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Review: Cwmwl Tystion II: Riot! at the Llais

article by Jon Gower from

If the wildly experimental American jazz composer Sun Ra had made the music for a documentary series by the firebrand historian Gwyn Alf Williams it might have sounded a bit like this. The latest instalment of Tomos Williams’ Cwmwl Tystion project was inspired by various riots and other troubled moments in Welsh history.

Delivered as an hour-long suite, with complementary visuals by the Llangollen-based artist Simon Proffitt, Williams’ aim in the work was to challenge a certain tendency in Wales ‘to romanticize all Welsh riots: I wanted to highlight a few slightly more uncomfortable moments in our nation’s history.’ Williams had assembled an ensemble of real verve and talent, inviting vibraphone player Orphy Robinson – whose jazz pedigree is as impressive as they come – and award-winning alto saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch to join Eädyth Crawford and his more usual collaborators, drummer Mark O’Connor and bass player Aidan Thorne.

While there was plenty of space for individual flair to be put on show the piece swirled the various musical colours together to make a coherent whole, a good Welsh cawl made with unusual ingredients.

Williams cites influences such as Wadada Leo Smith, Matana Roberts, Don Cherry and John Zora, a list which is, in itself testament to the range of this trumpeter’s listening, and how far he casts his net.


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