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Rachel Musson’s Skein - Flight Line Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An assured début from a saxophonist and composer whose reputation on the UK scene is sure to be enhanced by this highly accomplished release.

Rachel Musson’s Skein

“Flight Line”

(F-ire Presents F-IRE CD37)

This attractively packaged album marks the recording début as leader of tenor saxophonist and composer Rachel Musson. Born in South Wales Musson is now based in London and is becoming an increasingly important figure on the capital’s jazz and improv scenes.

Musson was a member of an early edition of Polar Bear and Seb Rochford returns the compliment here by penning the album’s liner notes. There’s something of Rochford’s influence in Musson’s writing too and also in the doubling up of instruments, Skein’s line up includes the twin drummers Josh Morrison and Javier Carmona. Barcelona born Carmona is highly active on the London improv scene and also works with Musson as a duo, Morrison comes to the music from a more obviously jazz perspective. Completing the Skein line up are the excellent pianist Alcyona Mick, a composer and band leader in her own right, and the much in demand bass player Will Collier, himself the leader of his own sextet.

In addition to the musical activities outlined above Musson is also a member of the E17 Jazz Collective and appears as part of the E17 Large Ensemble. She also plays with bassist Olie Bryce’s chordless quartet and has worked with ex Loose Tubes saxophonist Steve Buckley (another major influence), drummer Federico Ughi and saxophonist/composer Caroline Kraabel.

Skein’s music steers a neat passage between between formal structure and improvisation. The ten items in the programme are all Musson originals with the exception of the tune “Swansea Town” by John Davies, an affectionate acknowledgement of Musson’s Welsh roots.

Opener “It’s Because Of The Sky” features a loping Polar Bear style bass groove and muscular, probing tenor from Musson with Mick’s piano providing some leavening sweetness. There are more freely improvised moments featuring tenor and the twin drummers in a piece that neatly encapsulates Musson’s strengths with the powerful, attention grabbing theme providing the jumping off point for freer, more exploratory episodes.

“White Ribbon (part 1)” is more frankly into improvisation with Musson blowing powerfully above the colourful rumbles and shimmers of the two percussionists. However it’s not totally “out”, snatches of folk derived melody help to keep things eminently listenable. 

“Chairs”, with a memorable solo from Mick illustrates the group’s more pastoral and impressionistic side. Its followed by “I’m Sure This Wasn’t The Plan” which combines Loose Tubes style quirkiness, Monkish piano voicings and the now customary freely improvised moments. 

The name of the following piece, “Scrumping” also hints at the frequently made Loose Tubes comparison, it’s the kind of title you can just imagine Django Bates, Iain Ballamy or Chris Batchelor using. Introduced by Collier’s bass the tune features Musson’s sometimes long, sometimes snappy melody lines above colourful percussion, followed by a wonderfully inventive and percussive solo from Mick at the piano. There’s then a feature for Collier followed by a dialogue between bass and percussion. The twin percussionists are at the heart of the music, responding to each soloist in turn.

John Davies’ “Swansea Town” is an unashamedly romantic return to Musson’s roots, her lush tenor bringing out the beauty of Davies’ melody but simultaneously probing hard enough to keep things interesting and in tune with the rest of the album.

“That Reminds Me Of The Time” begins with a passage that recalls Polar Bear’s sepia tinged lyricism before suddenly exploding into vibrant, swinging life. Mick contributes a particularly vivacious solo and in the main the mood is one of neatly controlled exuberance.

“Irreconcilable” is more lyrical than the title might suggest with Musson and Mick soloing effectively above a busy rhythmic undertow. There’s also some excellent solo bass from Collier, a striking combination of a hugely resonant tone allied to a strong melodic sense.

The two part “Presently/Rollin’” begins as a ballad and is introduced by a passage of solo piano that features Mick at her most lyrical. The second part of the piece sees Musson take centre stage as the mood changes to the whimsical and playful.

“White Ribbon (part 2)” is a more lyrical reprise of the earlier piece with the group bringing out the full beauty of the melody. Collier’s unaccompanied bass opens the proceedings before Musson takes up the melody and expounds upon it. Mick’s solo is typically compelling and the percussionists continue to supply the rhythm, nuance and fine detail that is present throughout the album.

The music on “Flight Line” may not be easy to either categorise or describe but it is invariably interesting with a good balance between the written and the improvised. Musson has assembled an excellent group and the level of interaction and understanding between the musicians is consistently high. This is distinctively British music with strong melodic themes and marks an assured début from a saxophonist and composer whose reputation on the UK scene is sure to be enhanced by this highly accomplished release. 

