New Horizons – A Bristol ‘Jazz’ Sound

Album artwork by Patch.D.Keyes

Alas, the sweet release of anticipation no-more – the full release of ‘New Horizons’ is here! Before I begin on the album itself, it is important to note that many of this collection of musicians were the muse for the first Midsummer Groove Festival and we were so privileged to have Snazzback, China Bowls and Waldo’s Gift play at our inaugural event; they will, as a result, be embedded into the spirits of the parties to come. Nights spent in awe of their talent at the Galli, or in the intimate surrounds of The Forge, helped shape the atmosphere we wanted to create at MSG and their music was a constant source of inspiration for the vibrations we wanted to hear at the festival. In a city of relative small size, it is testament to the talent and passion of these musicians that such a distinctive sound and far-reaching community has arisen. This album embodies all that Midsummer Groove aims to achieve: community, collaboration and incredible art. We, of course, cannot forget to mention and thank Worm Disco Club, the force behind this endeavour, who have been promoting talent in Bristol with unwavering commitment.

Each artist has brought their own distinct style to the record, from the post-rock, mathy grooves of Waldo’s gift to the samba-tinged rhythms of Snazzback, there are signatures in every groove of the vinyl. The gloriously gratuitous delights of Waldo’s Gift open proceedings with each member of the trio bringing a tight and immaculate performance. They are followed by the tour de force that is Run Logan Run – there is a primal, guttural spirit that is carved into a relentless, pounding, exquisite composition that leaves you just wanting to move. Things calm down for a beautiful rework of Snazzback’s ‘Flump’ by Ishamel Ensemble, where perhaps the stunning album artwork is best reflected: a delight of melody joyfully tripping over percussion in a dreamy interplay. China Bowls and Snazzback are the perfect pairing right in the middle of the album, with her light yet powerful voice being perfectly complimented by a swaying and surging band on ‘Grook’ and then the two entering a jazz-tango on ‘Yum Yum’.

We are proud to be part of the Bristol musical community and hope to play a bigger role as the years go on, and it is thanks to promoters and artists such as those on ‘New Horizons’ that Bristol is such a wonderful place to live, work and party.

Head to the Worm Disco Club Bandcamp to purchase the download https://wormdiscs.bandcamp.com/album/new-horizons-a-bristol-jazz-sound



By Jonny Hobbs

EM + STAV – ‘Afterglow’

Artwork for the release ‘Afterglow’ on Midland’s Intergraded label (July 2020).

EM + STAV have been pillars of the Bristol music community, in each their own right, for many years now. EM co-runs Mix Nights, started in 2016 by Saffron and Shanti Celeste, working with womxn to develop DJ skills and as a space to share creativity. STAV highlights the abundance of DJs and producers in the collaborative Bristol community as to how the city of Bristol has helped shape his musical career.

Last month saw the release of the duo’s first EP, and it certainly was worth the wait. The four-tracks are the result of a natural progression from playing music at parties to sharing ideas between themselves, resulting in their recent decision to put it altogether into a production. Influences from Bristol’s bass heritage come through on the record, but it is a forward looking record that delivers a fresh sound. The tight production and depth of samples – there is always something special coming just around the corner on each track – coupled with the narrative development in each piece has meant we’ve had it on repeat and can’t get enough.

We’re chomping at the bit to hear it out on a dance floor.

Listen to EM + STAV’s Afterglow below:

‘Nice To Meetcha’ – Foshe and Horatio Luna

Photo credit: album artwork “Nice To Meetcha’ by Foshe & Horatio Luna

As a young teenager I always wanted more bass on albums and was overjoyed when I discovered, as a slightly older teenager, dance music and the fact that a proper speaker set up goes a very long way in giving clarity to all the constituent parts of any production. Even still, there are many albums I hold dear where, frustratingly, certain instruments are favoured over one another in the production and composition. The first collaboration between bassist virtuoso Horatio Luna and nu-fushion outfit Foshe does not leave me wanting anything from any of the three musicians that have created the work, giving equal weighting to each main elements of keys, bass and drums, both in production and composition.

The album is entirely improvised and has been called spiritual jazz by the bassist whose funk is ever present on each track, with songs taking as much from classic jazz trios as it does from dance music. The improvised nature of the work seamlessly melds together the abundance of different styles that have found their way into the jam, from the syncopated beat of house tracks to the wonderful swung rhythms and walking bass line on ‘Bamboo Bop’ (which, being improvised, I imagine was named as a nod to the sounds that came out of the session) that bring to mind mid-century blues and jazz. The trio never rest on any particular style for long and the groove morphs effortlessly into its next stage with a tight precision that one would expect of a painstakingly choreographed and rehearsed set of songs.

