CD REVIEW: Dave Manington's Riff Raff – Challenger Deep


Dave Manington’s Riff Raff - Challenger Deep
(Loop 1030. CD review by Mike Collins)


This should be an album review, but I find myself wanting to react to the song Willow Tree, a time-stands-still pot of gold at the end of a 70-minute tour de force from Dave Manington’s Riff Raff.

At the core of the tune are resonant, plucked chords from Manington’s bass, the simplest of melodies carries a melancholic lyric crafted by Brigitte Beraha and delivered by her pure-toned vocal. It's taut and full of tension from the start. Then the faintest tickle of beater on a tom from Tim Giles, and Tom Challenger finds an angular and anguished phrase with which to slide in on tenor. He unfolds a twisting, searing solo of cries and jagged melodic swoops before blending with the returning vocal. Rob Updegraff on guitar and Ivo Neame’s keyboard provide exquisitely judged washes of sound as the atmosphere thickens and swells to a climax. Manington’s composition provides an enchanting framework from which these musicians conjure magic. It’s beautiful, a little sad and uplifting all at once.

These are all now established band-leaders in their own right but the chemistry is not to be taken for granted. Elsewhere, leader and composer of all nine tunes, Dave Manington, gives them plenty to get their teeth into. Iliad is, naturally enough lengthy and episodic, sinuous bubbling written lines, giving way to improvisation and a pulsing series of darting runs and eruptions from Neame’s Rhodes.

An attention-grabbing groove or snappy, buoyant line is never far away. Dr. Octupus starts things off with a skipping feel and long attractively arranged sections. Prime Numbers’ racing pulse and short series of fractured motifs gives everyone their head and sets off an incendiary series of solos, with first Challenger then Neame building volcanic momentum. Free Spirit is another song with an easy groove and slowly building momentum.

It’s a sound this band, with Manington writing for them, have been evolving, drawing influences from everywhere, orbiting a rocky centre or gravity. And then the dust settles a bit, allowing the deceptive simplicity of Willow Tree to blossom. Riff Raff are in their prime, a copy of this album is highly recommended.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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