REVIEW: ‘Hi Res Heart’ – Archer / Keeffe / Pyne

THE RESOURCEFULNESS and technical achievement in this trio recording, alone, tell an impressive tale. But, much more than that, the lockdown-enforced concept of collaborating at distance (due to the global pandemic) to shape a seamless melting pot of musical creativity has produced an enthralling home-studio performance of composed/free jazz.

Hi Res Heart is the collective work of saxophonist/woodwind player Martin Archer, trumpeter/flugelhornist Charlotte Keeffe and vibraphonist/percussionist Martin Pyne; and both the ingenuity of their experimental process and the resultant dialogue is quite remarkable. All twelve tracks are listed with a three-character code (e.g. a – p – k) which identifies their remote order of construction (in this case, Archer – Pyne – Keeffe), with each trio member writing and recording the foundations of four pieces. These are then elaborated on and completed by the remaining two players, in different sequences and layers. The breadth of the soundscapes is fascinating, not least because each instrumentalist brings to the project their own experiences and interests – for instance, Martin Archer specifically draws inspiration from the masters of the black 1970s American avant-garde scene (an area in which he says he feels like he is writing and playing his very best).

These 65 minutes feel very much a personal expedition for musicians and listener alike, their multifaceted evolution sure to elicit a multitude of responses. To the uninitiated, the oblique freedom at the heart of this album may initially seem bewildering, perhaps even cacophonous – and, at times, they wouldn’t be far wrong! But to listen closely and emotionally interact with it is experientially satisfying, only in a quite different sense to more straight-ahead jazz. From the rambunctious clamour of Silena’s Fire, through the almost New Orleansian stomp of Keeffe’s G.E.M. and sassy, percussive resonance of big-band-style Seduction Dance, to inebriated, comedic Jean, the trio build compelling, unpredictable mélanges of timbres and rhythms.

Raw, bluesy riffs and japes in Looking for Gene bring to mind Blakey Ridge’s famed Back Door, though threaded with fidgety vibraphone improvisations; and the ‘noir’ mood of June is disconcertingly peppered with abstract trumpet (often forced through the mouthpiece), toy piano and reedy, melodramatic phrases. Pyne’s Earth Memory takes on an eastern flavour, its descending and chromatic melodies hypnotically buoyed by his perpetual undercurrent of strong, weltering rhythms, while Sleep Uneasy’s didgeridoo-style drones, sputtering ‘duck calls’ and misterioso flute certainly wouldn’t provide the ideal background to slumber!

Over eleven minutes, Archer’s Song for Bobby Naughton interlaces tenor sax, bass clarinet and muted trumpet in a markedly free and pensive progression, the saxophonist’s rich extemporisations partnering well with Pyne’s sustained, chiming vibraphone. The brief, brash plod of The Story in the Mirror and cartoonish squeal of Tommy (both of which momentarily try their hand at swing) are irresistibly fun, while closing Dolly Grip disjointedly sallies back and forth with jocular high trumpet utterances, reedy interjections and erratic percussion towards a frenzied B movie conclusion.

Martin Archer references US trumpeter Leo Smith’s trio of the late 1970s (with Dwight Andrews and Bobby Naughton) in terms of matching its instrumentation. But considering music’s development in the forty-plus years since, and the unique, combined influences on Archer / Keeffe / Pyne, it doesn’t feel outrageous to suggest Hi Res Heart offers an even greater attraction. That they produced it all ‘down the wire‘ seals it.

Released on 4 May 2021 and available as CD or download from Discus Music or Bandcamp.

 

Martin Archer sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass harmonica, flute, electronics
Charlotte Keeffe trumpet, flugelhorn
Martin Pyne vibraphone, drum set, percussion, toy piano

Cover art by Silena

Discus Music – 108CD (2021)

RECENT LISTENING: October 2020 (2)

‘Between The Lines’ – Steve Hamilton
Steve Hamilton, Martin Taylor, Don Paterson, Paul Booth, Davie Dunsmuir
Release date: 21 August 2020
stevehamilton.bandcamp.com

‘The Monk Watches The Eagle’ – Keith Tippett
Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts, Paul Dunmall, Kevin Figes, Ben Waghorn, Chris Biscoe, Tim Redpath, Rob Buckland, Andy Scott, David Roach, BBC Singers
Release date: 23 September 2020 (BBC recording released under licence by Discus Music)
discusmusic.bandcamp.com

‘Mondenkind’ – Michael Wollny
Michael Wollny – solo piano
Release date: 25 September 2020 (ACT Music)
actmusic.com

‘Gecko’ – Tom Smith
Tom Smith, Will Barry, Jonny Mansfield
Release date: 6 November 2020 (Basho Records)
tomsmithsax.bandcamp.com

REVIEW: ‘Spirits of Absent Dancers’ – Martin Pyne

DANCE is central to vibraphonist and percussionist Martin Pyne’s varied professional career. So when, in 2020, musicians’ and artists’ livelihoods were challenged and even threatened as the Coronavirus pandemic forced them to ‘leave the stage’, Martin’s greatest sense of creative loss was in being unable to collaborate with dancers and choreographers, of whose dedication he remains in constant awe.

