‘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)

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‘Groove or Die’ – Paul Jackson Trio

PaulJackson

THIS MUST surely be one of the most addictive jazz/funk/soul grooves of the year! As a founding member of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters – and having forged, over the years, strong associations with musical dignitaries such as Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Sonny Rollins and George Benson – California-born Paul Jackson remains one of the most influential and revered electric bass players around.

Now, featuring Xantoné Blacq (keys, vocals) and Tony Match (drums), the seasoned bassist and vocalist brings all of his musical wisdom and showmanship to this trio’s debut release, Groove or Die – and, with a decision on that title choice obvious, the resulting tracklist of ten original numbers becomes increasingly compelling. It’s said that once you’re in the right groove, you don’t wanna come out – and here’s proof from a slick triumvirate whose saturation of sound easily exceeds its number.

Take opener Groove, for example, which is immediately set up with an irresistible major/minor ground for Jackson’s fulsome, gritty voice (imagine an intoxicating blend of Clapton and Tom Jones!) plus solid background harmonies. The bass tempo erupts halfway through, Blacq’s sizzling Rhodes rising magnificently through an electronics forcefield, and Tony Match’s flamboyancy at the kit quite mesmeric. Everything coolly strides the sidewalk to Blacq’s upbeat, loftier-range vocoder lines, Jackson’s bass delivering looping high-fretboard riffs as well as that all-important rasping momentum. Doleful and slow-burning, Pain is curiously reminiscent of late ’70s chart hits such as Float On, though with greater profundity; and the vocalised (almost Methenyesque) instrumental Slick It that follows is compelling in its pithy burst of energy.

African percussion break Nuru precedes a real showstopper of a performance from Xantoné Blacq – What You’re Talkin’ ‘Bout. Unabashedly Stevie Wonder-like in its soulful, molten vocal and animated keyboard approach, the rhythm section’s entrance encourages Blacq to climb to the most astonishing falsetto pitch. And Jackson’s heartfelt crooning in Midnight is a Lonely Heart informs its slow bluesyness, with tightly-meshed background vocals and Blacq’s soaring embellishments adding layer after layer of textures.

Tiptoe Through The Ghetto, introduced by a brilliant Stanley Clarke-like harmonic-bass riff, bustles with impassioned verve. Suggesting, Earth Wind & Fire and Zawinul/Weather Report, the colourful percussive impetus of Tony Match is key to the thrill of it all – and with that seductive Rhodes, it’s got to be a live showstopper. Bringing the album to a close, the wide-open feel-good is confirmed in the jauntiness of People Cry, followed by short, Santana-like bookend, Die.

Some of the stateside vocal lines might initially appear clichéd to an audience this side of the ‘Pond’, but my belief is that it’s all part of the charm of Groove or Die – that and the downright ardent musicality this team exudes. As Match explains: “The trio is like a family; we support each other, we create and share ideas together. I can feel a unique energy and vibration in our music.” And that’s certainly palpable.

Released on 3 November 2014, and launching at The Hideaway, London, on 14 November, visit Whirlwind’s album page for details, videos and samples. Get your groove thang… ohwwwn!

 

Paul Jackson vocals, electric bass, background vocals
Xantoné Blacq vocals, background vocals, keyboards, talk box, percussion
Tony Match drums, percussion

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4656 (2014)

‘Resonance’ – Eyeshutight

eyeshutight

TEETH-TANGLINGLY-TITLED jazz piano trio Eyeshutight (aka Eyes Shut Tight) release their third album, Resonance, with an enticing sound which encompasses dynamic dance beats and melodic serenity, all held together by a beguilingly off-the-wall but nonetheless intuitive approach.

Formed in Leeds in 2010 by bassist and composer Paul Baxter, with pianist Johnny Tomlinson and drummer Kristoffer Wright, they belong to a jazz generation which includes GoGo Penguin, Neil Cowley Trio, Mammal Hands and indisputed sovereigns e.s.t. (note that initialism). Exploring shifting rhythmic dimensions and effective electronic enhancement, Eyeshutight possess an upbeat group personality – with a few tricks up their sleeves – which becomes increasingly infectious as this nine-track offering proceeds.

