The Jazz Mann | Slowly Rolling Camera - Juniper | Review | The Jazz Mann

Accessibility Menu

REVIEW

Slowly Rolling Camera - Juniper Rating: 4 out of 5 The album stays true to SRC’s core values with its skilfully crafted soundscaping, infectious grooves and wide-screen cinematic narratives.

Slowly Rolling Camera

“Juniper”

(Edition Records EDN 1115)

“Juniper” is the third album from Slowly Rolling Camera, the ensemble led by keyboard player, composer and Edition Records label owner Dave Stapleton. It follows the group’s eponymous début from 2014 and the follow up, “All Things”, which appeared in 2016.

SRC is based around the core trio of Stapleton, drummer Elliot Bennett, and producer/sound artist Deri Roberts. On the first two albums this nucleus also included the charismatic vocalist and lyricist Dionne Bennett (no relation to Elliot as far as I’m aware) and the group were routinely referred to as a jazz / nu soul outfit.

The first two albums were essentially song based and with Dionne Bennett as the focal point SRC developed into an exciting live act with an appeal that reached beyond the usual jazz demographic. I recall seeing them deliver a particularly exciting live performance in the club environment of the Rich Mix venue at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival. It was almost like a rock gig.

With Dionne Bennett’s soulful vocals and emotive lyrics spearheading the band and contrasting effectively with the electronic soundscapes generated by Stapleton and Roberts the music of SRC was frequently compared to that of Bristol based trip hop pioneers Massive Attack and Portishead, and justifiably so. By the time of that 2016 Rich Mix appearance the band looked increasingly assured and confident and capable of reaching out to a wider musical constituency.

Since those heady days Dionne Bennett has left SRC and now seems to be fronting her former band The Earth once more. I’ve not been able to establish the reasons behind this but in any event Slowly Rolling Camera have retrenched and returned to their instrumental roots.

Stapleton, Elliot Bennett and Roberts, the latter also a talented saxophonist, go back a long way having been students together at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and they still regard themselves as a Cardiff based band.

Leader Stapleton first came to my attention as the leader of the punchy, hard hitting DSQ, a quintet containing Elliot Bennett that updated the classic hard bop sound for the 21st century, releasing three albums between 2005 and 2010.

His other projects have included “The Conway Suite” (2005) a duo work that featured Stapleton on church organ alongside Roberts on saxophone and “Dismantling The Waterfall” (2008), a series of piano duets with that extraordinary musical maverick Matthew Bourne.

If those two releases represented the more experimental side of Stapleton’s output then “Catching Sunlight” (2008) and “Flight” (2012) saw him edging further away from the conventional American style jazz of DSQ and into a more obviously European sound-world that embraced both jazz and classical influences. The music on both albums was possessed of a strong pictorial quality that reflected Stapleton’s burgeoning interest in photography and cinema. Tellingly “Catching Sunlight” was subtitled “Music For An Imaginary Film”.

With Dionne Bennett on board the first edition of SRC was different again but the new, all instrumental, version of the band harks back to those cinematic visions. Stapleton has said of Slowly Rolling Camera;
“Originally the band formed as an instrumental led project, merging progressive jazz beats with a more cinematic and produced sensibility. What emerged was something totally unexpected and epic, shaping the music and production more and more around Dionne Bennett’s expansive and rich vocal. However for this new album we wanted to re-ignite that early vision whilst retaining those production values. This album draws on all the musical and personal experiences we’ve had over the past fifteen years whilst engaging audiences with a blend of strong melodies, rhythmical hooks and improvisation. Without those earlier experiments and the first few albums this would never have happened.”

The core members of SRC have always drawn upon a pool of other musicians, most of them close Edition label associates, to help them realise their musical vision. On “Juniper” the supporting cast includes guitarist Stuart McCallum, trumpeter Neil Yates, bassist Aidan Thorne and saxophonists Nicolas Kummert and Mark Lockheart. There are also cameo roles for three younger musicians associated with the Edition label, namely Tom Barford (tenor & soprano sax), James Copus (trumpet) and Sam Glaser (alto sax).

