Walking Walking Falling
Friday, June 24, 2011
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
This is the sound of a band rapidly coming of age.
“Walking Walking Falling”
(Efpi Records FP004)
HAQ (or the Hunter Andreae Quartet) are a young band from Manchester and are signed to the city’s enterprising Efpi label, also home to the acclaimed Beats & Pieces Big Band. With its distinctive cardboard album sleeves the label exudes a spirit of DIY punk cool.
Last year I took a look at EPs by both HAQ and their parent group Beats & Pieces. Both records showed considerable promise and since that time Beats & Pieces have gone on to develop a reputation as a formidable live act with successful London and festival appearances to their credit. There’s a real buzz about B&PBB at the moment and I hope to check out their live credentials at the 2011 Mostly Jazz Festival in Birmingham.
While the big band have been grabbing the headlines it’s clear that HAQ have been developing in tandem with the larger outfit. “Walking Walking Falling” is a full album length recording and is a much more assured record than its predecessor “EP 1”.With Beats & Pieces MD Ben Cottrell involved in the production process there’s a confident bluster about the new record that invites favourable comparisons with bands such as Led Bib and Polar Bear. The compositional credits for the eight tracks are shared equally between co- leaders Anton Hunter (guitar) and Sam Andrae (saxophones) who contribute three tracks each and collaborate on another. The final track on the record comes from the pen of drummer Finlay Panter. Since the band’s previous release bassist Gavin Barrass has left the fold (presumably to concentrate on his work with trumpeter Matthew Halsall) and has been replaced by the Finn Eero Tikkanen.
Andreae’s opener “Why, Why Em?” roars out of the blocks on a wave of turbo charged, rock influenced guitar, wailing saxes and bludgeoning drums. There’s a real Led Bib/Acoustic Ladyland primacy about this one, an explosive opening salvo that quickly blows the cobwebs away. Great stuff.
Hunter’s unfortunately titled “Bint” combines an attractively melodic written opening section with the more impressionistic, freely improvised style of their début. Bassist Tikkanen plays an important role in the improvised sections before a second, more powerful theme emerges. Essentially a piece of three distinct phases this is an excellent band performance all round with a high degree of group interaction.
“Kappale Kaksi”, credited jointly to the co-leaders, sounds largely spontaneous but the group’s improvising is more tightly focussed and less tentative than on the EP. There’s a solo drum feature for Panter mid tune plus some sparky guitar/saxophone interplay and a pleasingly skronky climax.
Hunter’s “Pope” has an atmospheric, almost noirish feel courtesy of the composer’s sparse, evocative guitar chording and Andreae’s gruff, economical tenor sax. Tikkanen’s unhurried, deeply resonant bass solo adds to a brooding atmosphere that maximises the space between the notes.
“Blink Blink” features a skeletal Andreae theme and plenty of inventive group interplay that ranges from the delicately atmospheric to all out sonic brawling. This is followed by Hunter’s brief “Burrowed” ,a surprisingly gentle guitar/saxophone duet.
Andreae’s “Cacillia” is one of the most accessible pieces on the record with a strong melodic hook that provides the springboard for a blistering solo from Hunter and some powerful rock influenced playing from the rest of the group. Finally comes Panter’s “White” a slow burner with a distinct anthemic quality that also seems to act as the closing number at HAQ gigs.
HAQ’s approach is perhaps best summed by this quote from the Manchester Evening News which appears on the Efpi records website- “HAQ is free jazz with grunge textures”. There’s certainly a greater sense of assuredness and maturity on this album and one senses that this young band are now transcending their influences and finding their own voice. Their blend of rock and free jazz influences will inevitably invite comparisons with Led Bib, Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland etc. but if anything “Walking..” has more in common with the latest Outhouse offering “Straw, Sticks and Bricks” where the twin tenors of Robin Fincker and Tom Challenger combine with the guitar of guest Hilmar Jensson on an album that exhibits a similar mix of composition and improvisation and rock and jazz influences.
But despite the comparisons HAQ deserve to be judged on their own merits. “Walking…” is a fine record in it’s own right with HAQ demonstrating a distinctive sound of their own. This is the sound of a band rapidly coming of age and with the potential of even better things to come.
JAZZ MANN FEATURES
The sun shines on the final day of an excellent festival.
Ian Mann soaks up the vibes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.