Quickly putting aside a somewhat irritating opening 90-second, jumbled, spoken definition of the word Resonance (at least, it is after a few plays), the title track hits a great alternation of grooving and spaciousness, Johnny Tomlinson’s piano rocking out and electronically erupting in its wonderfully jarring riffs and irresistible neo-Cuban rhythms. Addict‘s chordal sequences curiously recall Joe Jackson’s Steppin’ Out, and Kristoffen Wright’s drum patterns are metronomically executed, despite the many challenging sudden turns – a chirpy, accessible reflection of a world hooked on electronic screens (and music which TV producers might well drool over!). The contrasting introspection of Transition treads a more traditional path, featuring Baxter’s cantabile bass soloing over lush piano clusters; and Theism, a charming miniature, was written to mark the birth of Baxter’s second daughter.

Under-pressure The Precipice spirals tangibly downwards before new life is breathed into it via Wright’s broadening pulsations. The breathless momentum is again, at times, punctuated by moments of calm lucidity – but for the most part, Tomlinson runs brilliantly with it in Rhodes-like hysteria and an almost ska-ish piano exuberance (there’s plenty going on in this – a real standout). A freer melancholic Intro precedes the gently-lilting simplicity of T&C, a warm, homely melody and improvisation which, with eloquent, almost African bass meanderings, pauses politely between its softly-beaten pulse.

Hit & Hope’s troubled progressions echo GoGo Penguin, yet there is also a brighter melodic side which then evolves into an unexpected hard-edged disco-style bass/piano riff. Another of the trio’s longer numbers, it has the space to open and develop, carrying bright solos from Tomlinson and Baxter. To close, Re:Sounds unfortunately invites back those extraneous voices (in reverse) – but they certainly can’t mar the strength of this album, especially when followed by…… shhh…… that would be telling……

It’s presently a pretty crowded stage out there for the piano trio format, requiring something rather special to succeed. And perhaps Eyeshutight‘s best is yet to come – to, as it were, open eyes wide. But this is a masterly and fresh outing, with its own distinct character, which should resonate and ‘hit the spot’ with a current, dance-invigorated jazz audience. Or, put another way – sharpianoutfitriumphsplendidly!

Released on 21 October on Hungry Bear Records, further information is available at the following websites (with tour dates listed below):

paulbaxtermusic
eyeshutight


Johnny Tomlinson
piano
Kristoffen Wright drums
Paul Baxter double bass

2014 UK tour dates
21 October: Parrjazz at Frederiks, Liverpool
22 October: Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
23 October: Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
24 October: Jazz Cafe, Newcastle
25 October: Zeferellis, Ambleside
29 October: Demspeys, Cardiff
30 October: SoundCellar @ The Blue Boar, Poole
04 November: Matt & Phreds, Manchester
05 November: Jazz at The Lescar, Sheffield
09 November: 7Arts, Leeds
14 November: Fleece Jazz, Sudbury
22 November: The Unitarian Chapel, York
23 November: The Forge, Camden, London

Hungry Bear Records – HBR001 (2014)

’21st Century Acid Trad’ – Pigfoot

Pigfoot cover

THERE’S A REAL KICK to this debut album from Pigfoot. Not content with trotting out faithful, modest versions of 1920s and ’30s jazz standards, this acoustic ‘trad. quartet’ scratches at their familiar surface to explore – as the title hints – surprisingly gritty, off-the-wall interpretations of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, and so on.

Founded in 2013, it turns out that Pigfoot’s anarchic line-up is an exciting who’s-who of contemporary jazz innovators – trumpeter (and founder member of Loose Tubes) Chris Batchelor; tubist Oren Marshall (to be found alongside Shabaka Hutchings in Sons of Kemet); that most influential and imaginative of pianists, Liam Noble; and drummer Paul Clarvis (find me a more expansive CV!).

