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Partisans - Nit De Nit Rating: 4 out of 5 “Nit De Nit” reveals Partisans to still be one of the UK’s most exciting live bands, their music a fascinating and immensely enjoyable amalgam of power and intelligence.

Partisans

“Nit De Nit”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4738)

Phil Robson – guitar, Julian Siegel – tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, Thaddeus Kelly – electric bass, Gene Calderazzo – drums


Co-led by guitarist Phil Robson and reeds player Julian Siegel Partisans have featured many times on the Jazzmann web pages and remain one of my favourite working bands.

Founded in 1996 as the Julian Siegel/ Phil Robson Quartet the title of their début album, “Partisans”, subsequently became the name of the group.

I’ve always felt that Partisans’ turn of the century album “Sourpuss” was the record that helped to kick start the British ‘punk jazz’ movement of the noughties - Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib etc. Even now bands such as GoGo Penguin are still reaping the benefits of the fire ignited by Partisans all those years ago.

With the exception of the occasional inspired cover the compositional credits in Partisans are divided pretty much equally between Robson and Siegel and the quality of their writing has remained consistently high on the subsequent studio albums  “Max” (2005), “By Proxy” (2009) and “Swamp” (2014).

The fact that Partisans have only recorded five studio albums in their twenty three year existence  is no indication of creative idleness, indeed it’s just the reverse. The main reason that Partisans are comparatively sparsely documented on disc is that the individual members are perpetually busy with other projects.  Robson and Siegel both lead their own groups and are also in constant demand for sideman appearances. Calderazzo has worked on both of his colleagues’ solo projects and has also formed highly creative alliances with pianists Zoe Rahman and Jonathan Gee. Kelly’s activities away from Partisans have been less well documented but have included collaborations with Orquestra Mahatma, Billy Jenkins, Ashley Slater and Steve Arguelles, as well as leadership of his own groups.

Despite the lengthy hiatuses between recordings and tours Partisans have retained a strong group identity, “we’re like a band of brothers” opines Calderazzo, and the fact that they frequently spend time apart working on other projects ensures that when they do come together the music is fresh, tight and focussed. Even so they’re probably the jazz group that I’ve seen live on the most number of occasions, going right back to the late 1990s, and every time they’ve delivered with their blend of energy, inventiveness, tightness and precision.  Blending the sophistication of jazz with the power of rock Partisans shows are exciting affairs and their collaboration with American guitarist Wayne Krantz at the 2003 Cheltenham Jazz Festival remains a personal highlight.

Given their reputation as a consistently exciting live experience it’s perhaps a little surprising that a Partisans show hasn’t been documented on disc before now. It’s something that the co-leaders have been considering for a number of years as Robson explains;
“We’ve played many memorable gigs over the years and wanted to capture that energy, in the great tradition of the live jazz recording”.

Named after one of the tracks on the seminal “Sourpuss” album “Nit De Nit” was documented at the group’s spiritual home, The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on the nights of 25th and 26th September 2018. The recording is dedicated to the memory of David Mossman, the founder of the Club, who had sadly passed away earlier in that year. “The band got its break at the old Vortex in Stoke Newington, which in the mid 1990s was like our local club” explains Siegel.

“Nit De Nit” features a mix of old favourites from various stages of the band’s career alongside a clutch of new compositions from both Robson and Siegel. Although the group’s material is thoughtfully written and frequently complex there is also a strong emphasis on collective improvisation as Robson explains;
“There’s something particular about the way this band gets its material together. We need to play live to get a glimpse of how it’s going to be. Our writing simply sets in motion, with nothing set in stone because everyone brings so much personality to it”.

The album commences with the opening salvo of Charlie Parker’s “Klact-oveeseds tene” combined with Siegel’s “Max”, the same combination that also introduces the “Max” album. Timed at just fourteen seconds the Parker piece is essentially a quote or extract that sets the tone for the bebop inspired Siegel composition that follows. Named after the great drummer Max Roach, who famously worked with Parker, Siegel’s tune is packed with agile, nimble twists and turns, bringing a rock power and urgency to the boppish complexities of the writing. The composer starts out on soprano before switching to solo powerfully and fluently on tenor. Calderazzo slams out powerful, complex, Roach inspired rhythms as Robson cranks up his guitar to solo feverishly, his sound owing as much to Jimi Hendrix as to Jim Hall. There’s also something of a feature for the ebullient and flamboyant Calderazzo, so often the visual focus of Partisans’ live performances.

