Fred Frith plays Gravity with Aaron Novik’s Thorny Brocky, The Dominique Leone Band, and special guests Wobbly and William Winant.
In 1978, the British cult band Henry Cow broke up after ten years, leaving founder-member Fred Frith at a loose end in London. Shortly afterwards, renowned entrepreneur Giorgio Gomelsky (one-time manager of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, John McLaughlin, and French colossus Magma) called Fred and offered to pay his ticket to come and check out the extraordinary things that were happening in New York. Fred quickly took him up on it; soon his world was upside down, and he’d decamped to the Lower East Side, where he remained for twelve momentous years that spanned his work in Massacre, Material, Skeleton Crew, Keep the Dog, and John Zorn’s Naked City, as well as dozens of albums and solo appearances.
The first musical product of the relocation was a record that had been simmering for a long time. Embracing both European and new American associations, Gravity, a record inspired by dance music from around the world, went on to become one of Fred’s best-loved and most enduring works. Initially wooed by Warner Brothers (he turned them down), he chose instead to release the record on San Francisco’s enigmatic Ralph Records, home of the Residents, with whom he now entered into a contract that saw the release of two more LPs and an association with the Bay Area that came full circle when he relocated to Oakland some twenty years later.
Hailed by the BBC as "absolutely essential… an album that seems to be from everywhere at once yet from nowhere in particular," Gravity had a big impact on a generation of young musicians, perhaps because, in the words of one critic, of "its ability to be simultaneously accessible and avant-garde." At the end of last year, a couple of those now not-quite so-young musicians approached Fred with the suggestion that they join forces with their respective bands and perform the material live, a proposal which he was happy to accept.
Tonight’s concert is the fruit of that conversation and a new take on material described by a fan on Amazon as the "best album in the known universe" which "grooves as hard as a washing machine overloaded with boots." There we have it, but dancing shoes might be a better bet…