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Dominic Ingham

Dominic Ingham Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 22/04/2023.

Photography: Photograph by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network.

by Ian Mann

April 24, 2023


The violin / vibes front line was unusual, possibly unique, and Ingham’s distinctive, complex and often quirky music was very well received by the commendably open minded Shrewsbury audience.

Dominic Ingham Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 22/04/2023.

Dominic Ingham – violin, vocals, Jonny Mansfield – vibraphone, Joe Lee – double bass,
Boz Martin-Jones – drums

Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s April event presented this quartet featuring an unusual violin / vibes front line, performing the compositions of leader Dominic Ingham.

Born in Wakefield Ingham first came to the attention of the jazz public as a member of Mansfield’s eleven piece ensemble “Elftet”, and appeared on that band’s eponymous début album. Review here;

He later joined the group Bonsai, which featured him alongside his brother Rory (trombone), plus Toby Comeau (keyboards), Joe Lee (bass) and Jonny Mansfield (drums, vibes).

Bonsai had previously been known as Jam Experiment, the name change coming when Dominic Ingham replaced saxophonist Alexander Bone. This brought about a radical change in the band’s sound and a more song orientated direction.

As Bonsai the group made its début in 2019 with the album “Bonsai Club”, an album that included singing and lyrics and introduced a distinctive ensemble sound featuring the unusual front line of violin and trombone. My review of the album can be read here;

A further review of the group in an excellent live performance at the Hermon Chapel Arts Centre in Oswestry can be found here;

In 2020 Ingham released his solo début “Role Models”, recorded with a quintet featuring Mansfield on vibes and Martin-Jones at the drums, plus David Swan on piano and Will Sach on bass. This was a highly distinctive and remarkably mature piece of work and the album is favourably reviewed here;

Ingham currently leads a quintet featuring Mansfield, Sach, guitarist Miles Mindlin and drummer Jay Davis. The advertised line up for tonight had been this group minus Mindlin, but in the end the quartet comprised Ingham, Mansfield, Bonsai bassist Joe Lee and drummer Boz Martin-Jones from the “Role Models” quintet.

Ingham was making his Shrewsbury début, having not yet been a member of Jam Experiment when that group performed at The Hive in 2017. Meanwhile Rory Ingham brought his own sextet to the venue in 2021, so it was only fair that Dominic should get his chance eventually.

Tonight’s set included material from the “Role Models” album alongside newer, as yet unrecorded pieces. As with so may jazz musicians Ingham is ahead of the game, and was already working on the next project before the current album was even released.

Thus this evening’s performance commenced with the new composition “Wrapped”, which featured Ingham’s horn like violin lines cutting a swathe through the complex lattice of rhythms created by Mansfield, playing the vibes with four mallets, Lee and Martin-Jones. The group’s music is a fascinating blend of melody and rhythm and one that finds plenty of room for individual expression with solo features for the musicians involved, most notably Ingham and Mansfield, although these are not as clearly delineated or sign-posted as they are in more conventional forms of jazz. This constantly evolving piece included features for Mansfield at the vibes and the leader on violin, the latter adding dashes of folk inspired melody to his solo. Ingham also sang along to his violin melody lines and also featured the pizzicato technique towards the close.

From the “Role Models” album “Daydreaming” began with the gentle, bell-like twinkling of Mansfield’s unaccompanied vibes, to which were added the feathery, gossamer like sounds of the leader’s violin,  followed by Lee’s economical double bass and Martin-Jones’ subtle deployment of soft mallets on drums and gently shimmering cymbals. This ethereal musical reverie was subsequently interrupted by the introduction of shorter, sharper violin phrases, with Ingham’s staccato bowing augmented by the increasingly busy and complex rhythms of bass and drums, with Mansfield adding additional splashes of colour from the vibes. With Martin-Jones now deploying sticks the music began to gather momentum, with extended solos coming from Ingham on violin and the impressive Mansfield at the vibes, the latter again deploying the four mallet technique, as he did throughout the evening.

Inspired by a church in Ingham’s native Wakefield the new tune “Bells” was introduced by the sound of vibes, double bass and brushed drums, with the leader standing aside in the early stages. The fluent and inventive Mansfield took the first solo at the vibes, followed by the leader on violin, sweeping and soaring above the increasingly complex rhythms. Ingham’s solo also featured an extended pizzicato sequence.

