Recording Sessions #8
Wednesday 29th May, doors 7:30pm – starts 8:00pm | £10 adv / £12 door BUY TICKETS
Concert series focusing on recording projects of free improvisation, free jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation and contemporary compositions.
Steve Beresford – piano & electronics
John Butcher – saxophones
Photo by Pierre Bouvier Patron
John Butcher’s work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked pieces and explorations with feedback, unusual acoustics and non-concert locations.
Originally a physicist, he left academia in ’82, and has since collaborated with hundreds of musicians – Derek Bailey, John Tilbury, John Stevens, The EX, Akio Suzuki, Gerry Hemingway, Polwechsel, Gino Robair, Rhodri Davies, Okkyung Lee, John Edwards, Toshi Nakamura, Paul Lovens, Eddie Prevost, Mark Sanders, Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Phil Minton, and Andy Moor – to name a few.
He is well known as a solo performer who attempts to engage with the uniqueness of place. Resonant Spaces is a collection of site-specific performances collected during a tour of unusual locations in Scotland and the Orkney Islands.
His first solo album, Thirteen Friendly Numbers, includes compositions for multitracked saxophones, whilst later solo CDs focus on live performance, composition, amplification and saxophone-controlled feedback.
HCMF has twice commissioned him to compose for his own large ensembles. Other commissions include for Elision, the Rova & Quasar Saxophone Quartets, reconstructed Futurist Intonarumori, “Tarab Cuts” (based on pre-WWII Arabic recordings, and shortlisted for the 2014 British Composer’s Award), “Good Liquor ..” for the London Sinfonietta and “Fixations and the Open Road” for CEPRO.
In 2011 he received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists.
Recent groupings include The Apophonics (+Gino Robair/John Edwards), Thermal (+Andy Moore/Thomas Lehn), Vellum (+Tony Buck/Magda Mayas) and trios with John Edwards/Mark Sanders and Matt Shipp/Thomas Lehn.
Butcher values playing in occasional encounters – ranging from large groups such as Butch Morris’ London Skyscraper and the EX Orkestra, to duo concerts with David Toop, Kevin Drumm, Claudia Binder, Ståle Liavik Solberg, Paal Nilssen-Love, John Tilbury, Fred Frith, Keiji Haino, Ute Kangeisser, Matthew Shipp and Yuji Takahashi.
Steve Beresford started playing piano at age 7, studied the classical repertoire of the instrument and was encouraged to investigate orchestral music (through the trumpet) at age 15 in preparation for reading music at university. Though playing the Hammond organ in a soul group offering covers of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and Motown hits occupied much of his time and most of his enthusiasm, he still was persuaded to study music at York University. On completion of his course, he stayed in York, working in theatre groups and working men’s clubs, but also playing improvised music and promoting it, putting on, for example, the duo of Derek Bailey and Han Bennink at the University.
Since moving to London in 1974, Beresford has been involved in hundreds of music projects, working across the full spectrum from free improvisation through jazz-based material to pop, reggae and MOR songs and on to fully scored music for films, dance and even corporate contracts.
On improvisation, he told Bradshaw (1988), ‘Being involved in improvised music was the single most important factor in developing my understanding of music. Playing improvised music was a liberating force, a culture where you could ignore conventional rules, build up and formulate your own individual technique.’ Though a member of the nicely named and little recorded Three Pullovers Steve Beresford is perhaps best known – for his early activities – as a member of Alterations. This group began in 1977, comprised Beresford, Peter Cusack on guitars, David Toop on flutes and Terry Day, drums, percussion, and lasted for nine years. Discussing the reasons behind the beginnings of Alterations with Bailey (1992), Peter Cusack said ‘… we seemed to have no problem including anything in Alterations – it could be any instrument, a tape of bird song or quotes from any style of music. There was nothing which was taboo.’ The group also became known for including more and more electric instruments in their live performances. At around the start of Alterations, Beresford was a member of one of the earliest versions of Company and he also performed at one of the last London events, in 1994, with The Shaking Ray Levis and Roger Turner.
Some of his other work in improvisation has included an irregular though continuing duo with Han Bennink – for example, a tour of Canada in June/July 1995 (see Downbeat, October 1995; p. 66 for comments on their appearance at the International Jazz Festival in Vancouver); solo piano (at the 1981 Holland Festival and at The Kitchen in NY in 1987); a trio with Michel Donedaand Dennis Palmer in 1990; a tour of the southern US states in 1992 with The Shaking Ray Levis and Catherine Jauniaux and later the same year a tour of England with The Shaking Ray Levis and Roger Turner; appearances at the October Meeting in Amsterdam with Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Michael Vatcher, Ab Baars, and Wolter Wierbos (released on Bimhuis 003 and Bimhuis 004); a duo with John Butcher; a variety of work with John Zorn, including, in 1990, a show of improvisations with Ikue Mori (drum machines), Arto Lindsay (guitar) and Christian Marclay (turntables) and others, and a show of film music and songs, and, in 1994, the recording of Signals for tea.
