by Petr Slabý
The British vocal equilibrist Phil Minton, whose range, according to one review, spans from “the hypochondriac screaming to melodramatic wonder,” was born in 1940 in Torquay. At 15 he began to play the trumpet, playing in local bands from 1959-1961.
Afterwards he moved to London, where he became a member of the Mike Westbrook Orchestra. He spent the 1964-65 season in the Canary Islands, moving on afterwards to Sweden, where he lived for five years. After returning to London in 1971, he rejoined the Mike Westbrook Orchestra and played in a number of his own projects until the 90s. In 1974 he dedicated himself to collaborations with experimental theatre, after which he started the vocal group Voice along with Maggie Nichols and Julie Tippets. At the same time, Minton began performing solo, as well as in a variety of improvised duets with, for example, the guitarist Fred Frith, the percussionist Roger Turner and the saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. Frith also introduced him to Bob Ostertag, which lead to the 1981 recording of a collaborative “revolutionary” album entitled “Voice of America.” In the 90s, Minton took part in Ostertag’s project Say No More which, in its own way, carries on in the current project Book of Hours, which was begun in April 2016 and was presented at the vs. Interpretation Festival 2016.
Also of note is Minton’s collaboration with the pianist Veryan Weston, which began in 1987. Minton performed with him as a duo and then invited him to join his quartet featuring other well-known contemporaries, including the saxophonist John Butcher and Roger Turner. In the mid-90s, Minton also met the cellist Tom Cora, which lead to the founding of the quartet Roof. The quartet also featured the bass guitarist Luc Ex and the drummer Michale Vatcher. After Cora’s death, Minton brought Weston into the band the 4 Walls, continuing on in the same vein.
In 1994 Minton was asked to give a number of vocal workshops, which led to the project Feral Choir. Since then, Minton has worked primarily with non-musicians, running workshops around the world (in 2009 it was part of the Alternative Festival in Prague).
Minton’s collaborations are incredibly far-reaching. Of these, the quartet Speak Easy is one of his regularly performing formations. In the quartet, the vocalist joins his voice with Ute Wassermann’s vocals, highlighted by Thomas Lehn’s analog synthesizers and Martin Blume’s drums. For over ten years Minton has performed often with the vocalist and cellist Audrey Chen, who also participated in the Prague performance of the Book of Hours.