Toop on Coxhill

Lol Coxhill in a skip

Lol Coxhill in a skip. Art event copyright Simon Thackray. Photo: Tony Bartholomew.

cris cheek just alerted us to a superb homage to Lol Coxhill by his friend & collaborator David Toop. Below 2 paragraphs from that homage; you can read the full piece here.

 Lol could be an extraordinarily generous person. There were those he believed to be “duff”, dismissed with pithy anecdote and an underplayed chuckle, and then there were those he genuinely liked and admired, often awkward, marginal figures like Colin Wood or Dave Holland (the pianist) who lacked his breadth of experience but who gained his respect through the tenacity with which they maintained their awkwardness and marginality. He actively sought out tricky situations. To me, this is the measure of an improviser: a player who moves beyond their comfort zone, chips away at their own aesthetic and tics, risks foolishness and failure and yet builds operational spaces in every situation, no matter how rote or ridiculous. The rest are just stylists. I say this knowing that Lol was never graced with the status of true improviser by the commissars of the game; his sidelines were his centre, his rambling ways the shadowing of his bald soprano, its convolutions and folds, its serpentine unfoldings in the inaudible dark. He was dogged by eccentricity, busking, the look of him, his clothes, his baldness, his comedic turn yet never shied away from the heavy responsibility of lightening proceedings. Some people would release an album by three of the greatest improvising soprano players – Evan Parker, Steve Lacy and Lol Coxhill – under a title like Straight Horn Colossi; no doubt at Lol’s suggestion it was called Three Blokes.

Lol absolutely loved music, and so his raptures could shine equally onto Roland Alphonso or the San Lucas Band of Guatemala, onto frogs or sealions, onto the most sublime tenor players in jazz and the most incompetent shambolic amateur punk bands. He backed or sat in (these odd positional terms) with Joe Harriott and Jimi Hendrix, The Damned and Judy Collins; a collaborator in projects and groups so diverse that the list would be improbable were it not Lol. In the early 1980s I worked as writer and interviewer on Jeremy Marre’s Channel 4 music series, Chasing Rainbows. In Whitley Bay we recorded a wonderful violin duo called Minzi and Mina, two elderly ladies who played deliriously marathon Saturday night sets of yesteryear hits, shakily approximate but spirited, to a lively hotel crowd. Lol loved them when he heard a recording and it made me tearful again to open the gatefold of his Frog Dance LP this afternoon to find this letter: “Hello David . . . hope you like some of it as much as I like Minzi and Mina, cheers! Lol”.

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