by Ian Mann
July 14, 2021
Golding emerges from this improvisational ‘summit meeting’ with great credit. Flanked by two absolute masters of the genre he never seems out of place & demonstrates a growing maturity & confidence.
Binker Golding / John Edwards / Steve Noble
(Byrd Out Records)
Binker Golding – tenor & soprano sax, John Edwards – double bass, Steve Noble – drums
A product of the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation 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’ that has seen the music reaching out to appeal to a younger, more diverse demographic.
He 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.
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).
A further live recording, “Escape The Flames”, documented at London’s Total Refreshment Centre, in 2017, was released in 2020.
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 Byrd Out Records. Review here;
The Golding / Galvin Duo also played at Ray’s at the 2019 EFGLJF, a dynamic improvised set that was both fun and fiery – and once again I was there.
Golding also leads his own quartet featuring pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones, all rising stars of the London jazz scene. This line up released the album “Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers” on Gearbox Records in 2019 to considerable critical acclaim. Review here;
“Abstractions..” was variously inspired by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Michael Brecker and Wayne Shorter, and while obviously a very good record it was very much in the tradition and a good deal less radical than his duo work with Boyd or Galvin.
Nevertheless Golding is the only one of the current pride of ‘young lions’ who has been bold enough to immerse himself fully in the stream of free improvisation.
His latest release for Byrd Out, the boutique label founded by Stephen Vitkovic. teams him with two improv veterans, bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble, a rhythmic ‘tag team’ who individually and collectively must have appeared on literally hundreds of recordings - so for reasons of time and space I don’t intend to delve into their own musical histories.
“Moon Day” was recorded during gaps in the numerous 2020 Covid lockdowns with the track titles embracing a lunar theme. This was initially inspired by the “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835, the first lunar conspiracy theory, which saw the New York newspaper The Sun publishing a wholly fictional story by the reporter Richard Locke that life had been discovered on the Moon, observed through “an immense telescope of an entirely new principle”. The trio regard this incident as a parallel to the ‘fake news’ and ‘post truth’ of the current century.
I’m grateful to Stephen Vitkovic of Byrd Out for sending me a CD copy of the album for review purposes and I intend to comment about the music thereon. The digital version of the album includes two further ‘edits’ of existing pieces.
The album commences with the near twenty four minute epic “One Giant Step, Parts I -IV”, the title an obvious reference to the 1969 NASA moon landings, but for jazz fans also a knowing tip of the hat to John Coltrane.
The performance begins with the soft, breathy unaccompanied tenor sax of Golding, subsequently joined in dialogue by Edwards’ double bass, and then by Noble’s drums. Golding then takes a step back as Edwards and Noble take over the conversation, the former’s muscular but effortlessly fluent bass lines are answered by a fascinating range of percussive sounds from Noble, skilfully deploying both drums and cymbals. Golding bides his time before re-entering on incisive soprano sax, his biting but melodic phrases supported by a rolling polyrhythmic groove from the bass and drums. Although he doesn’t venture into the realms of extreme extended technique Golding probes deeply, demonstrating a growing maturity and confidence as an improviser. There’s a dazzling passage featuring his circular breathing on soprano, accompanied by Edwards’ astonishing bowed bass sounds, this leading to a series of jittery, more obviously improvised, trio exchanges. Edwards and Noble then renew their earlier conversation, an even more animated affair, before Golding returns on tenor, his tone Coltrane-like and spiritual, gliding and soaring above the sounds of skittering drums and deep, earthy bass. The performance ends with the soft piping of Golding’s almost infeasibly high register tenor sax.
“Reflection” is shorter, but more overwhelmingly intense. Golding pushes his tenor to its limits in a series of vigorous exchanges with Edwards and Noble. Edwards is renowned for being a highly physical player, but there’s the sense that all three musicians are going for it full throttle here, the energy only dissipating as the trio members pause for reflection towards the close.
The introduction to “Lunar Wind” sees Golding returning to the soprano, the intensity of his playing, which again incorporates some astonishing circular breathing, answered by that of the bass and drums. This is improv at its most intense and interactive, generating some remarkable instrumental sounds and making effective use of dissonance. The sound of Golding’s sax soaring over the rumble of Noble’s toms is truly dramatic as he probes even more deeply, embracing vocalised and Middle Eastern inflections. The closing exchanges become increasingly animated, with Edwards increasingly prominent and making effective use of the bow.
I can only assume that the lengthy closing track is titled “For S.K.” (a dedication to Soweto Kinch perhaps, maybe somebody could enlighten me).
This begins in atmospheric fashion with wispy tenor sax and eerily bowed bass, but soon gathers momentum to take on a searing intensity, incorporating guttural tenor sax, immensely physical bass and the polyrhythmic whirlwind of Noble’s drumming. Golding, Edwards and Noble spark off each other, pushing each other to fresh heights. The saxophonist, a comparative newcomer to this style of music certainly doesn’t sound overawed or out of his depth in the company of such celebrated improv royalty.
As the piece progresses we enjoy a short solo drum feature from Noble, followed by the baleful sound of Golding’s tenor in conjunction with earthy arco bass and skittering drums as the three-way conversation continues to unfold, leading to a headlong rush with every musician playing fit to bust, this followed by a more abstract and atmospheric section, incorporating some remarkable arco bass sounds from Edwards and another percussion feature for Noble. Golding returns for another passage of great intensity, his sax playing short, skronking phrases above fractured rhythms before the energy finally dissipates and the music fades away, leaving something of a musical question mark hanging in the air.
Golding emerges from this improvisational ‘summit meeting’ with great credit. He plays with energy, conviction, imagination and invention throughout. Flanked by two absolute masters of the genre he never seems out of place and this is a recording that will see his stock rise among the improvised music community.
As ever Edwards is simply brilliant throughout, his playing an improv master-class force as usual, and in his old friend Noble he has the perfect rhythmic foil.
It’s not an easy listen by any means, but “Moon Day” is nevertheless a relatively accessible album by improv standards and may reach out to some of Golding’s Quartet / Binker and Moses fanbase.
The highlight has to be the epic, constantly unfolding “One Giant Step”, which fills one side of the vinyl release and is a tour de force that manages to hold the listener’s attention throughout.
The digital album includes two extra tracks, “One Giant Step part III (Laika’s Short Orbit Edit” and “For S.K. (Stage H Edit”.
I believe that the longer version of “For S.K.” is not on the vinyl and is only available digitally. I guess Steve included it on the review CD just for me, so my thanks to him for that.
The vinyl and digital versions of “Moon Day” are available via Binker Golding’s Bandcamp page;
See also http://www.byrdout.com
From Stephen Vitkovitch of Byrd Out;
Thanks for this, thoughtful as ever.
S.K. is Stanley Kubrick - continuing the conspiracy theme. Although Kinch a sound guess, a musician I’ve seen many times.
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