COMPASSIONATE DICTATORSHIP have been playing together for around six years, recording twice before (‘Coup d’Etat’ and ‘Cash Cows’). ‘Entertaining Tyrants’, however, is the quartet’s first release with progressive young British label, Jellymould Jazz, consolidating their already distinctive sound.
The personnel is outstanding – Tori Freestone (tenor sax), Jez Franks (guitar), Jasper Høiby (double bass), James Maddren (drums) – and, between them, this esteemed line-up create a powerful yet beautifully crafted set of nine Franks and/or Freestone compositions, all presented with an impressive display of mutual understanding, collaboration and musicianship. The melodic pairing is excellent: Freestone’s characteristic tenor delivery, in turns both mellifluous and gritty; Franks slickly switching from bright solo cadences to lush chord progressions.
Having listened over and over to ‘Tyrants’ (released 29 April 2013), this is a classic example of what I happily refer to as a ‘jazz treasure chest’. Opening the lid, it’s obvious straightaway that there is much inside to delight – deeper inspection, though, fascinatingly reveals greater ‘jewels’ as they very gradually come to the surface. And what a hoard!…
‘Anger Management’, with its sarcastic opening tenor call and sneering guitar replies, immediately provides a curiously-appealing, edgy tension. The energy here is wonderful, as is the terrific interplay between these close musical minds – and what sounds like a free-for-all is, in fact, a masterclass in control and shared voice. ‘In the Chophouse’ displays smart improvisation, as well as delicate guitar washes. ‘Bubble and Squeak’s momentum is skilfully carried by Jasper Høiby’s fluent bass and James Maddren’s incisive rhythm; calm is briefly restored with the lofty ‘Sit Tight’.
Changing tempi and close sax/guitar work are a feature of the attractive ‘Universal 4’, with Høiby’s recognisably colourful lines breaking through and Maddren setting an intricately shimmering pace. On ‘Ratios’, the guitar lays down a gentler pulse for Freestone to solo over, with Franks also contributing flowing improvisation. ‘Pottering Around’ is a standout, the tenor’s initial plaintive sound encouraging the group to freely exchange ideas (it’s lovely stuff) before gleefully breaking into a great guitar-driven groove with a mischievous ascending, spiralling tenor catch, Høiby and Maddren again a class act with their tight rhythmic contribution. A sense of anarchy (and fun!) pervades ‘Precious’, Freestone contrasting hard-pushing screeches with beautifully sonorous low-register passages, whilst ‘Loop’ closes the album with a mellow, perhaps slightly dark, serenity.
The quartet’s recorded sound, thanks to Nic Taylor and Dominic Sales, is crisp and clean, giving the listener a satisfyingly close experience, as well as a longing to witness, first hand, their exciting live chemistry! Good to see, then, that the Dictatorship have issued an accompanying tour schedule (with more dates to be added):
11 May 2013: Skein Jazz, Norway
23 May 2013: Hebden Bridge, UK
2 June 2013: Colchester Arts, UK
3 June 2013: Sela Bar, Leeds, UK
11 June: The Spin, Oxford, UK
1 September 2013: Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft, UK
17 November 2013: Teignmouth Jazz Festival, UK
A great album to get inside – highly recommended.
Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ011 (2013)