David Panton’s One Music Ensemble 2015

David Panton: alto & soprano saxophone, bagpipe (without drones), piano,drums

1 - Ides 1 (Panton) (3:46), 2 - GLC (Panton) (10:43), 3 - Ides 2 (Panton) (!2:01), 4 - A Flat OF My Own (Panton) (10:59), 5 - SWT(Panton) (10:22), 6 - Impromptu Study 1 (Panton) (13:05), 7 - Enters Venus (Panton) (9:13).

All works by Panton published by D & ED Panton Music 2015

Most of the pieces presented here were composed, devised and recorded between 2012 and 2015 and so represent the most recent performances of my music. Although some might be considered as free improvisations others clearly have themes or at least thematic ideas, albeit of a minimal kind. Prior to this I had recorded the odd piano solo now and then without releasing them in any specific formal, though one did emerge on my You Tube channel*, and in 2004 I had recorded four extended pieces on electric piano as PM1104 for CD and download release. Similarly in 1997 I had spent time using MIDI to realise my mainly through composed works which was released as PM1197. But I had neglected my wind playing as a result of starting up an audio cassette duplicating business and largely abandoning regular musical activities due to a fall-off in performance and broadcasting opportunities in the late 1980s, not least because of the demise of both the BBC Jazz In Britain and Jazz Today programmes under the then Controller of Radio Three John Drummond, and the prevailing hostile attitude of the Thatcher Government to the BBC and the arts – particularly those areas which only appealed to a minority interest audience. Even though the incoming Controller Nicholas Kenyon reversed this decision by introducing a new jazz programme Impressions in the early 1990s, which put musics like free-jazz and free improvisation back on the agenda, my non-musical trajectory had taken on such a life of its own that it was not until 2009 that I was able to give my time and energy back to music, especially the regular instrumental practise necessary to maintain a consistent level of competence. The recordings here are the first of many which have begun to bring this process to fruition and the music back into the public arena again.

Ides 1 and Ides 2 are improvised duets between piano and drums, the one relatively short while the other is almost four times as long. The ides fall around the thirteenth or fifteenth of the month and its significance in the titles is merely to do with one being recorded prior to and the other after those dates rather than any literary allusions to, for example, Shakespeare’s play about the death of Julius Caesar and the soothsayer’s warning about the ides of March. But although freely and spontaneously improvised in the moment they do have allusions to other musics particularly jazz, however fleetingly, in keeping with my One Music concept of allowing such things to be included rather than excluded.

GLC and SWT are two of a series of pieces which pay tribute to musicians or music writers who I have known or admired but who are no longer with us, their identities being obscured deliberately by initials only – in Enigma Variations fashion – but these are not variations on a theme or portraits created by pastiche or imitation, rather they are standalone pieces which deliver personal tributes on my own terms. Nevertheless there are some clues: GLC features the same instrument set in the same environment where I first encountered him and in which he was often to be seen, while SWT has alto sax and piano in a duet format which although not a regular paring was one in which he left his inimitable mark. It will be apparent that both have distinctive thematic ideas which open and close each piece and which provide the base upon which the intervening extended improvisations develop.

A Flat Of My Own and Impromptu 1 are for solo soprano and alto saxophones respectively which also reflect the pattern of my regular practice regime. There are twelve Impromptu Studies starting with 1 on C and moving chromatically successively through to 12 on B, designed for solo instruments with transposing instruments playing the starting note for that instrument not the transposed one, not least because different scales can present different challenges for different instruments. Preparation for these is based on practise of associated scales, arpeggios, broken chords on C through to B. The actual performances, however, should be played as spontaneously as possible without working out any fixed procedures to pre-determine the outcome, so that each performance becomes unique. Some unexpected title associations can come into play: for example A Flat Of My Own could just as well have been called Impromptu Study No 9 (on Ab), as well as associations with existing pieces/tunes, for example Impromptu Study 10 (on A) fits like a glove with another idea of mine You Can Go If You Want To. So what’s the point of having twelve separate studies to work on? For me it concentrates the musicians mind on the nature of improvisation and spontaneity, whether or not one has a basis to start from, since everything we play has one starting point or another, acting as a springboard for improvisation, and which may not be as arbitrary as one might suppose.

Enters Venus is a version of this 1968 tune for bagpipe (without drones) and drums, and is one of several tunes of mine which lend themselves to the Aeolian scale of the pipes. The tune is stated at the beginning and end with an extended improvised development leading from one to the other based on the embellishments taken from the Scottish pibroch tradition of solo piping of laments and salutes but in a more free and less regimented way, more free-pibroch than free-jazz. In a jazz context the omission of the drones allows any chromatically capable instruments slightly more leeway than if the insistent drone of Bb is ever present (most Highland bagpipes are more or less pitched top Bb) and they are forced to play just on the notes of the descending melodic minor scale. There are more multi-track recordings in the pipeline for a new release on 2016, so these tracks will prove to be just a taster of what’s to come.