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ProjeKct One

Astoria, Mon 1 Dec 97
9pm; £15 on the door
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Robert Fripp: guitar, Soundscapes effects box
Bill Bruford: drum kit, glockenspiel, xylophone
Tony Levin: bass, electric upright bass, Chapman stick, synth bass
Trey Gunn: Warr guitar

A King Crimson spin-off to develop ideas for the band's next album, the ProjeKct One quartet began a series of four nights of improvisation at the Jazz Cafe. It was a wonderful experience to see, if not quite so impressive to hear.

This was honest improvisation: the band were very much playing it by ear, with little more than a riff or two and maybe the idea of the first piece seemingly pre-prepared. As such, it was wonderful to see the band clearly thinking hard, paying attention to each other and experimenting. This did mean that the results were rather mixed and even the better parts lacked any real development. I am fascinated by what those attending later dates report, specifically whether larger musical structures developed.

Bruford came across as the leader of the group, typically beginning and finishing the pieces. He played an acoustic set, very different to his last visit to the Jazz Cafe with Earthworks. The glockenspiel and xylophone were little used, mainly beginning pieces. Often times, his drumming seemed unrelated to the music around him, but he probably didn't worry about that!

It was great to see Gunn playing up close. I understand far more about how the Warr works—and thanks to Ulf Torkelsson for the technical explanation in the intermission—and what sounds it produces. Gunn often seemed very tentative, waiting for everybody else to settle into something before he'd start playing.

Levin was a joy to watch. He changed between standard bass, upright and Chapman, occasionally using a keyboard synth bass as an extra with all of them. He took a few photos of the audience. He too could be cautious in the improvisations. He often seemed to have been just about to play something when Bruford would bring a piece to a stop. Towards the end of one piece, Levin had very carefully and quietly switched to his normal bass when Fripp started playing with his very similar MIDI'd(?) bass sound. Levin just turned to us in the audience with a big smirk and a what can you do? look! Another improv had not really developed, with Fripp and Gunn rather meandering, so Levin just started playing around with his finger-sticks on his bass, then on one of Bruford's cymbal, until the others gave up! He and Bruford then messed around, Levin playing Bruford's kit leaning over or Bruford playing Levin's bass with his drum sticks—big smiles all round.

Fripp played a lot of Soundscape-like material, if not as ambient. This effect often tried to occupy the same sonic territory as Gunn's Warr. Fripp also had a few MIDI (I presume) sounds off his guitar: a sort of underwater xylophone sound (so he could conflict with Bruford) and a bass (so he could conflict with Levin)! The gig left me excited about the forthcoming Bruford/Levin album, if not perhaps about the next Crimson. Levin and Bruford laid down some great grooves together and some of the best results for me were them plus Gunn soloing on Warr on top. Bruford/Levin/Gunn seemed to work very well together, very aware of each other, clearly paying attention to each other's moves. But Fripp seemed superfluous and even intrusive to me; he seemed less involved in the process, although Gunn sometimes turned to work with him and Bruford could sometimes be seen peering around Gunn at Fripp. I found Fripp's contributions often did not fit at all. The Soundscape-like material simply did not connect with what was coming from Bruford/Levin/Gunn.

Fripp had come down about half an hour before the start time and started a bit of a Soundscape going. After a few minutes—the crowd quieting only somewhat to listen—someone took a flash photograph of Fripp. I think most of the crowd guessed what would happen next—Fripp stopped playing (although, of course, the Soundscape just continued without him) and went back upstairs. I don't know if he was really that pissed off or just did it for effect, but the management announced that no photography would be allowed before the performance proper started.

In subsequent years, Bruford has indicated that he wasn't particularly happy with how ProjeKct One turned out. A ProjeKct One release is only available through DGM, but compilations from all four ProjeKcts, including ProjeKct One, are on general release.

Henry Potts, 25 Jan 98; revised 25 Oct 2005

Originally posted to and

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