All of the music on “Juniper” is written by Stapleton and the album commences with the title track. The composer’s sparse introductory acoustic piano is quickly joined by gentle, ambient electronica and the icy shimmer of McCallum’s guitar. SRC’s music is routinely compared to that of the Manchester based Cinematic Orchestra, of which McCallum is a member and his presence on this album does much to validate those comparisons. “Juniper” gradually gathers momentum as Stapleton switches to electric keyboards and Elliot Bennett establishes a hip hop style drum groove.
Even with Dionne Bennett gone SRC’s signature style is readily recognisable with Stapleton’s dark hued synth textures helping to shape the music alongside Elliot Bennett’s grooves and beats. The band’s sound remains thoroughly contemporary, drawing on modern dance music and electronica, but nevertheless Dionne Bennett’s departure has also allowed them to partially return to their jazz roots. This is expressed by the fact that there are recognisable instrumental solos on this album with this opening track containing a startlingly inventive guitar feature from McCallum that transports the listener to deep space in a manner similar to a jazzier and more imaginative Pink Floyd. Later there’s some powerful tenor sax reminiscent of the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane.

Stapleton’s multi-faceted keyboards and Elliot Bennett’s skittering, electronica influenced grooves remain at the heart of the following “Helsinki Song”, which also features a passage of incisively melodic soprano saxophone. McCallum’s semi-acoustic guitar also plays a key role in this ever evolving piece and there’s also another powerful passage of tenor saxophone. Individual solos aren’t credited so it’s difficult to apportion due credit with regard to the two saxophonists.

The brief “A Thousand Lights” begins in impressionistic fashion, with the sound of Stapleton’s gently shimmering keyboards and Roberts’ ambient electronica suggesting a particularly atmospheric film soundtrack. The arrival of a tenor saxophone briefly muddies the waters but overall this a beguiling and beautifully melodic piece that some have compared favourably to the music of Erik Satie.

“Hyperloop” mixes the influences of minimalism and contemporary electronica but is enlivened and humanised first by the addition of punchy brass and reeds, initially playing collectively but later including a brief cameo from a tenor sax soloist. McCallum then takes over with a powerfully imaginative guitar solo, this yielding in time to second saxophone solo, this time played on soprano.
Bennett’s drum grooves and Stapleton’s keys form the backbone of the music but the piece eventually resolves itself with a brief passage of unaccompanied electronics, presumably courtesy of Roberts.

The majority of these pieces are multi-faceted, mixing the sounds of acoustic and electric instruments and embracing changes of mood and pace to create a strong narrative arc and a distinct cinematic quality. A case in point is the seven minute “Crossings” which emerges from gently atmospheric beginnings to embrace a lilting soprano sax solo, angular hip hop style grooves, and a rather grittier tenor sax excursion.

The brief “Nature’s Ratio” acts as a beguiling interlude that features the ethereal twinkle of Stapleton’s keyboards and the distinctive folk influenced sound of Yates’ trumpet.

“The Outlier” combines muscular contemporary grooves with punchy brass and reeds with solos for tenor and soprano saxes. It’s a satisfyingly complex track incorporating odd meter rhythms, elements of minimalism and even brief snatches of folk melody.

Yates’ trumpet whisper returns on the closing “Eight Days” with its seductive mix of electric and acoustic sounds, this time with the latter predominating. There’s an authoritative, beautifully constructed tenor sax solo mid tune, this followed by Yates’ sumptuous trumpet as McCallum concentrates on acoustic guitar.

With the departure of Dionne Bennett SRC’s chance of breaking through to a wider, more general audience has probably gone with her. However one suspects that Stapleton and his colleagues are probably not too concerned about that.

With the absence of vocals and song-like structures “Juniper” could almost be the work of a different band and it’s certainly likely to hold a greater appeal to regular jazz listeners. Nevertheless the album stays true to SRC’s core values with its skilfully crafted soundscaping, infectious grooves and wide-screen cinematic narratives. Stapleton’s keys are at the heart of the music as they combine with Roberts’ sound artistry to create a constantly evolving sonic landscape that nods towards a variety of musical genres plus the influence of film noir. Roberts is a less overt presence than previously but remains a key component of the band’s sound, as does Bennett’s drumming with its ready embrace of contemporary grooves and rhythms.

SRC’s pool of guest musicians all make excellent contributions, particularly McCallum, Yates and the two main saxophonists Lockheart and Kummert. All of these contribute solos that are rich in terms of colour, imagination and inventiveness while fitting superbly into the instrumental framework so carefully and skilfully created by SRC’s core trio.

It’s very different to the band’s first two albums but in its own way is a total artistic success. It will be interesting to see which direction Slowly Rolling Camera decides to follow next.

 

 

Juniper

Slowly Rolling Camera

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Juniper

The album stays true to SRC’s core values with its skilfully crafted soundscaping, infectious grooves and wide-screen cinematic narratives.