Any of the three instruments can lead the journey, with a expression of flair turning into a new direction for the song, such as in Fabian Hunter where the fist-pumping, staccato-discotheque melody of the keys takes the whole tune into orbit. One thing I particular love about this style is the lack of discrete solos, there are many moments where individuals shine on the album, but these weave in and out of the jam and can often overlap with each other. Each musician seems attuned to the flow they are all in, there are no messy sections where the sound builds to homogenous chaos, or where direction is lost, but there are swells of intensity and reserved breakdowns where appropriate to give each of the improvisations form and texture and a distinct character of their own.

Returning to my younger teenage years reminds me of a video where Chad Smith and Flea discuss the importance of the relationship between drums and bass. In this collaboration the importance of this partnership is demonstrated immaculately, the technical ability and awareness of both musicians is incredible, and made all the more impressive that the tracks are all improvised. There definitely is a spiritual element to this spontaneous album, and there are a few clues to the passion that has gone into making it throughout the album in the form of vocal utterances of delight from the players.

Listen to Nice To Meetcha (or, as the album artwork and some interview transcripts have written it, Nice to Meecha) below:

AVTRIO

L – R: James Vine, Alex Veitch and Harry Stoneham of the AVTRIO (Photo credit: AVTRIO Facebook page).


We caught up with Alex Veitch, the keys player and band leader of the AVTRIO, who played at Midsummer Groove Festival 2019.

I suppose we should first talk about the current global situation, as it will have hit musicians quite hard. How has it affected you?
I’ve been very lucky to have a few private students who have been happy to carry on with their lessons online. Undoubtedly for many musicians it is an incredibly challenging period: of course everyone’s gigs disappeared overnight. there is the promise of some welcome support from the government, but it is taking some time to filter through so there certainly is a present financial challenge to musicians in the UK.

When did you first discover that jazz was the genre of music that you wanted to pursue in your professional life?
I remember my first jazz lesson when I was 10 with a local teacher Maggie Badham: being intrigued by the spaces in the pieces for improvising, and kinda enjoyed working out phrases and solos over these new pieces that maggie introduced me to. Jazz to me at that point was composing, experimenting and improvising over these new songs and tunes that I knew already. I guess when I was 16 I was sure that jazz was something I wanted to pursue more than the classical music I had always studied. Even though I didn’t study music for my undergrad, I knew by that point that playing the piano, and jazz in particular, was something I wanted to return to kinda full time and see what would happen.

How did the AVTRIO come into existence?
I love playing in the trio format. I’ve played in many piano trios, in many different styles, both in London and Bristol. The music for AVTRIO was written kinda with James in mind [the drummer in AVTRIO]. James and I went to school together and it was over the winter of 2018, after I’d been in Bristol for a year or so, that I thought it would be nice to do something together. Yeah, I wrote these songs thinking they’d work well with his playing.

Are there any specific artists or sounds that helped contribute to the inspiration for the AVTRIO project?
For sure. I love Alfa Mist, Blue Lab Beats, Yussef Dayes, Vels Trio, Kiefer, Dilla. I guess, yeah UK jazz and beat tapes meets improvised solos and live ensemble playing is what seems to have happened with this project to date. No doubt the music and everything I play is massively inspired by my long term jazz piano favourites: Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans. I love everything they do.

So far, you’ve released two singles, are there any more to come? Is there an album in the pipeline?
There is very much an album near to the end of the pipeline. We actually had a UK tour booked for May of this year, it’s sad that it won’t be going ahead. We had dates up and down the country including Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, London, Pizza Express Soho, Ronnie Scott’s, Stroud Jazz Festival etc. The tour has been postponed but the album released will go head prior to the rescheduled tour. More announcements to follow for sure.

Talk to me about the delightful synth sounds on the singles, where on earth are they coming from?
Ah, the synth sounds on the singles. The whole of the first album was recorded on a Rhodes Suitcase Piano MK 1 and a Moog Little Phatty monosynth – that would be what you’re hearing on all the lead sounds. That synth sound was certainly part of my original imagined intention when I wrote the songs, for it to sound like that with that instrumentation. I’m very happy with the reality of it and how the sound turned out in that respect. It’s exactly how I imagined it would be really.

