by Ian Mann
November 24, 2023
Often luminously beautiful “Everything Unfolding From Emptiness” represents a perfect mood piece. Both musicians perform with great skill and sensitivity.
Alex Bonney & Will Glaser
“Everything Unfolding From Emptiness”
(Not Applicable Records NOT068)
Alex Bonney – trumpet, percussion, synthesiser
Will Glaser – gongs, drums, percussion
I’m grateful to Alex Bonney for forwarding me of a review copy of this recently released duo album that sees him collaborating with the drummer and percussionist Will Glaser.
Bonney is one of the unsung heroes of British jazz and has appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on multiple occasions, both as a musician and as a recording engineer with a growing international reputation. He has engineered literally dozens of British jazz and improv recordings for a wide variety of record labels, all of them to a uniformly high standard, and is in great demand in this capacity.
As a trumpeter and electronic musician his playing has been heard with bassist / bandleaders Dave Kane, Olie Brice and Michael Janisch and with the bands Leverton Fox, BABs, Golden Age of Steam, Fofoulah, Brass Mask and World Sanguine Report. He has also collaborated with leading improvisers such as bassist John Edwards, drummers Mark Sanders and Steve Noble, saxophonists Paul Dunmall and Rachel Musson, tuba player Oren Marshall and guitarist / clarinettist Alex Ward.
Bonney also leads his own quartet featuring Brice, saxophonist James Allsopp and drummer Jeff Williams. This line up released the digital album “Halda Ema” on the Loop Collective label in 2017.
Bonney has also been part of drummer Will Glaser’s “Climbing In Circles” series of recordings. Parts one and two were digital only releases, the first recorded in January 2019 and featuring the duo of Glaser and saxophonist Matthew Herd. This saw the pair tackling five interpretations of jazz standards, interspersed by a further four freely improvised pieces.
Part two saw Glaser duetting with pianist Liam Noble, one of the drummer’s former tutors. Again the programme featured five standards and four improvisations and included three of the standards that had been performed on the first album. Inevitably they ended up sounding very different in this alternative instrumental format.
These two digital releases remain available from Glaser’s Bandcamp page, which can be accessed via his website
The third volume, simply titled “Climbing In Circles” saw Glaser bringing Herd and Noble together in a trio format. It was the first album in the series to be granted a CD release with Glaser signing to the Ubuntu record label. This excellent recording, again featuring a mix of standards and improvisations, was released in January 2021 and is reviewed here;
“Climbing In Circles Part 4” saw Bonney joining the duo of Glaser and Herd, with the latter playing piano as well as saxophone. Bonney is credited with electronics and processing and his contribution makes a substantial difference to the sound with all eleven pieces being jointly credited to Glaser / Herd / Bonney. Album review here;
Others with whom Glaser has worked include saxophonists James Allsopp, Soweto Kinch, Sam Glaser, Josephine Davies, Stan Sulzmann, Tom Challenger and Alex Garnett, pianists Kit Downes, Nikki Iles, Stella Roberts and Jason Rebello, vocalists Cleo Laine and Ian Shaw, trumpeters Laura Jurd, Henry Lowther, Freddie Gavita and Sam Eastmond, guitarists Moss Freed and Chris Allard, trombonists Tom Dunnett and Sarah Gail Brand, bassists Olie Brice and Ruth Goller, flautist Eddie Parker, fellow drummer Dave De Rose and the bands Snack Family, World Sanguine Report, Dinosaur and Empirical. It’s a diverse and impressive list that demonstrates Glaser’s qualities of skill, versatility and adaptability. To these can be added a love of the jazz tradition, as evidenced by his explorations of a number of standards on the early “Climbing In Circles” albums.
Glaser and Bonney join forces again for this duo album, released by the musicians’ collective Not Applicable. The album was recorded over the course of a single day at Dilston Gallery, a converted church in Southwark Park, London with Bonney functioning as both musician and recording engineer. All eight pieces are jointly credited to Bonney and Glaser and I presume them to be freely improvised. The track titles take their names from traditional Japanese Zen Poetry by Izumi Shikibu and Ryokan, with the distinctive artwork by Kazland completing a very classy album package.
The album commences with “Solitary, Mid Sky”, with the soft chiming of Glaser’s gongs augmented by Bonney’s trumpet whispers. The sound is ethereal and spacious, with the acoustics of the converted church coming into play. There’s something of an ‘ECM’ feel about the music and one suspects that the sounds of three trumpeters associated with the label, namely Jon Hassell, Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer may have been influential for Bonney in the past.
Bonney adopts a more powerful trumpet sound on “Although the wind blows terribly here”, his phrasing answered by Glaser’s drum commentary, which sounds like mallets on toms, there are no cymbals. That sense of fragility and spaciousness remains, with Bonney’s trumpet ringing around the gallery walls.
“the moonlight also leaks” features the sounds of percussion, including the rustling of shakers and noises replicating the sound of dripping water. Bonney’s trumpet eventually emerges, a grandiose but melancholic sound with something of the air of “The Last Post” about it. Glaser’s playing expands to incorporate more traditional kit drum sounds as he and Bonney enter into a dialogue featuring increasingly stentorian trumpeting matched by appropriately powerful drumming. It’s one of the album’s most dramatic and arresting tracks.
“between the roofplanks” introduces the sound of synthesiser alongside trumpet and drums. There’s a suitably shadowy feel about the music on an atmospheric piece named for a liminal space.
Even more mysterious is “of this ruined house” with its eerie synth drones punctuated by the resonations of gongs and the shivery splash of cymbals. Lonely, melancholic trumpet subsequently emerges, a humanising voice, but one that sounds lost in the darkness of space.
“The thief left it behind” commences with the sound of cymbals, joined by mournfully ringing trumpet as Glaser and Bonney enter into a dialogue that also includes dramatic drum interjections and delicate trumpet / cymbal episodes.
“The moon” features the sound of ringing gongs and fidgety trumpet as part of another atmospheric and highly rewarding dialogue. This is an album that is concerned with ambience and mood building rather than demonstrating instrumental virtuosity or extended techniques. It’s very different in feel to most improvised recordings, many of which can be almost frighteningly intense.
The album concludes with “at my window”, another piece that demonstrates the sheer musicality of Glaser’s array of gongs and other percussion. It’s also one of the album’s most impressionistic pieces, spacey and mysterious with Bonney’s trumpet a fragile, whispering presence among the eerie droning and shimmering of the gongs.
Often luminously beautiful “Everything Unfolding From Emptiness” represents a perfect mood piece. There’s a pictorial quality to the music that suggests that it could be utilised as a film or TV soundtrack. Although the mood remains reflective almost throughout the duo conjure an impressive range of sounds, colours and textures from the limited instrumentation available to them. Both musicians perform with great skill and sensitivity while Bonney’s engineering skills ensure that all the subtleties and nuances of the playing are faithfully documented. It’s an album that is likely to hold some appeal to the Late Junction / Night Tracks / Freeness audience and it would be good if it could gain some much needed exposure on Radio 3 (if it has been on already I’ve managed to miss it).
Meanwhile Bonney appears on “The Beholder’s Share”, another recent release for the Bead record label. It features the electro-acoustic trio of Bonney, saxophonist and drummer Mark Sanders and is closer to the hurly burly of conventional free improv with three lengthy improvised items. However Bonney’s synth and laptop (he also plays trumpet) bring an unusual and distinctive additional element to the music. I hope to take a fuller look at this recording in due course.
Meanwhile “Everything Unfolding From Emptiness” is available from the Not Applicable Bandcamp page
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