Decoy is the British free jazz trio of Hammond B-3 organist Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble. 49 year-old Hawkins has played with free jazz giant Evan Parker as well as Louis Moholo-Moholo, Lol Coxhill, John Butcher, Steve Williamson, Jason Yarde, Ray Warleigh, Alan Wilkinson, Tony Marsh, Will Gaines, John Russell, Steve Waterman, Pete McPhail, Pat Thomas, Eddie Prevost, the London Improvisers’ Orchestra, the Oxford Improvisers Orchestra, and the Pendulum Big Band. Edwards is co-founder of The Pointy Birds and has worked with artists such as Roger Turner, Lol Coxhill, Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton, Evan Parker, Tony Bevan, Veryan Weston, and Elton Dean. Noble has worked with Rip Rig and Panic, Derek Bailey, Lol Coxhill and The Bow Gamelan Ensemble.
Free jazz can be the most infuriating music to perform as well as listen to. In performing if the musicians are not accurately and acutely tied into each other the result can be frustratingly maddening. As a listener, if the musicians are not conscious of making a cogent musical statement the result can be cacophony bordering on the arcane. Fortunately, these three seasoned veterans are both tied into each other and understand the strains this kind of music can put on listeners. The result is six tracks of really great free jazz statements.Among the highlights is the hip double-time swing section that closes "Decoy." The path they take is not unlike much of the music of Jimmy Smith, albeit the result comes from a different source the impetuous is still the same - namely the desire to play intuitive jazz in a combo setting where everyone has an equal and influential voice in creating the end product.
The swirling sounds of "Outside In" are a result of Hawkins’ unusual use of the Hammond organ in creating other-worldly sounds. While the influence of Sun Ra is unmistakable, so is the carefully aligned support Hawkins receives from his bandmates. Edwards’ brilliant bow technique and Noble’s carefully splashed cymbals enhance rather than detract from Hawkins’ avant-garde sonic leanings.
"Episode No. 69" would be best described as a series of episodes rather than a single travail. Exploring small sounds, the group covers a wealth of territory in little bite-sized chunks. Noble’s use of extra-musical elements within his drum kit adds to the overall consciousness and directly sends Edwards into some fascinatingly soft figurations, which build to Hawkins’ rambunctious use of his instrument’s sliders.
For the listener, this recording will provide interest and plenty to explore. Helping along the way are the rather perfectly timed cuts. The entire recording comes in under 50 minutes, making the length of each of the six musical selections perfectly proportioned to avoid excessive overload. If you don’t mind the avant-garde use of a Hammond organ, then this free jazz statement is one of the better ones this year.