Next up is a new Robson composition “That’s Not His Bag”, the title inspired by the kind of airport chaos that is the bane of travelling musicians. Robson is currently based in the US and there’s a sophisticated urban feel about this piece that has evoked comparisons with the sound of Steely Dan. Nevertheless it’s instantly recognisable as a Partisans tune and remains accessible despite its melodic and rhythmic complexities. Robson on guitar and Siegel on tenor dovetail brilliantly as Calderazzo and Kelly negotiate the rhythmic challenges with ease. The rhythm team have the ability to make to not only make the complex and sophisticated look ridiculously easy but also to make it seem natural, accessible and above all exciting, something they’ve done throughout the band’s career with their ‘turn on a dime’ skill and precision.

Calderazzo’s drums introduce the title track which incorporates further bop inspired complexities, allying them with a lithe guitar solo from composer Robson and a more loosely structured outing from Siegel on subtly probing tenor. Calderazzo and Kelly provide a busy and largely energetic rhythmic undertow as the co-leaders move up and down the gears.

Long before the death of David Bowie and his increasing fashionability among jazz performers Siegel was experimenting the Starman’s work. Dating all the way back to 2005 the “Max” album featured a haunting, slowed down arrangement of the minor Bowie hit “John, I’m Only Dancing”.
In the light of still fairly recent events Partisans’ version of the tune has been revived and given a bluesy twist. The Vortex performance is introduced by Kelly on electric bass and he plays a prominent role throughout an arrangement that incorporates a number of mood and tempo changes.
Along the way there’s a gutsy blues/rock guitar solo from Robson that draws a spontaneous round of applause from the Vortex audience.

Another new Robson tune, “3.15 (On The Dot)”, takes its title from the regular daily appearance of Barry the Groundhog in the composer’s New Jersey garden. The piece opens with an intriguing duet between Robson’s lush guitar chording and Siegel’s woody bass clarinet. Subsequently Calderazzo displays an admirable subtlety at the kit as the piece unfolds gradually and atmospherically, with ample scope left in the arrangement for improvisation. It’s the quietest moment of the set, but contrast is everything, and the performance is rewarded with a vociferous reception from a rapt Vortex crowd.

The intro to Siegel’s “The Overthink” features some heavy, high octane riffing, something that continues to re-surface throughout the piece. These hard rocking episodes are punctuated by quieter, more obviously jazz inspired passages distinguished by the more lyrical sound of the composer’s tenor.  Robson shifts between a turbo-driven rock heaviness on his solos and a jazzy sophistication elsewhere. Siegel adds some punchy soloing of his own and Calderazzo and Kelly combine to powerhouse effect on the tune’s heavier sections.

Robson’s “EG” is named for the celebrated Brazilian guitarist, pianist and composer Egberto Gismonti. Although it promises to be a new tune it’s actually a re-working of his “Trap Lines” from the “Sourpuss” album. Commencing with an extended passage of unaccompanied guitar it eventually morphs into the familiar “Trap Lines” theme with Siegel taking the first solo on sinuous soprano sax. Robson follows with an agile solo as Calderazzo drums up a storm behind him. Whatever its composer chooses to call it, it’s good to hear it again.

Calderazzo introduces the new Siegel composition “Pork Scratching”, laying the foundations for a surprisingly funky groove. Kelly features with some ear catching bass pedal electronics alongside lashings of muscular guitar and tenor sax.

The album concludes with the perennial live favourite “Last Chance”, a Robson composition that originally appeared on the “Max” album. A quietly introspective introduction featuring delicate, spidery guitar and gently reflective bass clarinet suddenly explodes into life in a dynamic passage featuring some of the band’s most ferocious riffing and an incendiary, cranked up guitar solo from Robson. Having reached a peak in terms of energy the piece subsequently comes full circle, ending in the quiet manner that it began with a gradual diminuendo concluding with the almost subliminal sound of Siegel’s unaccompanied bass clarinet. Taken as a whole the performance is a master-class in the art of dynamics and the building and release of tension.

