"Penny Rimbaud's How? by Crass Agenda, recorded live and unrehearsed at the Vortex, is a big slab of hardcore "beat cafe" experience, a long poem in response to Allen Ginsberg's famous Howl. "I saw the best minds of my generation gagged by the opiate of capital; fallen angels busting for a budgetary fix, established Christs nailed to cash or crucifix," declaims Rimbaud against a spontaneous underscore of saxes, basses, trumpet and drums." (John Walters - The Guardian)
The intoxicating combination of jazz and spoken word as part of the American beatnik counter-cultural movement of the 1950s is here resonantly reanimated for the 21st century. Penny Rimbaud from the Crass Agenda (ex-collective), a loose collective of musicians, performance artists and poets formed in 2003 by the leaders of the seminal anarcho-punk outfit Crass that split in 1984, has written HOW?, giving a twenty-first century voice to mystical beat poet Allen Ginsberg's most politically epic poem written in 1955 'Howl'. In this new work, Rimbaud says he has 'attempted to confront the innate madness of 'The New World Order', which he believes is 'a madness of an order that even Ginsberg could not have forseen in his wildest nightmares'. On this live recording at the late lamented Vortex Jazz Club in Stoke Newington in November last year as part of the London Jazz Festival, some key figures including Babel's own vocalist Christine Tobin, from London's energetic contemporary jazz improv scene provide the musical setting to Rimbaud's provocative readings. With the musicians hearing the lyrics only a few hours before the live recording, this was an expressively spontaneous performance typical of Crass Agenda's regular, highly successful gigs at the Vortex with a loose network of jazz musicians, dancers, poets and film-makers since the beginning of 2003. These proved stimulating, colourful evenings where the carefully 'dressed' stage by Gee Vaucher (also the sleeve designer for Babel) created the basis for a 2004 version of a "happening". In order to further their aim to 'push musical and political limits', these agit-punk innovators have been playing with some of London's finest contemporary jazz improvisers. Written in four parts, 'HOW?' significantly opens with Christine Tobin's haunting a capella rendition of the depression era folk song 'Brother Can You Spare a Dime' also covered by Christine on her Babel album 'Deep Song' from 2000. From then on the recording is a raw, electrified landscape of free jazz responding only to the candid word power inherent in Rimbaud's eloquent poetical fervour.
Crass Agenda potted Biogs
Penny Rimbaud Spokesman and political brainchild behind Crass, Penny has been a leading figure in UK political revolutionary culture from the late 1970s. Although nominally part of its initial wave, Penny blasted punk music's fake revolution, its deepening treacherous attitude towards its radical origins that had involved DIY culture and political protest.
Gee Vaucher is perhaps best known for the extensive body of work she created during the late seventies and early eighties. Quite apart from her now famous collages, as designer with Crass, she concentrated her highly developed painting skills on 'photorealism', creating some of the most disturbing and acclaimed images of the time. Her work is generally accepted as having been seminal to the iconography of the 'punk generation'. It will be included in a major retrospective of collage to be published by Thames & Hudson. When Crass disbanded in 1984, Vaucher felt the need to explore other areas of work, abandoning the tightness of her more 'overt' political statements in favour of a more loosely expressed personal politic. Most of her work since then has in some way been connected with the human form, intimately exploring the psychological diversities of social inter-relationships. she has been exhibited extensively both solo and in group shows throughout the world. She is currently the sleeve designer for Babel records.
And the jazz improvisers:
Christine Tobin is currently one of the leading, critically rated vocalists working out of the contemporary jazz scene. Her earlier work includes stints in Django Bates' Delightful Precipice, Tim Garland's Lammas, and she has worked in bands with Julian Arguelles, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Locke, Clark Tracey, Gary Husband and Billy Childs amongst many others as well as recording her own idiosyncratic singer song writing and interpretations now on her sixth album due out this month on Babel.
Saxophonist Ed Jones is also a respected jazz leader and collaborator himself, being involved with many aspects of jazz and beyond ranging from Acid Jazz in the 1990s (US3, Incognito) through to contemporary electronics, straight ahead jazz albums and contemporary classical collaborations.
Australian saxophonist and flautist Louise Elliot leads her band The African music-inspired Jazz Hearts that includes trumpeter Claude Deppa and also plays with the Grand Union Orchestra and Mervyn Africa Group, the Guest Stars and Jah Wobble.
Italian born bassist Davide Mantovani is also typical of the versatility of the artists on this CD, having wide artistic recording and performing experience with Steve Lodder, Spirit Level, Juan Martin, Monica Vasconcelos among others as well as extensively studying mime, acting and film score composition.
Finnish-born trumpeter Mika Myllari likewise has been plying in a versatile jazz arena and plays with Ed Jones band, his band MMQ won him best band of the year in Finland in 1990 and is a member of Tony Kofi's Monk Liberation Front.
Paul Clarvis is one of the most sought after drummers and percussionists; he has brought his exceptionally distinctive style to so many different settings, playing with a range of people as diverse as Elton John, John Adams, Elvis Costello, Michel Legrand, John Zorn, Ravi Shankar and Mark Antony Turnage. Paul has also recorded experimental global-reaching folk music for the Babel Label under the band name Orquestra Mahatma.
Brazilian double bassist Ricardo Dos Santos is a great veteran in the Brazilian cult jazz scene as a member of the great drummer Edison Machado's Quartet in the late 1960s. In the UK he has worked with Julian Joseph and David Jean-Baptiste among others.
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