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Fruits of the Canterbury Scene: In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Bash, the Muffins

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The Canterbury Scene (and sound) stems from bands who emerged from England's Canterbury region in the late 60s/early 70s to create a wholly new fusion of rock and jazz, forming what would eventually evolve into the progressive music scene.

The following releases represent recordings that show what that classic template has become n modern times...

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IN CAHOOTS: All That (CD on Cuneiform Records)

This CD from 2003 features 68 minutes of hot jazz.

In Cahoots consists of: Phil Miller on guitar, Fred Baker on bass, Pete Lemer on keyboards, Jim Dvorak on trumpet, Elton Dean on saxophones, and Mark Fletcher on drums. This personnel is culled from numerous Canterbury bands, from the legendary Soft Machine, to more modern ensembles like National Health.

These liquid melodies are replete with: nimble keyboards snaking like ethereal corridors through a sturdy mountainside, persistent drumming that coaxes the tuneage to a soft relentlessness, fiery basslines that often function as the lead instrument, passionate horns that lift the mix to emphatic heights, and blazing guitar licks that cook the audience's brains with their clever hooks.

Each instrument gets the opportunity to flourish in glorious solos before sinking back into the passionate gestalt. The pace is ruthless, but in a wholly congenial manner.

The compositions are imperial, blending compulsive beats with unrestrained riffing to produce tunes that rival even the masters of the genre. Distraction is achieved via passages that fuse alternate instruments into an engaging unity. The result is big-sound music that is demonstrative but lulling with an incandescent dazzle.

Some of the purest progrock manifests as slippery jazz.

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PIP PYLE'S BASH: Belle Illusion (CD on Cuneiform Records)

This CD from 2004 features 67 minutes of enjoyable progrock recorded at a pair of performances, one at Le Triton in Paris on June 6, 2003 and one at the Progman Cometh Festival in Seattle on August 10, 2003.

Bash! is: Pip Pyle on drums, Alex Maguire on keyboards, Fender Rhodes and Hammond, Patrice Meyer on guitar, and Fred T. Baker on bass, with special guest Elton Dean on saxophone.

To trivialize Pyle's superb percussion would be criminal. His drumming has been a mainstay through the evolution of progrock, with his work with such bands as Gong, National Health, Hatfield and the North, In Cahoots Soft Heap, and many more. His performance (and compositional work) on this release firmly corroborates his deserved renown. The rhythms alternate between comfortable and frenetic, forcefully pounding out tempos that energize and propel the tunes as well as the audience.

Macquire's keyboards are oily smooth, describing lush chords that sweep the stage and linger like tasty manna. His riffs are nimble-fingered and sweet, evoking a strong historic sense while brimming with in-the-moment euphoria.

Meyer's guitar is marvelous, cut in a relaxed mode that is both sharp and cordial. He belts out notes that sparkle with inspired luster.

Baker's bass is durable and trustworthy, maintaining a guttural undercurrent that purrs more than it rumbles. Often, its presence is downright sultry in the music.

Overall, the tuneage is a vivacious dose of rhapsodic music, driven by tight structure while frequently giving in to each musician's urge to explore and share the joy.

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THE MUFFINS: Double Negative (CD on Cuneiform Records)

This CD from 2004 features 78 minutes of horn-heavy tuneage of superb merit.

The Muffins are: Thomas Frasier Scott on saxophones, flute, clarinet, keyboards, percussion and programming, Dave Newhouse on keyboards, saxophones, clarinet, flute and flarinette, Billy Swann on bass and acoustic guitar, and Paul Sears on drums and electric guitar. Guests include: Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott (both from the Sun Ra Arkestra), and Doug Elliot, Amy Taylor, Kristin Snyder, Laura Dent, Okorie Johnson, and Janusch.

Horns dominate this music, deeply resonant brass that glorifies a strenuous mountainside ascent, building a sturdy bridge between heaven and earth. Sometimes pensive and ponderous, these horns can be equally glorious voicing celebratory refrains that express playful jubilation with cheerful abandon.

Keyboards function prominently here, defining grand sweeps and nimble melodies of monumental scope. Pianos provide a somber cadence, while electrified keys inject a good-time feeling to the tuneage. Riffs swoop from the sky to frolic in the midst of the songs, agitating everything with their infectious melodies.

Percussion is indispensable. Enormous rhythms rock the house, while more agile beats describe auxiliary tempos that wantonly inspire toe-tapping.

Growling basslines sneak furtively through the mix, providing crucial foundations and periodically surfacing to punctuate the flow with their dense rumbling.

Guitars ( both acoustic and electric) contribute to the music. Whether searing or establishing romantic stylings, these guitars remain subdued, pinned under the jovial weight of the assertive horns.

A big band sound rules this music, albeit tinged by modern sensibilities that plunge the tuneage beyond an orchestra house, spilling out into the street to march forth with jocular accord. Blithe moods are generated by these songs, for a cheerful sense of humor lurks within the dense compositions.

Although not directly a "Canterbury" band (being based in the Maryland/Virginia area), the Muffins exemplify the widespread growth of that sound and what progrock is today.

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