Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


F-ire Collective

F-ire Works Volume 2

by Ian Mann

February 02, 2006


Rock, electronic and hip-hop elements. Good value but it won't appeal to the jazz purist.

Not since the jazz boom of the mid 1980s with the emergence of ‘The Loose Tubes’ and ‘The Jazz Warriors’ has there been such a buzz about young British jazz musicians.

I don’t mean the “jazz like” singers championed by Michael Parkinson, but something more dynamic and experimental.

The ‘F-ire collective’ started a decade ago and was originally concerned with musical education and outreach work. There is a direct lineage back to the Loose Tubes as F-ire founder Barak Schmool first came to public attention as a member of Django Bates’ Delightful Precipice. Bates contributes liner notes to this new collection.

In a slow burning process a number of professional musicians joined the collective and jammed together on a regular basis taking away ideas and incorporating them into their own bands.

The unwieldly title “Fellowship For Integrated Rhythmic Expression” was given the snappy acronym F-ire inspired in part by New York’s M-Base movement.

The best known bands under the F-ire umbrella are probably Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland. Both have received great critical acclaim and with Polar Bear being nominated for the Mercury Music prize last year they reached a large television audience.

Of course, the token jazz entry never actually wins the Mercury award, but with Acoustic Ladyland playing a storming set on Jool’s Holland’s ‘Later’ programme earlier in the year, both bands have been playing to large and very youthful audiences beyond the normal jazz demographic.

Both bands are featured on this new 2 CD collection. The first CD mainly features material that has already been released on album, and is already in the public domain. It is the more accessible CD of the two featuring both Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear, plus the guitar ruminations of Justin Quinn, the haunting singing of Julia Biel, and the Latin inflected music of Oriole, under the leadership of guitarist Jonny Phillips.

Also featured is fellow guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff whose critically acclaimed “Between Lines” album features saxophonist Peter Wareham and drummer Sebastian Rochford who are members of both Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear.

German emigre’ saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock is included in a duet with pianist Liam Noble, and also turns up on CD2 in a duo with Polar Bear’s electronics man Leafcutter John. Laubrock is an important member of F-ire, and leads her own quintet, but her contributions here do not show her at her most accessible.

The Collectives rhythmic roots are represented by Barak Schmool’s Meta Meta whose track “Odudua” features more fine guitar playing from David Okomu. To this day the collective continues its educational work.

CD2 is far more experimental than its companion. Much of the material here is yet to be released, or is a one-off collaboration. Electronics and beats feature much more prominently. Sebastian Rochford radically remixes Julia Biel’s “Treetops”.

Drummer Martin France, formerly of Loose Tubes and Delightful Precipice and a sideman on 50 albums from right across the jazz spectrum, has finally released his first album as leader “Spin Marvel”. The sound is totally unexpected including his experiments with electronic percussion, sequencing and programming. Although challenging, the track represented here “Black Wing” is worthy of repeated listening.

Finn Peters plays jazzy piccolo over hip-hop beats, and there are further electronic experiments by Ezzthetic and by trumpeter Tom Arthurs, who also appears on CD1 with his band Squash Recipe. Like his colleague Ingrid Laubrock (with whom he collaborated on the band Centripede) Arthurs is not really at his most accessible on this collection.

At £8.99 this collection represents excellent value for money. With its rock, electronic and hip-hop elements it won’t appeal to the jazz purist, but there is some wonderfully inventive playing and writing here, and the elements above are never used to “dumb the music down” as is often the case.

With its distinctly British outlook, and its imaginative incorporation of modern influences, I’d rather listen to this than the neo-conservatives like Wynton Marsalis, or those singers on Parkinson.

Perhaps ‘Parky’ should have these guys on his show. Does anybody else out there remember The Loose Tubes appearing on ‘Wogan’ back in the 1980s?

blog comments powered by Disqus