Article XI Album Out Today!

Folks, it’s finally happened. The album we recorded live in 2014 is now out. It’s got hand-stitched (and then scanned in…) artwork by Angela Guyton, it was mixed by Alex Bonney, and it’s got a load of my favourite musicians on it. And these people like it…

“An album characterised by strong themes and inventive group playing” – The Wire
“Article XI recalls the joyous emancipatory fervor of Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra and its commitment to sending a message” – London Jazz News

But don’t take their highly respected word for it, have a listen yourself:

Saxophones: Sam Andreae (tenor), Simon Prince (tenor+flute), Mette Rasmussen (alto), Cath Roberts (baritone).
Trumpet: Graham South, Nick Walters.
Trombone: Seth Bennett, Richard Foote.
Guitar: Anton Hunter.
Bass: Eero Tikkanen.
Drums: Johnny Hunter

All compositions written by me with the band.

Article XI and Favourite Animals tour round-up

So, we did it then. What started over a year ago as a conversation about how ridiculous it would be to tour two large ensembles together, actually came into being last week. The process of putting it together was definitely something I couldn’t have done by myself and, as ever, I’m hugely grateful to Cath for collaborating on it. And Dee, Seth and Tullis made a formidable organising team, without whom I’m sure we’d still be sat at different stations around the country, wondering where we’re supposed to be.

The gigs were really special, and it was an absolute joy being part of both bands evolving to new places each night. It’d be hard to pick a favourite, the Birmingham gig at the MAC was a wonderful small theatre space that I’ve been wanting to play in again for years, the Lescar in Sheffield was packed and felt quite emotionally charged, as well as feeling like we were able to really stretch some of the music out. More Music in Morecambe was an inspiring place to be, and having the opportunity to workshop pieces with locals before the show was great, and finishing up in Newcastle at The Bridge was a fitting end to the week, I’ve been there several times these last few years and to bring our huge double-headed monster through there was really special. And we recorded the last gig too, so watch this space (although, not too closely, it took me three and a half years to get the last one out).

A huge thank you to our funders, Arts Council England and The Fenton Arts Trust, along with the fantastic promoters; Tony Dudley-Evans and Fizzle in Birmingham, Jez Matthews with Jazz at the Lescar in Sheffield, Ben McCabe with More Music and Lancaster Jazz Festival in Morecambe and Wesley Stephenson with Jazz North East in Newcastle. It’s difficult to get a large group of musicians together, and support from all these people was absolutely vital for this tour.

And it clearly worked too, the reviews were glowing…
“A marvellous evening my only regret being that we only got to see one set of each band.” (Steve H from BeBop Spoken Here)
“This was an absorbing and intriguing evening of uncompromising music making at the interface where the composed and the spontaneous conjoin to rewarding effect.” (Ian Mann aka The Jazz Mann)

And this instant audience feedback:

Don’t forget, my Article XI album is up for pre-order now, and Cath’s Favourite Animals is OUT NOW, still time to order that one for Christmas!

Tom Ward took some great photos of us (and then handed the camera over to Ollie Dover for the Favourite Animals sets, keep an eye on Cath’s website for some of those), make sure you check out the gif of Simon Prince in full swing…

Four guitar albums on Bandcamp

So, I’m going on tour in November with Beats & Pieces Big Band and, for once, I’m not going to be driving! (apart from a tiny little bit). And, as much as I love everyone in the band, I’m already making plans for what music to load onto my phone so I don’t have to talk to them all the time. Here are four albums by guitarists that I bought on Bandcamp, and I intend to get stuck into them all during the week-and-a-bit.

Julia Reidy

I Saw Julia performing in London earlier this year, on the same bill as Sam Andreae. Her music, played on an unusually tuned 12-string acoustic, didn’t immediately grab me, but as the set went on I found myself increasingly drawn in. An inspiring microtonal exploration of the guitar, complete with some wall-of-noise stuff for good measure.

Lean Left

Recorded live in Italy, this set ranges from some quite subtle moments (track 2 ‘Moti’ features some explorations of small-sounds that sounds great in headphones) to the more aggressive repetitive approach you might expect from the Ex guitars on the album’s closer ‘Gada Ale’.

DBH

I’m cheating with this one a bit as it’s only going to be released as the tour bus rolls into Amsterdam, but I’m looking forward to hearing it whilst sitting next to a canal or two. DBH is a bit of a Manchester legend, and his solo music is equal parts relaxing and inventive. It’s a hit with donkeys too.

Parachute For Gordo

I saw these lot at Thinking/Not Thinking festival earlier this year (Ripsaw Catfish were playing too), and was instantly into their mix of post-rock, math, effects & good humour. I’ve just re-read the blurb and it turns out it’s all recorded live in single-takes which is cool in my book. A nice pedalboard work-out always goes down well in this house.

If you don’t believe me, I have bought all these albums. And you can check out a bunch of bandcamp releases with me on over here.

