REVIEW: ‘By And By’ – Graham South Quartet

A DEBUT ALBUM from trumpeter Graham South might sound like misinformation, given his prominence on Manchester’s thriving jazz scene over the last few years (including Beats & Pieces Big Band, Johnny Hunter Quartet, Article XI). But, sure enough, By And By is South’s first as leader – and what a well considered, sometimes appropriately understated realisation of his concept from this quartet with pianist Richard Jones, double bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 18 September 2020 and available in CD and digital formats from Efpi Records at Bandcamp, and CD also at Proper Music.

 

Graham South trumpet
Richard Jones piano
Seth Bennett double bass
Johnny Hunter drums

Recorded at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios by Alex Bonney, assisted by Tony Draper

grahamsouth.com

Efpi Records – FP032 (2020)

RECENT LISTENING: April 2020 (2)

Steal the Light – Let Spin
Moss Freed, Ruth Goller, Finlay Panter, Chris Williams
Release date: 17 April 2020 (Efpi Records)
letspin.bandcamp.com

Life is the Dancer – Rob Luft
Rob Luft, Joe Wright, Joe Webb, Tom McCredie, Corrie Dick with Byron Wallen, Luna Cohen
Release date: 17 April 2020 (Edition Records)
robluft.bandcamp.com

Rickety Racket – Martin Pyne Quartet
Philippe Guyard, Russell Jarrett, Marianne Windham, Martin Pyne
Release date: 3 April 2020 (Tall Guy Records)
martinpyne.bandcamp.com

Two Chevrons Apart – Yuri Goloubev
Tim Garland, John Turville, Yuri Goloubev, Asaf Sirkis
Release date: 17 April 2020 (Basho Records)
bashorecords.com

Neutral Tones – Beresford Harries
Charlie Beresford, Tim Harries
Release date: 15 April 2020 (The 52nd)
the52nd.bandcamp.com

Trio (3CD) – Felix Jay
Felix Jay, Rob Luft, Byron Wallen, Nicola Alesini, Susan Alcorn, BJ Cole, Jan Steele
Recorded 1999–2019 (Hermetic Recordings)
burningshed.com (TBC) and ebay.co.uk

‘While We Still Can’ – Johnny Hunter Quartet

WhileWeStillCan

JOHNNY HUNTER is featuring with increasing prominence across North West England’s jazz scene… and for very good reason. The drummer/composer contributes to a number of mainstream and avant garde bands – especially in Manchester and Liverpool – including Blind Monk Trio, Marley Chingus and his own reggae/dub sextet Skamel, as well as working with artists such as Adam Fairhall, Martin Archer and Nat Birchall.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available, as CD or download, from Bandcamp.

 

Johnny Hunter drums, compositions
Ben Watte tenor saxophone
Graham South trumpet
Stewart Wilson double bass

Illustration by Angela Guyton

Efpi Records – FP024 (2016)

‘All In’ – Beats & Pieces Big Band

AllIn

TALK ABOUT Northern soul – these guys have it in three-storey-with-a-mezzanine-shed-loads!

Beats & Pieces Big Band have come a long way in seven years. From their tentative beginnings as Manchester students, through to their early EP and local gigs at Band on the Wall and the Royal Northern College of Music, they have developed a keen following which, on the basis of last year’s blazing Manchester Jazz Festival appearance, is swiftly on the rise. Their excellent 2012 debut album, Big Ideas, turned more than jazz heads, brought Jazz FM and Parliamentary awards, and prompted invitations to perform internationally.

Directed by enthusiastic composer, arranger and instrumentalist Ben Cottrell, and drawing big band comparisons such as Loose Tubes and Matthew Herbert (due to their infectious energy, use of electronics and an unorthodox, contemporary approach), 14-strong Beats & Pieces now release their much-anticipated follow-up, All In – a bristling statement of their current stature. Three powerful banks of three (saxes, trumpets and trombones) are completed by guitar, piano/Rhodes, bass and drums; and buried amongst the irrepressibly slick grooves, their quite-likely uniqueness is characterised by the occasional, endearing whiff of no-nonsense Lancashire colliery band (confirmed by the album’s tailpiece).

Collective influences include Gil Evans, Quincy Jones, Radiohead and Björk… so the resultant six originals and one interpretation (recorded essentially live in the studio) are both dynamic and even entertainingly perplexing. Opener Rocky blasts its way through the first three minutes with all the gritty verve of an extreme, full-throttle movie car chase – raucous and wayward, yet somehow together. Pop hits a relentless, rapid, ‘Can’t Hurry Love’ groove, with Nick Walters’ chattering muted trumpet and Anton Hunter’s guitar riding the swelling, crashing then ebbing wall of horns, whilst Patrick Hurley’s ostinato Rhodes impression of Rain is particularly effective, underpinning tight, reverbed, brassy arrangements before soloing freely.

