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Killer Shrimp - Whatever Sincerely; Tales from the Baltic Wharf Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An enjoyable album that puts a fresh spin on the tried and tested hard bop template.

Killer Shrimp

“Whatever Sincerely;Tales from the Baltic Wharf”

(33 Records)

The band Killer Shrimp is centred around the talents of trumpeter Damon Brown and saxophonist Ed Jones. Both are highly versatile musicians who lead their own jazz outfits as well as being prolific players on the session and touring scenes, working with a variety of acts across several musical genres. Jones has played with US3 and Incognito, Brown with Desmond Dekker, The Specials and Rico Rodriguez. In a jazzier context Brown is currently also involved in a project led by former Miles Davis sideman Steve Grossman.

Killer Shrimp gives Brown and Jones a chance to show off their compositional skills in a context that allows them to draw both on their shared jazz heritage and their experiences in the pop/rock/reggae field. “Tales From The Baltic Wharf” is their follow up to 2006’s acclaimed “Sincerely,Whatever” and features an extended edition of the group. Brown, Jones and bassist Mark Hodgson remain from the previous recording with the powerful Alyn Cosker taking over the drum stool from previous occupant Troy Miller. Of even more significance is the addition of Joe Leach who brings additional keyboards plus a range of post production skills to the project. Brown and Jones refer to Leach as their “Sound Gardener” or “Sound Mayhemist” and regard him as a valued fifth member of the group. In some respects Leach’s role is similar to that of Leafcutter John with Polar Bear and there’s a certain symmetry in the fact that Seb Rochford played as a member of Brown’s group during his early days in London.

Killer Shrimp flirted with electronics on their previous record but Leach takes the process several stages further and really exerts his personality on the finished album. In a nutshell “Tales From The Baltic Wharf” is an amalgam of strong hard bop themes and riffs juxtaposed with contemporary beats and electronica plus a side order of dub and ska.. There’s plenty here to keep jazz fans happy with some great playing from Brown and Jones but Leach transforms the music into something far more contemporary.

Brown’s opening “TBC” is little more than a sketch but the following “Sticks And Stones” is a perfect encapsulation of what Killer Shrimp are all about. A powerful hard bop inspired theme allows for great solos from Brown on bright, open horned trumpet and Jones on belligerent tenor sax, but there are also passages of keyboard derived Acoustic Ladyland rock rhythms and brief squalls of electronica. It’s a great synthesis of styles that never abandons the tune’s jazz roots. 

Jones’ “Baltic Wharf”, effectively the album’s title track, explores similar territory in a slightly more laid back manner. Again there’s a persuasive hard bop theme, chunky rhythms plus some excellent “electric era Miles” style muted trumpet from Brown- all garnished with a dash of exotic electronica.

“Cornerhouse” is the first of a number of pieces featuring an alternative rhythm section of Geoff Gascoyne and Luke Flowers. Jones’ tune broods threateningly, underpinned by Gascoyne’s rumbling bass lines and Flowers’ crisp, aggressive drumming. Leach’s manipulation of sound and use of the “studio as instrument” is, if anything even more pronounced. Jones’ and Brown’s soloing is there but less conspicuous than previously as they become even more absorbed into Leach’s vision of a group sound.

“Lef An Lee” is a Brown theme that despite being topped and tailed by Leach’s electronics also contains some of the most straight ahead playing of the set. Jones appears on bass clarinet as well as his more customary tenor and there’s also some excellent playing from Brown on a title that I assume is a tribute to the great Lee Morgan.

Jones’ “It Never Happened” is a slow burning blues driven by Gascoyne’s bass groove and Flowers’ shuffling drums. The composer contributes some splendidly smoky tenor, a good contrast to Brown’s wah wah trumpet which steers the piece towards more contemporary territory. The hard driving “Bearded Eights”, also by Jones has an urgent, contemporary feel with fiery solos from Jones and Brown and strong contributions from the propulsive Hodgson and Cosker.

“Summer” reflects Brown’s love of ska and reggae with its heavy dub grooves and echo laden horns and even features the singing of the trumpeter/composer. It’s good fun and helps to vary the mood and style of the album.