Did any of the songs draw inspiration from hip hop?
I love listening to hip hop, ever since my friend Charles gave me his ipod at school when I must have been 11/12: A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Jazz Liberatorz. We certainly aren’t trying to recreate any kind of hip hop directly, but those grooves are great, and if you hear a bit of that in our music that’s cool, it can only be a good thing.

Are there any albums that you can recommend to people in this period of lockdown?
OK, for sure. I know I’ve mentioned a fair few artists already here. I’ll try and think of 3 kind of varied albums. OK, Still Waters by Kenny Wheeler, J Dilla’s Delights Vol. 1, and, one of my all time favourite jazz albums, – Waltz for Debbie by Bill Evans.

Thanks for your time Alex – one more question: will we see you at Midsummer Groove Festival 2021?
Definitely.

Glad to get such a strong, positive answer. We look forward to hearing about your gigs with AVTRIO when the lockdown is over!

The AVTRIO consists of Alex Veitch on keys, James Vine on drums and Harry Stoneham on bass. They are based in Bristol, UK. Their first two singles are available on Spotify, listen to them below:

‘Floral LP’ – Floral

Tasty abstract Floral album artwork.

Floral, perhaps the cutest band in the math-rock universe (I may be biased as they once gave me a free tape of their second EP when I told them how much I love them whilst they were waiting in line for a coffee), have released their first full length album and, in true lovely Floral fashion, have aptly named it Floral LP and donned the cover with some more wonderful, psychedelic abstract art. It may have been five years since their last release, but Floral are still dependable, and not just in how they name and decorate their music.

The 30 minute long play is a tightly controlled, precisely delivered entanglement of blissful guitars and drums, packaged like gourmet spaghetti in a gift box from Harrods. Although their trademark style is present, both from the cascading guitar riffs and syncopated drums, the songs feel like they have been written for a longer format recording. 2015 (a delightful ode to Marsh Partition from their second E.P.) and 2021 offer interludes that break up the faster-paced tracks that are the bulk of the album, which in turn are more developed than their predecessors on the first two EPs. It took two listens to adjust to this change in pace, but, although noticeably different from their earlier recordings – which one would expect after a break of half a decade – the album still feels wonderfully Floral and gives that same mixture of nostalgia, energy and joyfulness that is so much the trademark of the duo’s music.

Ebullient is our pick of the album, a track that encapsulates all that is special about this band: the overwhelmingly technicality of the music and the deluge of emotion that is experienced listening to them.

‘ZFEX Vol.II’ – Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange

Album artwork for ZFEX Vol. II

Ziggy Zeitgeist has been leading the project Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange through the incredible rhythms produced behind the drums and a philosophy towards music that is all encompassing. Drawing on his experience at quintessentially Australian dance parties known as bush doofs, taking place in remote parts of the outback landscape (describing them as ‘the playground of Australian music’), Ziggy has cultivated a style of music he has described as the ‘jazz doof’; a style of extended composition that encapsulates the spirit and soul of a DJ set, using the form of building a track slowly but structures with the style and rhythms found in jazz music.

The result of this concoction of musical influences is an album that provides energy and demands it from you – true to its name, it is a free exchange between artist and listener. Jamming along to the percussion laid down by Ziggy are the supple and groovy keys of Lewis Moody, which draw as much from 90s house chord progressions as they do from contemporary jazz and neo-soul; the commanding funk of Matthew Hayes (the man who, after seeing him live, convinced me that you can be as funky without a pick on bass as with one), whose bass playing on the album is sublime and harmonises perfectly with the keys; Erica Tucceri, whose flute sent through effects takes on a new life and gives an added dimension to tracks it’s found on; and Javier Fredes on percussion.

This album has gracefully been given to us in this difficult period and right on time for the weekend. Staying in has never been so good with ‘ZFEX Volume II’ vibrating around the house.

‘How Would You Know I Was Lonely?’ – The Rhythm Method

Joey Bradley and Rowan Martin of The Rhythm Section (image: huckmag.com)

‘Chin Up, England’, the stiff-upper-lip hook of The Rhythm Section’s 2018 football world cup anthem may be needed now more than ever. Luckily for us fans, the South London duo have released a full-length album and it conjures up as much nostalgia, melancholy and hope as the singles they have previously put out. Bradley’s lyrics take from the full spectrum of straight-talking, no frills musical poets, from the tongue and cheek style of Ian Drury to the spoken word musings of Mike Skinner (who has produced some of their work). He has also developed a form all of his own, and there is something overpoweringly original about the feeling of deja vu felt when listening to the tracks on ‘How Would You Know I Was Lonely’.

