‘Knowledge Porridge’ – The Weave

Weave_lite

“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
with
Luciana Mercer vocals, acoustic guitar
Michael Head 12-string acoustic guitar
Georgina Aasgaard cello
Jonathan Aasgaard cello

theweavemusic.com

Rufusalbino Records (2015)

‘Flint’ – Bill Laurance

Flint

OVER THE LAST DECADE, thunderous New York jazz-funk fusionists Snarky Puppy have garnered a solid international fan base with their intoxicating live shows, as well as a successful catalogue of albums. At the heart of this creative powerhouse is English pianist/keyboardist Bill Laurance, who now presents his own sparkling debut release, along with a UK and Netherlands tour.

Described by Laurance as the album he’s been searching for since he started making music, Flint is a collaboration with two close friends – Snarky stalwarts Michael League (basses, guitars) and Robert ‘Sput’ Searight’ (drums, percussion) – as well as a host of string and horn players. Together, they realise a magnificent compositional spectrum, often on an orchestral/filmic scale as well as anticipated jazz-funk grooving, with Laurance commanding at the grand piano and Fender Rhodes. And, although the majority of the ten through-composed pieces are solely from the leader’s pen (along with League’s considerable input as arranger), the communal sense of striving for both musical exactitude and improvisation is palpable… and exciting.

Setting the tone are the complex urban drum patterns of opener Never-Ending City, with gutsy five-string bass, keys ostinati, cityscape strings and Laurance’s cool piano extemporisations. Janáček/Copland-style brass announces Money in the Desert, a brooding, quietly-pulsating episode which can’t help but break out into moog-driven funk with accented strings, and League’s popping electric guitar lead (blame it on the boogie!). Title track Flint (named after the inspirational effect on Laurance of a Snarky Puppy gig in Flint, Michigan) is more akin to soundtrack, dipping in and out of marching band mode and expansive Philip Glass-like pianistic/orchestral vistas, underpinned by Sput’s metronomic pulse. And all the while, the arrangements feel organically whole.

Smooth jazz Swag Times features quite breathtaking drum razzle-dazzle from Searight against an irresistible Rhodes/synth/vocoder wash – and again, brass and strings widen the landscape (such beautiful execution from string players who completed their entire recording requirement within a day!). The Good Things pares down the line-up to piano, bass and drums, Laurence leading in mysterious, echoic grandeur, plus impressive fuzz bass from League; and baroque-inflected Chia, with its gorgeously mercurial piano and double bass, invites the rapid gypsy fiddle of Zach Brock and portamento string backing to ramp up the tempo and augmented orchestration – in a word, delightful. Whimsical and grungy ska tune Smokers Castle jerks and clatters around Laurance’s detuned piano and a wonderfully brash New Orleans-style brass section; and Gold Coast features the fluid flugelhorn of Mike Maher (also of Snarky Puppy) in an orchestrally opulent, shining affair.

At ten minutes in length, penultimate track Ready Wednesday is a sure highlight, Searight’s fast Latinesque tempo showcasing Laurance’s exacting, rhythmic piano style; and the broad orchestral sweep – even in its later, slower section – has ‘movie soundtrack’ written all over it. As closing titles roll, classical piano end-piece Audrey, with delicate strings and flugel, melancholily waltzes to its rest.

As part of the package (on a second disc), a 47-minute DVD documentary – made by Andy Laviolette – provides a fascinating insight into the making of Flint, revealing the musicians’ passion for their art, as well as various triumphs over adversity along the way (including the sudden non-availability of their pre-booked studio, twelve few hours before recording sessions were due to begin!). Videos of all tracks are also included.

Released on 14 July 2014, this is an ambitious and absorbing project – not least for the Snarky Puppy faithful – which promises much in its translation to a live setting (see below for October 2014 tour dates, samples and purchasing). Check it out!

 

Bill Laurance acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, vocoder, keyboards, shaker, congas, ride cymbal, propane tank, hand claps
Michael League electric bass, double bass, moog bass, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, hand claps
Robert ‘Sput’ Searight drums, timpani, marching snare & bass drums, shekere, cowbells, vibraslap, woodblocks, shaker, hand claps
Maria Im violin
Zach Brock violin (solos)
Curtis Stewart violin
Henry Flory violin
Lev Zhurbin viola
Eylem Basaldi viola
Maria Jeffers cello
J.Y. Lee cello
Mike ‘Maz’ Maher trumpet, flugelhorn
Matt McLaughlin french horn
Chris Bullock tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Brian Donohoe alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Scott Flynn trombone
Magda Giannikou propane tank, glockenspiel, xylophone
Emília Canas Mendes & Andy Laviolette hand claps

2014 UK tour dates
03 October: St George’s, Bristol
04 October: Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
06 October: The Glee Club, Birmingham
07 October: Band on the Wall, Manchester
08 October: The Grand, Clitheroe
09 October: Ropery Hall, Barton on Humber
10 October: Turner Sims, Southampton

2014 Netherlands tour dates
11 October: Bird, Rotterdam
12 October: North Sea Jazz Club, Amsterdam

billlaurance.com
Bandcamp.com
iTunes

groundUP music – GRO117 (2014)