MILLER, STEVE . LOL COXHILL: Double CD
An interesting example of how time changes perceptions. When these LPs were released Lol was ubiquitous and we all took him for granted. The duo with Steve was, likewise, part of the environment. But listening again after 30 years it's clear how, in fact, exceptional and fresh this music was. The past is indeed another country. What strikes me now is the informality of the music - there's no front to it; it's not making any exaggerated claims, it's just casually great. Both LPs are here (Miller/Coxhill, Coxhill/Miller and The Story so Far.../...Oh Really?, originally released in 1974 and 1976. Aside from the excellent duos, there are some fine piano pieces by Miller that are neither jazz nor Chopin; not at all flashy, but tuneful, a bit quirky, rather interested in the flavour, like a good cake. Then Lol, a national treasure, who eschewed both the American and the European approaches to his instrument and wrested his way to a language of his own, at once liquid, instantly recognisable and rather friendly (without giving an inch). Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, Archie Leggett, Roy Babbington and the redoubtable Laurie Allen also appear on many tracks. Especially welcome are the 8 additional pieces (a serious chunk by Delivery, some excellent solo piano pieces, and a classic improvisation by Miller, Coxhill, Sinclair and Allen that - to end where I began - was the sort of non-generic but also non-abstract improvisation that was 'just around' at the time, but that was hardly ever recorded and so was forgotten. Here you can hear how substantial it was. Altogether a valuable document of an important and unfairly sidelined strand of British music which looked at music as something malleable and open, neither clinging to a rigid language, nor abandoning melody, harmony or rhythm for complexity or abstraction.