‘Woven Entity’ – Woven Entity

WovenEntity

THE INTRIGUE, acceptance and then fascination with offbeat musical creativity is a sequence of emotions which, in my book, remains enduringly satisfying – those awakening senses of discovery and abandonment exposing hitherto uncharted soundscapes.

Oliver Weindling’s Babel Label (now in its 21st year) is the place to head for such revelations, the latest being this eponymous debut from electro-percussive quartet Woven Entity: Lascelle Gordon (percussion and electronics), Patrick Dawes (percussion), Paul May (drums) and Peter Marsh (bass), joined by guests Ben Cowen (keys, electronics), Julie Kjaer (alto sax, flute) and Alan Wilkinson (alto sax).

Woven Entity’s four base quartet members have impressive individual CVs and, formed in 2010, this collaboration interlaces shifting, free-running textures, effects and grooves, all with a strong hypnotic attraction. The instrumental psychedelia becomes progressively immersive (especially when experienced loud) as the album proceeds with a phantasmagoria of electronics, percussion, mechanicals and field recordings, plus the introduction of atmospheric saxes and flute. This is not the jazz of comfortable melody and rhythm, hard- or post-bop, but rather an exploration into the unknown which initially feels mysterious – even challenging – but then, with its divergence, saturation and complexity of sound mix, arrives at ‘compelling’.

Selecting some pointers from the ten tracks, the randomness of bass, drums, bongos and balafon in Naked Eye gradually transforms into a mesmeric riff illuminated by the brash, dry African mystery of Julie Kjaer’s flute; This Day Will Come suggests woodland clearings, Peter Marsh’s thrummed bass accompanied by echoic birdsong and childlike harmonica; and So Black Dada‘s vocalised jaw harp and multifarious percussive rattlings are joined by the hollow-yet-melodic alto sax of Alan Wilkinson.

Trissh, an engaging ‘clockwork gamelan’, evolves into slow, deep trance peppered with electronics; and a cacophony of scribbles and scrawls announces ten-minute Earth/Crisis, a brooding, mobile bass riff over which Julie Kjaer’s alto fidgets and squawks almost involuntarily before heavy drumming builds in intensity, Kjaer’s electronically-manipulated sax becoming more shawm-like. Point Noir is bathed in esoteric mysticism, as if viewing safely from a distance, its brilliantly flutter-tongued flute over foreboding percussion and sustained, otherworldly electronics adding a sense of widescreen drama; and Moors & Orandas closes with its tantalisingly short burst of soundtrack, again featuring the propulsive bass of Marsh… a trailer for volume two, perhaps!

Check out this absorbing release for yourself, available both as physical CD and download (with unlimited streaming) at Bandcamp. Woven Entity’s excitingly original sound feels particularly visual (maybe an oxymoron, but true) – no surprise, then, that their live London appearances have been so warmly received.

 

Lascelle Gordon percussion and electronics
Patrick Dawes percussion
Paul May drums
Peter Marsh bass
with
Ben Cowen keys, electronics
Julie Kjaer alto saxophone, flute
Alan Wilkinson alto saxophone

wovenentity.blogspot.co.uk
babellabel.co.uk

Babel Label – BDV13123 (2014)

‘Shine’ – Jacob Karlzon 3

Karlzon

CONFESSEDLY, I was initially wrong-footed by the Jacob Karlzon 3’s new album, Shine. A casual first-track listen revealed electronica and piano with an amiable, anthemic melody suggesting this release may have more in common with the commercial accessibility of Coldplay than a creative jazz trio. But therein lies the clue…

Swedish pianist/keyboardist/composer Karlzon’s approach to his music is an unusual hybrid – seemingly a traditional piano trio (with bassist Hans Andersson and drummer Robert Mehmet), he seeks to combine the improvisatory unpredictability of jazz with the catchy immediacy of pop. Indeed, following on from 2012 ACT debut, More, and a successful couple of years honing their sound on the live circuit, the mood of these eight originals – along with a surprising U2 interpretation – is generally upbeat, either in effulgent vitality or warm serenity.

The production is tight, with a strong emphasis on synthesised pop techniques – yet, impressively, Robert Mehmet’s acoustic percussion and Hans Andersson’s sung bass meld organically with Karlzon’s shimmering electronics, as well as his eloquent pianistic wizardry. The title track’s Vangelis-like theme tune propulsion typifies this, providing Karlzon with the bright, washy canvas on which to sparkle high at the piano; and Bubbles twinkles magically, Andersson’s bass contributing a beautifully resonant extemporised tune. Recall Bono’s vocal to U2’s pounding classic I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (from 1987’s The Joshua Tree)… and then imagine it as a gently lilting, Enya-style piano solo – it works so well. And to follow, the more rock-driven piano/synth number Outsourced trudges with intent, bearing an uncanny resemblance, say, to Bruce Hornsby’s exuberant live offerings. So, already it’s clear that Karlzon is filtering many influences and styles to fashion a fascinating sound world.

