Raymond MacDonald International Big Band - Buddy (3 stars)

Raymond MacDonald International Big Band - Buddy

(Textile Records)

While saxophonist Raymond MacDonald’s International Big Band is on one level an extension of his work with the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, the musicians involved give the project its own distinctive stamp within the soundscape of a large free ensemble. MacDonald employs free improvisation, conduction, graphic scores, textual instruction and response to visual stimuli in the course of the eight pieces that make up the album, recorded at Live House Buddy in Tokyo in August 2008.

The band includes several Japanese musicians, ex-Sonic Youth guitarist Jim O’Rourke, Australian keyboard player Alister Spence and bassist Lloyd Swanton of The Necks. If the opening flourish sounds almost like a conventional big band, don’t be lured into expecting much more in that vein. Thereafter, the music diverges into the kind of abstract, occasionally anarchic experiments with sound and texture associated with free improv. Adventurous, challenging music for adventurous listeners, ‘The Big Toe’ is plain good fun for anyone.

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