Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson
The Stone; Fri 15--Sun 17
Thu Dec 14 2006
Photograph: Peter Gannushkin/downtownmusic.net
One way to measure the greatness of a band, at least after the fact, might be the number of later movements that can claim it. It’s the sort of metric applied to the Stooges and Talking Heads, as if it were possible to actually be ahead of one’s time, and not just influential. By that measure, the members of Henry Cow deserve the stardom that eluded them before they broke up in 1978. They were smart and experimental, yet often accessible. They wrote complex pop songs and did long improvisations. They were math rock and chamber rock, a jam band and, if radical politics are a punk stance, the proto pogoing proletariat.
The band has never reunited, and even attempts at jointly writing a book about its ten-year history caused too much disagreement among the eight members (who made up various lineups) for it to be finished. But the core of the group will convene this weekend for as close to a reunion as mortals are likely to ever see. Guitarist Fred Frith has continued to perform with drummer Chris Cutler (who also heads Recommended Records, a bellwether of European improv and art rock), and they perform as a duo and trio with onetime Soft Machine bassist-guitarist Hugh Hopper on Friday. On Sunday, each plays in a duo with keyboardist-saxophonist Tim Hodgkinson. But Saturday, the three will play together for the first time in close to 30 years—provided a dinner discussion about Fidel Castro’s health or Hugo Chvez’s polemics doesn’t derail the show. — Kurt Gottschalk