by Ian Mann
June 16, 2020
A stunning solo début from Dominic Ingham that combines dynamic playing all round with intelligent and richly varied writing. He has created a highly distinctive and personalised sound.
Dominic Ingham – violin, voice, Jonny Mansfield – vibraphone, David Swan- piano,
Will Sach – bass, Boz Martin-Jones – drums
Violinist and sometime vocalist Dominic Ingham is best known to jazz audiences as a member of the group Bonsai, featuring Ingham alongside his brother Rory (trombone), plus Toby Comeau (keyboards), Joe Lee (bass) and Jonny Mansfield (drums, vibes).
Previously known as Jam Experiment the quintet changed its name when Dominic replaced founder member Alexander Bone (saxophones), bringing 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;
The innovative music to be found on “Bonsai Club”, allied to the quality of the quintet’s exciting live shows, has led to them being nominated in the “Newcomer of the Year” category in the 2020 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. The lads are justifiably excited about this deserved accolade.
Parallel to his work with Bonsai Ingham has been busy working on his own material and has formed his own quintet to play his compositions. Mansfield follows him from Bonsai, here specialising on vibraphone rather than concentrating on drums. Mansfield, the winner of the 2018 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize, and Ingham go back a long way, having first met at Chethams music school in Manchester. Ingham is a member of Mansfield’s eleven piece ensemble Elftet and appears on that band’s eponymous début album, also from 2019. Review here;
Ingham’s new quintet also features the Scottish pianist David Swan, New York born bassist Will Sach, and Elftet drummer Boz Martin-Jones. In accordance with the album title Ingham describes his colleagues thus;
“These musicians aren’t just my role models, they’re some of my closest friends who I’ll continue to play with for the rest of my life”.
Ingham’s writing for the new album is also inspired by another collection of ‘role models’, notably the American musicians Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet) and Walter Smith III (saxophone) and, perhaps most significantly, the Chilean guitarist and composer Camila Meza.
In 2018 Ingham performed as a member of Meza’s Nectar Orchestra and this was clearly an experience that made a significant impression on him as he explains;
“Camila’s love and passion for music was infectious. It inspired me to take a step back and figure out what is is I really want to be doing. Ever since this life changing experience my compositions have been hugely influenced by Camila’s approach to writing and performing original music”.
Ingham was initially classically trained, later turning towards jazz during his time at Chethams, where his tutors included Iain Dixon, Steve Berry and Les Chisnall. Despite playing the violin his formative influences included guitarist Pat Metheny and saxophonist Michael Brecker, with Didier Lockwood the only jazz violinist to seriously influence his playing. As a result Ingham has developed a distinctive, highly personalised style that is pleasingly cliché free and also draws inspiration from elements of folk and rock music.
“Role Models pays homage to the people that have encouraged and inspired me to complete this work” explains Ingham, “I would never have had the confidence or the drive to create something of my own if it hadn’t been for the love and encouragement given to me by some truly incredible people”.
Released on Ingham’s own label “Role Models” was financed by a successful Crowdfunding campaign and was recorded at Livingston Studios. It was produced by drummer James Maddren, one of Ingham’s mentors at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Engineering duties were undertaken by Sonny Johns, Ingham’s fellow Yorkshireman and a renowned figure in his field in both the rock and jazz genres.
Ingham solo represents a very different project to Bonsai. This quintet is primarily an all instrumental unit and the album only features the leader deploying his voice once, and wordlessly at that. These are ‘compositions’ rather than ‘songs’, and tellingly there are no lyrics.
The album commences in powerful fashion with the title track, with fiercely interlocking rhythms supporting the leader’s soaring violin melody lines. It’s a highly contemporary sound that carries a lot of information and incorporates numerous stylistic changes and dynamic shifts, with Swan’s piano periodically coming to the fore.
