‘Faces’ – David Lyttle

Faces

BOOKENDED by nonchalant sax improvisation from jazz luminary Joe Lovano, the rapped words declare, “Worth your while to take a second listen to” – and it’s a pleasure to concur. Once in a while, a new, unexpected sound world grabs us by the ears and refuses to let go – something leftfield, eclectic and brimming with honest, heartwarming creativity. David Lyttle’s Faces is such an album.

Lyttle has a creditable biography. From his early beginnings in County Armagh as a young drummer with his parents’ Celtic family folk band – The Lyttle Family – he took up scholarships in the USA and Canada, as well as studying for both BMus and PhD in Ulster, achieving a Doctorate in Music. Since then, his seemingly boundless energy has found him performing, launching his own recording label and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Greg Osby, Soweto Kinch, Jason Rebello, Jean Toussaint, Andreas Varady, Pino Palladino……

Any attempt to categorise the Irishman’s musical ingenuity is tricky, as he confidently skips across an array of genres, creating a melange of fresh, attractive new sounds – and such incisive blending is the key to the success of this third solo outing. Inviting musical friends and family to his album personnel… well, in lesser hands, it could have all gone horribly wrong – but there’s an incredible sagacity to Lyttle’s ten tracks of pop, jazz, soul, folk, rap and hip-hop which become both enchanting and irresistible.

The adventure is there to be discovered – but here’s a flavour…  announced by romantic cello solo, jaunty retro pop/rap The Second Line grooves to Lyttle’s amiable vocals, soulful keys and perky snare. Like many of the compositions, Houdini bubbles with on-the-tip-of-the-tongue influences, here suggesting Jeff Lynne, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Keane and even a tinge of Alan Price’s (Simon Smith’s) ‘Dancing Bear’ – fascinating! A stand-out is the slow, gospel warmth of Seek, featuring the assured vocals of Anne Lyttle (David’s Mum) sustained by John Leighton’s evocative Hammond and pianist Jason Rebello’s perfect, crystalline sensitivity.

Rhea Lyttle (David’s sister) brings radio-friendly disco-pop to two numbers – Detour (including a sprinkling of Jean Toussaint’s soprano sax) and Game Boy, a Buggles-like teenage tale with rapping from Zane, coloured by Michael Buckley’s floral flute. Title track Faces is announced with mischievous “HAhaHAhaha”s from Cleveland Watkiss, whose characterful three-minute vocal/scat groove is a joy; and soft rap Lullaby For The Lost eases out to David Lyttle’s silky Fender Rhodes. Natalie Oliveri exchanges smooth soul voicings with rapper Homecut in To Be Free; and with the last word, Anne Lyttle presents homey, rocking-chair epilogue Perception to Meilana Gillard’s intimately-fashioned woodwinds.

Released on 23 February 2015, and already creating positive vibes across radio airwaves, Faces is available from Lyte Records. ‘Ready with that ‘repeat album’ setting?

 

David Lyttle drums, percussion, keyboards, cello, lead vocals
Keith Duffy bass, guitar
Duke Special lead vocals
Anne Lyttle lead vocals
Rhea Lyttle lead vocals
Cleveland Watkiss lead vocals
Natalie Oliveri lead vocals
Talib Kweli rap
Illspokinn rap
Homecut rap
Zane rap
Jason Rebello piano
John Leighton organ
Tom Harrison sax
Jean Toussaint sax
Joe Lovano sax
Michael Buckley flute
Meilana Gillard woodwinds
Jan Hutchinson violin
Eoin Walsh guitar

davidlyttle.com

Lyte Records (2015)

‘The New Straight Ahead’ – NYSQ (New York Standards Quartet)

NYSQ

THESE GUYS just wanna have fun!… and how clearly that message is conveyed, from the amiable tenor/piano intro and throughout The New Straight Ahead. Taking on ‘the jazz standards’ and setting them off in all kinds of new directions – avoiding the cracks and potholes of mediocrity and tedium – is no mean feat. But, on this joyous Whirlwind debut, the NYSQ (New York Standards Quartet) possess experience and passion, in spades, to carry it off.

Although a clear and immediate studio recording, the mood here is one of stumbling in off the street to find the most gloriously-ebullient four-piece at full tilt, buying a beer or two and waiting to discover which unlikely jazz avenue is traversed next. And up on stage, bringing this affectionate, colorised journey to life, are renowned musicians Tim Armacost (saxes), David Berkman (piano), Daiki Yasukagawa (bass) and Gene Jackson (drums).