The musical talents of Martin underpin the puns and social commentary laid down by his partner. The album draws on a wide variety of genres, from garage and drum and bass, to the Chaz and Dave pub piano and beyond. What lies deeply rooted in this album is an authenticity – the pair have pulled themselves up with their own bootstraps and have created a piece of art that is entirely and exactly what they wanted to create; they have expressed both their desire to produce songs that, ‘a massive amount of people want to sing along to’ and a fear that, ‘we’re in for a lot of hate once more people hear us’. Their hearts and souls come out on this record and each track gives something a little bit different to the listener.

Stay at home and listen the wonderful vibrations of The Rhythm Section‘s 2019 debut album below:

‘II’ – Godtet

Album artwork for Godtet’s ‘II’ (image credit: Godtet, bandcamp artwork).

‘II’ is the latest production of Sydney-based multi-instrumentalist Godriguez. The album is a meditative journey through rolling soundscapes and grooves, fluidly crossing the line between band music and dance music. A collective of talented artists, including percussion work from Ziggy Zeitgeist of 30/70 and Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, have come together in the studio to produce nine songs that feel organic; in their live shows they have been able to recreate the polished production of the recordings whilst being able to improvise with a large ensemble of seven musicians.

From the powerful introduction courtesy of Max Lush, with ensnaring drums and a haunting vocal sample, to the whimsical Blown Bamboo Pipes and Struck Bamboo Pipes that offer a narrative element of progression to the tracks, the album has a satisfying arc to it from start to finish. The headline track, Enumerating, utilises a freakishly catchy vocal hook with ethereal keys and drums floating in and out as you sway around without a care in the world.

Listen to ‘II by Godtet whilst you stay at home and stay safe:


Park Doof

Dan and Steph showing excellent balance on the precarious Fairfield Amphitheatre steps. (Photo credit: Jonny Hobbs)

N.B. This article was started in February before the explosion of global madness caused by novel coronavirus 2019 (SARS-CoV-2), due to that and other circumstances the release of the article was delayed.

The Fairfield Amphitheatre in the inner north-east of Melbourne is a gem of a party spot tucked away on the banks of the Yarra River. The space can be hired until 9pm at night, by anyone, for anything. Recent events include a wedding and, what this writer is dubbing, a park doof. Scoping out the area the previous weekend, the most striking thing about the venue is the gradient of the flag stone steps – which precipitated the thought that next weekend there are to be many people here listening, and hopefully dancing, to dance music, leaving me wondering about the first aid provisions.

Raising my concerns about safety, toilet access and the general logistics of the event in the seemingly sparse, infrastructure-free space, I was suitably ribbed until eventually falling off my high horse and I subsequently took off my OH&S hardhat. The event was run by DJ crew, Synapse, who, with only 80 followers on Facebook, seem to be a relatively new collective. This party stood out with it’s BYO drinks policy – with Melbourne’s by-laws allowing the consumption of alcohol in parks, the oppressive blanket ban on public drinking in most spaces in the state was thus circumvented – and that the party was a fundraiser for the ‘Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities’.

There was an air of casual understanding between all party goers, with the event having a very free and open feel to it. At points it wasn’t clear who was running the party, but, and this was the only instance of bad behaviour we witnessed, when a patron was seen lobbing grapes from the tiers into the crowd, out of nowhere a high-vis came and with a quiet word and a fist-bump a cessation of grape throwing ensued. Adding to this openness was the offerings of watermelon that came around to assist the partiers in the heat, and the placing of water containers around the steps to conveniently quench your thirst was a simple, yet thoughtful touch that meant hydration was a matter of course rather than a forgotten necessity. The toilets used were those of permanent structures linked to the amphitheatre: these things are important to get right, we might love a boogie but we are still all animals with basic needs.

The best set of the day went to Toni Yotzi, framed in the dappled light between the eucalypts the set got the party going in late afternoon, with a carefully selected set of tracks that switched between 4 on the floor and break-beat, with the only disappointment being that there were more people settling into the party with their ice boxes on the steps than on the dance floor – such is the nature of the slow burning start to most day parties.

As the evening grew, so did the population on the dance floor. There was consideration for other dancers, with everyone having enough space to strut their stuff. Eventually, the evening drew to a close, with the crew ending the night precisely at their designated 9pm curfew. No sooner was the party finished, than the clean up started and an amphitheatre of ten or more tiers that had been carpeted in tinnies and other detritus from throughout the day was diligently cleaned, and a stroll through the park the next day left no clue as to the hedonistic scenes that took place the previous day.

