by Ian Mann
April 25, 2019
A well balanced and highly democratic unit who bring a contemporary slant to the jazz organ combo. An absorbing album that delivers some excellent playing from all three protagonists.
“Make Your Stand”
(Distribution by CD Baby and Amazon
Catalogue Number WKBU002)
“Make Your Stand” is the second album from the London based contemporary organ trio Acrobat and follows their eponymous début from 2012.
Arguably the best known member of the group is its guitarist Kristian Borring, a Copenhagen born musician who has been based in London for a number of years and who has become a vital presence on the UK jazz scene. As a leader he has released three recordings under his own name, “Nausicaa” from 2011, “Urban Novel” and “Silent Storm” from 2016. All of these have been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann and each recording in the series has represented an artistic progression as Borring has continued to hone his instrumental and compositional skills. In the main these recordings have featured Borring’s regular working quartet featuring pianist Arthur Lea, bassist Mick Coady and drummer Jon Scott but with the group sometimes expanded to a five piece with the addition of guest musicians such as saxophonist Will Vinson and vibraphonist Jim Hart.
Borring has also recorded in the duo format with pianist Bruno Heinen, the pair releasing the album “Postcard To Bill Evans” in 2015, a recording paying homage to the late, great American pianist and composer. As a sideman Borring has has worked with saxophonist Tommaso Starace and vocalists Monika Lidke and Sara Mitra.
I’m indebted to Borring for forwarding me a copy of “Make Your Stand” for review purposes.
I have to admit to being less familiar with the other two members of Acrobat. However I’ve previously heard Oxford born Bartlett’s organ playing on the 2018 album “Framework” by multi-reed player Jon Shenoy’s Draw By Four quartet, a group that also features the talents of guitarist Sam Dunn and drummer Chris Draper. Review here;
Also an accomplished pianist Bartlett has also recorded a duo album with Puppini Sisters vocalist Kate Mullins.
Liverpool born Davey has worked with leading musicians such as bassist Jasper Hoiby and saxophonist Soweto Kinch. He also leads his own quartet which has previously included Arthur Lea, Jon Shenoy and bassist Andrea Di Biase. He has also been in bands featuring Kate Mullins.
A musician with a wide range of interest Davey has also played pop and rock sessions and has been involved in multi-disciplinary projects such as the spoken word group Tongue Fu, the circus group Extraordinary Bodies and the samba group Rhythms of the City.
Acrobat is democratic unit that sees compositional duties divided between its members with all three contributing tunes to the new album. Things kick off with Borring’s title track, which quickly establishes the group sound. Here this is complex but subtly swinging and with the lead divided pretty much equally between guitar and organ. Bartlett and Borring trade solos and also comp inventively when the other is soloing. Meanwhile Davey is a busy presence behind the kit, his drumming brightly detailed, supple and inventive.
Bartlett’s lively “The Big Three” is based on old style samba rhythms with three beats in the bar, hence the title. Written to embrace Davey’s deep interest in Brazilian music it’s a joyous, invigorating piece that again sees Borring and Bartlett exchanging solos in typically fluent and absorbing fashion. The pair are aided by Davey’s bright, crisp, continually evolving drumming, with the sticksman enjoying something of a feature towards the close of the tune.
Borring supplies “King Congas” (great title), which begins quietly with a passage of gentle unaccompanied guitar before adopting a subtle Latin inflected groove, this providing the platform for the beguiling guitar and organ solos that follow.
Davey makes his compositional bow with “Bodger and Me”, its rhythms moving between odd meters and more conventional swing as Bartlett and Borring deliver lively solos. The composer’s drums are also featured prominently in the arrangement.
Bartlett’s “The Iceberg” takes its inspiration from the music of the classical composer Alban Berg (1885 – 1935) who frequently wrote for organ. Berg’s influence is merged with gospel and blues in this slow burner as the composer and Borring ‘battle’ for supremacy as they exchange solos. With both soloists drawing deep on the wells of blues and gospel it’s perhaps the piece that best recalls the classic jazz organ combos of the past, despite the European classical references.
Similar qualities are brought to Borring’s composition “Hall”, although whether this piece is inspired by the late, great Jim (an acknowledged influence) is not made clear. It would be most appropriate if it were. Like Hall Borring is a guitarist of enormous technical facility who always channels his gifts tastefully and selflessly, a quiet, undemonstrative virtuoso who perhaps doesn’t always attract the kind of admiration that his talents deserve. Having seen Borring performing live with Tommaso Starace as far back as 2011 I can attest to his awesome technique, having watched him contort his fingers into seemingly impossible chord shapes. The guitarist is at his most inventive here on this mid tempo swinger as he trades ideas with Bartlett’s soulful Hammond B3.
Davey’s “Dance Of The Pockets” sees the composer’s drums assuming parity with guitar and organ as he sketches melodic patterns on his kit in a series of lively exchanges with Borring and Bartlett before continuing to drum creatively behind their solos.
Bartlett’s “For K.V.” is dedicated to the memory of the late, great trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014), a profound influence on so many young British jazz musicians. The title comes from Wheeler’s given names, Kenneth Vincent, and is not a mistake, as some may have first thought. The music has a relaxed, gently swinging quality and offers soloing opportunities for the composer on Hammond and Borring on guitar. It’s a celebration of a life well lived.
It’s drummer Davey who actually provides the gentlest track on the album, the gentle, slinking “Almost There”, a ballad featuring the clean melodic lines of Borring’s guitar, the subtle gospel infusions of Bartlett’s Hammond and the composer’s delicately brushed drumming. Later the momentum is increased via Borring’s spiralling guitar solo as Davey switches to sticks.
Borring’s final contribution with the pen is “Infant Rondo” which emerges from an opening crescendo to extemporise around Borring’s guitar motifs with solos from the composer and from Bartlett as Davey keeps the groove. There is plenty of variety of mood and tempo as the piece progresses, the trio drawing jazz, classical and contemporary rock influences into a coherent whole.
The album concludes on an energetic note with Davey’s hard grooving “T.K.A”. The trio bring funk, jazz, rock, soul and gospel elements to the party as they get down in the best Hammond tradition with earthy solos from guitar and organ plus a colourful drum feature from the composer.
Acrobat are a well balanced and highly democratic unit who bring a contemporary slant to the jazz organ combo, adding subtle elements drawn from other genres along the way. They’ve been compared to American trio of organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart, the long running triumvirate generally considered to be the world’s premier exponents of the jazz organ trio format. Borring has studied with Bernstein in New York so there’s no doubting their influence and it’s a comparison that suits Acrobat well.
“Make You Stand” works well within the confines of the organ trio format and with three different composers bringing their ideas to the table there’s plenty for the listener to enjoy on an absorbing album that delivers some excellent playing from all three protagonists. Also an exciting live act, one would imagine.blog comments powered by Disqus