Ovary Lodge, 1973
As a collector, I can be damnably linear. A record, like Keith Tippett's Blueprint, will send me scurrying around trying to collect every thing I can by him. Digesting a catalogue en masse, I'm trying to map it out in my head: Which are significant turns? What are curious diversions?
In Tippett's journey, Ovary Lodge is a major signpost (even if it's out-of-print and hard to come by). It's the point where he travelled beyond the reach of progressive rock. He spent the early 70s in that gray area of jazz-rock, but there is little purchase on Ovary Lodge for a King Crimson fan who happens on it after hearing his playing on Islands or Lizard. They could certainly be forgiven for expecting something more prog-like, given the ludicrous drum cage featured on the cover (plus, it's produced by Robert Fripp, after all).
No, Ovary Lodge is a jazz trio session with on foot in the free jazz mold and one placed firmly in the European free improv tradition and zero feet left for rockist intentions. While the group pay some respect to tunes, any offerings are kept oblique. Drummer Frank Perry spends most of the record more focused on textures than rhythms. There's a familiar busyness to the proceedings that will sound familiar to anyone acquainted with the early Incus catalog. While there was a modicum of precedent, Ovary Lodge still offered new pastures and rich terrain for Keith Tippett (and his fans).