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Partikel - Partikel, The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, 03/03/2012. Rating: 4 out of 5 An engaging take on the art of the saxophone trio from one of the UK's most engaging and promising new bands.

Partikel, The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, 03/03/2012


This young saxophone trio first came to my attention with the release of their eponymous 2010 début album on the F-ire Presents label (reviewed elsewhere on this site). I was impressed by both the quality of the writing and the playing and many other commentators seemed to agree with me as something of a buzz began to develop around this exciting young band. Frequent touring plus their curation of a regular Monday night jam at The Hideaway in Streatham has honed their skills and turned them into exhilarating and convincing live performers. Their lunchtime performance on the Saturday of the 2011 Brecon Jazz Festival certainly blew away the cobwebs and won them a lot of new admirers. They proved to be one of the festival highlights, praise indeed for such a young and comparatively inexperienced band.

For their second album Partikel switched to the Whirlwind record label, run by bassist Michael Janisch, one of their early champions. “Cohesion” (2011) proved to be a worthy follow up (see review elsewhere on this site) and was also an apt title with bassist Max Luthert and drummer Eric Ford becoming more involved in the writing and arranging process alongside group founder and leader Duncan Eagles.

Alison Vermee at The Edge has always been keen to support up and coming British jazz acts and with bands such as Phronesis and Kairos 4tet now well established she has turned her attention to the next rank of rising UK jazz stars. Partikel attracted a crowd of around 50-60 with the audience all seated at tables cabaret style. With the bleachers removed this club style ambience worked well as Partikel delivered two absorbing sets drawing on material from both their albums plus a single jazz standard which was played as an encore.

Partikel offer an engaging take on the art of the saxophone trio with Eagles’ strong melodic themes offering an accessible jumping off point for group improvisation. This is a regular working group and the playing is tightly focussed with a high degree of interaction between the musicians. Inevitably their music evokes comparisons with the saxophone trios pioneered by the great Sonny Rollins. Eagles may not have come up with something quite as catchy as Rollins’ classic calypso “St. Thomas” but his compositions are still full of accessible melodies and arresting hooks. There’s no sense of compromise in his writing but even without the safety net of a chordal instrument there’s nothing dauntingly “difficult” about Partikel’s music. It’s easy to enjoy but still offers the listener subtle challenges and hidden depths. Their sound is characterised by Eagles’ big but flexible tenor sax tone, and Ford’s colourful, exotic, restlessly creative drumming, the whole grounded by Luthert’s powerfully propulsive bass lines. Eagles also plays some convincing soprano sax but he’s essentially a tenor specialist who brings a refreshingly contemporary edge to the art of the saxophone trio.

Tonight’s performance began with “The Restless Child”, sourced from the “Cohesion” album with Eagles sketching the theme on his handsome black lacquered tenor supported by Ford’s powerful drums and Luthert’s driving, huge toned bass. Ford’s drumming is a key part of the Partikel sound. He has a fascination with African and Caribbean rhythms and introduces elements of these into his playing. He supplements an already large kit with cowbells, woodblocks, small cymbals and a set of Brazilian tamborim, small 6 inch drums which inspired the later development of the rototom. Eagles described them as “a set of flying saucers”, a good approximation of their exotic appearance. There were times when Ford’s drums almost assumed the lead, particularly in the latter part of the piece when he and Luthert enjoyed an extended period of dialogue. When Eagles solos Ford provides an ever evolving commentary of interlocking rhythms and colourful and exotic sounds. Not that the group sound is about conventional soloing as such, there’s a strong element of group interaction going on at all times no matter who currently holds the leader’s baton.

Also from the group’s second album “Follow Diversion” was described by Eagles as having more of a “rocky vibe”. Indeed much of Partikel’s music, despite it’s obviously jazz soul has an element of rock dynamics. Not surprising in such a young band perhaps and here embodied by another bravura drum performance from the excellent Ford.

Luthert makes his compositional bow on the new album with “Assam”, a paean to his compulsive tea drinking habit (ironically it was Ford who was still clutching hold of his “cuppa” when the band came out to commence the second half). The bassist’s tune is an attractive piece that was introduced by the sound of Ford’s brushes and featured Eagles on slinky, sinuous soprano. He’s a fine player of the smaller horn and in some ways it’s a shame that he doesn’t deploy it more extensively. A highlight of the piece was Luthert’s solo bass feature. He’s currently getting over a bout of tendinitis, an occupational hazard for bass players he told me, especially ones who string their instrument as tightly as he does. He strapped his left wrist before playing but still sounded as good as ever. As we discussed this after the show Eagles chipped in with the fact that saxophonists can get it in the fingers from the manipulation of the keys and pads of their instruments, I’d heard of sax players suffering dental problems before but not this. 

