by Ian Mann
January 04, 2022
An impressive piece of work, skilfully combining elements of jazz, ‘world music’ and modern production techniques to create something powerful, distinctive and deeply personal.
Idris Rahman – reeds, keyboards, Liran Donin – bass, Emre Ramazanoglu – drums
Ahnanse, Tamar Osborn, Kaidi Akinnibi – saxophones, flutes, Sarathy Korwar, Ollie Savill – percussion, Theon Cross – tuba, Ralph Wyld – vibraphone, Robin Hopcraft – trumpet
Ill Considered is a London based ensemble centred around the nucleus of saxophonist Idris Rahman, bassist Liran Donin and drummer Emre Ramazanoglu.
Since 2018 the group has released a remarkable eleven digital albums (some of which have also been made available on vinyl or cassette), the majority of these being recorded at their wholly improvised live shows. The energy and intensity of these performances has earned Ill Considered something of a cult following and the majority of their previous releases have now sold out.
Rahman and Ramazanoglu founded the group with bassist Leon Brichard and the regular line up has also included percussionist Satin Singh. Other musicians to have featured on previous Ill Considered recordings include guitarist Steve Ashmore, percussionist Yahael Camara-Onono and saxophonist Tamar Osborn.
Also essential to the Ill Considered ethos is the visual artist and film maker Vincent de Boer, who designs the group’s distinctive album sleeves and who is considered to be a full member of the band, credited with “ink and brushes”. In October 2021 Ill Considered and de Boer collaborated with another, visual artist Lisa Indigo Burns Wormsley, to present two inter-active shows featuring music, visual art and film at the Purcell Room at London’s Southbank Centre.
In May 2021 I enjoyed an intense and exciting online performance by the core trio of Rahman, Donin and Ramazanoglu that was streamed as part of the second of Cheltenham Jazz Festival’s all day ‘Jazz Streams’. This featured Donin playing the Japanese instrument the taishogoto (or Nagoya harp) rather than his usual electric bass. My account of this performance can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
Following their series of largely improvised recordings “Liminal Space” signals something of a departure for Ill Considered. It represents their first fully produced studio album and sees them making radical changes to their established recording process, as drummer / recording engineer Ramazanoglu explains;
“This album represents a rebirth of the band in the image of what came before. The compositions are still heavily rooted in unadulterated improvisation, but we have taken the raw recordings that would previously have been released as they were and added complementary arrangements, as well as inviting incredible guests to perform on them”.
Ill Considered’s music has been compared to the ‘spiritual jazz’ of trumpeter Don Cherry and saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders and it has also earned them the admiration of members of the Sun Ra Arkestra. But although they draw on such masters for inspiration their sound is thoroughly contemporary, reflecting the energy, intensity and diversity of 21st century London and its vibrant music scene. As can be seen from the list of guests on “Liminal Space” the young rising stars of the capital’s resurgent jazz scene are queueing up to play with Ill Considered and this is music that is very much of ‘the now’.
Appropriately the album commences with “First Light”. This is introduced by Donin’s bass, which eventually combines with Ramazanoglu’s drums to create a subtle but unstoppable groove around which the horn arrangements swirl and drift, the music steadily growing in momentum and intensity as the piece progresses. Those spiritual jazz influences merge with elements of North African Gnawa music, Ethio-jazz and Afrobeat to create a sound that is both primal and exotic. This is reflective of the broad range of musical experiences of the three core members, Rahman with Soothsayers and his pianist sister Zoe, Donin with Led Bib and his own 1000 Boats project, Ramazanoglu with Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, the Steam Down project and as a producer for a whole raft of pop and rock artists.
Much of the music has a ‘desert’ quality about it, and particularly the aptly named “Sandstorm”, which digs deep into the Gnawa tradition with its guimbri like bass and qraqeb like percussion.The intense rhythms form the backdrop for some belligerent sax honking straight from the Pete Wareham school. My promo copy doesn’t list individual soloists making it difficult to always assign due credit, but I suspect that this may be a combination of Rahman’s tenor and Osborn’s baritone. In any event it’s all highly energetic and wildly exciting.
I’m on firmer ground with “Loosed”, which maintains the energy levels and continues the broadly North African feel. It also incorporates the distinctive sound of Osborn’s flute alongside the saxes, which has evoked comparisons with the music of 1970s blaxploitation soundtracks.
The opening passages of “Dust” represent something of a pause for breath as Rahman, on what sounds like clarinet, duets with Donin. But the addition of Ramazanoglu soon sees the energy levels increasing once more, with the sound of saxes also entering the mix. As on previous pieces there’s also an element of sound manipulation from producer Ramazonoglu, this representing a key element in the band’s sound.
“Dervish”, which features Rahman doubling on keyboards, generates exactly the kind of whirling, frenetic energy that its title suggests, horns blasting belligerently above a ferocious rhythmic backdrop and an organ like drone.
By way of contrast “Pearls” is the album’s most reflective track, featuring Rahman’s plaintive tenor sax ruminations above the mirage like shimmers and rumbles of percussion. It’s still profoundly spiritual, with John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders discernible touchstones. Flute is also added to the mix, although it’s not clear whether this is played by Osborn again, or by Rahman himself. The melodic tuba playing of Theon Cross also appears in the arrangement.
“Light Trails” features a percolating bass line that some reviewers have suggested is being played by former core member Leon Brichard. In any event it imparts the piece with an unstoppable momentum, a quality compounded by Ramazanoglu’s colourful, relentless polyrhythmic drumming.
Bass and drums form the bed for the overlying sax barrage, with a sprinkling of keyboard also somewhere in the mix.
There’s no letting up on “Knuckles”, a twisted march punctuated by the impassioned wail of Rahman’s sax. It’s certainly a piece that packs plenty of punch. The exhausted but exhilarated listener is likely to emerge from this feeling like they’ve just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson.
“The Lurch” features an extended line up incorporating Ahnanse, Akinnibi, Osborn, Wyld, Cross and Korwar. This is Ill Considered at their most orchestrated, but without sacrificing any of their power, passion and drive. Typically propulsive rhythms fuel mighty ensemble passages and blistering individual solos.
It’s left to the core trio to round things off with “Prayer”, which finds Rahman’s declamatory tenor preaching to the faithful above the increasingly animated rhythmic undertow, before finally reaching some kind of resolution.
Ill Considered’s studio début is an impressive piece of work, skilfully combining elements of jazz, ‘world music’ and modern production techniques to create something powerful, distinctive and deeply personal. There’s an urgency and intensity about this music that suggests that this is a band on a mission, helping to bring improvised music to a (comparatively) mass audience. Theirs is also a sound that crosses cultures and musical genres, embodying the spirit of modern cosmopolitan London.
If there’s a criticism it would be that at times it can all sound a little bit too relentless, especially on disc. A little more light and shade might have been welcome, but this might have meant sacrificing some of the band’s almost missionary zeal.
Ill Considered’s natural home is the live environment, hence all those live recordings, and having now seen them at Cheltenham and heard them on CD I’d love to attend one of their gigs. Hopefully that opportunity might come later in 2022, providing the Covid crisis abates.
“Liminal Space” has been very well received by press and public alike and Ill Considered’s reputation continues to grow apace. Their uncompromising, high octane sound won’t be for everybody but fans of Led Bib, Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down and other so called ‘punk jazz’ outfits will find much to enjoy here.
All of Ill Considered’s releases can be found at their Bandcamp page.
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