|Ruth Goller. Photo Credit: Richard Kaby|
(Vortex, January 16th 2011, Reviw by Frederick Bernas)
In any listings guide, this new trio would look enticing. Two more established players, Ruth Goller (bass) and Mark Holub (drums) – of Acoustic Ladyland and Leb Bib, respectively – joined pianist Dave Morecroft, whose musical leanings may be known to some readers through the award-winning WorldService Project.
The group’s penchant for combining acoustic and electric sensibilities was clear from the outset, as they rattled through an opening number with echoes of The Bad Plus. Goller’s humming, whirring tones were a little overpowering at first, but Morecroft asserted himself with crunchy chunks of chords that emerged as a strong feature of his playing throughout the night.
Giving each other time and freedom is a big part of the collective aesthetic. All three musicians enjoyed long unaccompanied improvisations, with these solos frequently used to segue between melodic hooks or rigid grooves. The conversation was always open. Moods shifted from crackling backbeats and punchy basslines to psychedelic keyboard tinkering and a tune described as “Stravinsky-inspired punk” that lived up to its billing.
It would be hard to find a more adept rhythm section for tapping into the so-called ‘punk jazz’ idiom. Although this term has become rather commercially distorted in recent years, the Morecroft/Goller/Holub project clearly holds no such pretension – and, in the instance above, it was interesting to see how the musicians themselves define their sound.
On a localised jazz scene driven more by informed concertgoers than record sales, coming up with convenient musical labels is indeed less of a headache. The apparent revival of ‘punk jazz’ emerged from mainstream promoters seeking to describe a rising trend in accessible language that often carries little relevance for the artists involved. A frustrated Pete Wareham, of Acoustic Ladyland fame, once told me that no one was more punk than Mingus in an eloquent tirade about the industry’s relentless effort to blandly categorise his work.
Another genre-crossing band which may soon fall victim to this persistent urge to pigeonhole is Saltwater Samurai, a hotly-tipped quintet that rounded off a fine Thursday evening at the Vortex. Frenetically melting together screaming sax lines, live electronics and deep, booming bass, the group creates a toxically pleasing cocktail with great potential for reaching out to wider audiences – as airplay from Gilles Peterson has already illustrated.
Both groups are well worth listening out for. Morecroft’s trio delivered a promising performance at its debut gig and, with any luck, this review will serve as a tempting taste of things to come.