GIGS / REVIEWS Current gigs are posted here plus every four weeks a select number of reviews.
PLEASE NOTE - UNCUT'S CHANGE OF VENUE FOR THIS GIG due to circumstances outside their control. Tuesday 31st October 2023 7.30 to 10.00pm Roger Philip Dennis & Steve Day at Uncut, The Mermaid, 11b, Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3RP (Just around the corner from The Phoenix) Tickets on the door. Roger Philip Dennis is an enigma. In 2014 he won the prestigious National Poetry Prize and remains among the very finest poets in the UK.... whilst having no collectionunder his own name. However in 2022 he collaborated with Steve Day, recently shorted listed for the Bridport Poetry Prize for the second year running. Pat Fleming described the 2023 Dennis/Day poetry collection Invocations And Portraits as ‘luscious’. Their Extravaganza concert at Ashburton's Tinner's Moon Festival last May included dance, music & film... this gig does not come with the exact same multi-collaborative personnel. Nonetheless the Uncut performance will feature poems from Invocations And Portraits plus new work already lined up for publication in 2024. Roger & Steve will be joined by multi-instrumentalist Ric White & Eliza Jacobs on cello. REVIEWS Johnny Hunter, Mark Hanslip, Ollie Brice – Divisions (Discus 153CD)
Listen to the way Johnny Hunter’s drum technique handles the first minute’s worth of Divisions Part 1. Pause and effect, compressed roll to cymbal, pause again, lift the sax line, spread it, go round the toms and then put the whole thing down with definition on the ride cymbal. Then repeat. Beat it back and forth as if there’s something extra to say. There is. Mr Hunter is spacing out Mark Hanslip’s Rollinsesque tenor melody so it can speak eloquence to dry studio resonance. It’s lovely clever stuff creating a kind of cradle, allowing the lone horn to press forward on a constant wave of sprung rhythm. Gee, by the time they hit the short drum-break your ears are already convinced they’ve heard the earth move. Divisions Part 2 begins with Olie Brice’s bowed bass grinding the engagement of three sides of this triad. There are no other instruments required. Wind, strings, and that interactive bat&ball percussion, all perfectly match each other. And if one should divide and rule, it is only momentary; this is a fair division of labour. Division Part 3 is the shortest track at 7.45. Initially Mark Hanslip is giving out a masterclass in how to play the tenor saxophone. Without fear or favour to the instrument’s vast ‘jazz history’, Hanslip has got it all here. Neat riffs, cool blurt, smooth blues, twisted coils of improvisation jiving and diving into defined time, there’s a sense of urgency, yet it sings. This may appear surprising, because it’s the Hunter percussion palette that is constantly pressing the measures as precise figures of mathematics. On the page it sounds complicate but the ears hear it as a flowing thing. Even the hi-hat solo clicks into place, flicks and ticks a juggling balance spaced with fast accents and full-stops. Division Part 4 starts by taking a few short breaths then very quickly moves into three voices on a mission. I wasn’t there, I don’t really know, but it sounds to my ears that Parts 1, 2, & 3 have led Johnny Hunter & Co to a point of departure. Part 4 has an ‘improviser’s confidence’ about it. They’ve done the setting out of the store, now play out the implications. It’s resourceful, confident, articulate and bold. Brice’s bass is busy, the drums draw on all the hardware of the kit to propel forward and Mark Hanslip’s tenor sax doesn’t over egg it. Instead he glides in and out of his compatriots as if taking stock of their sounds. He’s a generous tenor. This album is under forty minutes in length. For me, it’s not a problem. I’ve been coming back to it for about four weeks. I never play it through once; it goes ON repeat, maybe for the whole evening, four or five times. Divisions: three musicians, four parts; this is the kind of music that doesn’t rush what it is putting out even when the tempo (retro alert) takes to the fast lane. It was recorded in 2019. The world has changed since then. The need to hear quality is still a requirement. Alex Bonney has done a clean, clear burnished job on the mix and mastering. Treat yourself and put it on repeat. Steve Day, August 2023
Anthropology Band – Scald, Live 2022 (Discus 155CDx3)
The best kept Scald secret is track 2, disk 2. This incredible three disk session, covering two live dates, one in September, the other in October 2022, is full of comparison versions of compositional material and improv. Track 2, disk 2 is a single a slow blues. There is no other version. It only pops its head up for just over 10 minutes at Café Oto, London, there’s no Newcastle ‘take’ for reference. The fact is People Talking Blues is just about the most sublime hangdog thing you’ll likely to hear this side of Chicago. The track grows out of an electric bass intro, nailed to the floor by Adam Fairclough’s stripped down drumming, playing space so the pace can’t get ahead of itself. Ms Keeffe’s trumpet-voluntary turns on the tab via a scalding hot solo which bursts over the organ grind, castigating Pat Thomas’ keyboards. The sound is like rejuvenated Blue Note - Jimmy Smith meets Freddie Hubbard. After which Chris Sharkey’s overload-Fender grips the ghost of Hendrix. This music may reference what was, yet it has a completely current currency. A case of “people talking the blues” from angle of post-modernism; for crying out loud, what more do you need to hear? it’s a staggering example of inspired collectivism. Truly a blistering moment but not the end of the story, the rest of this recording has its own hurricanes.…. The Newcastle Castle gig opens with a drum break that sets cats among pigeons. This is no 16 inch maple Gretsch bass drum, nope a much bigger beast, one that could power house American stadiums. And there’s part of the Anthropology Band that could break those kinda decibel limits easily. I got no problem with that. They segue into Blade Juggler like they’re aiming for MTV status. It’s bloody lovely because its bloody lovely and they aren’t looking to roll rocks; Anthropology is the genuine article. As they fold their way out of Mauger Hay, with Orphy Robinson’s xylosynth signalling a truly natural high, or later when Mr Archer’s melodic seals the lines of The Candidates, it is the sheer dynamics of these performances that is perhaps the most convincing aspect of this music. Which set, September/Newcastle or October/Oto? My money is on the latter simply because it feels slightly more defined – at Oto it’s easy to tell Hunter’s guitar from Sharkey’s, I can ‘feel’ Pat Thomas’ piano promising me its Wednesday evening-coming-down. I’ve given all three disks a lot of ear-time. Heard Brotherhood Of Breath, sensed the humanity in the anthropology of making music across all three sides, wondered yet again about the depth of the chasm in Keeffe’s trumpet. Some recordings state their purpose so defiantly it does not matter whether they are told by someone else that it’s wonderful. There’s eight musicians here who know this is another ‘brilliant corner’. Scald is instant classic. Steve Day, June 2023