Flight Line

Rachel Musson’s Skein

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Flight Line

An assured début from a saxophonist and composer whose reputation on the UK scene is sure to be enhanced by this highly accomplished release.

Rachel Musson’s Skein

“Flight Line”

(F-ire Presents F-IRE CD37)

This attractively packaged album marks the recording début as leader of tenor saxophonist and composer Rachel Musson. Born in South Wales Musson is now based in London and is becoming an increasingly important figure on the capital’s jazz and improv scenes.

Musson was a member of an early edition of Polar Bear and Seb Rochford returns the compliment here by penning the album’s liner notes. There’s something of Rochford’s influence in Musson’s writing too and also in the doubling up of instruments, Skein’s line up includes the twin drummers Josh Morrison and Javier Carmona. Barcelona born Carmona is highly active on the London improv scene and also works with Musson as a duo, Morrison comes to the music from a more obviously jazz perspective. Completing the Skein line up are the excellent pianist Alcyona Mick, a composer and band leader in her own right, and the much in demand bass player Will Collier, himself the leader of his own sextet.

In addition to the musical activities outlined above Musson is also a member of the E17 Jazz Collective and appears as part of the E17 Large Ensemble. She also plays with bassist Olie Bryce’s chordless quartet and has worked with ex Loose Tubes saxophonist Steve Buckley (another major influence), drummer Federico Ughi and saxophonist/composer Caroline Kraabel.

Skein’s music steers a neat passage between between formal structure and improvisation. The ten items in the programme are all Musson originals with the exception of the tune “Swansea Town” by John Davies, an affectionate acknowledgement of Musson’s Welsh roots.

Opener “It’s Because Of The Sky” features a loping Polar Bear style bass groove and muscular, probing tenor from Musson with Mick’s piano providing some leavening sweetness. There are more freely improvised moments featuring tenor and the twin drummers in a piece that neatly encapsulates Musson’s strengths with the powerful, attention grabbing theme providing the jumping off point for freer, more exploratory episodes.

“White Ribbon (part 1)” is more frankly into improvisation with Musson blowing powerfully above the colourful rumbles and shimmers of the two percussionists. However it’s not totally “out”, snatches of folk derived melody help to keep things eminently listenable. 

“Chairs”, with a memorable solo from Mick illustrates the group’s more pastoral and impressionistic side. Its followed by “I’m Sure This Wasn’t The Plan” which combines Loose Tubes style quirkiness, Monkish piano voicings and the now customary freely improvised moments. 

The name of the following piece, “Scrumping” also hints at the frequently made Loose Tubes comparison, it’s the kind of title you can just imagine Django Bates, Iain Ballamy or Chris Batchelor using. Introduced by Collier’s bass the tune features Musson’s sometimes long, sometimes snappy melody lines above colourful percussion, followed by a wonderfully inventive and percussive solo from Mick at the piano. There’s then a feature for Collier followed by a dialogue between bass and percussion. The twin percussionists are at the heart of the music, responding to each soloist in turn.

John Davies’ “Swansea Town” is an unashamedly romantic return to Musson’s roots, her lush tenor bringing out the beauty of Davies’ melody but simultaneously probing hard enough to keep things interesting and in tune with the rest of the album.

“That Reminds Me Of The Time” begins with a passage that recalls Polar Bear’s sepia tinged lyricism before suddenly exploding into vibrant, swinging life. Mick contributes a particularly vivacious solo and in the main the mood is one of neatly controlled exuberance.

“Irreconcilable” is more lyrical than the title might suggest with Musson and Mick soloing effectively above a busy rhythmic undertow. There’s also some excellent solo bass from Collier, a striking combination of a hugely resonant tone allied to a strong melodic sense.

The two part “Presently/Rollin’” begins as a ballad and is introduced by a passage of solo piano that features Mick at her most lyrical. The second part of the piece sees Musson take centre stage as the mood changes to the whimsical and playful.

“White Ribbon (part 2)” is a more lyrical reprise of the earlier piece with the group bringing out the full beauty of the melody. Collier’s unaccompanied bass opens the proceedings before Musson takes up the melody and expounds upon it. Mick’s solo is typically compelling and the percussionists continue to supply the rhythm, nuance and fine detail that is present throughout the album.

The music on “Flight Line” may not be easy to either categorise or describe but it is invariably interesting with a good balance between the written and the improvised. Musson has assembled an excellent group and the level of interaction and understanding between the musicians is consistently high. This is distinctively British music with strong melodic themes and marks an assured début from a saxophonist and composer whose reputation on the UK scene is sure to be enhanced by this highly accomplished release. 


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