Beresford has been involved in the conduction ensembles of Butch Morris, appearing on the recording of Conduction 31 (see discography below) and also arranging the Arts Council-sponsored tour of a primarily UK ensemble in November 1997. This large group became the London Improvisers Orchestra, which plays nearly every month and has released several recordings on Emanem. With a fluctuating personel, the group has grown in size so that by the time of the 2010 Freedom of the City festival in London, documented on Lio Leo Leon, it was 38-strong. As an arranger and composer for improvising ensembles Beresford produced the CD Spirits rejoice for the Dedication Orchestra in 1991 and Ixesha in 1994; arranged for John Stevens’ 10-piece group for the London Jazz Festival in April 1993 (released on the CD Blue); was commissioned in 1993 by the CIM Festival in Den Haag to write something to introduce modern music to the public in a playful way – this turned out to be the game piece Fish of the week; and in May 1994 was commissioned by the London Musicians’ Collective to compose a piece for their festival. For two nights in August 1996, the BIMhuis in Amsterdam held Summer sessions with Steve Beresford and featured Fish of the week, Lol Coxhill’s Before my time, the Melody Four, and a duo with Guus Janssen. In early 1997, he played in Den Haag with Piet Noordijk (alto saxophone), Ernst Glerum (bass) and Michael Vatcher (drums) and later in the year appeared at the Empty Bottle Festival in Chicago in duo with Paul Lovens and with Ellery Eskelin and others.
In 2002, a performance of the piece Whistle Concert was given at the CBSO, Birmingham, devised by the artist Hayley Newman in conjunction with the Ikon Gallery and J.Hudson and Co., whistle manufacturers. This 40 minute piece was performed on September 5 by Hayley Newman, Mick Beck, Matt Wand and Steve Beresford. They played whistles, game calls, reed horns and associated instruments. Also in 2002 (September 10), Murri, a club in the East End of London witnessed the world premier of Beresford’s performance with microchip toy guitars, later reprised at the Bonnington Centre, Vauxhall as part of a concert with Tania Chen.
In January 2006, he was instrumental in inviting Han Bennink to play a concert at the Red Rose in London and a duo with Beresford in Nottingham. The London concert – a solo set plus a 40-minute guided improvisation by Bennink, Beresford, Gail Brand, Alan Wilkinson, John Edwards, Springheel Jack and J Spaceman – together with an interview by Steve Beresford, was broadcast as a 90-minute programme on BBC Radio 3 on 17 February 2006.
In August 2011, Beresford was the featured pianist in Pianorama, an interactive performance created by Christian Marclay as part of Ron Arad’s ‘Curtain Call’ project. The concert took place inside the 360° screen designed by Arad for the Roundhouse in London. The screen is a curtain made of 5,600 silicon rods, suspended from an 18 metre diameter ring. Pianorama is an audiovisual composition featuring Beresford filmed and remixed by Christian Marclay. The piano keyboard is extended and looped into a large panoramic projection, with keys five metres high, played by Beresford’s many giant hands. For this interactive performance Beresford played along with the video on a real piano, adding his two live hands to his multiplied and projected self.
In July 2011 Beresford took part in the Tribute to Ari Up – the singer with The Slits – in Bristol, playing melodica and electronics in a trio with guitarist Viv Albertine and singer Mark Stewart.
In October 2011 Steve Beresford was one of sixteen musicians participating in Just Not Cricket: Three days of British Improvised Music in Berlin, a festival filmed by Antoine Prum for release sometime in 2012/13. He undertook a blindfold test hosted by Gail Brand in November 2011 based around Georg Graewe’s music and published in the Random Acoustics Book/DVD grubenklang. reloaded.
In 2012, in June, Steve Beresford performed at The Sage, Gateshead in a celebration of the art of Kurt Schwitters, with Adam Bohman, Roger Turner, Sylvia Hallett and Ute Wassermann. The performance tied in with Helen Petts’ film ‘Throw Them Up and Let Them Sing’. In August, he curated and played at ‘Late at Tate – Contesting ÊTerritory’ with saxophonist Evan Parker, singer Elaine Mitchener, drummer Mark Sanders Êand DJ Mark Ainley in a show inspired by Patrick Keiller’s Tate Britain show. Ståle Liavik Solberg, Martin Kuchen and Beresford formed a new trio – drums, Êsopranino Êsax, and piano Ê- which has performed in London and Scandinavia, including the Hagen Festen in August. Beresford was one of the players at the BBC Prom 47 – a John Cage centenary concert directed by Ilan Volkov. He played Cage’s ‘Branches’ and ‘Improvisation 3’ in ensembles that included Robyn Schulkowsky, the Bohman Brothers, Angharad and Rhodri Davies and many others and this was followed, in September, by a piece he wrote and presented for ‘Jazz on 3’ on Radio 3 about John Cage and improvisation. And Steve performed Christian Marclay’s ‘Every Day’ with Marclay, Alan Tomlinson, John Butcher and Mark Sanders at the Ruhrtriennale in September and in October 2012 in the Ether Festival at the South Bank.