The trio turned to their first album for “Conquistador”, a number that began as a ballad with Luthert’s solo bass intro and Eagles’ warm, breathy tenor. Gradually the piece expanded and gained momentum, eventually mutating into something rather more forceful. The changes saw Ford deploying a variety of implements on his kit from brushes to mallets to sticks as he responded to the shifting dynamics. Despite the sometime use of sheet music this sense of restless inventiveness and of the trio thinking on their feet imbued the whole performance with an engaging energy.

Keeping with their début Luthert’s bass introduced “The Steep And Thorny Way” an arresting performance fuelled by Ford’s kinetic drumming, including extensive use of those “flying saucers”, a solo tenor sax interlude and finally some climactic sax riffing.

Still drawing from their first album the group took us into the break with “D to the G”, a piece featuring one of Eagles’ most memorable hooks and once again possessed of a strong rock dynamic. This provided the framework for a marathon barnstorming Eagles tenor solo and a dynamic drum and bass duel between Ford and Luthert. This was a high energy finale to an arresting first half that had seen not only some great individual moments but also a strong group aesthetic. I’m certain that the band were new to many of the audience but everybody I spoke to seemed to be highly impressed , none more so than Shrewsbury based saxophonist Casey Greene who was able to offer a musician’s perspective on the performance.

The second set saw the trio returning to the “Cohesion” repertoire beginning with the slinky, feline grooves of “Room” with Eagles’ tenor musing above the patter of Ford’s drums and Luthert’s rich bass undertow before breaking cover in a series of quick fire, groove driven passages.

Ford came to the front of the stage to introduce “Blood Of The Pharoah”, an Eagles dedication to the group’s original drummer Pharaoh Russell. Ford also spoke of his transpositions of African rhythms and encouraged the audience to scream at a particularly dramatic moment of the piece, prompted both by a musical cue and a visual signal from Ford. Musically the woozy feel of the piece was vaguely similar to the sound of Polar Bear whose “Drunken Pharaoh” is also a dedication to young Mr. Russell. The piece saw Eagles switching to soprano mid tune and delivering a particularly fine solo on his “second” instrument. 

From “Cohesion” “The Cove” provided this set’s quieter number, an atmospheric item featuring Ford as colourist, his hand drumming complementing Eagles’ tenor sax ruminations before the piece again gathered momentum to encompass more robust saxophone soloing and similarly forceful drumming.

Then a new tune, “The Optimist” also closed the group’s set at Brecon and is as upbeat as its title suggests with a playful hook framing a towering tenor sax solo from Eagles and a series of flamboyant drum breaks from the irrepressible Ford. The trio teased us with what appeared to be a gentle, lyrical coda before upping the ante again to close a generally high octane set in rousing fashion. The Much Wenlock crowd, attentive and enthusiastic as always called them back for an encore. This proved to be the only standard of the night, a version of Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” that included their most “conventional” playing of the night with orthodox brushed rhythms and defiantly old school style smoky tenor with solos coming from Eagles and Luthert. As the bassist later explained the group have a range of standards in their locker which they normally plunder for their Monday night jams at The Hideaway. Even so there were still moments when they took off and gave the old warhorse something of the “Partikel treatment”.

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the company of one of the UK’s most engaging and promising new bands. Eagles is a hugely accomplished saxophonist, an interesting and accessible composer and in Luthert and Ford he has a top rate rhythm section. Ford’s virtuoso performance behind the kit certainly impressed the audience but this was a strong team effort all round. If Partikel have a fault it is perhaps a lack of light and shade, most of their playing is energetic and full on and even the more reflective moments don’t stay quiet for long. However there’s still plenty of time for them to expand on an already impressively full trio sound and in any case the trio’s collective, contemporary approach is in many ways a pleasant change from the usual mix of alternating swingers and ballads.

There’s no doubt that Partikel won many new admirers tonight and their willingness to chat to fans after the show will have done them no harm at all. They are genuinely nice guys who deserve their success and I’m sure that many of tonight’s audience will try to catch them again when they return to Shropshire in the Autumn (The Hive, Shrewsbury 15th September 2012).

They also have other dates scheduled. See http://www.partikel.co.uk for further details.       

Partikel, The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, 03/03/2012.