Brown’s “Cornet Coleman” gives fuller rein to Leach. Sampled voices and other electronic elements weave their way between hard driving rock rhythms and impassioned horn solos, with Brown presumably on cornet. And somewhere in the middle of it all there’s a feature for Hodgson’s bass.

Jones’s “Lost And Found” is more impressionistic, building from the bleeping of sonar via long, melodic trumpet lines to the more assertive tenor of Jones. All the time there’s an undertow of electronica which lends the piece a wholly contemporary feel. It’s perhaps the closest Killer Shrimp get to Polar Bear’s unique approach, on the rest of the album they’re much more conventionally “jazzy”.

Also by Jones “Yala” sees the saxophonist switching to soprano to bring a vaguely Middle Eastern feel to his playing. Again Leach is heavily involved in treating the group sound, particularly Brown’s trumpet lines.

The album closes with two pieces by Brown, the nu- jazzish “Find A Way” and the rousing “Roughneck Blues”, reprised from Brown’s 2001 album “Blues On The Run”. The former features Brown’s vocal refrain of the song’s title, Hodgson’s deep bass and a good deal of wispy electronica.

“Roughneck Blues” is pretty much a straight blow with fast moving unison passages, fiery solos from both Brown and Jones and something of a feature for the dynamic drumming of Cosker. It’s pretty much the only piece in which Leach doesn’t show his hand and is a good advertisement for the players’ straight ahead capabilities.

“Tales From The Baltic Wharf” is an enjoyable album that puts a fresh spin on the tried and tested hard bop template. Leach’s contributions are consistently interesting and the playing of the more “orthodox” musicians excellent. It’s punchy, hard hitting stuff and I’m sure that the group will be a very exciting live proposition when they tour this material round the UK in November 2010. The tour dates have recently been published on our news pages.

The album however could do with a little more light and shade. There’s not a lot of variation of mood or pace and no real ballad feature on the entire record. Nevertheless Killer Shrimp is a unit that is still capable of further development. In the meantime this sparky, unpretentious album still offers much for the listener to enjoy.
   

Whatever Sincerely; Tales from the Baltic Wharf

Killer Shrimp

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Whatever Sincerely; Tales from the Baltic Wharf

An enjoyable album that puts a fresh spin on the tried and tested hard bop template.

Killer Shrimp

“Whatever Sincerely;Tales from the Baltic Wharf”

(33 Records)

The band Killer Shrimp is centred around the talents of trumpeter Damon Brown and saxophonist Ed Jones. Both are highly versatile musicians who lead their own jazz outfits as well as being prolific players on the session and touring scenes, working with a variety of acts across several musical genres. Jones has played with US3 and Incognito, Brown with Desmond Dekker, The Specials and Rico Rodriguez. In a jazzier context Brown is currently also involved in a project led by former Miles Davis sideman Steve Grossman.

Killer Shrimp gives Brown and Jones a chance to show off their compositional skills in a context that allows them to draw both on their shared jazz heritage and their experiences in the pop/rock/reggae field. “Tales From The Baltic Wharf” is their follow up to 2006’s acclaimed “Sincerely,Whatever” and features an extended edition of the group. Brown, Jones and bassist Mark Hodgson remain from the previous recording with the powerful Alyn Cosker taking over the drum stool from previous occupant Troy Miller. Of even more significance is the addition of Joe Leach who brings additional keyboards plus a range of post production skills to the project. Brown and Jones refer to Leach as their “Sound Gardener” or “Sound Mayhemist” and regard him as a valued fifth member of the group. In some respects Leach’s role is similar to that of Leafcutter John with Polar Bear and there’s a certain symmetry in the fact that Seb Rochford played as a member of Brown’s group during his early days in London.

Killer Shrimp flirted with electronics on their previous record but Leach takes the process several stages further and really exerts his personality on the finished album. In a nutshell “Tales From The Baltic Wharf” is an amalgam of strong hard bop themes and riffs juxtaposed with contemporary beats and electronica plus a side order of dub and ska.. There’s plenty here to keep jazz fans happy with some great playing from Brown and Jones but Leach transforms the music into something far more contemporary.

