Peter Bacon's Jazz Diary: There's no smoke without F-IRE
A Loose Tubes for the 21st Century? It's a bold but perfectly apt way of looking at the F-IRE Collective who arrive in their full splendour at the CBSO Centre on Friday evening. Remember, Loose Tubes was the big band that revolutionised British jazz in the 1980s, a great, democratic collection of the brightest young jazz musicians. In the players and bands that formed upon its eventual and natural big bang, they form the vibrant 'establishment' of the music today.
So, a new generation and a new collective. The difference with F-IRE is that rather than a big band which eventually breaks up into smaller combos, they manage to be a bunch of constantly interacting small groups that sometimes come together to become one big band. The best of the Loose Tubes principal, then, mixed with the kind of repertory company that a record label like Blue Note was able to command in the 1960s, with musicians able to be group leaders on
today's session and sidemen or women on someone else's date tomorrow.
Favourites in the F-IRE stable are Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear, both featuring Seb Rochford on drums, Pete Wareham on saxophone and Tom Herbert on bass. Even with that identical core, these bands have very distinctive characters, suggesting their leaders (Wareham and Rochford respectively) are able to call the shots. What is striking listening to the excellent new two-CD sampler of current and future releases from the Collective (F-IRE Works: Volume Two, F-IRECD09) is the extraordinary range of the music.
Jonny Phillips' Oriole (excellent in concert at the Lichfield Jazz and Blues Festival in the summer) has a light, sunshiny vibe, mixing Spanish guitar, African percussion, classical cello and jazz saxophone. That same saxophonist, Ingrid Laubrock, in duo with pianist Liam Noble, produces a highly abstract, purely acoustic, free jazz exploration of timbre and space. Meta Meta, masterminded by Barak Schmool, is a fascinating exercise in drumming. Spin Marvel takes us into an electric rainstorm of sound that would enliven the most fashionable alternative club night, while Dr Seus remixes the sound of a piccolo in with the huge variety of found
sounds on turntables.
What unites this amazingly diverse selection of music is its vitality, its curiosity, its reluctance to be stuck in that pigeonhole called jazz, its embracing of sound wherever it is found. There is also a feeling that the Collective is very effective in quality control, that the individual musicians know their fellows within the group are their most informed and therefore sternest critics. Self-indulgence is not part of the ethos