It’s quite possible to imagine the odd incredulous snipe at their brash, seemingly-irreverent approach – perhaps whispers of ‘king’s new clothes’ or Bonzo Dog references (remember their wonderfully mocking late ’60s parody, Jazz (Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold)?). But peel back the layers (see cover art), and there’s an unabashed and, I sense, affectionate desire to render these classic tunes in outlandish textures and colours to bring a freshness to them – and with that unexpectedness, they become increasingly absorbing. Indeed, I am now at the stage with this live recording – from London’s Vortex Jazz Club – that it’s difficult to eject it from the car CD player, such is the adroitness, humour and downright feel-good of these eight extended tracks.

Spencer Williams’ Basin Street Blues maintains its New Orleans origins, yet Liam Noble’s dissonant chords and Paul Clarvis’s deliberate, almost bumbling drum rhythms give it a fascinating edge. 12th Street Rag is positively outrageous with its haphazard tempi, although Oren Marshall’s steady, plodding tuba (plus a few liberties and a blustering solo) keeps some semblance of order, Chris Batchelor blasting melodies in various keys – perfect (or, happily, ‘imperfect’!). Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz rattles along impetuously, the improvisations becoming more and more jaunty and extreme until, ultimately, triple time breaks helplessly and wonderfully into Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour. Tennessee Waltz eases the pace, Batchelor stating its deep southern spiritual tune which Noble then carries away to extemporise in typically jarred invention (it works so well against fluttering drums and drawling tuba).

Gospel pairing Just a Closer Walk with Thee and His Eye is on the Sparrow teases with a fairly straight rendition, Batchelor’s bright trumpet melody eventually signalling disorder which includes a belting, bluesy tuba solo – and Clarvis takes full advantage of the mayhem before the four conclude ‘repentantly’. Pigfoot clearly revel in the Duke Ellington favourite Mood Indigo, disassembling it with ease, but never straying completely from its familiarity; Batchelor’s impressive muted and spurting trumpet techniques are a key feature. And there’s more than a touch of mischief to Sidney Bechet’s tangoing Petite Fleur – but the experience of these guys is evident as they hold it together with various random acts of rebellion.

1920s standard Nobody Knows You When You’re Down is a closing show-stealer. Batchelor’s forlorn, inebriated trumpet (“Once I lived the life of a millionaire, spendin’ my money, I didn’t care”) sets up this beautifully bold ten-minute slow blues, the quartet presenting a typically audacious and stoic response to its original themes of prosperity fail. The conviction and, yes, humour in this performance (especially Oren Marshall’s tuba) provides a suitably profuse conclusion to these fifty entertaining minutes of ‘acid trad’.

Released on 31 March 2014, with the quartet touring in the Autumn, this is a rollickingly great experience to seek out – it certainly brings a smile to my face. In fact, I happily concur with Bessie Smith – ‘Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer)’!


Chris Batchelor
trumpet
Oren Marshall tuba
Liam Noble piano
Paul Clarvis drums

Village Life – 131112VL (2014)

‘Anything But Look’ – Jason Rebello

Image

A NEW solo studio release from Jason Rebello was always going to be something of an event, given his track record as one of the UK’s most respected jazz/rock keyboard players – and, with an album a year in the making, he’s certainly back with a funky, soulful BANG!

The excitement of ‘Anything But Look’ is due, in part, to so many of its ten originals having considerable commercial appeal (easily radio hits) – yet, delving deep into the detail, there is much to savour in terms of differing vocal performances, shifting time signatures and modulations, clever tricks, flicks and textures… all held together by Rebello’s multifarious, entertaining keyboard work. He has a terrific understanding of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of jazz (his Steinway-only interpretations of standards and folksong were brilliantly displayed in a recent acoustic trio gig at Kings Place with Stephen Keogh on drums and bassist Alex Davis). Here, he combines that mastery with his vast experience of touring over the years as keyboardist for the likes of Jeff Beck, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Joss Stone.