Ten-minute expanse Havmann (‘the man from the sea’, inspired by Antony Gormley’s statue installation in Mo í Rana, Northern Norway) feels like a new departure; its piercing, semitonal, synth rise-and-fall seems redolent of early Genesis or Robert Fripp, with the icy, spiky urgency of the overlapping extemporisations perhaps echoing the Scandinavian fjords experienced by Cottrell. Originally composed for and workshopped by Norwegian band Ensemble Denada, its impressive slowly-building intensity glints to Graham South’s echoic flugel horn and cinemascope unison trumpets.

Hendo is classic B & P – all solid bass drum, swirling baseline, impudent wah-wah guitar, crescendoing blasts and Sam Healey’s typically flamboyant soprano sax. Revealed a few years ago at an RNCM gig, Ben Cottrell’s sultry New York-style reading of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance finds its place here. A great example of the director’s prowess with arrangements of the unexpected, its lazy demeanour erupts into funky Average White Band euphoria, complete with cheeky, rising James Taylor (Starsky & Hutch) quotation courtesy of Sam Healey’s alto. And so to close, the aforementioned miniature of misty, brass band nostalgia, Fairytale – so beautiful in hymn-like simplicity.

Long may this forward-thinking band continue! All In is released on 8 June 2015, by Efpi Records, and is available here. The album officially launches at Soup Kitchen, Manchester, on 7 July 2015, and at Ronnie Scott’s the following evening.

 

Ben Cottrell director
Anthony Brown, Sam Healey, Ben Watte saxophones
Owen Bryce, Graham South, Nick Walters trumpet
Ed Horsey, Simon Lodge, Rich McVeigh trombone
Anton Hunter guitar
Patrick Hurley piano, Rhodes
Harrison Wood bass
Finlay Panter drums

beatsnpieces.net

Efpi Records – FP022 (2015)

‘Let Spin’ – Let Spin

LetSpin

THE GUITAR PLAYING and writing of Moss Freed captivate me. His style seems to hark back to the vibrant ’70s period of discovery and invention, when ‘prog’ was king and the UK was bursting at the seams with high-profile, home-grown rock and jazz/rock talent. Yet the Berklee College-trained guitarist also has a forward-thinking approach to his music, which is reflected in this wholly collaborative quartet project, ‘Let Spin’ – and recognised by artistically imaginative indie label Efpi Records.

Manchester-born Freed impressed with his 2013 release, ‘What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?’ (reviewed here) – a particularly successful marriage of jazz/rock and literature in which eminent writers were invited to create their interpretations of already-conceived and recorded tracks. In ‘Let Spin’, he teams up with the same bassist, Ruth Goller (Acoustic Ladyland), along with Chris Williams (Led Bib) on alto sax and drummer Finlay Panter (Beats & Pieces Big Band), to deliver this eight-track debut release of powerful proportions… and equally-shared writing credits. For the most part, it’s hard-edged jazz and/or rock (depending on your viewpoint), Goller and Freed providing the propulsive electric framework on which Williams and Panter thrive.

The heavy unison sax, guitar and bass chromatics of Finlay Panter’s Awowowa immediately conjure thoughts of King Crimson, with fast-paced, stressed screeches and feedback – heady stuff indeed, especially when lines begin to cross and intertwine, Chris Williams’ alto displaying impressive Ron Aspery-like acrobatics and bite. Coincidentally (another ’70s ‘Back Door’ reference!), Ruth Goller’s bass technique is partially reminiscent of that of Colin Hodgkinson, combining – as in opening number, Castle, Sea, Ferry – strong melody and chordal groupings to great effect. Moss Freed’s bizarrely-titled, seven-minute How To Woo A Dolphin initially veers more towards a jazz soundworld, demonstrating Freed’s luxuriant guitar chords before his impassioned, sustained lead (with echoes of Mahavishnu) invites the quartet to break loose into a satisfyingly rich groove. Shapes & Sizes finds its writer, Chris Williams, pitching his raw sax improvisations against a great saturation of bass and wah-wah guitar, Panter relishing this full-on vibe.

The simple-yet-addictive retro bass hook of 102 Hill Street becomes irresistible, Freed and Williams establishing a very effective tonal sax/guitar partnership. Punching hard and heavy, thanks to Panter’s determined rhythm, it increases in intensity and complexity… and I can imagine a thrilling, extended, live showstopper! Mellower in approach, Goller’s Piper is neatly balanced – a platform for Williams’ alto ruminations, as well as Freed’s lush chords and clear solo creativity. From it’s title, it’s no surprise that Chris Williams’ Up And At Them is the rockiest number on the album, leaning towards Goller’s ‘Ladyland world – alto sax blowing hard through gritty, repeated riffs, plus terrifyingly-high reverbed solo work from Freed (to be revved up loud!). Ruth Goller’s ‘mock-tuning’ introduces the final track, Moss Freed’s A Change Is Coming, the band’s unison signature unfolding into a more lyrical, countrified expanse, yet still bursting with character and invention from all quarters.

‘Let Spin’ is released on 10 February 2014, available from efpirecords.com. Accompanying 10-date UK tour begins in Bath on 17 February, concluding at The Vortex on 27 February.


Moss Freed guitar
Chris Williams alto saxophone
Ruth Goller electric bass
Finlay Panter drums

mossfreed.com
soundcloud.com/mossfreed

Efpi Records – FP013 (2014)