Take, for example, It Don’t Mean a Thing which, contrary to the sentiment of the original lyric, finds a new spirit when taken on a surprisingly different rhythmic path. Both the dissective reworking and Tim Armacost’s soprano resemble the inquiring artistry of Wayne Shorter, Ellington’s original rapid swing smoothed into a broader, more leisurely, but still upbeat tempo. Evergreen (or browny orange) Autumn Leaves opens in familiar enough territory, but then takes off apace to Armacost’s liquid tenor, the band audaciously dipping in and out of 7/8 with palpable glee. Daiki Yasukagawa’s perfectly pliant bass sets up a boisterous interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s The Maze which bristles to a fervid bass and drum propulsion, with scintillating solo displays both from ‘Dexter’ Armacost and David Berkman at the piano.

Delightfully lush chords introduce When You Wish Upon a Star – mellow Scott Hamilton-style meanderings on the classic Disney tune of Harline/Washington; Remember finds Armacost in a perky Stan Getz state of mind, its assured, effervescent pulse courtesy of Gene Jackson’s flamboyance at the kit; and the piano quirkiness of Thelonious Monk’s Misterioso is embraced by Berkman, with Armacost’s sax offering an added dimension. Ah-leu-cha is one of the stand-outs of the album, a near-eight-minute offering which carries Charlie Parker’s original along on a wave of soprano-infused energy; and, in contrast, beautifully lyrical tenor improvisations on Jobim’s Zingaro relax to a gently shimmering South American piano and percussion sundown.

Released on 22 July 2014, this fourth NYSQ release warmly demonstrates how adaptable, in qualified hands, such old favourites can be… and it’s a great vibe to return to again and again. The band are clearly proud of their current eight years together, touring internationally, and happy to quote a Tokyo nightclub listener’s compliment: “I can hear each guy doing his own thing, but you’re doing it together”.

Visit the album page at Whirlwind for more information, promo video and purchasing.

 

Tim Armacost tenor and soprano saxophones
David Berkman piano
Daiki Yasukagawa double bass
Gene Jackson drums

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4654 (2104)

‘Subterranean: New designs on Bowie’s Berlin’ – Dylan Howe

Subterranean

THE ‘BERLIN YEARS’ of David Bowie’s wide-ranging pop/rock career are amongst the most memorable – a source of fascination and inspiration to musicians, including composers and instrumentalists from other genres.

In the mid-to-late ’70s, Bowie had turned his attentions to a more minimalistic/ambient output, influenced by a move to West Berlin and stemming from his interest in postmodernist contemporary art. The recorded legacy of that period centres around two (some say three) seminal albums – Low and Heroes, both from 1977 – produced by Tony Visconti and including celebrated rock experimentalists Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. Two decades on, leading American contemporary composer – and friend of Bowie – Philip Glass reimagined both projects as stunning orchestral symphonies which highlighted the far-reaching creative possibilities of these iconic compositions.

Now, as a fan of Bowie’s original recordings from his teenage years, and seeking a more original and personal direction for his own work, British rock and jazz drummer Dylan Howe has translated the ‘call’ of that ‘Berlin era’ into a remarkable new studio release, Subterraneans, mainly interpreting the instrumental aspects of this pair of albums. Created over a period of several years, and realised thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the accomplished personnel comprises Julian Siegel and Brandon Allen (tenor sax), Ross Stanley (piano, synths) and Mark Hodgson (double bass) along with appearances from bassist Nick Pini, guitarist Adrian Utley and special guest on koto, Dylan’s father (needing no introduction to Yes fans!), Steve Howe.

The landscape of the project is broadly filmic, encompassing prog/synth rock and post-bop jazz; and whilst initially slow burning, it progresses and expands into an imaginatively colourful fusion of both. So, opening track Subterraneans maintains the shifting synth profile of the Low original, but ticks perhaps more optimistically to Howe’s snare/cymbal rhythm and the subtle explorations of piano and sax. Weeping Wall encourages a greater jazz quintet presence and momentum, Howe prominent at the kit against Vangelis-like electronics; and the extended All Saints (a later Bowie creation), opening with the expressive bass of Mark Hodgson, leaps into a wide piano-driven jazz swing, Brandon Allen taking the wonderfully hard, dry Coltrane-esque tenor solos (sinister synth whinings hovering behind).

Some Are smoulders like some late ’60s TV thriller theme, leading to the similar drama of Neuköln – Night (from Heroes) – this time, an effective, fast-paced reworking in which Howe’s drums and Stanley’s piano skitter to the ebullition of Nick Pini’s bass. Howe takes Art Decade to another place, its ambient Eno-like qualities evident, but shimmering as a sensuously-felt, droplet-piano ballad. Warszawa – in Bowie’s hands, sombre and menacing – becomes sprightly and dance-like to Dylan Howe’s touch. Whilst such a transformation might sound crass or insensitive, it is in fact surprisingly successful; tempered with unsettling moments characterised by Adrian Utley’s echoic guitar, the jazz groove which ultimately dominates these eleven minutes is joyful in its synth-infused abandon.