Slowly Rolling Camera

“Juniper”

(Edition Records EDN 1115)

“Juniper” is the third album from Slowly Rolling Camera, the ensemble led by keyboard player, composer and Edition Records label owner Dave Stapleton. It follows the group’s eponymous début from 2014 and the follow up, “All Things”, which appeared in 2016.

SRC is based around the core trio of Stapleton, drummer Elliot Bennett, and producer/sound artist Deri Roberts. On the first two albums this nucleus also included the charismatic vocalist and lyricist Dionne Bennett (no relation to Elliot as far as I’m aware) and the group were routinely referred to as a jazz / nu soul outfit.

The first two albums were essentially song based and with Dionne Bennett as the focal point SRC developed into an exciting live act with an appeal that reached beyond the usual jazz demographic. I recall seeing them deliver a particularly exciting live performance in the club environment of the Rich Mix venue at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival. It was almost like a rock gig.

With Dionne Bennett’s soulful vocals and emotive lyrics spearheading the band and contrasting effectively with the electronic soundscapes generated by Stapleton and Roberts the music of SRC was frequently compared to that of Bristol based trip hop pioneers Massive Attack and Portishead, and justifiably so. By the time of that 2016 Rich Mix appearance the band looked increasingly assured and confident and capable of reaching out to a wider musical constituency.

Since those heady days Dionne Bennett has left SRC and now seems to be fronting her former band The Earth once more. I’ve not been able to establish the reasons behind this but in any event Slowly Rolling Camera have retrenched and returned to their instrumental roots.

Stapleton, Elliot Bennett and Roberts, the latter also a talented saxophonist, go back a long way having been students together at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and they still regard themselves as a Cardiff based band.

Leader Stapleton first came to my attention as the leader of the punchy, hard hitting DSQ, a quintet containing Elliot Bennett that updated the classic hard bop sound for the 21st century, releasing three albums between 2005 and 2010.

His other projects have included “The Conway Suite” (2005) a duo work that featured Stapleton on church organ alongside Roberts on saxophone and “Dismantling The Waterfall” (2008), a series of piano duets with that extraordinary musical maverick Matthew Bourne.

If those two releases represented the more experimental side of Stapleton’s output then “Catching Sunlight” (2008) and “Flight” (2012) saw him edging further away from the conventional American style jazz of DSQ and into a more obviously European sound-world that embraced both jazz and classical influences. The music on both albums was possessed of a strong pictorial quality that reflected Stapleton’s burgeoning interest in photography and cinema. Tellingly “Catching Sunlight” was subtitled “Music For An Imaginary Film”.

With Dionne Bennett on board the first edition of SRC was different again but the new, all instrumental, version of the band harks back to those cinematic visions. Stapleton has said of Slowly Rolling Camera;
“Originally the band formed as an instrumental led project, merging progressive jazz beats with a more cinematic and produced sensibility. What emerged was something totally unexpected and epic, shaping the music and production more and more around Dionne Bennett’s expansive and rich vocal. However for this new album we wanted to re-ignite that early vision whilst retaining those production values. This album draws on all the musical and personal experiences we’ve had over the past fifteen years whilst engaging audiences with a blend of strong melodies, rhythmical hooks and improvisation. Without those earlier experiments and the first few albums this would never have happened.”

The core members of SRC have always drawn upon a pool of other musicians, most of them close Edition label associates, to help them realise their musical vision. On “Juniper” the supporting cast includes guitarist Stuart McCallum, trumpeter Neil Yates, bassist Aidan Thorne and saxophonists Nicolas Kummert and Mark Lockheart. There are also cameo roles for three younger musicians associated with the Edition label, namely Tom Barford (tenor & soprano sax), James Copus (trumpet) and Sam Glaser (alto sax).

All of the music on “Juniper” is written by Stapleton and the album commences with the title track. The composer’s sparse introductory acoustic piano is quickly joined by gentle, ambient electronica and the icy shimmer of McCallum’s guitar. SRC’s music is routinely compared to that of the Manchester based Cinematic Orchestra, of which McCallum is a member and his presence on this album does much to validate those comparisons. “Juniper” gradually gathers momentum as Stapleton switches to electric keyboards and Elliot Bennett establishes a hip hop style drum groove.
Even with Dionne Bennett gone SRC’s signature style is readily recognisable with Stapleton’s dark hued synth textures helping to shape the music alongside Elliot Bennett’s grooves and beats. The band’s sound remains thoroughly contemporary, drawing on modern dance music and electronica, but nevertheless Dionne Bennett’s departure has also allowed them to partially return to their jazz roots. This is expressed by the fact that there are recognisable instrumental solos on this album with this opening track containing a startlingly inventive guitar feature from McCallum that transports the listener to deep space in a manner similar to a jazzier and more imaginative Pink Floyd. Later there’s some powerful tenor sax reminiscent of the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane.

