The opening track, Ranch, features many of the ideas which will become the album’s signature sounds. It starts with a simple groove-based riff played by pianist/band leader Jonathan Brigg and drummer Dave Smyth. After the rest of the band have entered we hear an inspired solo by guitarist Alex Munk bringing the tune to a symphonic climax. The ostinato riff returns, followed by saxophonist Sam Miles announcing his arrival in a feisty solo.
The second tune, Turn, is based on a repetitive piano and bass unison riff with guitar and drums filling the complex time. It’s a simple yet very effective idea. Munk and Miles solo once more with rhythm section keeping effortless time and creating a great depth of sound. It is incredibly satisfying when after Munk and Miles’ solo the band return to the riff. The whole song euphorically lifts and the satisfaction of everything coming together is palpable. But it is fleeting and the listener yearns to dwell in that sound world for longer.
Fable is a Zeitgeist piece with its deliciously warm sax ostinato over gently relentless piano lines falling like tears. It’s a desperately sad tune full of wistful longing. A lyrical sax solo by Miles is followed by the frankly haunting sound of Munk on guitar. You are drawn to the interplay of Smyth and Munk dancing together and in the background the ever-present piano and bass riff eternally pulse. The head then returns, if you can even call it a head, for it is really a riff: the oscillating heartbeat of this tune.
In Stoop Kid, (named after the band’s namesake, everyone’s favourite 90s cartoon Hey Arnold!) gone is the world of Fable. The tune opens in a chaotic conversation of sounds upon which the chatter then unites in unison stabs of exclamation. This is followed by a conversation between instruments, with different voices and characters clearly evident. When we read the album sleeve we discovered it is based on episode of Hey Arnold! where the protagonist is ‘afraid to leave his stoop’. The tension is evident and conversation clear.
Sevens is a cacophony of scalic runs in complex time with the band walking up and down their instruments. In the strict formal counterpoint the classical influences are evident creating a mesmerising effect in its relentlessness.
Listening to Spring Song after Sevens is like entering a different wold. Mellifluous sax sings over the guitar. It is refreshing to hear an album that is not afraid of variety or diatonic tonality. When the rest of the band come in (piano with the trademark elegant drone) the colours are gorgeous, a palette of watercolours meandering together to create beautiful new shades. Spring Song also features an elegant solo from bassist Flo Moore.
It’s notable that (as we’ve said before) this isn’t a band of soloists. Instead Moore, Smyth and Brigg ‘hold the complex grooves together, support and interplay with Miles and Munk like an experienced family and put the spark into the group.’
The album’s title track Confession is a tune of guilt, worry, strain and obsessiveness. The 7/8 groove is interspersed by a variety of different emotions: calm, angst and destruction. This becomes the freeist tune on the album and we hear a mind distracted, evolving and filled with tension. This is where it all comes out, a wonderful musical confession of feeling, ending with bartok-esque bell tolls on the piano. The confession is over.
The final tune of the album, Soldier On, is a slow balm to soothe the tension of Confession. The ethereal opening guitar statement is followed by a tune that is resolute in keeping going. The signature repetitive lines are evident. They are literally soldiering on, lost in melody and colour.
Confession is an album with classical and free jazz influences sitting side-by-side. Lyrical melodies sing above beautiful, agonisingly relentless ostinato-esque musical lines. It is an album that explores so many colours but never sits on one too long, and is never satisfied with just one sound. It is an album that constantly seeks new direction, a river pushing against the rocks with flair to make new paths. Confession is a creatively inspired, diverse and emotionally complex debut album. Can’t wait to hear what comes next.
Tuesday 2nd Feb 2016 – Sam Crockatt Quartet CD Launch @ Pizza Express 19:00 £15
‘Saxophonist/composer Sam Crockatt launches his third album ‘Mells Bells’ on Whirlwind Recordings. The band is made up of four of the most in-demand and creative musicians on the UK scene, including Kit Downes on piano, Oli Hayhurst on double bass, and James Maddren on drums. Their first album ‘Howeird’ won album of the year in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards in 2009′more info here
Thursday 11th Feb 2016 Zoe Rahman Trio @ St James Theatre 20:00 £17.50
‘Known for her powerful technique, wide-ranging imagination and exuberant performance, she has become a highly sought-after musician, working most recently with the likes of Courtney Pine, George Mraz and Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra. She is joined by her trio featuring drummer Gene Calderazzo and bass player Mark Lewandowski’ more info here
Monday 22nd Feb 2016 – Can of Worms presents Mike Soper Trio @ Jazz at the Oxford 20:30 £10/£5 ‘Can of Worms explores that happy and unpredictable space where written and improvised worlds collide, diving deep into group improvisations and compositions featuring taut, tense grooves, wailing sax-confessionals and all-out glorious free-jazz’more info here
Thursday 25th Feb 2016 – Fletch’s Brew @ Royal Albert Hall/Elgar Room 21:15 £13.75 ‘In 2010, drumming tour de force Mark Fletcher founded Fletch’s Brew with Laurance Cottle (bass), Jim Watson (keyboards), Paul Stacey (guitar), Freddie Gavita (trumpet/flugelhorn) – a band which blurs the boundaries of musical styles and surpasses preconceived notions of jazz’more info here
Crowd-sourcing is the thing these days. It runs splendidly rife in the British jazz community. We’ve been privileged to enjoy the fruits of the Tommy Andrews Quintet and Led Bib campaigns, and now it is the turn of the Stoop Quintet.
