"BOB DOWNES OPEN MUSIC with PAUL RUTHERFORD / BRIAN GODDING / PAUL BRIDGE / DENIS SMITH
New York Suite (Openian 91011; Germany)
Bob Downes on contrabass, bass, alto & bamboo flutes, alto & tenor sax & vocals.
Brian Godding on guitar & synth, Paul Rutherford on trombone, Paul Bridge on bass and Denis Smith on drums.
Most of these pieces were recorded in Pathways Studios in London in 1979.
The music on this disc was inspired by a trip to New York City that Bob Downes took in 1978.
Each piece deals with a particular event or observation that happened during that trip.
The quintet features an eclectic crew with Brian Godding (Blossom Toes, Mike Westbrook & Mirage) on guitar,
Paul Rutherford (Iskra 1903, Globe Unity & longtime UK master improviser) on trombone and flute wizard Bob Downes up front.
I am not familiar with bassist Paul Bridge, but drummer Denis Smith worked with Mr. Downes on numerous discs.
Commencing with "Sky Walkers", both the flute and guitar weave around one another, using an echo device selectively along with the trombone over a ritualistic mallet-led beat. The overall vibe has a hypnotic throb.
"Coke" has a sly, somewhat funky groove with Mr. Downes on greasy tenor sax and a rare Rutherford display of hand-muted wah-wah trombone.
The interplay between the flute and trombone is consistetly creative and often shrewd.
Ace electric guitarist Brian Godding often plays selective rhythm parts, inserting nifty lines, shades and colors rather than soloing at length.
Mr. Downes provides a few interludes for solo contrabass flute and twisted vocals that were recorded earlier this year (2011) yet fit within the funky NYC vibe of this disc perfectly.
Each piece does a great job of evoking a certain apprehensive or sleazy vibe that was very much a part of what NYC was and sometimes still is about. I can't recall ever hearing Paul Rutherford play the blues but he and Mr. Downes (on tenor sax) does a swell job on "Harlem Blues", as well as playing haunting harmonies for flute & trombone in the second half of this song.
"The Chase" rocks hard with some hot trombone, tenor sax and slow-burning guitar.
The great rhythm team kick up a storm underneath to fuel the flames.
On "Do Not enter" Mr. Godding plays some twisted yet quiet underneath the circling flute and trombone swirls above.
In many ways, this disc is a long lost gem of late seventies British Jazz/Rock at its best with no cliches or obvious direction involved.
Sometimes Mr. Downes has an odd sense of humor which is something you really need to deal with the unexpected things that occur in our fair (unfair?) city. And I should know since I deal with it almost every day.
Bruce Lee Gallanter
Downtown Music Gallery"