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Previous Item   December 01, 1997  Next Item SOUND  VISION WORD
    Jazz Cafe    London, England

Robert Fripp   April 19, 2005
Written by Stewart Lee

íSince 1992 it has again been possible to discuss without whispering the music of 1969-1976," writes King Crimsonís Robert Fripp in the sleeve notes to the recently issued early-1970s live collection The Night Watch. "But I offer no apology for the transparently pratty music played by young dopes wearing satin." Who does he mean, exactly? After all, though the current Crimson look like a fashionable firm of New York lawyers, they once epitomised the Tolkienesque fashions of the post-hippie era. But Fripp, 50 now, and the perfect softly spoken Dorset gentleman, wonít name names. "Iím loath to be drawn into making comments about other musicians, but I donít think I was really part of the progressive scene," he elaborates, "I was just playing music in that period."

King Crimson began recording and touring again in 1994, to the delight of a hard core of fans big enough to fill the Albert Hall, but can they ever escape the stigma of progressive rock, with its Mellotron-toting, Tory-voting, tax-evading practitioners and their Page Three wives? Remember now and wince at Yesís Tales From Topographic Oceans, at Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and at Rick Wakemanís King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table...on Ice. To add psychological credibility to the insane anti-hero of American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis makes him a rabid fan of the Phil Collins-era Genesis, and the preface to Paul Stumpís recent and disarmingly frank history of Progressive Rock, The Musicís All That Matters, is defensively entitled Author "Not Mad" Shock.

But the cultural embargo on all things progressive increasingly smacks of hypocrisy. The post-punk history of the world ignores John Lydonís love of Van Der Graaf Generator, accommodates progís more experimental German counterparts Can and Faust as "crazy dadaist Europeans", and tolerates arrogant follies of U2 that are every bit as embarrassing as Yes at their most vain and absurd. The current critical favourites Spiritualised, playing alongside the English Chamber Orchestra at the Barbican last month, conjured up memories of Soft Machineís big-band/art-rock fusion; and the much-lauded Radioheadís more sublime moments sound like nothing so much as mid-1970s King Crimson. Just, from Radioheadís album The Bends, lifts the guitar part of Crimsonís Red wholesale.

This week four current core members of King Crimson assemble incognito to offer four nights of live improvisations at Camdenís Jazz Cafe, under the moniker of Projekct One. A press release cites "expectations from audiences of established King Crimson repertoire" as a restric-tive factor in the bandís deve-lopment. Fripp has responded by forming Crimson "Projekcts" on both sides of the Atlantic, which he describes as "research and development fractals of King Crimson", after a recent Polish tour, where he realised that not playing the 1970s hits to an audience for whom the ticket price would be a monumental expenditure, was simply unfair.

Such perversity has always been part of the Crimson working method. Asked how he plucked the drummer Bill Bruford from Yes in 1972, where his talents perhaps werenít being exploited fully, Fripp diplomatically answers: "The muse descends on a group briefly, and takes them into its confidence and moves on, but time allows them to digest and apply the confidence that has been given. What usually happens is that the group tend to move towards obsolescence following success, and then droll repetition, whereas Crimson would take the information, deal with it, and then split up, as a response to the industry and the demands of its public. We break up, shake off all expectations and move on."

In its three decades King Crimson has shed more expectations than a reasonably healthy snake might shed skins. Formed in 1969, their first four albums offered a baroque jazz rock, alternately hobbled by a pre-ELP Greg Lake singing Pete Sinfieldís sword-and-sorcery fantasy and sleazy groupie-sex lyrics and elevated by Frippís distinctive, restless guitar playing. The live quadruple CD Epitaph, issued earlier this year, "shows the 1969 Crimson was not this monolith of received wisdom", says Fripp, "but actually a cracking little outfit for whom improvisation was a major part of what we did". Appropriately, a 1970 edition of Top of the Pops saw the future 1970s superstar Greg Lake playing alongside the then unknown jazz pianist Keith Tippett on Catfood, Crimsonís sole hit single.

In 1972 a new Crimson, including the free jazz percussionist Jamie Muir, fresh from Derek Bailey and Evan Parkerís Music Improvisation Company, recorded a definitive triumvirate of albums culminating in Red, whose angular, uncompromising and occasionally quite terrifying music was often pasted together from the more inspired moments of live recordings. A leanness and economy, and a big improvisatory group sound, rather than strings of virtuoso solos, differentiated Crimson from their flashy contemporaries.

In 1981, Fripp re-formed Crimson again after a lengthy US sabbatical, with American vocalist Adrian Belew on board to free-associate about urban living over Brufordís increasingly complex polyrhythms, the band abandon-ing their off-beat jazzy playing for a tight, machine precision derived from the New York No Wave symphonics of Glenn Branca and the minimalism of Steve Reich. "The vocabulary of rock music had changed," Fripp offers, "and if you were a musician who was at all involved in speaking with the accent and dialect of the time to people listening at that time, you had to know that. The 1981-to-1984 Crimson had absorbed and noted some of these lessons and did not refer very much to the vocabulary of 1972 to 1974."

So why reassemble Crimson in 1994? What has the band to offer now? How does Fripp know when the time is right? "How could you not know?" he splutters, breaking for the first time out of the considered calm that has hitherto characterised his answers. "You just know! When I met my wife I was a happy bachelor, and I proposed within a week. Why? Because she was my wife! I didnít know this was Toyah Wilcox the star, because Iíd been in America, but I instantly knew her as my wife. Likewise, when music appears that only King Crimson can play, King Crimson appears to play the music."

Finally, Fripp breaks off - "to give my beautiful wife a kiss and a cuddle before she goes off to London" - and retires. "Iím looking forward to listening to Radiohead," he says, genuinely curious. "Iíve just got back from the States and thereís a copy upstairs waiting for me."

This article originally appeared as a curtain-raiser to ProjeKct Oneís residency at the Jazz Cafe in London.


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Your search found 4 items (Viewing 1 to 4 of 4)


Fan Review
Jazz Cafe 12/01/97   Tue., Jun 10, 2008
Posted by: Chris_DeVito
The ProjeKcts were presented as "research and development" arms of King Crimson, but I quickly found that I had no interest in listening to them on those terms. Instead, I simply listen to each ProjeKct on its own terms, Read more

Fan Review
10 years ago tonight   Sat., Dec 1, 2007
Posted by: dan1216
Tonight, 1 December 2007, is the 10 year anniversary of the first ProjeKct One show at the Jazz Cafe. Iím going to play the CD download tonight in itís honor [as with the other nights the next few Read more

Fan Review
The end of an era and the shape of prog to come   Thu., Apr 19, 2007
Posted by: hectorhurtadog
This is an very good show, very introspective and not so savage and ferocius as some of the material of the P1 that appears in the Projekcts box set. Still i recommend it to anyone who loves the projekcts experimentation way Read more

Press Comment
Jazz Cafe   London, England    December 01, 1997
íSince 1992 it has again been possible to discuss without whispering the music of 1969-1976," writes King Crimsonís Robert Fripp in the sleeve notes to the recently Read more

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