The Con Cellar Bar is one of our favourite venues; we’ve been regular visitors since its early days. It’s a rare and special space where you hear the music in all its purity: no need to mic up horns or the kick, just play as you are. It’s a secret you have to know about to get to, it’s slightly out of the way; you always bump into somebody you know, it’s always rammed, and the music is always, and I mean always, great. We’ve never heard a bad gig there.
So much is due to the faithful work of the late Rich Turner – whose dedication and passion for live music spread through a community of young jazz musicians, to make the Con a favourite of musicians and audiences of all generations. Now George Crowley, Dan Nicholls, Sam Jesson & Tom Challenger run the monthly Friday night. Remarkably, they’ve managed to get a double bill of the best jazz musicians in the country, for only a fiver each month. They do a great job. Perhaps this really IS London’s best kept secret. And we’ve just blogged it. Oh well, don’t tell too many people. It’s OURS!
So we’ll keep this brief. First off was Joe Wright’s Nightjar (see below for musicians/links/set). Set alight by Alice Zawadzki’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, the folk influences in harmony and rhythms were evident in Spencer’s writing before he told us one of his tunes was based on the 15th Century folk song, the Bonnie Banks of Fordie. The writing really is exquisite. The dovetailing of the vocal and sax lines was aurally mesmerising, and there is just so much space! Jeff Spencer on bass was a great example of the old cliché ‘less is more’. Grounding the group effortlessly, yet giving the sound time to breath was Spencer’s gift to the group. Playing around with tempos appears to be a Nightjar speciality. Several times they pulled back the tempo like a steam train, gradually grinding to a perfect halt. On the other end of the spectrum we really enjoyed Laura Stands Tall with the repeated firey opening line ‘A total lack of respect’ crying out throughout the song. Spencer’s electronic effects with tenor sax brought an other-worldness to the already dreamlike folk vibe, and James Maddren on drums brought spacious complexity to the mix. We were excited to find out that you can watch Nightjar’s Strange Placeshere.
After the traditional raffle (who could resist the chance of winning Sainsbury’s wine, a firework, or top prize, a toffee apple?) Freddie Gavita’s Quartet emerged (again see below for musicians/links/sets). A group of friends who clearly play together often (much laughing, conversation & in-jokes whilst playing) this was a night where Gavita pulled out many of his old well-loved tunes. Our favourite was the more groove based Turnaround featuring a storming piano solo by Tom Cawley, with fierce playing from James Maddren to finish it off. Maddren’s playing so captured performers and audiences alike – that Gavita immediately commented ‘Thanks James – that’s fabulous mate’. Last up was The Buffalo Trace – which holds a very special connection to us. Fred toured with us to Kentucky, and this song is named after a beautiful whiskey produced at a distillery we visited. Fred played beautifully over this tune, the lilting melody reflecting the southern-American state. Mick Coady on bass brought out some stellar sounds to the chilled out last song. It was a great second set. Fred’s natural charm and humility had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
First up: Metamorphic, launching their new album ‘Coalescence’. Headed up by pianist Laura Cole, they place themselves on the ‘folk-jazz’ side of the music scene. It was great to hear groove based lines juxtaposed with wild improvised sections. The writing is great, and they were tight. There were beautiful moments with horn stabs and stops suddenly let the pure vocal line of Kerry Andrewshine through. Alto Sax player Chris Williams stood out: he clearly loves playing with the group and fed off the rest of the band to create some beautiful virtuosic solo lines.
Then we were silenced by Royst, a trio of voices creating harmonies we didn’t even know existed. What makes them quite so wonderful, is that each of their voices really is VERY different , and yet they can still blend beautifully. Interlacing complex rhythmic loops (acoustically) with melody and panache, it’s impossible to take your eyes and ears away from these three. ‘This Is Sound’ by Kari Bleivik stood out for it melodic flavours, exploring scales and modes alongside rhythmic switches.
The final set brought these two groups together. Reeds are as lyrical as voices – and the mix was just sublime. There were moments of serenity when each member of both groups sang, chaos when the horns were let free over the voices.
You must grab a chance to see this collaboration. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear ‘jazz’ with such original variety and freedom.
We had the great privilege of supporting the Railway Children charity in their “Three Peaks by Rail”. You can read a little more of what that’s all about here. Keep in touch with their exploits on their Facebook page.
Here’s a small video of what we did:
A Blue Flamingo highlight was playing “Take the A-Train” to a train, at a train station…
Blue Flamingo Press Release: Blue Flamingo to support ‘The Railway Children’ Three Peaks by Challenge at Euston Station June 20th.
Blue Flamingo support Railway Children’s Three Peak Challenge Euston Station 20th June
Blue Flamingo will be supporting Railway Children’s ‘Three Peaks Challenge by Rail’ by playing at their send-off from Platform 18 Euston Station on June 20th at 3pm. It is expected that Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin will attend.
Blue Flamingo are entrenched in London’s music scene and are passionate about using music to support the city’s charities. Alongside other previous projects, including the Arts Council funded Edmonton Flamingos in North London, Blue Flamingo mix their two greatest loves – music and London – to help make a real difference.
The Three Peaks Challenge is ‘the only event that does the three peaks by rail. The train departs from Euston on Thursday afternoon, stopping at Crewe on the way to Snowdon which is climbed overnight. The team then head for Ravenglass to climb Scafell Pike before a night on the train up to Fort William to climb the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.’ -Railwaychildren.org.uk
The Railway Children‘is an international children’s charity, fighting for vulnerable children who live alone at risk on the streets, where they suffer abuse and exploitation.’
Blue Flamingo is a live music and promotion company, providing bands and live music for events and promoting London’s music scene worldwide.