“Nit De Nit” reveals Partisans to still be one of the UK’s most exciting live bands, their music a fascinating and immensely enjoyable amalgam of power and intelligence. Co-leaders Robson and Siegel are consistently interesting writers and highly skilful instrumental soloists. In Kelly and Calderazzo they have a rhythm section with the abilities to respond to the complexities of their writing while bringing plenty of ideas of their own to the music.  The dynamic Calderazzo is a particularly charismatic performer who is much loved by audiences wherever the band plays.

After twenty three years Partisans still consider themselves to be a “band of brothers” and their still obvious joy in their music making communicates itself readily to audiences. “Nit De Nit” offers an excellent example of their live chemistry and delivers enough previously unrecorded material to attract die hard fans, while also serving as a perfect introduction for the uninitiated.

Partisans will be touring in the UK again during September 2019 with dates as follows;


20/09/19 London, London Vortex Jazz Club
Time: 8:30pm. Address: 11 Gillet Square. Venue phone: 020 7254 4097.


21/09/19 Birmingham 1000 Trades
Time: 7:45pm. Address: 16 Frederick Street. Venue phone: 0121 233 2693. This is a Birmingham Jazz gig.


22/09/19 Scarborough The Spa
Time: 7:00pm. Address: South Bay. Venue phone: 01723 821888. This gig is part of Scarborough Jazz Festival 2019


23/09/19 Manchester Whiskey Jar
Time: 8:00pm. Address: 14 Tarriff Street. Venue phone: 0161 237 5686. This is a NQ Jazz gig.


26/09/19 Nottingham Bonington Theatre
Time: 8:00pm. Address: 161 Front Street, Arnold. Venue phone: 0115 956 0733. This is a Jazz Steps Nottingham gig.


27/09/19 Poole, Dorset Lighthouse Studio Jazz (The Sherling Studio)
Time: 8:00pm. Address: Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for The Arts, 21 Kingland Road. Venue phone: 01202 280000. Doors open at 7.45 pm


More information at http://www.partisans.org.uk

 

Nit De Nit

Partisans

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Nit De Nit

“Nit De Nit” reveals Partisans to still be one of the UK’s most exciting live bands, their music a fascinating and immensely enjoyable amalgam of power and intelligence.

Partisans

“Nit De Nit”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4738)

Phil Robson – guitar, Julian Siegel – tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, Thaddeus Kelly – electric bass, Gene Calderazzo – drums


Co-led by guitarist Phil Robson and reeds player Julian Siegel Partisans have featured many times on the Jazzmann web pages and remain one of my favourite working bands.

Founded in 1996 as the Julian Siegel/ Phil Robson Quartet the title of their début album, “Partisans”, subsequently became the name of the group.

I’ve always felt that Partisans’ turn of the century album “Sourpuss” was the record that helped to kick start the British ‘punk jazz’ movement of the noughties - Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib etc. Even now bands such as GoGo Penguin are still reaping the benefits of the fire ignited by Partisans all those years ago.

With the exception of the occasional inspired cover the compositional credits in Partisans are divided pretty much equally between Robson and Siegel and the quality of their writing has remained consistently high on the subsequent studio albums  “Max” (2005), “By Proxy” (2009) and “Swamp” (2014).

The fact that Partisans have only recorded five studio albums in their twenty three year existence  is no indication of creative idleness, indeed it’s just the reverse. The main reason that Partisans are comparatively sparsely documented on disc is that the individual members are perpetually busy with other projects.  Robson and Siegel both lead their own groups and are also in constant demand for sideman appearances. Calderazzo has worked on both of his colleagues’ solo projects and has also formed highly creative alliances with pianists Zoe Rahman and Jonathan Gee. Kelly’s activities away from Partisans have been less well documented but have included collaborations with Orquestra Mahatma, Billy Jenkins, Ashley Slater and Steve Arguelles, as well as leadership of his own groups.

