by Ian Mann
July 27, 2020
Patchwork Jazz Orchestra has released a five track EP, with accompanying videos, recorded by its members in isolation at the height of lockdown. Read the story behind this remarkable achievement here
PATCHWORK JAZZ ORCHESTRA
“THE LIGHT THAT SHINES”
EP AND VIDEOS RECORDED IN ISOLATION
I’m grateful to Billy Marrows, the guitarist with the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, for contacting me by email to alert me to the release of this five track EP, recorded by the members of the band in isolation during April 2020, at the height of the Corona Virus pandemic.
I’ve been an admirer of Patchwork Jazz Orchestra since first encountering their music at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival, when they played an excellent Sunday lunchtime show at the 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea. This performance was reviewed as part of my Festival coverage here;
I subsequently covered the PJO’s exceptional début album “The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes”, released in 2019 on the Spark! Record label, founded by Tom Green, one of the band’s trombonists.
Many, but by no means all, of the PJO members studied at the Royal Academy of Music and worked with that institution’s Big Band, an aggregation that also proved to be the basis for the acclaimed Troykestra, the big band that augmented the Troyka trio of Kit Downes (keyboards), Chris Montague (guitar) and Joshua Blackmore (drums.) Troykestra’s live album, recorded at the 2013 Cheltenham Jazz Festival, is reviewed here;
The PJO name was adopted in 2014 and in 2015 the ensemble won the annual Peter Whittingham Award, which helped to finance their début recording. The band then ran their own “Patchwork Nights” at various venues around London, notably The Others in Stoke Newington.
Of PJO’s approach to the big band format Tom Green comments;
“Many of us grew up listening to and playing big band music, but opportunities to perform new material are few and far between. Patchwork Jazz Orchestra was born from a desire of a number of us to write and play new music in a regular group and the band has since evolved an identity of its own, both collaborative and totally diverse in musical styles. “
With regard to the new “The Light That Shines” EP the following information has been provided by Billy Marrows and also appears on the PJO’s Bandcamp page;
Patchwork Jazz Orchestra
The Light That Shines
As a result of Covid-19 lockdown measures, lives, places of work and entire industries have dramatically changed all over the world. Things that were once deemed unachievable are being proven to be possible - in this case recording a big band record entirely remotely, with every musician in their own separate home. Patchwork Jazz Orchestra has brought together our musicians from all over the UK to remotely record “The Light that Shines” - an EP dedicated to everyone battling this virus on the frontline.
In typical Patchwork fashion, The EP includes works from five different composers within the band. We hear three fresh compositions from Misha Mullov-Abbado, Tom Smith, and Billy Marrows, taking us from a funk odyssey to a trombone-led preaching gospel ballad, and an explosive Brazilian carnival. The EP also features two arrangements: a richly textured and lush rendition of Fred Hersch’s “Endless Stars” from Tom Green, and Kieran McLeod’s fiery up-tempo take on “If I Were a Bell” from the smash hit musical Guys and Dolls.
The title track of the album was initially a one off release, with a video produced by composer Tom Smith. After the band collectively rose to the challenges faced by such a mammoth task, it became clear that the recording method we had painstakingly developed could be streamlined and repeated to create a record! First, the composer would create a click track which was sent to the rhythm section, who recorded a first draft. This was sent to lead players of each section who would record their track ahead of their colleagues. The soloists on each track would then improvise over these materials, ahead of the rhythm section re-recording their initial takes to allow for sympathetic improvising in the solo sections.
These uncertain times have created a space that is ripe for experimentation and collective growth. Creating a record in unfavourable circumstances has become a true artistic exploration for the whole ensemble. It goes without saying: We are extremely proud to present to you our expression of these times - The Light that Shines!
James Davison, Adam Chatterton, Alex Ridout, Tom Dennis – trumpets
James Copus, George Hogg - trumpets (on “The Light That Shines”)
Kieran McLeod, Tom Green, Jamie Pimenta – trombones
Yusuf Narçin - bass trombone
Tom Smith, Sam Glaser - alto saxophone
Sam Miles, George Millard - tenor saxophone
Tom Ridout - baritone saxophone
Liam Dunachie - piano & Hammond organ
Billy Marrows - electric guitar
Misha Mullov-Abbado - double bass
Scott Chapman – drums
Gareth Lockrane - flute (on “Genmaicha”)
New Ansonia 09:35
Endless Stars 10:09
If I Were A Bell 03:09
The Light That Shines 07:25
Track 1 composed by Misha Mullov-Abbado
Track 2 composed by Fred Hersch arranged by Tom Green
Track 3 composed by Frank Loesser arranged by Kieran McLeod
Track 4 composed by Billy Marrows
Track 5 composed by Tom Smith
Recorded by Patchwork Jazz Orchestra - mixed and mastered by John Prestage - all remotely from their homes during lockdown, April 2020
The most recent video from the EP is ‘Genmaicha’ by guitarist Billy Marrows and features special guest Gareth Lockrane.
Billy Marrows writes, “The video tells the story of my quest for a cup of Genmaicha tea, which is continuously sabotaged by Patchwork musicians who’ve taken over my flat and neighbourhood. I made it using stop motion animation combined with the footage of us recording at home”.
I’ve since watched and enjoyed the video for “Genmaicha”, which is both witty and entertaining, and the audio and visual quality is consistently excellent. The music itself is also exceptional as PJO continue to maintain the high standards established on previous recordings and live performances.
The band’s website, http://www.patchworkjazzorchestra.com also offers access to videos of two of the other pieces recorded in isolation for the EP, Tom Smith’s “The Light that Shines” and Misha Mullov-Abbado’s “New Ansonia”. Although less quirky than the “Genmaicha” video the audio and visual quality remains high, and again the music itself is excellent. Indeed, these two more ‘conventional’ videos offer the viewer a fuller opportunity to appreciate the actual playing and the skills and techniques of the musicians. Two further videos are set to follow, representing the remaining two tracks on the EP.
“The Light That Shines” EP represents highly recommended listening - and viewing! Be sure to check it out.
Also check out Billy Marrows’ own website http://www.billymarrows.com, which includes biographical details plus links to footage of Billy’s own groups, two different quartets and an octet. There is some excellent music to be heard and seen here, too.
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