Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

January 04, 2024


Their most mature work to date, a compelling recording rooted in improvisation, but making highly effective use of contemporary audio technology.

Get The Blessing


(All Is Yes Records AIY001 CD)

Jim Barr – bass, loops, noises, Clive Deamer – drums, Pete Judge – trumpet, piano, viola, loops, noises, Jake McMurchie – saxophones, piano, loops, drum loop, noises
with Adrian Utley – guitar

I first discovered the music of the Bristol based quartet Get The Blessing way back in 2008. In those days they were simply known as The Blessing and had taken their band name from the title of an Ornette Coleman tune.

The Coleman influence was reflected in the ‘chordless’ line up of saxophone, trumpet, electric bass and drums, but The Blessing were closer in spirit to the ‘punk jazz’ acts of the time such as Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear, Led Bib, and even GTB’s one time label mates the Neil Cowley Trio.

The group’s debut album, “All Is Yes” created quite a stir, thanks in part to the fact that both bassist Jim Barr and drummer Clive Deamer had been involved with the highly successful ‘trip hop’ act Portishead.

I finally caught up with The Blessing live at a riotous performance at the now defunct Cafe Jazz in Cardiff.  It was St. Valentine’s day by chance, but anyone who’d taken their partner to the Cafe expecting to hear some nice laid back dinner jazz was in for a shock as the quartet blasted and clattered their way through a set of material largely drawn from their debut album. Like many others I was blown away and bought the album, the 7 inch vinyl single  and very nearly the T shirt as well. Unfortunately they didn’t have my size, but I did eventually manage to acquire one some fourteen years later!

In the meantime I’ve continued to monitor the band’s progress through an enforced name change (I believe there was another group with the same moniker in the US) and a series of albums that have seen the re-named Get The Blessing continuing to experiment with their own musical identity. Having established a signature sound on their debut they’ve continued to add new layers to their music, often through the increasingly sophisticated use of electronics. Even from the beginning saxophonist Jake McMurchie and trumpeter Pete Judge have treated the sounds of their instruments with an array of foot pedals and other gizmos.

GTB have continued to hone their style over a series of albums, several of which have been reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann, among them  “Bugs In Amber” (2009), “OC DC” (2012), “Lope and Antilope” (2014) and “Bristopia” (2018). The band’s back catalogue also includes the digital releases “Astronautilus” (2015) and the remix album “Rarer Teas” (2020), although I haven’t heard either of these.

In addition to appreciating the band’s recorded output I’ve also been lucky enough to enjoy a number of other Get The Blessing live performances, including festival appearances in Cheltenham, Brecon and Bristol, plus a club night in Abergavenny. All are reviewed elsewhere on this site, as is a performance at the Progress Theatre, Reading by guest contributor Trevor Bannister, who certainly enjoyed his introduction to the band.

I recall a dynamic late night performance in a packed Pillar Room at the 2009 Cheltenham Jazz Festival, which saw the group playing to a relatively young audience and which very much had the feel of a rock gig.  This was partly due to the accompanying light show,  but more importantly to the power, volume, urgency and energy of the music.

Later in 2009 GTB appeared at the Colston Hall in Bristol (as it was then still named) as part of an all day event that represented a dual celebration of the refurbishment of the venue and of the Bristol jazz scene as a whole. This was a more experimental performance that saw GTB collaborating with a number of guest musicians, among them guitarist Adrian Utley, vocalist Tammy Payne, and the members of a string quartet.

Guests have also graced GTB’s recordings, among them Utley, Payne, violinist Gina Griffin, pianist Clair Hiles and, perhaps most notably, vocalist Robert Wyatt.

In a sense “Pallett” represents the logical follow up to “Bristopia”, an album that simultaneously placed a greater reliance on both the art of collective improvisation and the use of electronic technology and post-production techniques.

The new recording also represents GTB’s “lockdown album”, as the band explain on their Bandcamp page;

“Pallett” (the title is, of course, the usual obtuse pun) grew from improvisations between Jake, Pete, and Jim during the lockdowns, which were then sent in a big jiffy bag to Clive, who added his drums at home in Oxfordshire. Our very good friend Adrian Utley hammered in a few final nails, and then the great Tim Allen mixed the results. We hope you enjoy its organic eco-paint mixture of hypnotic long-form minimalism, playful rhythms, and unusual textures. If in some ways it’s a more mature album, you’ll be glad to hear that we definitely still “play like children”, as one of our favourite reviews once put it. 
And we’d like to invite you too to access your inner child…Since an imaginary colour chart inspired the track titles, we thought you might enjoy colouring in your own copy of the paint-by-numbers album artwork, so limited edition vinyls will be supplied with wax crayons. There’ll also be a very special edition limited edition of vinyls coloured in by the band. Jim has a fine art degree so the colouring will be especially good. The album will also be available as a CD and digital release”. 