Despite the lengthy hiatuses between recordings and tours Partisans have retained a strong group identity, “we’re like a band of brothers” opines Calderazzo, and the fact that they frequently spend time apart working on other projects ensures that when they do come together the music is fresh, tight and focussed. Even so they’re probably the jazz group that I’ve seen live on the most number of occasions, going right back to the late 1990s, and every time they’ve delivered with their blend of energy, inventiveness, tightness and precision.  Blending the sophistication of jazz with the power of rock Partisans shows are exciting affairs and their collaboration with American guitarist Wayne Krantz at the 2003 Cheltenham Jazz Festival remains a personal highlight.

Given their reputation as a consistently exciting live experience it’s perhaps a little surprising that a Partisans show hasn’t been documented on disc before now. It’s something that the co-leaders have been considering for a number of years as Robson explains;
“We’ve played many memorable gigs over the years and wanted to capture that energy, in the great tradition of the live jazz recording”.

Named after one of the tracks on the seminal “Sourpuss” album “Nit De Nit” was documented at the group’s spiritual home, The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on the nights of 25th and 26th September 2018. The recording is dedicated to the memory of David Mossman, the founder of the Club, who had sadly passed away earlier in that year. “The band got its break at the old Vortex in Stoke Newington, which in the mid 1990s was like our local club” explains Siegel.

“Nit De Nit” features a mix of old favourites from various stages of the band’s career alongside a clutch of new compositions from both Robson and Siegel. Although the group’s material is thoughtfully written and frequently complex there is also a strong emphasis on collective improvisation as Robson explains;
“There’s something particular about the way this band gets its material together. We need to play live to get a glimpse of how it’s going to be. Our writing simply sets in motion, with nothing set in stone because everyone brings so much personality to it”.

The album commences with the opening salvo of Charlie Parker’s “Klact-oveeseds tene” combined with Siegel’s “Max”, the same combination that also introduces the “Max” album. Timed at just fourteen seconds the Parker piece is essentially a quote or extract that sets the tone for the bebop inspired Siegel composition that follows. Named after the great drummer Max Roach, who famously worked with Parker, Siegel’s tune is packed with agile, nimble twists and turns, bringing a rock power and urgency to the boppish complexities of the writing. The composer starts out on soprano before switching to solo powerfully and fluently on tenor. Calderazzo slams out powerful, complex, Roach inspired rhythms as Robson cranks up his guitar to solo feverishly, his sound owing as much to Jimi Hendrix as to Jim Hall. There’s also something of a feature for the ebullient and flamboyant Calderazzo, so often the visual focus of Partisans’ live performances.

Next up is a new Robson composition “That’s Not His Bag”, the title inspired by the kind of airport chaos that is the bane of travelling musicians. Robson is currently based in the US and there’s a sophisticated urban feel about this piece that has evoked comparisons with the sound of Steely Dan. Nevertheless it’s instantly recognisable as a Partisans tune and remains accessible despite its melodic and rhythmic complexities. Robson on guitar and Siegel on tenor dovetail brilliantly as Calderazzo and Kelly negotiate the rhythmic challenges with ease. The rhythm team have the ability to make to not only make the complex and sophisticated look ridiculously easy but also to make it seem natural, accessible and above all exciting, something they’ve done throughout the band’s career with their ‘turn on a dime’ skill and precision.

Calderazzo’s drums introduce the title track which incorporates further bop inspired complexities, allying them with a lithe guitar solo from composer Robson and a more loosely structured outing from Siegel on subtly probing tenor. Calderazzo and Kelly provide a busy and largely energetic rhythmic undertow as the co-leaders move up and down the gears.

Long before the death of David Bowie and his increasing fashionability among jazz performers Siegel was experimenting the Starman’s work. Dating all the way back to 2005 the “Max” album featured a haunting, slowed down arrangement of the minor Bowie hit “John, I’m Only Dancing”.
In the light of still fairly recent events Partisans’ version of the tune has been revived and given a bluesy twist. The Vortex performance is introduced by Kelly on electric bass and he plays a prominent role throughout an arrangement that incorporates a number of mood and tempo changes.
Along the way there’s a gutsy blues/rock guitar solo from Robson that draws a spontaneous round of applause from the Vortex audience.

