Input/Output – February Edition

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We’re one month and 12 days into 2018 and it’s time to check in.

Input (What I’ve been putting into my eyes and ears this year…)

Podcasts

Podcasts now far outweigh TV shows and films as my medium of choice. I use Stitcher to listen and have a number of absolute core shows I listen to.

Hellbent – The tagline is ‘a feminist podcast for those who resist and persist’. the two hosts, Devon and Drexel are great and their remit covers all kinds of important topics – lots of current affairs and politics especially as it relates to equality, healthcare, family law etc. The tone is strong and honest and bold. This one is a new find but I love what I hear so far.

Inflection Point – Presented by Lauren Schiller and always with a fascinating roster of guests. The tagline is ‘how women rise up’ and there’s some great episodes like How to bring Joy into the Resistance and one about Alex Bernadotte’s Beyond 12 programme for underserved college students including first gen immigrants and low income families.

Slow Burn – This is an incredible series about Richard Nixon and Watergate made by Slate. The theme is fascinating enough but this podcast goes beyond the standard stuff we all know about the enormous garbage fire that was Watergate and goes deep with lots of interview content with those close to the various stages of the story.

The Gender Knot – Exploring the new masculinity and femininity is their remit and the topics are far-reaching and always interesting. It’s thought-provoking and contemplative with broad topics like Does Gender Shape Business? as well as topics that reflect the current climate such as How Will #Metoo Affect Dating?

Up and Vanished – Late to the party, I know but to the 7 of you that haven’t listened – DO IT NOW. I’m just glad I discovered it when all the episodes were available so I didn’t have to wait in between. It’s made by Payne Lindsey and focuses on a 12 year old cold case  – the disappearance of 30 year old Tara Grinstead in Ocilla, Georgia. It really is extraordinary to listen as it turns from a cold case to an active case during the course of, and as a direct result of, this podcast.

Last Podcast On The Left – I. LOVE. THIS. SHOW. Hosted by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski. If you want in-depth investigations into true crime, cults and aliens, finding this will be like all your Christmasses come at once. This is the podcast that makes you snort with laughter on the Tube and wake up the snoozing commuter next to you. It’s really hard to pick a favourite episode but I will say I keep episode 81: Female Serial Killers on my downloaded list at all times because it is gold.

Output

February’s turned into a lovely month for gigs so you can see me as part of a small, a medium AND a large ensemble setting across England –

19th – Calum Gourlay Big Band @ The Vortex, London

21st – What Love? @ The Lescar, Sheffield

22nd – Deep Tide Quartet @ Claptrap, Stourbridge

23rd – What Love? @ Listen, Cambridge

I did a pretty in-depth interview for LCoM which was published today as one of their Alumni profiles. Read it in full here.

Here’s a snippet…

 Some of your recent work has involved the use of graphic scores and the visualisation/sonification of data. How important to you think it is for jazz musicians to push the boundaries of musical notation?

I think it’s important for musicians to be true to themselves and that it’s ok if your voice as an artist sits outside of the mainstream. I’m at home in the world of improvised music and graphic scores because it feels very honest to me. Part of developing as an artist is about trying lots of things on for size and figuring out what fits and what doesn’t. Visualisation and sonification of data is something I’m really excited by at the moment. For example, I wrote a score for the Visualising Music event at the RA called Feeling Truth, which took data sets from the Earthquake Swarms in Oklahoma caused by the oil industry’s wastewater injection process. Through that performance, I’ve started working with an artist called Liz K Miller on a graphic scoring project and I’ve quite a few things in the works for this year in that field. I LOVE hearing people talk about their work and about artistic process, so I try to incorporate that into my work, too. I mainly use my website for that purpose.

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Review: Story Tellers by Duncan Heining, All About Jazz

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Last year, I made an album for Discus called Story Tellers. It’s a 6 piece ensemble that features such exciting musicians – Martin Archer, Anton Hunter, Mick Somerset Ward, Corey Mwamba and Pete Fairclough. We worked from graphic scores written by Martin, each of us given a ‘character’ and space to play completely solo.