Recorded live in his home studio (‘GS1’, to BBC radio listeners), he worked intensively, in real time, as ‘a single accompanist’: “I imagined a lone musician in a deserted theatre, like a kind of medicine man, throwing sounds into the space in an attempt to conjure up the ghosts of dancers no longer present, to breathe movement into stillness”. The majority of the sounds come from varied percussion and a small drum kit that’s mostly played with hands and feet (titled after spirits or ghosts), while seven vibraphone solos (named as spells or enchantments) provide a fluid, mystical thread.

From the wings, like a shadowy Satie ‘Gnossiene’, enters the toy-piano and temple-bowl tune of Summoning, part of a ballet score created for choreographer Mikaela Polley and Images Ballet Company. This provides the theme for the interspersed vibraphone variations such as Conjure, whose gossamer play might be imagined as fireflies in the twilight, and the sustained bowing and slow decays of Charm, suggesting nocturnal stillness. The more agile ‘spirits’ are just as entrancing, just a subtle hand clap amongst the toms and cymbals of Presence adding lovely detail; and Banshee’s fidgety, stop-start pats and tinkles feel quietly mischievous.

Discovering where Pyne’s explorations next turn is part of a magic which never wanes. Eidolon’s offbeat hi-hat pulse is addictive amongst its round-the-kit animation, and there‘s a resonance of gamelan in Ikiryo, prominently voiced by a delightful, tuned, wooden tongue drum acoustically sounded with hollow tubes. Vibraphone solo Hexing is mesmerically fleet and almost uncatchable, as is wispy Hocus Pocus, while impetuous tambourine interlude Spook might easily be an authentic medieval estampie. There’s a strong semblance of swing in the energetically brushed flams of Sprite, where pauses and interrupted rhythms create almost humorous anticipation (pity the dancer, there!). Even the bluesy chime of final vibes solo Enchantment might find a placid connection with the ‘MJ’ (Milt Jackson) of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

While dominantly percussive, this is eloquent music (which, Pyne says, couldn’t exist without jazz or other genres) – music for dance studio, theatre or quiet contemplation. Find the space to be transported by its array of improvised timbres, rhythms and moods, even imagining the usual interaction with colourful, gyrating shapes (see video links below). Created out of adversity and artistic longing, this is a wondrous, evocative diversion.

Released on 26 August 2020 and available in CD and digital formats from Discus Music and Bandcamp.

Videos: Eidolon, Banshee and Enchantment

Martin Pyne percussion, vibraphone, toy piano

discus-music.co.uk

Discus Music – Discus 98CD (2020)

RECENT LISTENING: March 2020 (2)

While Looking Up – Jimmy Greene
Jimmy Greene, Reuben Rogers, Kendrick Scott, Aaron Goldberg, Stefon Harris, Lage Lund
Release date: 3 April 2020 (Mack Avenue Records)
mackavenue.com / propermusic.com

UP – Pericopes+1
Emiliano Vernici, Alessandro Sgobbio, Nick Wight
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Losen Records)
pericopes.it / losenrecords.no

Planet B – Jasper Høiby
Jasper Høiby, Josh Arcoleo, Marc Michel
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Edition Records)
jasperhoiby.bandcamp.com

Without Deception – Kenny Barron / Dave Holland Trio feat. Johnathan Blake
Kenny Barron, Dave Holland, Johnathan Blake
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Dare2 Records)
dave holland.com / propermusic.com

Live in Newcastle – Article XI
Sam Andreae, Oliver Dover, Simon Prince, Cath Roberts, Graham South, Nick Walters, Kieran McLeod, Tullis Rennie, Seth Bennett, Johnny Hunter, Anton Hunter
Release date: 16 March 2020 (Discus Music)
discusmusic.bandcamp.com

Alive in the Empire (vinyl) – Agile Experiments
John Edwards, Dan Nicholls, George Crowley, Dave De Rose
Release date: 27 March 2020 (Dave De Rose Records)
davederosemusic.bandcamp.com

REVIEW: ‘Dream Feathers’ – Ron Caines / Martin Archer AXIS

THE DEPTH OF ORIGINAL MUSIC, newly created by artists and then fathomed further by our own imagination, remains a never-fading fascination – an opportunity to hear sounds for the very first time, and then continue to appraise and interpret them in relation our own experiences and circumstances. The possibilities are limitless.