Partikel

Monday, March 05, 2012

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Partikel, The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, 03/03/2012.

An engaging take on the art of the saxophone trio from one of the UK's most engaging and promising new bands.

Partikel, The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, 03/03/2012


This young saxophone trio first came to my attention with the release of their eponymous 2010 début album on the F-ire Presents label (reviewed elsewhere on this site). I was impressed by both the quality of the writing and the playing and many other commentators seemed to agree with me as something of a buzz began to develop around this exciting young band. Frequent touring plus their curation of a regular Monday night jam at The Hideaway in Streatham has honed their skills and turned them into exhilarating and convincing live performers. Their lunchtime performance on the Saturday of the 2011 Brecon Jazz Festival certainly blew away the cobwebs and won them a lot of new admirers. They proved to be one of the festival highlights, praise indeed for such a young and comparatively inexperienced band.

For their second album Partikel switched to the Whirlwind record label, run by bassist Michael Janisch, one of their early champions. “Cohesion” (2011) proved to be a worthy follow up (see review elsewhere on this site) and was also an apt title with bassist Max Luthert and drummer Eric Ford becoming more involved in the writing and arranging process alongside group founder and leader Duncan Eagles.

Alison Vermee at The Edge has always been keen to support up and coming British jazz acts and with bands such as Phronesis and Kairos 4tet now well established she has turned her attention to the next rank of rising UK jazz stars. Partikel attracted a crowd of around 50-60 with the audience all seated at tables cabaret style. With the bleachers removed this club style ambience worked well as Partikel delivered two absorbing sets drawing on material from both their albums plus a single jazz standard which was played as an encore.

Partikel offer an engaging take on the art of the saxophone trio with Eagles’ strong melodic themes offering an accessible jumping off point for group improvisation. This is a regular working group and the playing is tightly focussed with a high degree of interaction between the musicians. Inevitably their music evokes comparisons with the saxophone trios pioneered by the great Sonny Rollins. Eagles may not have come up with something quite as catchy as Rollins’ classic calypso “St. Thomas” but his compositions are still full of accessible melodies and arresting hooks. There’s no sense of compromise in his writing but even without the safety net of a chordal instrument there’s nothing dauntingly “difficult” about Partikel’s music. It’s easy to enjoy but still offers the listener subtle challenges and hidden depths. Their sound is characterised by Eagles’ big but flexible tenor sax tone, and Ford’s colourful, exotic, restlessly creative drumming, the whole grounded by Luthert’s powerfully propulsive bass lines. Eagles also plays some convincing soprano sax but he’s essentially a tenor specialist who brings a refreshingly contemporary edge to the art of the saxophone trio.

Tonight’s performance began with “The Restless Child”, sourced from the “Cohesion” album with Eagles sketching the theme on his handsome black lacquered tenor supported by Ford’s powerful drums and Luthert’s driving, huge toned bass. Ford’s drumming is a key part of the Partikel sound. He has a fascination with African and Caribbean rhythms and introduces elements of these into his playing. He supplements an already large kit with cowbells, woodblocks, small cymbals and a set of Brazilian tamborim, small 6 inch drums which inspired the later development of the rototom. Eagles described them as “a set of flying saucers”, a good approximation of their exotic appearance. There were times when Ford’s drums almost assumed the lead, particularly in the latter part of the piece when he and Luthert enjoyed an extended period of dialogue. When Eagles solos Ford provides an ever evolving commentary of interlocking rhythms and colourful and exotic sounds. Not that the group sound is about conventional soloing as such, there’s a strong element of group interaction going on at all times no matter who currently holds the leader’s baton.

Also from the group’s second album “Follow Diversion” was described by Eagles as having more of a “rocky vibe”. Indeed much of Partikel’s music, despite it’s obviously jazz soul has an element of rock dynamics. Not surprising in such a young band perhaps and here embodied by another bravura drum performance from the excellent Ford.

Luthert makes his compositional bow on the new album with “Assam”, a paean to his compulsive tea drinking habit (ironically it was Ford who was still clutching hold of his “cuppa” when the band came out to commence the second half). The bassist’s tune is an attractive piece that was introduced by the sound of Ford’s brushes and featured Eagles on slinky, sinuous soprano. He’s a fine player of the smaller horn and in some ways it’s a shame that he doesn’t deploy it more extensively. A highlight of the piece was Luthert’s solo bass feature. He’s currently getting over a bout of tendinitis, an occupational hazard for bass players he told me, especially ones who string their instrument as tightly as he does. He strapped his left wrist before playing but still sounded as good as ever. As we discussed this after the show Eagles chipped in with the fact that saxophonists can get it in the fingers from the manipulation of the keys and pads of their instruments, I’d heard of sax players suffering dental problems before but not this. 