Brown’s opening “TBC” is little more than a sketch but the following “Sticks And Stones” is a perfect encapsulation of what Killer Shrimp are all about. A powerful hard bop inspired theme allows for great solos from Brown on bright, open horned trumpet and Jones on belligerent tenor sax, but there are also passages of keyboard derived Acoustic Ladyland rock rhythms and brief squalls of electronica. It’s a great synthesis of styles that never abandons the tune’s jazz roots. 

Jones’ “Baltic Wharf”, effectively the album’s title track, explores similar territory in a slightly more laid back manner. Again there’s a persuasive hard bop theme, chunky rhythms plus some excellent “electric era Miles” style muted trumpet from Brown- all garnished with a dash of exotic electronica.

“Cornerhouse” is the first of a number of pieces featuring an alternative rhythm section of Geoff Gascoyne and Luke Flowers. Jones’ tune broods threateningly, underpinned by Gascoyne’s rumbling bass lines and Flowers’ crisp, aggressive drumming. Leach’s manipulation of sound and use of the “studio as instrument” is, if anything even more pronounced. Jones’ and Brown’s soloing is there but less conspicuous than previously as they become even more absorbed into Leach’s vision of a group sound.

“Lef An Lee” is a Brown theme that despite being topped and tailed by Leach’s electronics also contains some of the most straight ahead playing of the set. Jones appears on bass clarinet as well as his more customary tenor and there’s also some excellent playing from Brown on a title that I assume is a tribute to the great Lee Morgan.

Jones’ “It Never Happened” is a slow burning blues driven by Gascoyne’s bass groove and Flowers’ shuffling drums. The composer contributes some splendidly smoky tenor, a good contrast to Brown’s wah wah trumpet which steers the piece towards more contemporary territory. The hard driving “Bearded Eights”, also by Jones has an urgent, contemporary feel with fiery solos from Jones and Brown and strong contributions from the propulsive Hodgson and Cosker.

“Summer” reflects Brown’s love of ska and reggae with its heavy dub grooves and echo laden horns and even features the singing of the trumpeter/composer. It’s good fun and helps to vary the mood and style of the album.

Brown’s “Cornet Coleman” gives fuller rein to Leach. Sampled voices and other electronic elements weave their way between hard driving rock rhythms and impassioned horn solos, with Brown presumably on cornet. And somewhere in the middle of it all there’s a feature for Hodgson’s bass.

Jones’s “Lost And Found” is more impressionistic, building from the bleeping of sonar via long, melodic trumpet lines to the more assertive tenor of Jones. All the time there’s an undertow of electronica which lends the piece a wholly contemporary feel. It’s perhaps the closest Killer Shrimp get to Polar Bear’s unique approach, on the rest of the album they’re much more conventionally “jazzy”.

Also by Jones “Yala” sees the saxophonist switching to soprano to bring a vaguely Middle Eastern feel to his playing. Again Leach is heavily involved in treating the group sound, particularly Brown’s trumpet lines.

The album closes with two pieces by Brown, the nu- jazzish “Find A Way” and the rousing “Roughneck Blues”, reprised from Brown’s 2001 album “Blues On The Run”. The former features Brown’s vocal refrain of the song’s title, Hodgson’s deep bass and a good deal of wispy electronica.

“Roughneck Blues” is pretty much a straight blow with fast moving unison passages, fiery solos from both Brown and Jones and something of a feature for the dynamic drumming of Cosker. It’s pretty much the only piece in which Leach doesn’t show his hand and is a good advertisement for the players’ straight ahead capabilities.

“Tales From The Baltic Wharf” is an enjoyable album that puts a fresh spin on the tried and tested hard bop template. Leach’s contributions are consistently interesting and the playing of the more “orthodox” musicians excellent. It’s punchy, hard hitting stuff and I’m sure that the group will be a very exciting live proposition when they tour this material round the UK in November 2010. The tour dates have recently been published on our news pages.

The album however could do with a little more light and shade. There’s not a lot of variation of mood or pace and no real ballad feature on the entire record. Nevertheless Killer Shrimp is a unit that is still capable of further development. In the meantime this sparky, unpretentious album still offers much for the listener to enjoy.
   


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