Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019

by Ian Mann

February 13, 2019


This is the sound of two daring young musicians having ‘serious fun’. There’s a youthful vitality and a natural rapport between them, but an admirable maturity too, that promises well for the future.

Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin

“Ex Nihilo”

(Byrd Out Records BYR015)

I’m indebted to Stephen Vitkovitch, head of the boutique Byrd Out record label and curator of the forthcoming Walthamstow Jazz Festival, for sending me a review copy of this vinyl only release by saxophonist Binker Golding and pianist Elliot Galvin, two of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene.

Golding is best known for his duo with drummer Moses Boyd. As Binker & Moses the pair have attracted a great deal of critical acclaim for their dynamic live shows and for their albums “Dem Ones”,  the double set “Journey To The Mountain of Forever” and “Alive In The East?”. Both “Journey” and “Alive” feature contributions from other musicians and Golding is the kind of player who likes to spread his net as wide as possible, collaborating with a wide range of musicians and reaching out to new audiences.

Others with whom Golding has worked include vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Boyd’s Exodus, Mr. Jukes and drummer Lorraine Baker’s Ed Blackwell inspired group Eden.

Golding also leads his own quartet featuring pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones and is due to release his first album with this line up later in 2019.

Meanwhile Elliot Galvin has released three albums as the leader of his own trio featuring bassist Tom McCredie and first Simon Roth and then Corrie Dick at the drums. “Dreamland” appeared in 2014 followed by “Punch” (2016) and “The Influencing Machine (2018).

Galvin is also well known for his long association with Laura Jurd, appearing on the trumpeter’s solo recordings and also with her Mercury nominated Dinosaur quartet,  also featuring Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Corrie Dick at the drums.

Others with whom Galvin has worked include saxophonist Phil Meadows, bassist Huw V Williams and guitarist Dan Messore.

Golding and Galvin are two of the most adventurous young musicians on the UK jazz scene and in recent years both have increasingly been drawn towards the art of free improvisation. That doyen of free improvisers Evan Parker was a guest on “Alive In The East?”, pointing towards a new avenue for Golding to explore. Meanwhile Galvin has worked in a duo with the experienced free jazz drummer/percussionist Mark Sanders with whom he recorded the album “Weather” for the Babel record label in 2017.

“Ex Nihilo” (meaning “Out of Nothing”) is a live recording documented at the famous Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on 11th April 2018 at a performance co-ordinated by Vitkovitch. Golding is credited with tenor and soprano saxophones and Galvin with piano, but of course the range of sounds generated by the pair stretches the sonic possibilities of their respective instruments to the absolute limits.

The track titles are also all in Latin. I’m no scholar so I’m indebted to Sammy Styne’s review on the Free Jazz Blog for providing the appropriate translations.

Side A commences with “Aeturnum Vale”,  apparently meaning “Goodbye Forever”. Galvin has acquired a reputation as something of a musical maverick, frequently being compared to the young Django Bates. He’s a musician with an impish sense of humour and in performances with his trio frequently deploys children’s toys and other gizmos to augment his sound. He’s not credited with any of those here but much of his work is done ‘under the lid’, deploying prepared piano techniques and all other sorts of mischief. Strings are plucked, hit and scraped as he accompanies Golding’s Evan Parker influenced sax ruminations, the tenor sliding up and down the scales, whinnying, worrying and badgering. There’s a real vivacity, irreverence and energy about the duo’s exchanges here,  even in its quieter moments this is the sound of two daring young musicians having ‘serious fun’.

‘2ram Quod Es, Eros Quod Sum” (I was what you are, you will be what I am) is more atmospheric with Golding demonstrating circular breathing techniques on what sounds like soprano sax. His high register flutterings are accompanied by another remarkable performance from Galvin as he produces another set of extraordinary sounds from the piano’s innards, ranging from the gently ethereal to the percussive and dissonant.

 ’”Ad Usum Proprium” (For Your Own Use) features a circling melodic sax motif from Golding which is embellished by Golding’s keyboard commentary, generally using conventional piano sounds but sometimes making effective use of dampened strings. Golding’s defiantly unvarying repeating sax motif never falters in an astonishing display of discipline and technique.

Flipping the disc “Adaequatio Intellectus et Rei” (Correspondence of Mind and Reality) is a brief, but spirited, improvised conversation featuring garrulous tenor sax phrases answered by mercurial keyboard runs, with some typically inventive interior work thrown in for good measure.

“Aliquid Stat Pro Aliquot” (Something Stands for Something Else is a lengthier improvised excursion that commences with the buzzy sound of Golding’s sax allied to Galvin’s Keith Tippett like interior scrabblings. Gradually the piece gains an identity of its own, Golding’s playing is needling and intense but this is both matched and countered by Galvin’s piano, which draws on the influence of minimalism with its recurring melodic motifs but also introduces darker textural and rhythmic elements. It’s a remarkable performance with both musicians totally on the same wavelength and pushing each other to new heights.

Finally we hear “Non Plus Ultra” (Peak of Perfection) which builds from Golding’s unaccompanied tenor sax introduction, subsequently superseded by Galvin’s thoughtful, lyrical piano lyricism. There’s a quietness and spaciousness about the music that we haven’t encountered previously, which somehow continues despite the edgy needling of Golding’s tenor. With Galvin resisting the temptation to reach under the lid this represents the most ‘conventional’ piece on the record but it’s still a remarkable, and often, beautiful dialogue that is as valuable as anything else on this excellent recording.

I’ll readily admit to being a little wary of free improv recordings, the visceral thrill of live performance can sometimes pall in the home listening environment. But these two exceptional young musicians have made a free jazz record that absorbs the listener throughout, their musical dialogues are genuinely conversations of equals and they have created a thoroughly compelling sound-world with the prodigiously talented Galvin treating the piano as an ‘entire instrument’. His use of the instrument’s interior is always innately musical, there’s no sense that his use of extended technique is merely being deployed for the sake of novelty or showmanship.

On this evidence the partnership of Golding and Galvin is one that appears to have legs. There’s a youthful vitality and natural rapport between these audacious young musicians, but an admirable maturity too, that promises well for the future. Let’s hope that they can find time within their busy schedules for further duo concerts to promote this excellent recording.

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