Another new Robson tune, “3.15 (On The Dot)”, takes its title from the regular daily appearance of Barry the Groundhog in the composer’s New Jersey garden. The piece opens with an intriguing duet between Robson’s lush guitar chording and Siegel’s woody bass clarinet. Subsequently Calderazzo displays an admirable subtlety at the kit as the piece unfolds gradually and atmospherically, with ample scope left in the arrangement for improvisation. It’s the quietest moment of the set, but contrast is everything, and the performance is rewarded with a vociferous reception from a rapt Vortex crowd.

The intro to Siegel’s “The Overthink” features some heavy, high octane riffing, something that continues to re-surface throughout the piece. These hard rocking episodes are punctuated by quieter, more obviously jazz inspired passages distinguished by the more lyrical sound of the composer’s tenor.  Robson shifts between a turbo-driven rock heaviness on his solos and a jazzy sophistication elsewhere. Siegel adds some punchy soloing of his own and Calderazzo and Kelly combine to powerhouse effect on the tune’s heavier sections.

Robson’s “EG” is named for the celebrated Brazilian guitarist, pianist and composer Egberto Gismonti. Although it promises to be a new tune it’s actually a re-working of his “Trap Lines” from the “Sourpuss” album. Commencing with an extended passage of unaccompanied guitar it eventually morphs into the familiar “Trap Lines” theme with Siegel taking the first solo on sinuous soprano sax. Robson follows with an agile solo as Calderazzo drums up a storm behind him. Whatever its composer chooses to call it, it’s good to hear it again.

Calderazzo introduces the new Siegel composition “Pork Scratching”, laying the foundations for a surprisingly funky groove. Kelly features with some ear catching bass pedal electronics alongside lashings of muscular guitar and tenor sax.

The album concludes with the perennial live favourite “Last Chance”, a Robson composition that originally appeared on the “Max” album. A quietly introspective introduction featuring delicate, spidery guitar and gently reflective bass clarinet suddenly explodes into life in a dynamic passage featuring some of the band’s most ferocious riffing and an incendiary, cranked up guitar solo from Robson. Having reached a peak in terms of energy the piece subsequently comes full circle, ending in the quiet manner that it began with a gradual diminuendo concluding with the almost subliminal sound of Siegel’s unaccompanied bass clarinet. Taken as a whole the performance is a master-class in the art of dynamics and the building and release of tension.

“Nit De Nit” reveals Partisans to still be one of the UK’s most exciting live bands, their music a fascinating and immensely enjoyable amalgam of power and intelligence. Co-leaders Robson and Siegel are consistently interesting writers and highly skilful instrumental soloists. In Kelly and Calderazzo they have a rhythm section with the abilities to respond to the complexities of their writing while bringing plenty of ideas of their own to the music.  The dynamic Calderazzo is a particularly charismatic performer who is much loved by audiences wherever the band plays.

After twenty three years Partisans still consider themselves to be a “band of brothers” and their still obvious joy in their music making communicates itself readily to audiences. “Nit De Nit” offers an excellent example of their live chemistry and delivers enough previously unrecorded material to attract die hard fans, while also serving as a perfect introduction for the uninitiated.

Partisans will be touring in the UK again during September 2019 with dates as follows;


20/09/19 London, London Vortex Jazz Club
Time: 8:30pm. Address: 11 Gillet Square. Venue phone: 020 7254 4097.


21/09/19 Birmingham 1000 Trades
Time: 7:45pm. Address: 16 Frederick Street. Venue phone: 0121 233 2693. This is a Birmingham Jazz gig.


22/09/19 Scarborough The Spa
Time: 7:00pm. Address: South Bay. Venue phone: 01723 821888. This gig is part of Scarborough Jazz Festival 2019


23/09/19 Manchester Whiskey Jar
Time: 8:00pm. Address: 14 Tarriff Street. Venue phone: 0161 237 5686. This is a NQ Jazz gig.


26/09/19 Nottingham Bonington Theatre
Time: 8:00pm. Address: 161 Front Street, Arnold. Venue phone: 0115 956 0733. This is a Jazz Steps Nottingham gig.


27/09/19 Poole, Dorset Lighthouse Studio Jazz (The Sherling Studio)
Time: 8:00pm. Address: Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for The Arts, 21 Kingland Road. Venue phone: 01202 280000. Doors open at 7.45 pm


More information at http://www.partisans.org.uk

 


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