Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle + Alex Ward – Red Kite (2015)

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Red Kite is the debut album by the London-based trio of Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle and Alex Ward. They came together because of the offer of a free recording session at the notorious Cro’s Nest — a South London studio. All four tracks were recorded in one afternoon.

Alex Ward has collaborated with Derek Bailey, he has his own powerhouse trio N.E.W. with Steve Noble and John Edwards and his duo with Jem Doulton. Andrew Lisle has worked with improvisors Daniel Thompson and Seymour Wright, and plays in Roland Ramanan’s Tentet and punk-improv band Shatner’s Bassoon. Colin Webster is known for his duos with drummer Mark Holub, and turntablist Graham Dunning, as well as performing with the Dutch free jazz/noise trio Dead Neanderthals.

The tracks on Red Kite (Raw Tonk) are titled, originally, as “i,” “ii,” “iii” and “iv.” The opening “i” is one long conversation between the instruments, each picking their moment, talking for a while, dominating — and then all begin a manic chatter, the drums and guitar weaving in and out with the sax. It develops in the middle section into a free-running, manic shouting match, with sax leading the others and the trademark stut blowing of Colin Webster overriding the others. The guitar then asserts itself over the others before the drums force the rhythm and hold the others to account. Around the 10-minute mark, it quietens down for a while with even a touch of blue notes coming out in the twangy, metallic guitar back-ups. Atmospheric twangs, bashes and trills interrupt the quiet before the re-birth of mayhem as the track finishes (at almost twenty minutes) with a wall of energetic, frenetic sound.

Meanwhile, Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle and Alex Ward’s “ii” is quieter in an explorative kind of way, as the instruments weave out, in and around each other for seven minutes or so of explorative creativity. That’s followed by “iii,” which slams in like a train. The sax shouts its presence, backed by guitar chords, seemingly chosen for their beautiful, imperfect clashing. The drums roll up, lazily at first but then build, along with the other instruments. This track is hard on the ears, but that is perhaps the intent. The sax and the drums at one point sound as if they are fighting for supremacy. Eventually, the sax brings everything down using a beautiful riff, which is taken up by the guitar and rums and changed into another wall of manic sound. The sax ends on a dying note, sounding as if it has simply given up.

Finally, “iv” throws in everything but the kitchen sink — a bit of stunt playing, a lot of deep notes, the guitar bouncing off the drums and sax until the three instruments are once more engaged in a ridiculous but very listenable conversation. A delightful middle section, with sax and guitar lightly chuntering away, gives the impression you are eavesdropping on some secret meeting. The instruments talk lightly, in hushed tones, using their own language, perhaps when the players have left the room. Everything goes right down, hushed, quiet and then the sax picks up a raunchy little theme, the drums take up the beat, the guitar decides to underpin the sax — which inspires more definitive drumming and soon the sounds build again. Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle and Alex Ward go nuts and the track suddenly ends, and you are dropped unceremoniously into deadly silence.

Red Kite is an album of extremes, where each musician explores, controls at different times and yet there is also a sense of listening, communicating and playing for a listener. The listener is the most important person in the room and, while Ayler might have said ‘I am not here to entertain,’ Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle and Alex Ward definitely are.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Sammy Stein
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