REVIEW

 

KEVIN COYNE & ACHIM GOETTERT
Opera For Syd 1991 [Excaliber 1CD]
An opera for Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett based on Piper At The Gates of Dawn. Recorded live at Leipziger Jazztage, Oct 1 1999. Ex SBD stereo

One of the lesser-known episodes from the late Coyne's long and so miraculous career, Opera For Syd was staged around the European jazz circuit during late 1999, a collaboration with saxophonist Achim Goettert, guitarist Michael Rodach, bassist Mike Parker and drummer Anton Nissl, plus vocalist David Moss. This particular recording hails from the project's premiere at the Leipzig Jazz Festival in Germany on October 1, 1999.

Essentially an avant-garde improvisation, it was described by Coyne, at the time, as "quite a grand thing, operatic, but it's improvised." He admitted that "not all of it works," and anybody brought up on the Floydian originals of the songs presented here ("Astronomy Domine," "Scarecrow," "Lucifer Sam" and "Chapter 24") will certainly find it difficult to digest. But Coyne is in fine form, extemporizing lyrics that, in some form or another, reflect upon Barrett's life while weaving through the never-less-than intriguing soundscapes being woven by his bandmates. 

Some solid riffs and rhythms underpin the performance, and even the original compositions reflect the opera's inspiration - the second track, "No. 23," for example, could easily be mistaken for an unholy collision between "Interstellar Overdrive" and "The Nile Song." Other pieces, however, require only the merest hint of Barrett's own work to make their point - "The Scarecrow" is built almost wholly on the song's distinctive click-clack introduction, while the psychedelic furies of "Lucifer Sam" are restaged as an almost bluesy, downbeat jam, through which Rodach's guitar slashes like lightning.

Again, Opera For Syd probably isn't going to thrill the average Floyd fan, who merely seeks some new variations on a clutch of old favorites. Anybody who followed Coyne through those so-idiosyncratic works that consumed the last decade or so of his life, however, will be absolutely enthralled. - Dave Thompson

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