Metropolis is more shadowy. Here, e.s.t. comparisons are difficult to avoid, given the complex techno drum rhythms and prominent, rolling prepared piano improvisations – but, still, it carries the Karlzon mark, tinted with ’70s/’80s prog rock. In contrast, the piano limpidity of Inner Hills, with its soft, simple motion, is a sure heartbeat reducer – time standing still for a light-headed few minutes. And, consistently, it’s the composer’s desire for melody which elevates his creations above any suggestion of humdrum ambience.

Folksong-imbued One More Day shifts into modulatory overtones of Thijs van Leer’s Focus, albeit with a funkier bass edge, Andersson’s pliant strings colouring Karlzon’s piano extemporisations; Screening Self seems to fuse late-Genesis rock influences with (again) a hint of Focus in its scratchy, ascending Hammond interventions; and, finally, Karlzon winds down with A Thousand Conclusions, a meditation which displays the subtle interaction of the ‘3’, building to showcase the pianist’s undeniable piano prowess.

Released in the UK on 15 September 2014, the Jacob Karlzon 3 reach for the feel-good, hoping that this album “helps each and every one who hears it to shine a little in their daily life.” More information and samples can be found at ACT.

 

Jacob Karlzon piano, keys, synths & programming
Hans Andersson bass
Robert Mehmet Ikiz drums

jacobkarlzon.com

ACT – 9573-2 (2014)

‘Global’ – Interplay

Interplay-Global-300x300

A VERITABLE CORNUCOPIA of musical influences colour the jazz of this lively second release, ‘Global’, from Midlands-based quintet, Interplay.

From the outset, it’s clear that this five-piece’s intent is to offer a programme of upbeat, diverse and accessible jazz – the established line-up of Alan Wakeman (reeds), Richard Baker (trombone), Neil Hunter (keys), Adrian Litvinoff (bass) and Dave Balen (drums) presenting no less than eight impressive Litvinoff originals, as well as their own interpretations of favourites from such luminaries as McCoy Tyner, Abdullah Ibrahim and Pat Metheny.

At the heart of the playlist, Litvinoff’s raga-style Weightless conveys the cosmopolitan flavours to be found here, Dave Balen’s beautifully-weighted tabla producing a mesmeric rhythm from which Alan Wakeman’s gentle, keyboard-backed soprano flows so freely. Autumn Magic is a breezy outing (though also with a darker, pensive look towards Winter), illuminated by Wakeman’s bright shining flute and Richard Baker’s nimble-yet-smooth trombone soloing. Fashion Statement indicates more of a fusion feel, due to its strong organ/synth presence and composer Litvinoff’s electric bass, whilst Su Baille Nuevo dances spiritedly to a mid-tempo flamenco rhythm which increases in intensity as Baker and Wakeman improvise off each other.

Slow Flame, an ’80s creation of Litvinoff’s, finds Alan Wakeman carrying a luscious tenor line over sensitive piano, bass and drums – Baker’s fluent trombone soloing, too, is a delight. In contrast, the quintet gives added vigour to Abdullah Ibrahim’s Imam, soprano sax, trombone and Egyptian tabla a great combination over a harder-edged electric bass ground (perhaps shades of Gilad Atzmon, and very effective!). Neil Hunter’s electric piano on Swift Return provides a cheery, retro-felt samba, Wakeman’s flighty flute enhancing Litvinoff’s first-sign-of-Summer inspiration.

The Cuban All Star Band’s classic Amor Verdadero takes on a higher-energy tempo here, driven along by drums and congas, bristling Latin piano from Hunter and a strong pairing of trombone and tenor. The quintet’s arrangement of McCoy Tyner’s Contemplation sounds particularly fresh with Baker’s sonorous trombone lead, rich tenor soloing, and lavish major/minor piano that its composer would be proud of! Adrian Litvinoff’s acceptance of older age (by his own description) brings warmth and charm to Elders, a gentle, classic-sounding number which includes the clarity and lightness of his own double bass soloing. Shapeshift skims along gleefully to Balen’s and Litvinoff’s up-tempo rhythm, tenor sax and trombone gliding above Hunter’s expert organ and piano work; and Pat Metheny’s Hermitage (sans guitar) eases us out pleasantly with it’s mellow, homely and easy-going nature.

Interplay have developed a reputation over the past few years for bringing contemporary jazz to a wider audience, performing live at numerous gigs, festivals and community events. ‘Global’ pulls together the band’s considerable combined experience (their individual CVs are pretty staggering!) to create this joyful and contrasting studio recording.

For further information, and to purchase, see interplayjazz.co.uk and Silvery Records


Alan Wakeman
tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Richard Baker trombone
Neil Hunter keyboards
Adrian Litvinoff double bass, electric bass
Dave Balen drums, congas, tablas, bongos, Egyptian drum, percussion

Silvery Records – SRCD0065 (2013)