This week, we got a great, insightful review by Duncan Heining on All About Jazz. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars! I’ve added the review below but do head over to AAJ and check it the enormous treasure trove of jazz writing.

So thanks to Duncan for the review and if you want to buy the album, check out the Discus website.

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We used to call records like this ‘concept albums.’ The whole idea soon became a term of derision thanks to Rick Wakeman and others. Nevertheless, let’s stick with it for a moment. Martin Archer’s Story Tellers is constructed as a series of interlocking vignettes, linked both by certain recurring themes, narrative threads and the attribution of certain functional roles to each of these six musicians. In that sense, you have here what can usefully be seen and heard as a ‘concept album’ -and, incidentally, a remarkable musical achievement. 
 
Thematic development has frequently been the boneyard of many an aspiring jazz composer. Story Tellers is built from a number of themes. Some are attached to an individual musician and explored both as solo and group pieces. Others—”Story Tellers,” “Like It Is,” “Shaman Song” and “Dedication Coda”—are explored a number of variations on a theme. Taken as a whole, Story Tellers, is cyclical in form with each cycle returning to one of two possible end points. In these respects, Story Tellers scores strongly in terms of thematic development.
 
Story Tellers comprises two CDs, 31 tracks of varying lengths and a total of 150 minutes of music. It is impossible to do it adequate justice in a review, so what follows is more a series of reflections on the music as a whole. 
 
To begin, the influences (if that is not too strong a word) here comes from Archer’s affection for both Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and for the best of 70s prog and jazz rock. The names checked on the three “Dedication Coda” are Leo Smith, Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell but the music here also recalls for me the Art Ensemble of Chicago. One of the great joys on Story Tellers is the way these themes morph so easily from free, abstract structures into powerful, riff-based forms. Part of that is down to the musicians and the way they listen and communicate. Here, drummer Peter Fairclough is, as his name suggests, a rock. (Matthew Chapter 16, Verse 8) His ability to work across stylistic boundaries recalls others such Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and John Marshall. 
 
The other aspect of the music that will strike the listener very forcefully is the use of coloration. Vibraphonist Corey Mwamba, arguably one of the most complete vibes player to emerge since Gary Burton, and guitarist Anton Hunter are especially important in this respect. Mwamba gives the music a lucid, liquid, almost mystical quality, a sense heightened by the use of additional percussion and by the amazing range of tones that Mick Somerset draws from his collection of flutes. The effects achieved by Hunter on his guitar are enhanced by both the drone and ostinato patterns he brings to bear but also by the spindly, raga-like melody lines he spins. There is a wonderful depth and richness to the sound Archer and his cohorts achieve that is more often found, if at all, in larger groups in jazz.
 
Archer himself is on tremendous form, energetic and ruthless on the band version of “Wayfarer’s Bastard,” appropriately querulous on the solo version of “The Casuist.” While I have often noted Archer’s abilities as a musical collagist (though here, he reveals also skills comparable to those of a landscape artist), the fact is that he is a fine instrumentalist and improviser across a range of woodwinds.
 
Perhaps, the revelation here is trumpeter Kim Macari Stone-Lonergan. I have heard her on other Archer recordings but, on Story Tellers, she seems to be reaching for something highly personal in her playing. Her playing on the band version of “The Barbarian” and on “Dedication Coda—Leo’s Dream” reveals that perfect combination in a brass player—excellent tone, exceptional control and articulation coupled with the ability to attack each note when required.  
 
The sheer range of music on Story Tellers is astonishing and stretches with ease from the more pastoral colours of “Story Tellers#2,” where the AACM comparison is at its sharpest, to the dark hues of “The Rain Maker—band version.” Such contrasts continue throughout. Listen to the polyrhythms that underpin “The Wounded Healer—band version” and compare this with the spacey psychedelia of “Like It Will Be” and the primal beats of “Shaman Song #3” (echoes of Rite of Spring?) This is music shaped built upon a grand vision of what jazz can be.