Guitarist Phil Miller’s In Cahoots have been recording in one form or another since their debut album in 1985. This latest offering features two versions of the London-based band, a quintet with Pete Lemer on piano, Fred Baker on bass and Pip Pyle on drums, augmented by special guest Doug Boyle on guitar, and a sextet with Elton Dean on alto sax and saxello and Jim Dvorak on trumpet added to the basic quartet. The project is built around a half-dozen recent compositions which Miller felt reflected a strong feeling or influence from the blues, plus a short piano piece by Pete Lemer entitled ‘Phrygian Intro’, which precedes Miller’s ‘Phrygian Blues’. The music has a flowing, energised jazz-rock feel, both in the inventive soloing and in the cohesive, often quite intricate ensemble playing, and goes well beyond a series of standard-issue blues workouts. Out of the Blue is available directly from the artist at Crescent Discs, 29a Colvestone Crescent, London E8 2LG (cost is £12, which includes postage).
“In certain areas fairly intricate and complex, but at the same time having an overall simplicity,” writes guitarist extraordinaire Phil Miller in the sleeve notes to this latest In Cahoots release. Phil also traces the roots of this album to the ‘Parallel’ sextet release 4 years before and to the re-issue of the blues based Delivery album ‘A Fool’s Meeting’ originally recorded in 1968. Hence the title ‘Out of the Blue’ so that “people can hear what the passage of time has brought to my music.” That’s enough talk of the writing though – what of the music? Well, it’s dazzling from the opening bars of the superb bluesy 9 minute opener ‘Early Days’ to the jazzy 1 3 minute closer ‘Slime Divas, both per-formed by the sextet version of In Ca-hoots. That is Miller accompanied by Pete Lemer on keyboards, Elton Dean on sax, Jim Dvorak on trumpet and a rhythm section of Fred Baker and Pip Pyle (More restrained than I remember him playing live but always one of the best drummers!) On ‘Early Days’ Miller indulges him-self alongside apposite brass interventions with some excellent soloing – and why not? – but still leaves time for some telepathic piano from Lemer. ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ features great solos by Baker on fretless bass, Dean and Lemer on piano and some memorable-able guitar phrases by Miller, showing that he has lost none of his dexterity and invention over the years. Next we come to ‘Delta Borderline’ performed by the quartet (No brass) this is a number more rooted in the rock side of blues, strangely saturnine and vivacious at the same time with a killer bass line and some great pyrotechnics from the guitar synth of Miller and additional guitar by Doug Boyle. A felicitous and adroit piano solo from Lemer is the icing on the cake. This is one of the finest pieces of music I have heard for a long time and Pip Pyle is at his very best adding some stunning percussion as the music nears its climax. Phew – it’s time for a breather and the 2 minute solo acoustic piano intro to ‘Phrygian Blues’ is very necessary at this stage while I cool down. The substantive piece 1-9 led by Elton Dean’s sax with a soul-stirring brass duet and solos from Dvorak and Dean that are positively daedalian! (A great duet and trumpet solo can also he heard on ‘Slime Divas’) It’s back to the quartet with guest guitarist Boyle for ‘Open Seat’, another sparkling fluid lead line from Miller and a brilliant bass solo (Are those harmonics I hear in there?) For those unfamiliar with Miller’s history he was in Delivery, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North and National Health. I was once privileged enough to see Miller and Pyle play live in the Hatfield’s, an experience I will never forget. This brilliant recording even proves Einstein’s theory of relativity. How can In Cahoots make an hour of music go so fast?! A wonderfully absorbing release, this exhilarating music is positively addictive! (It’s never been far away from my CD player.) An essential purchase for all lovers of progressive jazz and blues based music.
Phil Jackson – Acid Dragon