Dream Feathers, presented by Ron Caines / Martin Archer AXIS, beautifully exemplifies that fact in a nine-track soundscape led by veteran saxophonist Caines (“composer”) and Sheffield multi-instrumentalist Archer (“studio enabler and magician”) where a multiplicity of melodies, textures, rhythms and field recordings abound. And whilst entirely accessible, both the freedom and blend of scored and improvised music takes this septet’s output far beyond a sequence of ‘jazz tunes’ and into an hour-long realm where the mind might freely roam the unexpected, eliciting visual and even visceral responses on a personal level.

Completing the line-up, pianist Laura Cole, guitarist Anton Hunter, double bassist Gus Garside and drummer Johnny Hunter – also proven masters of invention – paint canvases of acoustic and electronic colour which are enhanced with great effect by Hervé Perez’s field recordings, electronics and processing.

Throughout, Caines’ clear saxophonic tone/vibrato and ‘off-piste’ perambulations are a joy. In memorable, cyclic African Violets, piano and horns create a Coltranesque foundation for him to stretch out across Johnny Hunter’s shimmering cymbals and solid drumming impetus; and his easy alto lyricism in broad Uccello / 1934 (incidentally, a significant year in British classical music) becomes echoed by the most delightfully sparse electronic drones and electric-piano chimes. Free improv is prominent in mischievous, angular Mazeep; in prickly, unpredictable Harmonix; and in darker, mini-maelstrom Nico. But just as effective, and certainly more immersive, are the outer eleven-minute ‘movements’ – Rothko Veil / Dream Feathers and Almazon / 1934 Reprise – whose gently-shifting strata of extemporisation and complementary field captures seep into mind and heart, ultimately carried away through a canopy of woodland birdsong.

Challenging categorisation, Dream Feathers is a three-dimensional, headphones-on exploration of beauty and openness. The grooves may become pleasingly familiar, each time you listen, but the improvisatory spirit also sustains interest to return again and again to discover more.

Released on 13 November 2019 and available as CD or download from Discus Music at Bandcamp.

 

Ron Caines soprano, alto and tenor saxophones
Martin Archer bass clarinet, organ, electronics, horn section
Laura Cole acoustic and electric pianos, harmonium
Hervé Perez field recordings, electronics, sound design/processing
Anton Hunter guitar and electronics
Gus Garside double bass
Johnny Hunter drums

discus-music.co.uk
roncaines.co.uk

Discus Music (Discus 88CD) – 2019

RECENT LISTENING: September 2019 (3)

Fat-Suit – Waifs & Strays
Mark Scobbie, Stephen Henderson, Grant Cassidy, Martyn Hodge, Gus Stirrat, Dorian Cloudsley, Fraser Jackson, Craig McMahon, Alan Benzie, Moss Taylor, Ciaran McEneny, Murray McFarlane, Alex Sharples, Mateusz Sobieski, Liam Shortall, Mhairi Marwick, Laura Wilkie, Katie Rush, Rhona Macfarlane, Lissa Robertson, Colin McKee, Sarah Leonard, Nicola Boag, Rachel Wilson, David Munn, Johnny Woodham, Corinna Hewat, David Dunsmuir
Release date: 4 October 2019 (Equinox Records / Birnam CD)
fatsuit.bigcartel.com/product/fat-suit-waifsandstrayspreorder

Anthropology Band – Anthropology Band
Martin Archer, Charlotte Keeffe, Chris Sharkey, Pat Thomas, Corey Mwamba, Dave Sturt, Peter Fairclough, Kim Macari, George Murray, Ben Higham, Mick Somerset, Nathan Bettany, James Mainwaring, Hannah Brady, Riley Stone-Lonergan, Alicia Gardener-Trejo
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Discus Music)
discusmusic.bandcamp.com/album/anthropology-band-90cd

MPH – Taxonomies
Alex Maguire, Martin Pyne, Mark Hewins
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Discus Music)
discusmusic.bandcamp.com/album/taxonomies-87cd

ISQ – Requiem for the Faithful
Irene Serra, Richard Sadler, Chris Nickolls, Naadia Sheriff
Release date: 27 September 2019
isqmusic.bandcamp.com/album/requiem-for-the-faithful-2

Matthew Halsall – Oneness
Matthew Halsall, Nat Birchall, Stan Ambrose, Adam Fairhall, Gavin Barras, Gaz Hughes, Rachel Gladwin, Mohamed Assani, Chris Davies
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Gondwana Records)
matthewhalsall.bandcamp.com/album/oneness

Overground Collective – Super Mario
Chris Williams, Julie Kjær, Rachel Musson, Mike Lesirge, Tom Ward, Cath Roberts, Paul Taylor, Raph Clarkson, Olivir Haylett, Ben Kelly, Noel Langley, Yazmeen Ahmed, Andre Canniere, Chris Batchelor, Paulo Dias Duarte, Jason Simpson, Dave O’Brien, Jon Scott
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Babel Label)
babellabel.co.uk