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Album Review

In the waning years of his life, British big band leader and experimental composer Basil Kirchin saw three albums' worth of his previously unreleased works issued by the archival label Trunk Records: 1973's conceptual masterwork Quantum, 1968's Charcoal Sketches/States of Mind, and 1966's library music collection Abstractions of the Industrial North. Although Kirchin's health was failing during this era — in the liner notes to Particles, he makes a point of thanking his medical team alongside his musical associates — he was encouraged enough by the reception afforded to Trunk's archival releases to complete his final work, Particles. Released about two years after Kirchin's death in 2005, Particles is Kirchin's valedictory work, and the first of his Trunk releases to take its inspiration from all phases of his lengthy and varied career. Particles is bracketed by two lengthy compositions, "Bye Bye 1944" and "E + Me" (dedicated to Kirchin's wife Esther and based on a tune she used to sing to her students when she worked with autistic children), rooted in Kirchin's days as a post-war big-band leader and one of the featured players in Ted Heath's famed outfit, arguably the best European jazz band of all time. Utterly charming contemporary big-band jazz, these two pieces are the most immediately accessible work on Kirchin's Trunk releases. In between them, the six-part "Concept Suite" featuring "the Atonals" finds Kirchin at his most overtly conceptual. According to his liner notes, these six pieces are based on tapes dating back to the '70s in which Kirchin surreptitiously recorded conversations in the studio control room and elsewhere, then transcribed those conversations as scores for various instruments. "The Atonals" of the title refers to the non-traditional sound of the lead instruments; especially on the sparse, scene-setting "Secret Conversations Between Instruments," the rhythm, tempo, and fluidity of human conversation is mimicked uncannily well, making this one of the rare free jazz experiments that can be easily conceptually understood even by novices to the style. Overall, Particles is a fitting farewell to a beloved cult figure.


Born: 08 August 1927 in England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Experimental composer Basil Kirchin was born in Great Britain in 1927. He made his professional debut in December 1941 at London's Paramount, playing drums in his father Ivor's jazz band, and remained a fixture of the group throughout the remainder of World War II, playing 14 shows per week. After the war ended, Kirchin joined Harry Roy's newly-formed New 1946 Orchestra (one of the first true British big bands) as a featured soloist, gaining national exposure via the band's regular appearances on...
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Particles, Basil Kirchin
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