The Keith Tippett Group - Dedicated to You, But You Weren't Listening (1971), 8/10

You may recognize Keith Tippett from his collaborations with King Crimson, but this album is an entirely different experience, one exploring free jazz along with the group’s foundational background in prog rock. Along with the group’s fronting pianist, the record features a star-studded band including Robert Wyatt contributing on drums. It begins with what you could call simple jazz fusion focused on hooks and improvisational meanderings, but quickly shifts into beautifully chaotic arrangements accented with virtuosic free improvisation. It rivals even some of the better free jazz you'll find in moments like the second track “Thoughts to Geoff” where the guitar, horns and percussion all progress forward at full blast, at first manically colliding, then playfully transitioning into a darker and more focused remainder, whose improvisations lean towards polished and assisted rather than wholly turbulent. While it never quite reaches the heights of pure or entirely unfettered free jazz or more focused prog rock, its amalgamation of the two genres is as impressive as it is satisfying, presenting itself in a fun and unorthodox approach to both genres. The trio of horns along with Babbington’s bass sounds as possessed as ever on “Gridal Suite”, backed wonderfully by Wyatt’s frantic percussion. Then a haunting “Five After Dawn” balances out this freedom against the upcoming poise and sanguine affair that is “Black Horse”. This back and forth balancing act consistently aids and supports a jumbled track list and its presentation as a holistic record with intention and direction. If you don’t buy into the free improvisation, it’s still a pleasant fusion album with lots of nice hooks and technically impressive solos from all personnel involved.