Barry Guy Portrait

Avant-garde music can be hard work, even for the committed (or converted) listener, but there are certain artists with the knack for making mind-bogglingly complex scores and frenetic improvisations as entertaining and exciting as any Hollywood blockbuster. Barry Guy is one of them, and if you surveyed fans you’d find many for whom albums like Harmos (Guy’s sky-scraping composition for the London Jazz Composers Orchestra) came as a crucial, mind-blowing experience when they were first dipping a toe into improvised music. The compilation Portrait is not a complete picture of Guy’s work (it draws only on his albums for Intakt and Maya) but it still offers an excellent career survey that is as thoughtfully organised as any of his compositions. The stylistic breadth is extraordinary — from the ancient hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus” to the blistering interplay of the Parker/Guy/Lytton trio — but what always comes through is Guy’s respect for the abiding mystery at the heart of improvisation, as sound, technique, instrument, intuition and mutual empathy all unite in the moment of creation. (Intakt) (Intakt)