Neuköln – Day picks up on the earlier Night theme; here, a darker variation – and my futile, self-indulgent desire at this point anticipates a crashing Sound Chaser-like injection from master guitarist Steve Howe! But no fear – Mr Howe (Senior) takes up the koto embellishments of serene Moss Garden to close the set.

Released on 7 July 2014, Dylan Howe will be touring Subterranean in the UK from 5 September (see dates below). Whether or not Bowie runs through your veins, it’s worth investigating at Bandcamp (download/CD/vinyl) – and endorsed enthusiastically by davidbowie.com and the great man himself.

 

Dylan Howe drums
Mark Hodgson double bass
Ross Stanley piano, synths
Brandon Allen tenor saxophone
Julian Siegel tenor saxophone
with
Nick Pini double bass
Adrian Utley guitar
Steve Howe koto

dylanhowe.com

2014 tour dates:
Dylan Howe; Dave Whitford; Ross Stanley; Steve Lodder; Andy Sheppard

5 September: Colchester
10 September: Lincoln
11 September: Nottingham
12 September: Derby
13 September: Hessle
26 September: Brighton
29 September: London
1 October: Halifax
2 October: Milton Keynes
3 October: Liverpool
18 October: Coventry

Motorik Recordings – MR1004 (2014)

‘Trio Riot’ – Trio Riot

TrioRiot

TRIO!… RIOT!… PUNK!… JAZZ!… BOOOOOOOOOOM!!!! It’s OK – I haven’t ‘lost it’ (as they say)… but this saxophone/drum trio is perhaps as hard-hitting and as ‘in your face’ as they come.

Released on the Efpi label, already renowned for blazing a trail of alternative improvisatory forms, Trio Riot bring us an eponymous album of honest, edgy, brash, chordless energy. With a sound that might encompass the ’60s jazz innovation of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, the gritty North-Eastern blues of Back Door and the anarchy of mid-’70s British punk, Anglo/Danish/Swiss band Trio Riot brandish an extreme vitality rarely heard on the current contemporary jazz scene.

Formed in Helsinki in 2009, the trio comprises Danish alto player Mette Rasmussen, Swiss tenorist Sam Andreae and, from the quintessentially northern UK oasis of Bollington (famous not least for its fine ales), drummer David Meier. Taking, as a musical parallel, the vast industrial heritage of Manchester, together these three instrumentalists creatively forge a feral, punchy and straight-down-the-line concoction of original, improvisatory, yet well-structured compositions which ‘take no prisoners’ when it comes to openness of heart and raw musical passion. You’re either ‘in’ or you’re ‘out’ (‘Marmite’-style) – but I defy you not to be impressed (as I am) with the conviction of Mette, Sam and David.

Opening number, 3, fanfares the trio’s intent – grating, trilled sax solos interspersed with heavy drum responses; squawking, guttural tenor lines and shrill alto shrieks against fast-paced rhythms (those of a nervous disposition, please alight here!). Lala-lala (an onomatapaeic title) provides a percussive canvas over which Rasmussen and Andreae duel with increasing fervour; and Rondeau finds both sax players in a less confrontational frame of mind – indeed, they’re maybe of a more cheeky mindset, challenging drummer Meier to play their rasping and fun-filled game. I’m So Glad It Wasn’t Me sputters and sparks with atonal brashness; and Candid is just that – outspoken, with almost timpani-like heaviness… all good stuff!

Bartstock opens (and closes) with contrapuntal vigour, Rasmussen and Andreae chirping wildly in-between, against the rapid complexity of Meier’s percussion. Duo is a tense conversation between alto and tenor, though not without the suggested unwanted interjection of Meier’s ‘nails on blackboard’ cymbal-screeching; and Guru is an all-out rumpus, with impressively anarchic, tremulant, harmonic tenor whinings.

Unsurprisingly, Dadadadadadadada (is that enough ‘da’s?) is an intense three-minute celebration of all things reed and percussion – love it or hate it, it’s simply (for me, at least) sheer, unalloyed madness… but all in the best possible taste! 31 is sparky, blistering, riotous and altogether… well, wonderful. And Disorder (Joy Division) just revels in the relentless punky/’discoey’ groove laid down by David Meier, Andreae’s tenor improvising against Rasmussen’s quirky, repetitious and percussive alto. Drawing breath, closing number The Last Hurrah finds a corrupted solace in the searing, sinewy combination of cymbals and reedy harmonics, until alto and tenor find a mutually common ground and, finally, real beauty in their partnership – a mutual coming-together.

Recorded in just two days, mixed by Alex Bonney and packaged in Efpi’s ever-distinctive screenprinted sumptuousness (courtesy of designer Simen Engen Larsen), ‘Trio Riot’ is released on 17 March 2014 – available here. Trio… RIOT!


Mette Rasmussen
alto saxophone
Sam Andreae tenor saxophone
David Meier drums

Efpi Records – 2014