The first set concluded with another new tune, “Amber”, which began with an extended passage of solo violin, presumably wholly improvised given that Ingham was recently been dipping a toe into the waters of free improv. Eventually shimmering vibes and brushed drums were added as Ingham continued to combine arco and pizzicato techniques, at one point simultaneously as the right hand bowed and the left hand plucked. This was also the first piece to really feature Ingham’s singing, his plaintive wordless vocals sometimes reminding me of Robert Wyatt or Richard Sinclair. Mansfield was also to feature extensively with a fluent solo that featured the sounds of the vibes ringing out stridently above an increasingly busy bass and drum groove.

Set two commenced with “Fall”, a composition sourced from the “Role Models” album. A beguiling tune with a song like melody and an odd meter groove this was the second piece to formally feature Ingham’s wordless vocalising, alongside instrumental solos from the composer on violin and Mansfield at the vibes.

“Heaven and Hell” was a new composition, jointly written by Ingham and Mansfield, and was a multi-faceted piece that featured both bowed and plucked violin sounds, plus more wordless singing. In addition to the solos from Ingham and Mansfield the piece was also notable for an absorbing drum feature from the impressive Martin-Jones, who, in conjunction with Lee, handled the rhythmic complexities of the music with considerable aplomb throughout the evening.

A passage of unaccompanied vibraphone acted as a bridge as the music segued into “Each To Their Own”. This was a second co-write with Ingham collaborating with Miles Mindlin, a twenty two year old guitarist who is still studying at the Royal Academy of Music, but who is considered to be something of a rising star on the UK jazz scene. I thought I detected something of a Brazilian influence in the buoyant rhythmic grooves, these augmented by a first bass feature for the impressive Lee, plus further solos from Ingham and Mansfield.

Much of the new material that we heard tonight is due to appear on a new album that is scheduled to be released in June 2023 and will presumably the new quintet line up of Ingham, Mindlin, Mansfield, Sach and Davis. Following the success of “Role Models” it’s a release that will be very eagerly anticipated.

Tonight’s set concluded with the new composition “Bittern”, inspired by Ingham’s love of ornithology. This evoked a suitably pastoral feel with its delicate violin and vibes melodies, with subsequent solos coming from Mansfield and Ingham. At times the violin mimicked the sound of bird song, this augmented by the boom of Lee’s bass, approximating that of the bird in the title. A closing passage featuring the gentle sounds of vibes, bass, drums and pizzicato violin brought a highly impressive evening of music making to a close.

Ingham’s distinctive, complex and often quirky music was very well received by the Shrewsbury audience. The violin / vibes front line was unusual, possibly unique, and during the course of the evening Ingham revealed that he and Mansfield had gravitated towards each other as they were the only exponents of their respective instruments during their days studying jazz at music college.

Even now there are probably dyed in the wool jazz fans who regard violin and vibes as ‘miscellaneous instruments’ and get sniffy about them. Thankfully the regulars at The Hive are commendably open minded listeners and they were highly appreciative of this hugely talented young band.

Ingham’s approach to the violin is highly original. Although initially classically trained there is little residue of this in his playing, other than a highly accomplished technique. His playing also eschews the influence of gypsy jazz or Celtic folk and his melody lines are modelled on those of horn players such as trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonist Walter Smith III. Other formative influences include guitarist Pat Metheny and saxophonist Michael Brecker, with Didier Lockwood the only jazz violinist to seriously influence his playing.  Perhaps his most significant role model is the Chilean guitarist and composer Camila Meza, with whom he performed in 2018 as part of Meza’s Nectar Orchestra, an experience that has profoundly influenced Ingham’s subsequent writing and playing.

My thanks to the members of the quartet for speaking to me afterwards and particularly to Jonny Mansfield for providing me with a review copy of his latest quintet album “The Air In Front Of You”, which is due to be released in June. This features a line up comprised of Mansfield, Ingham, Sach, cellist Midori Jaeger and drummer James Maddren. There’s a lot of attention on writing for strings in another group with an unusual and distinctive line up. I’ve already given it a spin and have been impressed with what I’ve heard. A more formal review will follow later in the year.

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