“Fall” is more subdued and is more concerned with melody and mood building than technical virtuosity. That’s not to say that the playing is anything less than superb as Ingham first deploys wordless vocals and then his violin to create a wistful atmosphere. His voice is teamed with the melodic sound of Mansfield’s vibes and the overall effect is a little Metheny-like, albeit with the Pat-like melodies contrasting neatly with an edgy, contemporary, hip hop inspired bass and drum groove. Once the vocal drops out violin and vibes take their turns to weave their magic on this episodic piece, the voice eventually returning towards the close.
Martin-Jones’ drums usher “Pj’s”, his engagingly busy and quirky intro later followed by a fluent and highly imaginative bass solo from Sach, a young American jazz musician now based in London following studies at the Royal Academy of Music. Previously Sach studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York with no less a luminary than Linda Oh. Swan also features on this piece, combining effectively with the leader’s darting, folk tinged violin motifs.
“Intro to Phones” is a passage of piano from Swan that mutates from delicate, limpid luminosity into something much more percussive and rhythmic, thus establishing the pattern for “Phones” itself, which immediately follows. Sach and Martin-Jones combine to create a buoyant, and very contemporary sounding groove, which provides the springboard for Ingham’s violin to soar joyously. He’s followed by a dynamic vibes solo from Mansfield, who surfs above Martin-Jones’ rumbustious polyrhythms as the quintet continue to ride the rapids.
As its title suggests “Daydreaming” adopts a more pensive and lyrical mood with Swan and Ingham combining above a gently undulating groove, with Ingham’s playing again imbued with folk like inflections. The leader subsequently stretches out with a more prolonged solo, his violin soaring gracefully. Mansfield is also featured with a chiming vibes solo, occasionally reminiscent of Gary Burton, before becoming increasingly dynamic as the piece gathers momentum towards the close.
The introduction to “Bottles” features Ingham’s playing at its most graceful and he’s followed in kind by Mansfield at the vibes. But this a typically multi-faceted composition which shifts through the gears and undergoes many changes of style and pace in the course of its duration. There’s an agreeable tension throughout the album between the perceived ‘prettiness’ of the violin and vibes front line and the earthier, rhythmic inclinations of the dynamic bass and drum team. Swan skilfully occupies the middle ground and comes into his own here as he falls in with the rhythm section to deliver a thrillingly cascading solo. There’s also a dynamic exchange involving bass, drums, vibes and eerie, high pitched violin, with the drums often seeming to assert the lead. Alongside the often complex and rhythmic contemporary jazz the leader’s violin adds colourful, folk like melodic flourishes. It’s a heady brew that thrills and engages the listener.
The final taste of this magical elixir comes with the restlessly energetic “Passport”, which combines busily percolating rhythms with the exuberant soloing of Ingham and Mansfield, the two old friends trading lines above a boisterous, roiling groove. The final section finds the quintet ramping up the energy even further to deliver a truly barnstorming finale.
“Role Models” represents a stunning solo début from Dominic Ingham that combines dynamic playing all round with intelligent and richly varied writing. Despite his gracious acknowledgement of those that have inspired him he has created a highly distinctive and personalised sound, something that does him great credit.
Ingham’s music has been described as ‘fusion’, but although it contains a variety of different elements and influences this isn’t ‘fusion’ in the old fashioned sense of the word. Yes there’s lots of energy and dynamism about the playing, but this is essentially an acoustic ensemble, despite some of the electronic influences.
The well established rapport between the members of the quintet shines through in the tightness of the playing with the musicians handling even the most complex of material with aplomb.
Ingham, Mansfield and Martin-Jones were already well known to me but Swan and Sach represent exciting new discoveries and I’d be intrigued to hear them again in other contexts. I was particularly impressed with Sach and suspect that he’s a young musician with a big future ahead of him. He combines extremely effectively with the similarly excellent Martin-Jones and can envisage these two becoming much in demand as a rhythm section.
Ultimately though the triumph is Ingham’s. This is an album that deserves to establish him firmly on the map as a solo artist to reckon with. Let’s hope that he will eventually be able to take this terrific young quintet out on tour. I’d love to catch this band live.
“Role Models” is available from http://www.dominicingham.com
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