Continuing the DIY theme “Pallett” represents the group’s first release on its own All Is Yes label, named after the quartet’s debut recording.

As the band have mentioned each title on “Pallett” is named after an imaginary colour, commencing with “Oscillation ochre”, which combines an appropriately oscillating bass line with hip hop inspired drum rhythms, these garnished with swirling electronic and keyboard colourations and the eerie sounds of heavily treated sax and trumpet. There’s a noirish, sci-fi quality about the music that invites the inevitable Bladerunner comparisons. A ‘Bristopian’ soundscape for sure.

“Heavy water (French grey)” commences with the sound of Deamer’s drums and introduces a minimalist quality as the band improvise around a recurring motif, adding dark layers of colour and texture. Once again the sounds of the horns are subject to some pretty heavy duty processing, but they still help to bring a humanising element to the music, as Judge’s vocalised trumpet does here.

On “Vongole verdigris” it’s the plaintive wail of McMurchie’s sax that brings that quality, declaiming above swirling and droning electronica and a loping bass and drum groove.

“Dry brush blue” is more laid back, coolly elegant but eloquently mysterious, exhibiting the same kind of compelling melancholy as Portishead once did, but in a wholly instrumental context. It’s perhaps not so surprising given Utley’s involvement, the twang of his guitar augmented by horn lines that approximate Beth Gibbons’ vocal melodies.

On Sao Pedro gold” the band reach even further into sci-fi territory with ambient electronics complementing recurring minimalist rhythmic motifs as McMurchie’s sax provides melody and a balancing humanity.

As its title might suggest “Ambient black” takes things a stage further, as electronica combines with the icy shimmer of Utley’s heavily treated guitar. Barr picks out the semblance of a melody on bass as the eerie electronic textures swirl threateningly around him. There are no conventional horn noises here and the listener is left with the feeling that they’re lost somewhere in deep space. It’s the most obviously ambient / electronic piece that Get The Blessing have ever recorded, and arguably their most adventurous.

GTB have long been known for their sense of humour and general air of irreverence,  with Barr’s surreal and often wickedly funny tune announcements at live gigs having become the stuff of legend. Thus the title of “Dude indigo” is pure GTB and there’s also a little musical lightening up on a more exuberant piece that borrows from dub reggae techniques as horns, bass, drums and electronics combine to mesmeric effect.

The electronic pulses and drones of “Small star of the big silver” draw us back into that ambient Bladerunner / Bristopia soundscape, with Judge’s ghostly trumpet sounding a little like Arve Henriksen or Nils Petter Molvaer.

It’s a sound that continues into the closing “Temperate red”, a piece inspired by minimalism that some have compared to the work of Michael Nyman. Centred around a jagged ostinato it also features the twang of Utley’s guitar, before Deamer’s drums provide true lift off, with the sound of piano becoming more prominent in the closing stages. A very brief ambient electronic coda almost sounds like a secret track.

“Pallett” represents GTB’s eighth full length recording and in many respects it’s their most mature work to date, expanding upon the promise of “Bristopia” with another compelling recording rooted in improvisation, but making highly effective use of contemporary audio technology.

These absorbing soundscapes are a long way removed from the hooky riffs, ferocious grooves and punchy horn playing of the group’s early recordings, less ‘in your face’ if you will, but still very recognisably Get The Blessing.
The method of crafting completed compositions sourced from improvisations works admirably, resulting in a set of fascinating pieces, each with its own distinct character, but stemming from a unified approach.

With electronics now playing an increasingly important part in the band’s sound they are arguably closer to the spirit of Portico Quartet these days, another band whose sound has mutated over the years, but who still retain an element of their original identity.

The current edition of GTB also has much in common with McMurchie’s ‘side project’ Michelson Morley, another group that makes extensive use of electronics.

I’ve been following GTB’s music for a long time and have enjoyed seeing the band adapt, evolve and progress. It’s been a fascinating journey and each stage of the band’s development has been equally valid, they have consistently challenged themselves, a welcome characteristic of jazz musicians I find, and have never allowed themselves to become ‘stuck in a rut’. It’s an approach that has won them a loyal and committed following and it will be interesting to see exactly what they will do next.



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