Stapleton’s multi-faceted keyboards and Elliot Bennett’s skittering, electronica influenced grooves remain at the heart of the following “Helsinki Song”, which also features a passage of incisively melodic soprano saxophone. McCallum’s semi-acoustic guitar also plays a key role in this ever evolving piece and there’s also another powerful passage of tenor saxophone. Individual solos aren’t credited so it’s difficult to apportion due credit with regard to the two saxophonists.

The brief “A Thousand Lights” begins in impressionistic fashion, with the sound of Stapleton’s gently shimmering keyboards and Roberts’ ambient electronica suggesting a particularly atmospheric film soundtrack. The arrival of a tenor saxophone briefly muddies the waters but overall this a beguiling and beautifully melodic piece that some have compared favourably to the music of Erik Satie.

“Hyperloop” mixes the influences of minimalism and contemporary electronica but is enlivened and humanised first by the addition of punchy brass and reeds, initially playing collectively but later including a brief cameo from a tenor sax soloist. McCallum then takes over with a powerfully imaginative guitar solo, this yielding in time to second saxophone solo, this time played on soprano.
Bennett’s drum grooves and Stapleton’s keys form the backbone of the music but the piece eventually resolves itself with a brief passage of unaccompanied electronics, presumably courtesy of Roberts.

The majority of these pieces are multi-faceted, mixing the sounds of acoustic and electric instruments and embracing changes of mood and pace to create a strong narrative arc and a distinct cinematic quality. A case in point is the seven minute “Crossings” which emerges from gently atmospheric beginnings to embrace a lilting soprano sax solo, angular hip hop style grooves, and a rather grittier tenor sax excursion.

The brief “Nature’s Ratio” acts as a beguiling interlude that features the ethereal twinkle of Stapleton’s keyboards and the distinctive folk influenced sound of Yates’ trumpet.

“The Outlier” combines muscular contemporary grooves with punchy brass and reeds with solos for tenor and soprano saxes. It’s a satisfyingly complex track incorporating odd meter rhythms, elements of minimalism and even brief snatches of folk melody.

Yates’ trumpet whisper returns on the closing “Eight Days” with its seductive mix of electric and acoustic sounds, this time with the latter predominating. There’s an authoritative, beautifully constructed tenor sax solo mid tune, this followed by Yates’ sumptuous trumpet as McCallum concentrates on acoustic guitar.

With the departure of Dionne Bennett SRC’s chance of breaking through to a wider, more general audience has probably gone with her. However one suspects that Stapleton and his colleagues are probably not too concerned about that.

With the absence of vocals and song-like structures “Juniper” could almost be the work of a different band and it’s certainly likely to hold a greater appeal to regular jazz listeners. Nevertheless the album stays true to SRC’s core values with its skilfully crafted soundscaping, infectious grooves and wide-screen cinematic narratives. Stapleton’s keys are at the heart of the music as they combine with Roberts’ sound artistry to create a constantly evolving sonic landscape that nods towards a variety of musical genres plus the influence of film noir. Roberts is a less overt presence than previously but remains a key component of the band’s sound, as does Bennett’s drumming with its ready embrace of contemporary grooves and rhythms.

SRC’s pool of guest musicians all make excellent contributions, particularly McCallum, Yates and the two main saxophonists Lockheart and Kummert. All of these contribute solos that are rich in terms of colour, imagination and inventiveness while fitting superbly into the instrumental framework so carefully and skilfully created by SRC’s core trio.

It’s very different to the band’s first two albums but in its own way is a total artistic success. It will be interesting to see which direction Slowly Rolling Camera decides to follow next.

 

 


blog comments powered by Disqus

JAZZ MANN FEATURES

Emulsion Festival VII, Day One, Hexagon Theatre, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, 02/11/2018.

Emulsion Festival VII, Day One, Hexagon Theatre, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, 02/11/2018.

An intriguing evening of music making that once again mixed genres at a whim. Ian Mann on the latest edition of Trish Clowes' Emulsion Festival, w. guest musicians Alexander Hawkins & Percy Pursglove.


Sunday at Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, Market Hall, Abergavenny, 02/09/2018.

Sunday at Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, Market Hall, Abergavenny, 02/09/2018.

Ian Mann enjoys the Jazz Alley and Charity Swing Party events at the Market Hall with performances by Wonderbrass, Tarion, Rebelinx and The Electric Swing Circus.


JAZZ MANN RECOMMENDS