“On the street for knowledge, you must eat your porridge.”
BASING THE TITLE of their second album on that quote from a late ’80s song by The La’s (they of There She Goes), fellow Liverpudlians The Weave serve up this ten-track delight which brims with good cheer, memorable licks and more than a hint of positively-channelled mischief.
Led by trumpeter and composer Martin Smith, the band (who have played together in different guises for many years) have grown to be a key element of the city’s buzzing Georgian Quarter scene – an architecturally and artistically rich sector where live music at venues such as The Caledonia and The Grapes is keenly championed. Essentially a dual trumpet and guitar-fronted jazz sextet, they are joined on this recording (engineered by Tony Draper at the very local Parr Steet Studios) by a number of colleagues who add lustre to their happy, ebullient, sometimes quirky Liverpool sound drawn from hard bop and classic trad styles of jazz, as well as pop, rock and a whiff of Canterbury scene eccentricity.
You can get the drift from opener The Pogo (which Smith co-wrote with Frank Zappa drummer, the late Jimmy Carl Black), as it grooves with all the cheerful amiability of Clark Terry or Kenny Ball; and if the initial few bars’ impression is of modest easy-listening jazz/R&B, wait for the album’s irresistibly teasing influences to unfold. Plodding New Orleans-tinged Trumpet Ear audaciously chucks an unexpected extra beat here and there into its rising, Three Little Fishies-suggested motif (Smith’s improvisational trumpet style here not unlike Freddie Hubbard), and the vibes-sparkling I’m In Your House hits a fabulously ’60s about-town blend of Gerry Marsden’s Pacemakers, retro-pop Merseyside band The Coral, and even Herb Alpert (with cool guitar improv from Anthony Ormesher).
The blithe, late-’60s/early-’70s mood is perpetuated in dreamy Our Day On The Mountain, its precise call-and-answer arrangement and smooth, high-reaching flugel lines recalling the late, great Kenny Wheeler; and Evolve and Expand, featuring the voice and acoustic guitar of writer Luciana Mercer, shuffles coolly to sauntering piano and muted trumpets. Written by bassist Hugo Harrison, Para Parrot might imagine an agreeable Django Reinhardt and Dave Brubeck meet-up, with Satchmo guesting; and languishing Our Fathers seems to summon the case-solved closing titles of a monochrome TV detective series, albeit it with subtle Mariachi-twinned trumpets.
Swirling Celtic melodies in Not On Your Nelly (in Liverpool, ‘could be a ‘wet Nelly’ – Google it!) find Smith wonderfully mimicking the double-stopping effect of Irish fiddle music as the piece stomps assuredly, whilst eclectic, new-age title track Knowledge Porridge perhaps reflects the leader’s long association with Kevin Ayers, its faux-tango feel crowned by a bizarre yet eloquent Vivian Stanshall-like oration from trumpeter Anthony Peers. And the gentle, musical-box waltz of charmingly-titled Princess Salami Socks (dedicated to Smith’s young god-daughter, with lilting cello duet from her parents) wistfully winds down the album to its conclusion.
This is certainly a release of fascinatingly different flavours from a clutch of musicians who, through many years of collaboration and enjoyment of their art, intuitively ‘click’ – and it’s a great left-field Summer pleaser, to boot.
Released on 6 July 2015, Knowledge Porridge is available at Bandcamp as download, CD and limited edition 12″ vinyl.
Martin Smith trumpet, flugelhorn, musicbox
Anthony Peers trumpet, flugelhorn, spoken word
Anthony Ormesher guitar
Hugo “Harry” Harrison double bass
Tilo Pirnbaum drums
Rob Stringer piano
Andrzej Baranec piano
Vidar Norheim vibraphone
Stuart Hardcastle percussion
Luciana Mercer vocals, acoustic guitar
Michael Head 12-string acoustic guitar
Georgina Aasgaard cello
Jonathan Aasgaard cello
Rufusalbino Records (2015)