The hand-picked personnel of established and up-and-coming instrumental and vocalist friends provide a sumptuous programme, the result being an intensely joyous, positive and personal album which Rebello describes as “a musical kaleidoscope of jazz, soul, Latin, funk and rock, painting a picture of a soul’s journey into the unknown. We all are made up of light and dark, but we don’t usually want to acknowledge what we really are, due to a fear that we may discover something terrible… we will do anything, but look!”

The funkiest of electric bass and clav grooves open the show, celebrated soul singer Omar’s resolute tones delivering the catchy Know What You Need, Pino Palladino providing a fantastic ground for Rebello’s typically glittering piano and electric piano soloing. Sumudu Jayatilaka’s beguiling voice intertwines effortlessly with Rebello’s piano on The Man on the Train (with a hint, maybe, of Gordon Sumner in its sublime slower section) – and Troy Miller’s drums, the percussion of Miles Bould and Karl Rasheed-Abel’s acoustic bass provide the irresistible pulse. Bouncy 7/8 instrumental Without a Paddle, with cheeky contrary motion hook and Paul Stacey’s bristling guitar, is breathlessly compelling – so much going on, a real smile-inducer!

Solid bass and pitch-bent synth characterise the beautifully-measured chill-out title track Anything But Look before Alicia Carroll’s soprano voice brings theatrical urgency to the more sinister Dark Night of the Soul, an intoxicating multitracked masterclass in Rebello’s considerable piano and keyboard prowess – breathtaking to listen closely. With Immediate Effect flows along with all the amiability of a Lyle Mays/Pat Metheny favourite, backing vocals, guitar and synth soloing the key to this likeness. Sadness-tinged ballad Is This How? features the vocals of US jazz/R&B singer Will Downing and the adept, prodigious drumming of Rebello’s 14 year-old son George – a particularly beautiful, poignant and memorable chorus here; and young singer Jacob Collier’s precise wordless vocals are a perfect match for the bright keys of In The Thick Of It, jazz stalwart Tim Garland (on flute) adding to the lightness of touch.

Joy Rose’s vocal warmth and dexterity in the deliberate, soulful New Joy symbolise the sincerity of this release, Miller and Palladino again creating a fantastic rhythm, Rebello and Garland just magnificent – joy all round! Concluding, Xantoné Blacq presents the uplifting, perhaps even spiritual lyric of Lighten Up The Load, the Latin flavour of Bould’s percussion and Rebello’s piano octaves taking us on our onward journey.

Released on LYTE Records on 4 November 2013, the fervour and craftsmanship of ‘Anything but Look’ are stunningly evident. Indeed, Jason Rebello’s creativity, optimism and technical wizardry might well encourage us through the long, dark winter months – as the fade-out whispers, “See you on the other side”!……

 

Jason Rebello keyboards; bass, track 7; backing vocals, track 6
Troy Miller drums, tracks 1,2,3,4,5,8,9,10; guitar, track 7; percussion, track 4
Pino Palladino bass guitar, tracks 1,4,6,7,9,10
Karl Rasheed-Abel acoustic bass, tracks 2,3,5,8
Paul Stacey guitar, tracks 3,6,9
Jeremy Stacey drums, track 6
George Rebello drums, track 7
Miles Bould percussion, tracks 1,2,3,10
Tim Garland flute, bass clarinet, tracks 8,9
Joy Rose vocals, track 9; backing vocals, tracks 1,6,9,10
Omar Lye-Fook vocals, track 1
Sumudu Jayatilaka vocals, track 2
Alicia Carroll vocals, track 5
Will Downing vocals, track 7
Jacob Collier vocals, track 8
Xantoné Blacq vocals, track 10
Aja Downing backing vocals, track 7

jasonrebello.com

LYTE Records – LR021 (2013)