Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

March 26, 2013


Inventive, forward looking jazz that subtly pushes the envelope whilst remaining thoroughly accessible to the listener.

Dave Manington’s Riff Raff


(Loop Records LOOP1015)

Bassist and composer Dave Manington is a ubiquitous presence on the UK jazz scene and has worked with a string of fine saxophonists including Mark Lockheart, Tim Garland, Iain Ballamy, Pete Wareham, Martin Speake and Tony Woods plus pianist Gwilym Simcock. He is also a founder of the North London based Loop Collective and released his first album as a leader, the quartet set “Headrush”, on the Collective’s own label in 2008. He is concurrently a member of the e17 Jazz Collective and writes music for the e17 Large Ensemble.

A glance at Manington’s website reveals that he is involved in a whole host of other projects many of them involving his contemporaries, several of whom also studied at London’s Guildhall School of Music. A versatile and adaptable musician Manington also plays other genres of music from folk to funk.

His latest album for Loop features his Riff Raff sextet which incorporates Ivo Neame (piano, keyboards, accordion) and Tim Giles (drums, percussion), both also members of his earlier quartet, alongside vocalist Brigitte Bereha, tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger and guitarist Rob Updegraff.
Bereha frequently deploys her voice in the “extra instrument” style typified by Norma Winstone but like Winstone she is also a fine lyricist and adds words to three of the tunes in a programme of eight Manington originals. The bassist is an imaginative composer and his often complex pieces exhibit the influence of elements drawn from folk, electronic and contemporary classical music which Manington incorporates into a sophisticated framework of jazz harmonies and rhythms. In Riff Raff he has a highly able band who are more than capable of dealing with any of the complexities that Manington chooses to throw at them. 

The album begins with “Agile” which is constructed around a series of improvisations around a central groove. Neame doubles on accordion and piano/keyboards and Bereha’s wordless vocals weave in and around solos from Challenger on tenor and eventually Neame at the piano. It’s lively, complex stuff that takes a more lyrical turn with Neame’s solo.

The title track is initially more subdued and subtle than its title might suggest with Bereha’s yearning wordless vocal complemented by Giles’ lightly brushed grooves and Challenger’s fluent,  lyrical, delicately probing tenor sax. Manington allows himself to step out of the ensemble with a purposeful bass solo. It’s left to Updegraff to finally suggest something of the “Hullabaloo” of the title with a closing guitar solo that taps into the influence of rock as Bereha soars and Giles drums up a storm behind him.

“Lingering At The Gravy” was written to feature Giles’ drumming and honours the many years Manington and Giles have worked together. Giles’ opening salvo more than justifies the “percussion” credit on the CD cover. Elsewhere Bereha’s voice is at its most flexible and horn like and there is a typically inventive solo from the multi talented Neame. 

The lovely ballad “Catch Me The Moon” features Bereha’s first set of lyrics on a tune that she has also recorded with the quartet Babelfish featuring pianist Barry Green, double bassist Chris Laurence and drummer/percussionist Paul Clarvis (see review elsewhere on this site). Manington has stated that he was attempting to write a jazz ballad whilst simultaneously referencing classical composers such as Vaughan Williams, Britten and John Ireland. In a different arrangement which includes tenor sax and guitar Bereha’s voice and words complement the lyricism of Manington’s tune perfectly with the composer taking the instrumental honours with a beautifully understated bass solo. Neame also impresses as he demonstrates the gentler side of his playing with a gorgeously lyrical solo.

“Water Torture” takes it’s title from the “drip drop” of the opening electric piano motif. From here the music ripples outwards in droplets of layered guitar, wispy tenor sax and Bereha’s beguiling wordless vocals with Neame soloing effectively on Fender Rhodes.

“Pedro Bernardo” was written in Spain and the press release refers to the tune’s “Spanish edge” and “Phrygian key centre”. Technicalities aside there’s plenty to enjoy from Updegraff’s vaguely ominous guitar shadings and soaring solo to Bereha’s poetic lyrics referencing the town of the title. Challenger follows Updegraff, digging in on tenor as Giles chatters around him.

Manington’s love of Bulgarian folk music inspired the melody of “You Can’t Eat Crisps To That”, a splendidly silly title that sees Neame taking up the accordion once more (albeit doubling on keyboards) as Bereha scats joyously and Manington and Giles handle the Balkan rhythms with ease. A more impressionistic second half features Challenger’s tenor and Neame’s Fender Rhodes.

The album closes with “Not A Worthless Thing”, a song the band normally reserve for their encore. Featuring Bereha’s lyrics the piece unfolds via an opening Updegraff solo and subsequent Manington bass feature, the latter showing the leader at his best. Bereha’s optimistic words end the album on a hopeful note and she also delivers a passage of her trademark soaring wordless vocals.  Bereha is one of the most adventurous young vocalists around, a musical explorer in the manner of the aforementioned Norma Winstone.

With its intriguing blend of instruments and voice “Hullabaloo” offers much for the listener to enjoy. Manington’s densely layered, richly textured compositions give his bandmates plenty to get their teeth into whilst also allowing ample opportunity for improvisation. Occasionally it can all sound a little overly academic but this is inventive, forward looking jazz that subtly pushes the envelope whilst remaining thoroughly accessible to the listener. Everybody plays well, both individually and as part of the ensemble, and Alex Bonney’s mix serves the musicians well. “Hullabaloo” is a worthy addition to the already impressive Loop Records catalogue.

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