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Item 4 is Alex Ward's latest ensemble to feature his compositions for improvisers. His previous work in this field with ensembles such as Predicate, Forebrace and the Alex Ward Quintet/Sextet has been described as "deft and utterly mesmeric" (Philip Clark, The Guardian review of Alex Ward Quintet "Glass Shelves And Floor"), "terrific... imbuing the formal rigour of systems music with the expressiveness and spontaneity of free improvisation" (Stewart Smith, The Quietus review of "Glass Shelves And Floor"), "blistering, no holds barred... the energy captured has that special spark of a great gig" (Paul Acquaro, Free Jazz Blog review of Forebrace "Steeped"), and "dynamic – and at times quite volatile... a keen realization of Ward’s belief in the role of composition as it relates to improvisation" (Troy Collins, Point Of Departure review of "Predicate").

Having worked as a sideman in ensembles led by Duck Baker, Eugene Chadbourne, Simon H. Fell, and Butch Morris amongst others, Ward has had a deep and varied first-hand experience of the various strategies that can be used to combine composition and improvisation, and everything he has learned in these contexts has gone on to inform his own work as bandleader. The context for this work is the rich and inspiring community of improvising musicians in the UK in which he has been involved for many decades, since his initial introduction to the scene as a participant in Derek Bailey's Company events. The members of Item 4 were all also involved in his large ensemble project Item 10, which brought together musicians from many generations of UK improvisation and whose album "Volition (Live At Cafe Oto)" was described in The Wire Magazine as "a rigorous intellectual exercise which also blows its head off... [an] ambitious work".

The New York-based label Relative Pitch will be releasing the debut album by Alex Ward Item 4, "Where We Were" (RPR 1105) in early 2020. The album was recorded in September 2018 at two performances in London, including one at the Dalston venue Set which received an enthusiastic review from the Free Jazz Blog website (read it here).

The music on the album (as is customary for Ward) covers a broad stylistic base, weaving intricate and often highly emotive composed themes into a freewheeling improvisatory landscape, which reveals a kinship with the extended energy curves of free jazz but also hints at the more avant-rock leanings of Ward's work in the duo Dead Days Beyond Help.

In addition to his work as bandleader and continued involvement in free improvisation with such musicians as Steve Noble, Evan Parker and Pat Thomas, Ward has also recently been active as a touring member of This Is Not This Heat, Thurston Moore's New Noise Guitar Explorations, and The Flying Luttenbachers. His debut solo guitar album, "Frames", will be released on Relative Pitch Records simultaneously with Item 4's "Where We Were".
ALEX WARD: clarinet / electric guitar
OTTO WILLBERG: double bass