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Posts tagged ‘Alice Zawadzki’

Binker Golding / Purcell Room

There were times tonight when it felt as though Binker Golding was inventing a new kind of music. He wasn’t, of course, not really. But by combining and recombining familiar elements, and putting them through the filter of his own personality, the saxophonist and composer was doing something that jazz has always done, often to its great and lasting benefit.

On the opening night of the 2022 EFG London Jazz Festival, Golding arrived at the Purcell Room with the music from his recent album, Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy, and the brilliant musicians with whom he made it: Billy Adamson (electric and acoustic guitars), Sarah Tandy (piano), Daniel Casimir (bass) and Sam Jones (drums). But he added a whole extra dimension through the presence of the singer and violinist Alice Zawadzki and the harmonica player Philip Achille, who fleshed out the themes and tags that distinguish a set of tunes taking their inspiration as much from the influences behind 1970s singer-songwriter music — folk, gospel, pop — as from the free and post-bop jazz with which Golding has been associated.

He started the concert from a different angle, with the band minus piano and drums playing chamber versions of songs he loves, including Carole King’s “Way Over Yonder”, the Smashing Pumpkins’ “To Sheila”, the traditional “I’ll Fly Away” and Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day”, all featuring Zawadzki’s pure voice. When Tandy and Jones arrived, the enlarged band slammed straight into “(Take Me to the) Wide Open Lows”, the new album’s irresistible opening track, on which Golding and Tandy soared in solos that built to ecstatic heights, with the saxophonist finding an unexpected sweet spot somewhere between Pharoah Sanders and Junior Walker.

Most of all though, it’s the pervasive sense of melody that makes Golding’s new music so appealing. The edge of hard bop is still there in something like “Howling and Drinking in God’s Own Country”. But it’s applied to the cadences of gospel and country, and to chord changes that come from pop music, including Motown, but all metabolised into something with its own organic integrity. Tonight Zawadzki’s fiddle and Achille’s agile chromatic mouth harp immeasurably enhanced these flavours. There was a hoedown mood to the music, a sense of joy, a freshness, a feeling that this was something you really ought to be dancing to.

* Binker Golding’s Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy is on Gearbox Records.

Reading music: jazz + prose

IMG_0922doneI’ve always had a soft spot for jazz and poetry: Jack Kerouac with Zoot Sims, Kenneth Patchen with the Chamber Jazz Sextet, Langston Hughes with Charles Mingus, Christopher Logue with Tony Kinsey, LeRoi Jones with the New York Art Quartet. It must be the beatnik in me, or the hopeless optimist, because not much of it has outlived its time. But here’s something new: jazz and prose. Or, to be more precise, jazz both with and without prose, at the same time. The Moss Project’s What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?, just released on the Babel label, consists of five pieces of music written by the London-based guitarist Moss Freed and a sixth by his colleague Ruth Goller, recorded by his group, and then given to half a dozen writers to produce short stories or poems inspired by what they’ve heard. A handsome hardback book contains the CD and the printed words (which can also be heard, read by the authors, on a download from the artist’s website).

The writers who responded to Freed’s invitation are Naomi Alderman, Colum McCann, James Miller, Lawrence Norfolk,  Joe Dunthorne and Hanan al-Shaykh. The musicians, apart from Freed, are the members of his quartet (pictured above) — Ruth Goller on bass guitar and double bass, the drummer Marek Dorcik and the singer and violinist Alice Zawadzki — plus a guest, the near-ubiquitous Shabaka Hutchings, on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. The six pieces are bookended by an brief instrumental prelude and a song for voices and instruments with words and music by Freed.

On a purely musical level, the CD gets better as it goes along: after a somewhat self-conscious beginning with “The Bubble”, the first full-length piece, and the gentle pastorale of “Anniversary”, to which Goller’s double bass makes an outstanding contribution, the blood starts flowing and the playing seems to loosen up. (This may have nothing to do with reality, in the sense of bearing a relationship to the order in which the pieces were recorded, but it happens to be this listener’s experience.) The fourth and sixth pieces, the intricate title track and an adventurous slow invention called “The Angel”, on which Freed explores various instrumental effects, are the picks for me. These are carefully constructed compositions that sound entirely contemporary while generally avoiding the tricksiness — usually expressed as a perversely wilful angularity — that can afflict the current generation of young, conservatory-trained jazz musicians (Freed studied at Edinburgh and Berklee). The blend of the leader’s guitar and Zawadzki’s violin is an extremely happy one, subtly enhanced by the addition of bass clarinet on “Caravans”, while Goller and Dorcik keep the music’s sinews taut (their handling of irregular metres on “What Do You See…” is as calm and frictionless as their switching between time to no-time in “Postscript: Lose Ourselves”).

And the written words? Freed suggests they can be read at the same time as the music is playing, or before, or after, or just listened to in the writers’ recitations (find them at I can’t honestly say that reading them greatly affected my response to the music, but I enjoyed McCann’s meditation on a woman’s visit to an old church (“Anniversary”), which really does fit with its music, and Norfolk’s miniature account of two characters on a slightly tense road trip (“Caravans”). A worthwhile experiment, attractively presented.

* The photograph above is by Barbara Bartz. Left to right: Ruth Goller, Marek Dorcik, Moss Freed and Alice Zawadzki.