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|The inner universe of Bob Downes
by Claudio Bonomi
With the only notable exception of Spanish Plain, composition included in Elastic Jazz - an anthology of contemporary British Jazz (Auditorium, 2005, CD + book) - silence had fallen on Bob Downes, one of the most eclectic provocateurs on the British scene, between Sixties and Seventies. Then, in 2007, Vocalion’s Mike Dutton reprinted Diversions (1971), masterpiece of “open” jazz where Spanish Plain first had appeared, and followed suit with two other important items in this jazzman’s discography: Episodes at 4 AM (1974) and Hells Angels (1975). Finally, in december 2008, Mike King’s Reel Recording provided the icing on the cake: a previously unissued 1974 recording of the Bob Downes Open Music collective, titled Crossing Borders, in which Downes can be heard in the company of Barry Guy, Brian Godding, Paul Rutherford, John Stevens and others. A cultivated musician, adept of musical cross-breeding, a virtuoso of the flute (he’s able to play more than 25 instruments) and a composer for theatre and modern dance companies, Bob Downes has been active in music for over forty, tumultuous years. After starting out with the John Barry 7 in the early Sixties, he worked with Mike Westbrook, Keith Tippett, Ray Russell, John Stevens, Barre Phillips, Linsday Cooper, Julie Driscoll etc before launching, in the early Seventies, his own Open Music, one of the most fertile and advanced musical collectives of its times, on a level with the Sponteneous Music Ensemble or the AMM of Eddie Prévost and Keith Rowe. In the Eighties he has performed as a highlight on Poet festivals in Europe with poets like William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and in his most recent production we find him exploring new musical universes, composing melodies more and more rarefied and meditative.
Let’s start talking about your last release Crossing Borders
recorded in the Seventies. Can you briefly tell the genesis of this
unpublished work (till now) which involves many musicians from the
British Jazz area as Brian Godding, Paul Rutherford, Barry Guy, John
Stevens and others? How did you get in touch with them?
Musically speaking is Crossing Borders an evolution of your multicultural jazz trademark stated in Diversions, your seminal work recorded in 1971 for your own label Openian?
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