelbar eine mitreißende Verve, Passagen wilder Dramatik wechseln mit nahezu mystischem Tasten nach dem richtigen nächsten Ton. Der unverwechselbare Klang jeder einzelnen Stimme ist ein Element der Komposition. Individuelle Expressivität und Introspektion werden fugenlos integriert in eine musikalische Gussform, in der Guy seine ganze Erfahrung mit und seine Vision von Außenskelett und Substanz eines Orchesterklangkörpers einfließen lässt. Wie in allem Perfekten, schwingt Perfektes mit: Die so ganz englischen Brassinnovationen eines Michael Gibbs, John Surman, Keith Tippett, Mike Westbrook ... – der elegische Part IV klingt aber nicht nur wie eine Reminiszenz an dessen Blake-Hommagen, er scheint den Geist des Proto-Blueser John Dowland zu beschwören und im folgenden Posaunensolo klingen die herzzerreißendsten Lamentos der Musikgeschichte mit an.

Bad Alchemy, Würzburg, Deutschland, 38/2001

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Technical rider

1 Grand Piano, tuned with adjustable piano stool
9 chairs, 10 music stands, one small table for bows, brushes, sticks (Barry Guy)
Amplifier: one bass amp and 15" speaker (or combo) of very good quality e.g. Hartke or Gallien Krüger, SWP or Trace Elliott.
2 Jazz Drum kits (important: NOT Rock & Roll kits) for Paul Lytton and Raymond Strid Snare drum and stand, 12" small tom tom, 14" large tom tom, 18" Bass Drum (with front head), 3 cymbal stands, hi-hat, drum stool, bass drum pedal.

Drums must have Remo Ambassador Heads or similar NOT oil filled heads.

If the venue is supportive of acoustic music, the BGNO will only need amplification for the bass and piano plus three monitors next to piano and percussion, since we prefer to play without a large PA system.

If the room needs a PA system please refer to the stage plan.

(will send the stage plan by post)

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CDs

INSCAPE – TABLEAUX Intakt CD 066
OORT ENTROPY Intakt CD 101
AMPHI, RADIO RONDO Intakt CD 235