For the 1983 edition of Company Week held at London's I.C.A. in May of that year, guitarist Derek Bailey once more invited a typically eclectic collection of guests. Cellist Ernst Reijseger is a mainstay of Dutch new jazz (ICP Orchestra, Clusone Trio...), American wind virtuoso J.D.Parran a veteran of the Black Artists' Group and Anthony Davis and Anthony Braxton ensembles, while saxophonists Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann, as titans of European free improvisation, need no introduction. French bassist/vocalist Joëlle Léandre is equally at home playing free or performing works by Cage and Scelsi, while Vinko Globokar is an acclaimed composer as well as a trombonist of monstrous virtuosity. He and British electronics pioneer Hugh Davies served time with Karlheinz Stockhausen, and before a brief stint with Robert Fripp's King Crimson, percussionist Jamie Muir was, with Davies, on the very first (Music Improvisation) Company outing in 1970. Bailey once described playing solo as a "second-rate activity"; while at the other end of the spectrum, large improvising ensembles can, if they're not careful, descend into the musical equivalent of a rugby scrum: dangerous, but thrilling -- listen to what happens when Brötzmann comes barreling into the final track here. Sometimes one instrument takes center stage, as Parker's circular-breathing soprano does at the beginning of "Trio Five", but knowing when to lie low, as he does in the brief austere "Trio Three", is just as crucial to the success of the whole. Muir makes sure he doesn't get in the way of Globokar and Parran's leisurely exchanges on "Trio Four", but the trombonist is all over the place on "Trio One" -- transcribe what Globokar does here and it might be the most difficult trombone music ever written -- with Léandre racing up and down her bass and Davies all spikes, squeaks and squiggles, after which "Trio Two" is a lighter affair, Parran's flute and Léandre's vocals twittering together while Derek's acoustic twangs merrily along. With a touch of dry Bailey humor, two of the seven tracks aren't trios at all: "Trio Minus One" is his duo with Reijseger, running the gamut from crazed polyrhythmic strumming (imagine Reinhardt and Grappelli playing Schoenberg and Nancarrow simultaneously) to what must be the fastest cello pizzicati ever recorded. And on the closing ecstatic nonet, Brötzmann and trumpeter John Corbett prove that too many cooks don't necessarily spoil the broth but sure as hell spice it up.
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