The trio turned to their first album for “Conquistador”, a number that began as a ballad with Luthert’s solo bass intro and Eagles’ warm, breathy tenor. Gradually the piece expanded and gained momentum, eventually mutating into something rather more forceful. The changes saw Ford deploying a variety of implements on his kit from brushes to mallets to sticks as he responded to the shifting dynamics. Despite the sometime use of sheet music this sense of restless inventiveness and of the trio thinking on their feet imbued the whole performance with an engaging energy.

Keeping with their début Luthert’s bass introduced “The Steep And Thorny Way” an arresting performance fuelled by Ford’s kinetic drumming, including extensive use of those “flying saucers”, a solo tenor sax interlude and finally some climactic sax riffing.

Still drawing from their first album the group took us into the break with “D to the G”, a piece featuring one of Eagles’ most memorable hooks and once again possessed of a strong rock dynamic. This provided the framework for a marathon barnstorming Eagles tenor solo and a dynamic drum and bass duel between Ford and Luthert. This was a high energy finale to an arresting first half that had seen not only some great individual moments but also a strong group aesthetic. I’m certain that the band were new to many of the audience but everybody I spoke to seemed to be highly impressed , none more so than Shrewsbury based saxophonist Casey Greene who was able to offer a musician’s perspective on the performance.

The second set saw the trio returning to the “Cohesion” repertoire beginning with the slinky, feline grooves of “Room” with Eagles’ tenor musing above the patter of Ford’s drums and Luthert’s rich bass undertow before breaking cover in a series of quick fire, groove driven passages.

Ford came to the front of the stage to introduce “Blood Of The Pharoah”, an Eagles dedication to the group’s original drummer Pharaoh Russell. Ford also spoke of his transpositions of African rhythms and encouraged the audience to scream at a particularly dramatic moment of the piece, prompted both by a musical cue and a visual signal from Ford. Musically the woozy feel of the piece was vaguely similar to the sound of Polar Bear whose “Drunken Pharaoh” is also a dedication to young Mr. Russell. The piece saw Eagles switching to soprano mid tune and delivering a particularly fine solo on his “second” instrument. 

From “Cohesion” “The Cove” provided this set’s quieter number, an atmospheric item featuring Ford as colourist, his hand drumming complementing Eagles’ tenor sax ruminations before the piece again gathered momentum to encompass more robust saxophone soloing and similarly forceful drumming.

Then a new tune, “The Optimist” also closed the group’s set at Brecon and is as upbeat as its title suggests with a playful hook framing a towering tenor sax solo from Eagles and a series of flamboyant drum breaks from the irrepressible Ford. The trio teased us with what appeared to be a gentle, lyrical coda before upping the ante again to close a generally high octane set in rousing fashion. The Much Wenlock crowd, attentive and enthusiastic as always called them back for an encore. This proved to be the only standard of the night, a version of Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” that included their most “conventional” playing of the night with orthodox brushed rhythms and defiantly old school style smoky tenor with solos coming from Eagles and Luthert. As the bassist later explained the group have a range of standards in their locker which they normally plunder for their Monday night jams at The Hideaway. Even so there were still moments when they took off and gave the old warhorse something of the “Partikel treatment”.

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the company of one of the UK’s most engaging and promising new bands. Eagles is a hugely accomplished saxophonist, an interesting and accessible composer and in Luthert and Ford he has a top rate rhythm section. Ford’s virtuoso performance behind the kit certainly impressed the audience but this was a strong team effort all round. If Partikel have a fault it is perhaps a lack of light and shade, most of their playing is energetic and full on and even the more reflective moments don’t stay quiet for long. However there’s still plenty of time for them to expand on an already impressively full trio sound and in any case the trio’s collective, contemporary approach is in many ways a pleasant change from the usual mix of alternating swingers and ballads.

There’s no doubt that Partikel won many new admirers tonight and their willingness to chat to fans after the show will have done them no harm at all. They are genuinely nice guys who deserve their success and I’m sure that many of tonight’s audience will try to catch them again when they return to Shropshire in the Autumn (The Hive, Shrewsbury 15th September 2012).

They also have other dates scheduled. See http://www.partikel.co.uk for further details.       


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