Bill Wells & Maher Shalal Hash Baz | GEOG33 | Released: 03/05/09
Mutually admiring of each other's music, collaboration between Bill Wells and Maher always seemed possible, but how exactly. In 2004, Bill managed to secure some funding for a trip to Japan with the intention of recording a greatest hits of new compositions, shorter pop pieces which he felt would "withstand the Maher treatment". Tori and Reiko Kudo, the enigmatic couple at the core of Maher, offered to set up a tour which Maher members could play at, with a recording session hopefully to take place at the end. Bill it's fair to say was surprised to find that the 'members' seemed to change on a nightly basis, but he was also pleased with the emerging sound which seemed to marry Maher's melodic chaos with his own idea for a loose, large ensemble recording which would build on some of his earlier octet compositions.
The resultant set is alive and warm and immediate; it doesn't try to cover up mistakes, it embraces them, makes them part of the record. And if Tori Kudo once called himself the "King Of Error", Bill too has had a history of seeking out something beautiful in wrongness or misunderstanding. Bill describes what he shares with Tori as "a common belief in the power of melody" and, to an extent, "(non) bandleading skills, i.e. not really telling anyone what to do and just letting the musicians sort it all out eventually." Such an approach has really paid dividend with the intuitive musicians of a Maher ensemble, which on these recordings includes Tenniscoats and Takuji Aoyagi (Kama Aina), and the music switches easily from shadowy lines into bright, joyous splurges of colour which in places recall one of Bill's favourite groups, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath.
A quieter moment is found on the delicate "Time Takes Me So Back" featuring Mako Hasegawa, one of a new generation of Maher players. One of the centrepieces of the set, Bill had imagined Reiko Kudo singing it at the recording but when she wasn't present Tori suggested that Mako is a very good singer and lyricist, and this perfect, slightly imperfect version was born. Bill, you feel, is always open to these kind of last minute changes and he freely revisits several compositions from earlier eras throughout GOK, which culminates in a barnstorming extra-time version of octet favourite, Wiltz.
While complementing his previous Osaka Bridge live set, GOK stands as one of Bill Wells' most important studio albums.