In the initial stages of this set, recorded in 2008 at London’s Purcell Room, Keith Tippett lets superb clusters and low notes gradually materialize to sustain an almost unbearable intensity. His lifetime companion enters the scene quite soon, an atmosphere of equally concentrated lyrical tension that — strangely enough — brings Patti Waters to mind. When the singer erupts in her legendary wobbly invocations, successively circling around the husband’s compelling whirlwinds and clattering patterns with measured eloquence, we realize that we’re in for a mouth-watering act. “Couple In Spirit” is a wonderful name to indicate the level of immediate understanding, reciprocal love and utter symbiosis developed over the course of a career ruled by the immortal principle “may music never just become another way of making money”.
There’s a little bit of everything (including two poems) in a performance which, despite the technical prowess that might be detected, can unquestionably be labeled as “restrained”. The Tippetts have by now reached a point in which the improvisational synergies are completely regulated by their discerning sensibility, not an ounce of surplus released. When Julie’s atonal bopping and all-embracing stretches move sinuously within the spires of Keith’s ever-rational velocity, inventive shapes and former reminiscences interconnect. There seems to be mental planning behind what is instead a spontaneous exposure of the self; the necessity of artistic expression is delivered from contingent irrelevance. In some instances, the influence of diverse styles is reflected; in others, you just sit down and listen in awe. When a carillon diffuses The Godfather‘s theme as the prelude to a fiery climax, everything clicks.
Even the less ardent appraisers of Julie Tippett’s art — which include yours truly — are not going to deny that this CD contains one of her finest exhibitions. Keith is the usual impeccable master, alternating fire and geometry in spectacular fashion. A strong temptation arises to identifying this record as the best in the duo’s discography: an uncontaminated musicality where fervor, intelligent moderation, ceremonial percussiveness and barely broken silences live together without contrasts.