Richard Sinclair"R.S.V.P."

"Here we still allare,
Flying tunes like fireflies in the dark..."

On Miles Davis' 1966 release Miles Smiles, youhear the great man's voice as the trumpet fades away at the end ofthe gorgeous ballad "Circle", on side one. He must have been talkingto producer Teo Macero; all you hear is his sandpaper whisper,"sohow's it sound to you?". Course, if you want you could imagine he wastalking to you, the listener: what do you think?

Richard Sinclair, late of Caravan Hatfieldand The North, and Camel, is equally inviting; that may wéllbe the meaning of this new release's title. What's different and whatmakes this essential is that with the first wistful chords of "What'sRattlin'?", he serves notice that he won't be held to pastglorioskies; in fact he's on his way to a new and sinuously subtlemeld of jazz, ethnic, rock and that undefinably willful indifferenceto Newtonian physics that apparently can only be found in theCanterbury Trapezoid (as opposed to the Bermuda Triangle,no doubt).Good-natured as ever, he squires Hugh Hopper, Pip Pyle, Dave Cohen(who is responsible for most of the breathtaking percussion here; hecould have sat in for Tony Williams in the Davis quintet!), DidierMalherbe, Kit Watkins and a few other transposed heads through anear-opening slipstream of twists, turns and sunny sentiments (yourodd caveat about the environment or war notwithstanding),altogethercoming up with the single most mature statement I've yet heard from amusician of any stripe in years. No kidding.

Our music (rock music, anyway) is at bottoman adolescent form (some would say infantile). And delightful thoughthey were, Caravan, the Hatfields, National Health and Soft Machine,ad absurdum, all had a bit of the clever show-off to them. "Look atus!", however, is no longer in Mr. Sinclair's vocabulary (it was wellon the wane in his fine 1992 release Caravan Of Dreams,but our Abdab in Chief was too muleheaded to notice). Six of the tencompositions here are instrumental, and the simple intensity of theenterprise will make one delirious. Sax-and-flautists Malherbe andJimmy Hastings add marvelous spice on their respective tracks, andHugh Hopper, the most fearsome electric bassist of the 1970s, nowlets one artfully bent note stand for the roar he used to let go.Freed of holding the bottom down, Sinclair gets to toss off someguitar solos, angular and spiky breaks that remind somewhat of PhilMiller.

The classic humor remains in bits like"Where Are They Now?", an ECM-like guitars/drums workout in which itseems the missing musicians are the subject. "Over From Dover"features Sinclair scatting a lush samba melody while the remainingmembers frolic in the palm trees, while "Out Of The Shadows" takesany number of Salman Rushdie-hairpin turns in its 12 minutes."Outback In Canterbury"is also remarkable in that a tortoise-sizeddijeridu is added just to muck things up. No, forget yourpigeonholes. Just call it Sinclair. And friends.

"Videos" does allow our hero to gibberincredibles about the lengths artists will go to in order to forcetheir listeners to indulge in one's product, but the dearth of theusual Sinclair moments (as well as what they're replaced with) pointto how he is grateful of our company, but we must let him get on withsomething new. You have to draw another like ness to Miles here;perfectionist that he was, and Sinclair no doubt is, neither onewould ask what you think unless they already knew it was as good asit gets.

© 1994 ToneClusters