by Ian Mann
November 06, 2019
A collection of engaging original compositions allied to some dynamic performances from all the musicians involved.
“Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers”
(Gearbox Records GB1555CD)
Binker Golding – tenor saxophone, Joe Armon-Jones – piano, Daniel Casimir – double bass, Sam Jones - drums
London born saxophonist Binker Golding is one of the leading figures on the capital’s contemporary jazz scene, part of the young crop of musicians behind the latest jazz ‘revival’, one which has seen the music reaching out to appeal to a younger, more diverse demographic.
Golding is probably best known for Binker & Moses, his free-wheeling, award winning duo with drummer Moses Boyd. In 2015 I was lucky enough to catch a typically exciting and energetic show from these two at a packed Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. My review of that event can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
The edgy urgency of the duo’s live performances was captured on the acclaimed vinyl only release “Dem Ones” (Gearbox Records, 2015). Binker & Moses followed this with the ambitious, semi-conceptual double set “Journey To The Mountains Of Forever” (2017), which placed a greater emphasis on composition and featured an expanded line up that included free jazz doyen Evan Parker. A club performance of this material, also featuring Parker, was documented on the live album “Alive in the East?” (2018).
Golding has also forged a successful duo alliance with pianist Elliot Galvin, with whom he released the wholly improvised vinyl album “Ex Nihilo”, recorded in April 2018 at London’s famous Vortex Jazz Club and released on the boutique record label ByrdOut. Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/binker-golding-and-elliot-galvin-ex-nihilo/
Golding is a product of the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme (founded by Gary Crosby and Janine Irons) and continues to be associated with the organisation. Currently he is the Musical Director of the Tomorrow’s Warriors Youth Orchestra and he has also conducted, and written for, the Nu Civilisation Orchestra.
As a prolific sideman Golding has performed with an impressive array of cross-generational jazz talent including vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Boyd’s Exodus, Mr. Jukes, Maisha and drummer Lorraine Baker’s Ed Blackwell inspired group Eden. Others with whom he has worked include bassist Gary Crosby and fellow saxophonists Steve Williamson, Jason Yarde, Denys Baptiste and Gilad Atzmon.
Parallel to his other musical activities Golding also leads a long running quartet featuring the talents of three more rising stars of the London jazz scene, pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones. These three regularly work together as a unit and also form part of saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s highly regarded quartet.
“Abstractions…” represents Golding’s much anticipated début in the classic saxophone led quartet format. The album was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London and mixed in New York by the celebrated recording engineer James Farber, who has worked with such giants of the music as saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker and pianist Brad Mehldau.
Of the inspirations behind the recording Golding, now aged thirty one, says;
“It’s about experiences I had throughout my teenage years and twenties. It’s about remembering, forgetting, thinking you’ve forgotten and remembering again. It’s about people and friends that you’ll never see again and times that you can’t go back to, so you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future”.
In this wholly acoustic quartet format Golding’s playing has been compared to that of saxophone greats such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Indeed there’s something re-assuringly ‘conventional’ about Golding’s sound here, particularly when compared to his more abstract, freely structured recordings with Boyd and Galvin.
This new album also places a greater focus on Golding the composer. Despite the enigmatic nature of the titles his writing here is firmly within the jazz ‘tradition’, mixing the sounds of 60s hard bop and modal jazz with elements of 70s fusion and more contemporary developments such as hip hop.
Casimir’s bass introduces the opening “I Forgot Santa Monica”, which gets the album off to an invigorating start. Golding solos with great fluency over the propulsive grooves laid down by his colleagues, with drummer Jones a particularly busy presence, sometimes channelling the spirit of his namesake, Elvin. Golding’s three accompanists played with Nubya Garcia’s quartet at this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival and I recall being hugely impressed by the contribution of Armon-Jones, then playing an electric keyboard. He positively dazzles here with a barnstorming solo on acoustic piano as Golding and his colleagues set their stall out from the off.
“Exquisite She-Green” effectively combines contemporary broken beat grooves with old style tenor sax soulfulness and lyricism as Golding stretches out, followed by Armon-Jones at the piano. Both soloists impress with their fluency and invention as they subtly steer the music in unexpected directions.
Casimir sets the ball rolling again on “Skinned Alive, Tasting Blood”, helping to establish a rolling groove that underscores the leader’s tenor sax ruminations. Golding’s soloing here has been compared to Rollins and he probes with an appropriate eloquence and rigour, again followed by the impressive Armon-Jones at the keyboard. Once more the pianist is in inspired form, avoiding the obvious licks and phrases and sounding positively Tyner-esque at times. The performance also includes a closing drum feature from Jones, who performs with great sensitivity and intelligence throughout the piece.
“…. And I Like Your Feathers” is positively playful, with a light airy soul-jazz style theme that forms the framework for a delightfully melodic double bass solo from Casimir, followed by a joyously inventive excursion from Armon-Jones at the piano. Golding himself keeps things pretty simple, but Jones drums with great colour, wit and invention throughout. This is the sound of a band having fun.
“You, That Place, That Time” continues with the soul- jazz feel and features the leader at his most melodic. Armon-Jones maintains his high level of creativity at the keyboard and when Golding finally does stretch out he does so with considerable power and authority, urged on by Jones’ dynamic drumming.
The piece segues directly into “Strange – Beautiful Remembered”, with its arresting descending melodic motif. This represents the jumping off point for typically inventive solos from Armon-Jones and Golding himself, supported by similarly imaginative drums and bass.
The closing “Fluorescent Black” features Golding at his most Coltrane-like as he stretches out on tenor around an infectious riff based theme. The leader solos with power and authority and his colleagues respond with a dynamic group performance that includes some bravura drumming from the brilliant Sam Jones.
“Abstractions…” represents an impressive full leadership from Golding and one suspects that this quartet must be a hugely exciting live act. Besides the Rollins, Coltrane and Brecker comparisons Golding’s writing has been likened to that of the great Wayne Shorter, which is praise indeed.
This new album has been very well received and it features a collection of engaging original compositions allied to some dynamic performances from all the musicians involved. By jazz standards it’s probably a release that will do very well commercially.
And yet, there’s still a nagging feeling that Golding has played it safe. It’s certainly a more ‘conventional’ jazz recording than any of his duo releases and is very much in the ‘tradition’.
It could be a Blue Note or Impulse! record from the 1960s.
I appreciate that this album only represents one side of Golding’s musical personality and that he has done more radical work elsewhere. “Abstractions…” is a good record, and one that will doubtless bring great pleasure to a good many listeners. Nevertheless I’m still left feeling slightly disappointed that it doesn’t deliver something more obviously contemporary and cutting edge.
Meanwhile Golding’s experimental side will be in evidence at the forthcoming EFG London Jazz Festival when he and Elliot Galvin perform as a duo at Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s at 6.00 pm on the evening of Wednesday 20th November 2019.
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