‘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)

‘Colorfield’ – Romain Pilon

Color_Pilon

FRENCH GUITARIST Romain Pilon presents pretty much a blank, white canvas for the cover of his new release on Whirlwind Records – which seems entirely appropriate, given the title ‘Colorfield’. For, just as the distinctive art movement of the same name saw the likes of Rothko and Gottlieb creating enveloping expanses of bright, abstract, overlapping colour, so too gleams Pilon’s impeccably-formed quartet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Michael Janisch (bass) and Jamire Williams (drums).

Since graduating from Berklee College, the past ten years or so of Romain Pilon’s rising career have seen him working with top flight musicians in New York and Paris, and is currently a member of the Paris Jazz Underground collective (along with David Prez, Olivier Zanot, Sandro Zerafa, Yoni Zelnik and Karl Jannuska). Although a new name to me, this characterful album is sure to increase Pilon’s profile.

Colorfield’s impressive sequence of seven originals (plus a sublimely rich tenor and guitar reading of Horace Silver’s ‘Lonely Woman’) displays a sense of carefully crafted chamber jazz – though the quartet can certainly ramp up the tempo, as heard in the bass- and guitar-driven groove of the title track. There is clarity and warmth both in Pilon’s writing and playing, his open and fluid guitar style allowing the band considerable latitude, typified by the measured, cerebral calmness of ‘Man on a Wire’. And, on the subject of balance… as the chordal player here, Romain Pilon demonstrates remarkable respect for the overall colour palette, as heard in mobile opener ‘Acceptance’.

The animated ‘Twombly’ suggests the freedom of the American painter’s expressionism, Pilon’s deft, reaching solo work easily echoing the artist’s huge red swirls seen recently at the Tate Modern. Further evidence of the leader’s skilful soloing is to be found in ‘Three on Seven’, along with subtle, lush chords and the fast, fluttering bass and drums of Michael Janisch and Jamire Williams. Profoundly delicate – and maybe a love song – the melodic line of ‘You’ is shared by Walter Smith and Pilon who also allow space for Janisch’s bass to sing, both as soloist and support; and closing number ‘7th Hour’ scurries joyfully to the high rhythm maintained by Williams who is a brilliantly precise presence throughout this recording.

Launched on 7 October 2013, and featuring in the first Whirlwind Festival (Kings Place, 10-12 October), this is an intelligent and engaging set from a quartet of players who clearly feel a great connection.


Romain Pilon
 guitar
Walter Smith III tenor saxophone
Michael Janisch acoustic bass
Jamire Williams drums

romainpilon.com
whirlwind recordings.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4641 (2013)