* * *

The original point of this article was to promote a more free-form, yet law-abiding structure that a party can take on and to advocate for more of this type of gathering. In light of the global events of recent weeks, with social distancing and lock downs becoming the new norm, it will be a long time before we are able to meet and socialise in this way. MSG wants to encourage everyone to stay at home and keep your communities safe, especially thinking of all those workers who are putting themselves in harms way to treat and support vulnerable members of our communities.

We hope that when we come out on the other side of this unprecedented (couldn’t help myself) series of events that there will be an explosion of celebration in the form of parties that curate safe spaces, with a focus on the music rather than profit making, such as the Synapse park doof.

Stay safe, stay and home and look after yourselves and each other.

MSG xxx

Mahalia

I had this music blog idea shortly after the festival in August 2019, with the idea occasionally flitting through my mind as I wound my way home through the Autumn and start of Winter. It was all but an annoying itch at the back of head by the time I’d made dinner and slumped down at the end of a long day. Fortunately for me, I was moving to Melbourne, Australia, and, even more fatefully, Mahalia was playing her second ever Australian show two weeks after I arrived.

After playing to crowd of three-hundred at the northern suburb Northcote Social Club a year ago, the sold-out city-centre venue full of adoring fans, clamouring for a space at the front thirty seconds after the doors opened showed just how far the artist has come in twelve months.

Adrian Eagle, an Adelaidean by birth but now a self-proclaimed Melbourne soul artist, opened with a heartfelt performance. His soulful and varied voice, going from 1960s Motown to 2010s Chicago rap ala Chance the Rapper, was the real strength of the set. The performance was wrapped in passion and the sincerity of his art and character couldn’t be questioned. He certainly got the crowd going in the gaps between his tracks, offering a very palatable support for the show.

Enter Mahalia. Her presence and energy were felt as soon as she stepped out. Bringing vigour to every beat of a well rehearsed, polished set, but one that felt fresh and spontaneous, the room was transformed from a hall into a party. Her voice was as powerful as the studio recordings, with a perfect mix of being true to the songs and having the appropriate level of uniqueness for a live performance. This variety included acapella introductions (with additional acapellas in-between tracks at the behest of the front row admirers) and an acoustic rendition of 17 with Mahalia playing live. Her minimalist backing band were equally on point, with only a live bass player, who also was in charge of backing tracks, samples and some synth work, and drummer, they enhanced the tracks from her debut 2019 album making them fresh and vibrant, with both musicians showing appropriate virtuosity at key points of the show. Particularly of note was Do Not Disturb, where the arrangement was far superior to the recorded version and gave the vocal melody and lyrics the backing they deserve.

Perhaps most striking of all was Mahalia’s stage presence, a blend of commanding and familiar, allowing the crowd to feel as though they were truly welcomed into the vibrant space, yet never feeling as those they weren’t being delivered a professional performance. This atmosphere was best exhibited when Mahalia, a self-confessed Leicester lass who can’t help but ‘chat a load of shit’, introduced her next number, giving comical and entertaining anecdotes that gave context to the music. There was the two part story that involved He’s Mine and Karma – about how we can all learn a thing or two about our own behaviour after we experience being on the receiving end. The message to men about how to respect women in Good Company was a succinct and powerful treatise on the issue of men who feel a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Consistency and Regular People were accompanied by wholesome stories of how her mother gave her the courage and confidence to be the woman she is today. At 21 (the revelation of which caused an audible gasp in the audience), Mahalia acknowledges that she herself still has a lot to learn, but the wisdom and maturity with which she spoke to the crowd and delivered messages of positivity, feminism and mental health showed that she is a conscious artist who is using her platform not to preach, but to share love and solidarity with people who clearly have a strong connection to her music and her as an artist.

The highlight of the show was before her final song. Mahalia stated that this would be her final track, explaining that after supporting an artist who needed, “the crowd to chant my name louder,” before going back on stage for an encore, she was never going to ego trip over people who had paid hard earned money and given up their time for an experience. True to her word, as soon as the track was over she jumped off stage… Only to return 30 seconds later when Lizzo came pumping over the PA system to dance, sing and take selfies in the crowd that was absolutely losing it. It’s the encore we’ve been waiting for – she truly is the people’s R&B Princess.

Mahalia is next playing in the UK on May 1st 2020 at the Brixton Academy, London.

By Jonny Hobbs