‘Next Beginning’ – Samuel Eagles Quartet

SamuelEagles

BALANCE IS EVERYTHING… and this fine debut album, Next Beginning, from young London saxophonist and composer Samuel Eagles and his quartet achieves that assured, measured clarity and cohesion. Tutored and mentored by jazz sax illuminati including Mornington Lockett, Jason Yarde, Mark Lockheart and Jean Toussaint, this release suggests Eagles has got what it takes, both as an instrumentalist and writer, to make a big splash on the contemporary jazz scene.

Joining him are Ralph Wyld (vibes), Fergus Ireland (double bass) and Eric Ford (drums) in an insouciant programme of originals which, laudibly, have been developed and honed on the live circuit before committing them to the recording studio – perhaps this explains the extended nature of all eight numbers here, importantly affording time and space for uninhibited improvisation. Declaring Stateside influences such as Logan Richardson and Ambrose Akinmusire, the quartet’s style is wholly accessible, revealing an empathy – and a certain warmth – which comes from strongly-forged musical bonds.

Key to the band’s openness is the vibraphone limpidity of Ralph Wyld, demonstrated in ten-minute opener Remembering Myself which, with weightless bass and percussion, offers a sax tune so eloquent and amiable that it feels pleasingly familiar. The Place I Live swings apace to Eric Ford’s frisky, ricocheting drums and Fergus Ireland’s sprinting bass; the liquidity of Eagles’ extemporisations, gliding over this babbling momentum, are easily comparable to those of Jean Toussaint, or even Scott Hamilton – and again, Wyld sparkles, particularly in a trio episode with Ireland and Ford. The affable 50 Pound Friendship further displays the band’s parity in a glassy-smooth late-nighter; and Outsider rattles to Ford’s distinctive drum crispness, Eagles’ hard-edged rapid-fire riffs radiating an impressive maturity.

Jason Yarde’s guidance is tangible in Samuel Eagles’ supple soprano prowess on Smells Like Summer, its easy-going, sunshiny demeanour unfolding from an African-style hook that could easily be from the pen of Abdullah Ibrahim (and Ford’s circular cymbal patterns which welcome back the leader towards the close are a joy). The perky, inquiring chromatics of My Instigation set up a more furtive mood as bass and vibes gingerly tread a path for the busy percussion of Ford. Following, We Were Meant To Be provides a glimpse of this saxman’s obvious world-at-his-feet potential with a firecracker that sizzles to the frenetic energy of all; and, as Eagles uses the lower end of his alto register so effectively, it begs the question as to how compelling he might also sound as a tenorist. Title track Next Beginning closes the album – a beautifully upbeat, shuffling number which ‘final-curtains’ each member of the band, the leader proudly revelling in its ebullience.

Released on the F-IRE label on 10 November 2014, the album launches at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London on 16 November as part of the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival. More live dates are shown below, and the quartet will also be performing at Jazz in the Round, The Cockpit Theatre, London, on 23 February 2015 – check out previous live video clips here.

 

Samuel Eagles alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Ralph Wyld vibraphone
Fergus Ireland double bass
Eric Ford drums

Recorded and mastered by Derek Nash.
Artwork by Alban Low.

2014 live dates:
16 November: LAUNCH – Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London
28 November: Torfaen Jazz Club, Griffithstown
02 December: Sela Bar, Leeds
03 December: The Globe Jazz Co-op, Newcastle upon Tyne
04 December: WM Jazz Club, London
07 December: Southampton Modern Jazz Club, Southampton
18 December: The Bull’s Head, London

samueleagles.co.uk
f-ire.com

F-IRE – F-IRECD 72 (2014)

‘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)

‘Road Ahead’ – Mark Perry / Duncan Eagles Quintet

RoadAhead

GREAT TO FIND this big league seven-piece from London’s flourishing contemporary jazz scene recording together, presenting a set of ten colourful, original compositions (first aired at 2012’s London Jazz Festival) by leaders Mark Perry and Duncan Eagles. 

Having already established themselves as versatile instrumentalists in a variety of ensembles and projects, trumpeter Perry and tenorist Eagles bring together an accomplished ensemble who, together, produce a satisfyingly full sound – Gareth Lockrane on flutes, Sam Leak at the piano, double bassist Max Luthert and drummer Chris Nickolls, plus the wordless vocals of Ona Onabule.

Flip of a Coin provides the heads-up on the intent of this quintet line-up, Sam Leak the pacemaker with a determined piano rhythm, Luthert and Nickolls maintaining the steady but solid energy. Onabule’s vocals enhance the sustained frontline of trumpet and tenor before Perry and Eagles head off to solo spiritedly. Mark Perry’s delivery is undubitably incisive, complemented by Eagles’ rich and fluid explorations – certainly an in-form partnership. In the upbeat Chord Game, Sam Leak demonstrates the clear, spacial and considered piano technique which makes his own album recordings so appealing; and Perry and Eagles freely bounce ideas off each other. Easy-going Shawty and the still mellower Forever make good use of Onabule’s soulful voice, Eagles’ solo tenor in the latter just sublime. Barters Band raises a smile, Gareth Lockrane’s lithe flute the key to its chirpy ’70s sitcom’ flavour – the rhythm section ticks along amiably, a great foundation for Leak’s clean solo lines and fleetly-placed chords, whilst Perry and Eagles dance closely to Lockrane’s tune.

The tempered, late-night feel of Wray Common is perfect for Onabule’s subtle vocal additions, Luthert’s lyrical yet precise bass pairing well with Leak’s pianistic clarity, and trumpet and sax soporifically intertwining. In contrast, the agitated G.T. (a tribute to American saxophonist Gary Thomas) finds Eagles and Perry soloing grittily against a mysterious piano, bass and drums riff (great animation from Chris Nickolls) which offers more than a hint of ‘TV detective’!

Perry’s expressive, plaintive solo trumpet opens mid-tempo title track Road Ahead which affords Sam Leak the freedom to roam (and rather elegantly at that). One Last Kiss is beautifully poised, Lockrane and Onabule again adding their individual character to this very attractive, breezy number. With an element of emotional longing, and drawing this entertaining album to a close, Remember features softer, slurred tones from Mark Perry, velvety bass flute from Gareth Lockrane, and fine ensemble playing all round.

Launching ‘Road Ahead’ at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, on 17th November (as part of the 2013 London Jazz Festival), and releasing 2nd December, the quintet are set to tour in Spring 2014. Promo video, SoundCloud samples and more information here.


Mark Perry
Trumpet  markperrymusic.com
Duncan Eagles Saxophones  duncaneagles.co.uk
Gareth Lockrane Flutes  garethlockrane.com
Sam Leak Piano  samleak.com
Max Luthert Double bass  maxluthert.co.uk
Chris Nickolls Drums
Ola Onabule Vocals  ona-onabule.co.uk

Sleeve design and illustration by Alban Low

F-ire – F-IRECD 65 (2013)