Recorded at the Quasimodo Club, Live in Berlin gets off to a stutteringly slow start with Davey Williams' guitar and Wayne Horvitz's keyboards playing abstract patterns that gradually coalesce with each other, but eventually band leader George Cartwright's saxophone chimes in, and the band's performance finally kicks into gear. One of the loosest, most swinging of jazz fusion groups, this live show is pristinely recorded, highlighting every second of the charmingly dated 80's production values. But there's nothing dated about the band's performance. Cartwright leads Curlew through 75 minutes of musical twists and turns, sometimes ragged and wandering, and sometimes as tight as a drum. But thanks to the band members' engaging playing and ensemble work, almost all of it is interesting and enjoyable.
Everyone in the band gets a few chances to break out and step into the spotlight a few times on this record, but the real star is Davey Williams, whose no-wave guitar freakouts are the major highlight of tracks like "Ray" and "Bringing It All Backbone". Obviously George Cartwright gets in quite a few moments to shine as well, and his interplay with cellist Tom Cora is used to great effect on opener "Moon Lake" and "To the Summer in Our Hearts". Jazz fusion is the starting point, but many of these songs break off into directions of their own, like the almost tribal sounds of "Barking (I Want a Dog)" and the complete abstraction of "Bringing It All Backbone", where the saxophone reed sounds like it's being pulled violently out of Cartwright's throat. The centerpiece of the album, and the best example of how the group is able to veer between wild improvisation and tightly-orchestrated melodies, is the 17-minute long medley "Agitar/The Victim/Improvisation/Oklahoma".Read more ›
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