Hope to see you on the tour, not least because the Manchester date is a mini-festival and Article XI are doing a set too…

Large Ensemble Score – ‘LUME Kestrel’

Written for the debut performance of the LUMEkestra in November 2016.

There are 7 (subtly) different numbered parts, so ideally that would be the minimum number of pitched instruments, but I think it sounds better with more. The intention was to write something quiet for the 18 piece band of improvisers that Cath and Dee from LUME had assembled, thinking it would provide a nice moment of contrast for the set. Of course, I wasn’t the only one to have that idea! I was really happy with how it came out nonetheless, and in particular the blurriness that is achieved by not having set parts for set players, and having so many players.

Here’s a video of the first performance

And here are the parts:

LUME Kestrel Concert
LUME Kestrel Eb
LUME Kestrel Bb

And if you head to the LUME Youtube channel you can see Martin Pyne and Dave Kane’s pieces for the same group.

Sloth Racket album and tour announced

The second Sloth Racket album is up for pre-order now, including streaming of one track. There are also t-shirts, all designed by Cath.

And then we’re off on tour in June, full details on my gigs page, or the Sloth Racket site, but here’s a flyer:

LUMElabrats

…for want of a better name…

I’ve got a brand new octet, and we’re gonna play music in public for the very first time next week!

Put together for LUME’s LUMElab series, the band I’ve got is amazing, look!

Kim Macari Stone-Lonergan – trumpet
Dee Byrne – alto sax
Rachel Musson – tenor sax
Tullis Rennie – trombone
Cath Roberts – baritone sax
Andrew Lisle – drums
Tim Fairhall – double bass
and me – guitar

I wrote about the process of writing (ooh, meta) on the LUME site. Click here to read about it.

And then click on my manic face to buy tickets:

Buy things on Bandcamp today

Bandcamp have announced that today they will be donating 100% of their share of any sales to the American Civil Liberties Union in solidarity with their work. I’ve been a big fan of Bandcamp for a while, and I thought I’d point you towards a few releases I’ve been enjoying.

I hadn’t heard of Ava Mendoza until recently, and it turns out she’s great. Something about her playing tickles the bit of my brain that also loves Nels Cline. This EP of miniatures (also available on 7″ vinyl) with a French drummer and bassist is a great introduction, also check out her Unnatural Ways group for a more proggy sound, and some songs too.

I bought this octet record on the strength of the Quietus review, combined with it featuring Ingrid Laubrock on tenor sax. Susan Alcorn is a revelation on pedal steel guitar, I wasn’t previously aware of her, but that texture in amongst some great writing and improvising is very welcome, and never lapses into cliche.

DBH is a bit of a local legend around Manchester, and can be found in all sorts of contexts on any number of different instruments. This is a largely solo guitar record full of strong melodies and fleshed out with simple effective arrangements. Independent Manchester label too, sums up the great thing about Bandcamp, direct support for music that needs it.

A trio from Widnes whose live shows at Islington Mill in Salford fried my brain a bit last year (and triggered an obsession with almost, but not quite, buying baritone guitars). Amazing guitar sounds, nice melodies. Needs to be turned up loud.

A phenomenal album of mostly wildlife recordings. This track is the sound of nine vultures feeding on a zebra carcass. Recorded from inside the carcass on Itong Plains, Kenya. Sept. 1994. One day I want to transcribe this to play on guitar…

Anyone can see what I’ve bought through Bandcamp by looking at my collection, or you could head to my artist page to see what records I’ve been on that you could buy should you wish.

But yeah, buy something today (Friday 3rd) and help a good cause and some great musicians.

New Videos

A couple of new videos have sneaked out recently, so I thought I’d stick them on here for you to watch.

First up is a video of my Article XI group in action at the Manchester Jazz Festival 2014. Dan Spicer mentioned in Jazzwise magazine this month that this group “demands to be heard”. So here it is:

And, on the back of a great review from Bird Is The Worm for our debut album ‘Triptych’ (“hyperactive…doesn’t sit still..whirlwind display of forms of expression…” buy it here folks!), here’s a video of our gig earlier in 2016 at The Vortex in London. And we’re playing a track that will eventually end up on the next album.

I’m sure there’s plenty more to report, but for now, hope you enjoy those.

Large Ensemble Score – ‘Always A Fox’

Composed for my 11-piece band Article XI and performed at LUME Fest in June 2016.

Always A Fox (all parts)

Always A Fox – Example Structures

The idea with this piece is to rehearse each section in a couple of different ways, maybe with different groups within the ensemble, and then to improvise your way through a structure that is written just before performance. The thinking being to ensure it’s fresh for each performance, and to avoid the ensemble learning a particular set way of navigating the material. This is me exploring an idea from Ken Vandermark’s Resonance Ensemble, according to the liner notes of Kafka In Flight (which is a great album and you should buy it!).


Live recording of the first performance, complete with some cueing mistakes on my part…

And the title; in honour of Leicester City’s premier league title win in 2016 (or rather, the way that everyone suddenly seemed to be a Leicester City fan).