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Keep the Dog

Fred Frith

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Album Review

It was a long wait, but, 12 years after the fact, Fred Frith put together a live album of his group Keep the Dog, which had previously gone undocumented. Comprised of sax/flute player Jean Derome, guitarist René Lussier, keyboardist/harpist Zeena Parkins, sampling artist Bob Ostertag, and drummer Charles Hayward, Keep the Dog was formed by Frith in 1989 to perform a best-of repertoire of his career and remained his last rock group. By the time of this 1991 European tour, the unit had grown beyond its original format to include improvisation and some very different takes on familiar tunes. For fans of Frith's livelier, more vivacious writing, this is a must. The two sets (roughly 45 minutes each) include material from albums like Gravity, Speechless, and Cheap at Half the Price, plus pieces from the books of Art Bears and Massacre and his albums with Henry Kaiser and Étron Fou Leloublan's Ferdinand Richard. Derome and Lussier, at the time active as the duo Les Granules, feel right at home in Frith's quirky, occasionally childish tunes. Ostertag is the wild card, his sampler spurting out the strangest sounds and ambiences. The first disc begins with a string of tunes featuring Frith on violin; the lively "Hola, On Danse!" stands out while the "Propaganda Suite" takes us to the composer's darker, more serious side. The disc ends with a mad rendition of "Some Clouds Do" — it's as close Frith gets to singing something and Hayward just keeps on pushing to speed up the tune. Disc two includes the group improv "That Home We Lived In," a reggae version of "True Love," and the beautiful "Norrgården Nyvla." The fun these musicians have together is highly communicative. Fred, please; there has to be more inside the vaults! ~ François Couture, Rovi

Biography

Born: 17 February 1949 in Heathfield, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the '60s and '70s, much (if not most) contemporary improvisation was jazz-based. That began to change in the '80s, when a significant number of rock musicians began exploring the possibilities of free improvisation and new classical forms. Fred Frith is one of the more prominent. Co-founder of the underground British band Henry Cow in 1968, composer/improviser/guitarist Frith moved to the U.S. in the late '70s, where he began associations with such New York-based experimental musicians as cellist...
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Keep the Dog, Fred Frith
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