by Ian Mann
May 26, 2020
Although the leader takes the majority of the solos this is still a very well balanced and fully integrated quartet, with all of the members playing vital roles and making significant contributions.
The Dave Ingham Group
“A Sea of Green”
Dave Ingham – soprano & tenor saxes, bells, flute, Stephen Mynott- guitar, Vilem Hais- double bass, Azzy King – drums, percussion
Formerly known by the collective name Pangaea the Dave Ingham Group, sometimes abbreviated to The D.I.G., is a quartet led by the East Anglia based saxophonist, flautist, composer and educator Dave Ingham.
In its various guises the band has been together for ten years and this latest album teams Ingham with guitarist Stephen Mynott, bassist Vilem Hais and drummer / percussionist Azzy King.
The group has built something of a following on the East Anglian jazz circuit with live shows typically featuring a mix of Ingham originals and his arrangements of classic jazz compositions. Ingham’s influences include Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, John Coltrane and Paul Desmond, together with elements of African jazz, notably Ethio-Jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke.
“A Sea of Green” features five original compositions by Ingham, embracing a variety of jazz styles.
Another aspect of music mentioned as an influence is the prog rock of the so called ‘Canterbury Scene’. It’s therefore appropriate that the album should have been partly recorded at The Speare Music Salon in Canterbury, a studio owned by former Dexy’s Midnight Runners saxophonist Paul Speare.
The rhythm tracks were recorded at Drill Hall Studios in Beccles, Suffolk and Ingham’s parts in Canterbury. The album was produced by Speare and mixed by him in conjunction with Ingham. Additional engineering duties were undertaken by Alex Banks.
Ingham says of this latest incarnation of the group;
“Although still inspired by dance and movement, the use of asymmetric meter and a more minimalist approach takes it further away from the dance floor and into more open spaces. The more spiritual and meditative elements of the music are brought out in some of our latest work”.
The album commences with “Upstream”, a lively, modally styled piece featuring Ingham on soprano. Hais and King establish a propulsive groove that forms the basis for Ingham’s incisive, snaking sax meditations. There’s a real bite about the leader’s playing that is reminiscent of John Coltrane’s work on soprano, and I’m reminded of Dave Liebman’s playing on the straight horn, too. The Liebman comparison seems particularly apposite due to the introduction of world music elements, including King’s use of shakers and other percussion. Indeed King delivers a dynamic performance throughout, with his drums coming to the fore during certain passages.
“StrawDogs” evokes a suitably cinematic feel and again features Ingham on Coltrane-esque soprano, subtly probing above Hais’ deep double bass groove. The bassist subsequently assumes the lead, complemented by Mynott’s subtle guitar chording and King’s understated but still colourful drumming. Ingham returns to dig more deeply, his explorations complemented by gently rolling grooves.
At a little over nine minutes in duration “A Sea of Green” is the album’s lengthiest track, the title perhaps an oblique Beatles reference? Hais introduces the piece at the bass, establishing a languid, but deep, groove which forms the bedrock of the composition. Again there’s a strong narrative quality to the piece, which evolves slowly and organically and which finds Ingham moving between tenor and soprano saxophones. Mynott, hitherto a shadowy but highly supportive presence on guitar with his intelligent comping and chording, is finally the given the opportunity to stretch out, deploying his range of effects with taste and imagination on an evocative solo. Elsewhere Mynott provides sounds reminiscent of the ‘backwards guitar’ on “Revolver”, again implying some kind of Beatles homage, albeit one filtered through the prism of John Coltrane.
The guitarist also features prominently on “Hometown Blues”, where he adopts a more conventional jazz guitar sound, citing the influence of Joe Pass. The generally languid and meditative feel of the album continues with Ingham appearing here on tenor, probing subtly but deeply, and with great gravitas. A word, too, for the empathic support offered by Hais and King, the former at the very root of the music, the latter adding colourful and nuanced embellishment.
The album concludes with the more urgent and upbeat “Race To The Sun”, this time featuring a bustling, propulsive groove with King’s drums and percussion periodically coming to the fore. Ingham features on tenor, also doubling on flute, while Mynott conjures a fascinating array of sounds from his guitar.
Despite the stated world music and prog influences the predominate feel of “A Sea of Green” is of an updating of the ‘Spiritual Jazz’ tradition pioneered by John and Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.
A more contemporary British comparison would be the output of such artists as trumpeter Matthew Halsall, saxophonist Nat Birchall and multi-reed player Chip Wickham, all modern, British keepers of the ‘Spritual Jazz’ flame, with much of the music appearing on Halsall’s own Gondwana record label. If you’re a fan of any of these musicians, and of the Gondwana sound in general, the chances are that you’ll like this very attractive offering from The Dave Ingham Group.
The D.I.G. is very much Ingham’s group with the leader taking the majority of the solos, but it’s also a very well balanced and fully integrated quartet, with all of the members playing vital roles and making significant contributions. On hearing this album I was very impressed by the playing of all four of them, and also by Ingham’s abilities as a composer and arranger. Various Youtube clips also suggest that the D.I.G. should prove to be an interesting and rewarding live proposition once the current Corona Virus crisis is over.
At around 33-34 minutes in length “A Sea of Green” is fairly short by modern CD standards and could almost be considered an EP. But then again many classic jazz albums were little longer than this and if Ingham regards it as an album, then an album it is. It’s a recording that I very much enjoyed listening to, and I suspect that many listeners would derive similar satisfaction from this highly accomplished piece of work.
The album is currently available directly from Ingham via his website http://www.davidingham.co.uk but with national release of the CD delayed to July 3rd 2020 due to the Corona Virus pandemic.