Travis & Fripp – Live At Coventry Cathedral

Travis & Fripp - Live at Coventry Cathedral

Robert Fripp is a figurative deity amongst experienced musicians and music aficionados. As the founder of King Crimson (considered by many to be the first true progressive rock band), Fripp is one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of the last fifty years. While branching out to new styles is always welcomed, Fripp should always, at least partially, stick to what he’s known for. Which is why his newest collaboration with jazz legend Theo Travis, Live At Coventry Cathedral, is so disappointing. King Crimson always had countless things going on at once; Travis & Fripp do almost nothing together.

Fripp has appeared on some of Travis’ previous albums, but the duo first collaborated officially on 2008’s Thread. King Crimson always incorporated jazz instruments, rhythms and chord progressions into their music, and Travis has covered a number of their songs, like “21st Century Schizoid Man”. Clearly the two aren’t opposed to playing engaging music, and they’re quite good at it, so the fact that Live At Coventry Cathedral is the exact opposite is surprising. This record is merely a step away from being total silence.

Live At Coventry Cathedral flows like one piece of music, which would be fantastic if it evolved at any point. It doesn’t; instead it’s basically extended saxophone and flute notes accompanied by Fripp’s ambient, pastoral soundscapes. For seventy-five minutes. It’s like the opening of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” if Dave Gilmour never ended the spacey opening with his signature timbre guitar notes. For seventy-five minutes.

To be fair, “The Offering” does have some energetic woodwind interaction and electric guitar aggression, but it’s minimal, and the fact that that seems like a highlight shows just how boring the rest of it is. The duo also features a reworked version of “Moonchild,” which appeared on King Crimson’s debut, In the Court of the Crimson King. Originally, its three minutes of song were followed by eight minutes of nothingness. Here we don’t even get the song.

This record doesn’t dissatisfy and anger because it isn’t full blown progressive rock craziness. Only the most closed minded listener would demand artists deliver exactly what they’re expecting. Fripp and Travis are free to express themselves however they want as a team, which they do here, but it’s not listenable. The album opens with an audience clapping because they see two great musicians on stage together. They clap at the end because, presumably, they’re done enduring the performance they served as the middle. Live At Coventry Cathedral plays like the opening anticipation to a very involving work. But that never happens; the introductory music just keeps going. For seventy-five minutes.