Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019




by Ian Mann

September 29, 2022


The high degree of interaction between the musicians allied to the intensity of the playing and the command of both conventional and extended instrumental techniques is all very impressive & admirable



(Discus Music, Discus 136CD)

Paul Hession - drums, cymbals, gongs, Michael Bardon – double bass, Christophe de Bezenac – tenor saxophone

JakTar is a new trio featuring three improvising musicians based in the North of England and released their eponymous debut album in July 2022.

Drummer and percussionist Paul Hession is a free jazz veteran with an international reputation who has worked with saxophonists Peter Brotzmann, Marshall Allen, Nat Birchall and Alan Wilkinson, guitarist Derek Bailey, bassist Simon H. Fell and guitarist / turntableist Otomo Yoshihide plus many others, among them the quartet Home Of The Brave, led by multi-reed player Richard Ormrod.

His two colleagues are younger with bassist Michael Bardon having previously played alongside Hession in groups led by Birchall and by the German saxophonist Hans Peter Hiby.

Bardon has also worked with pianist Matthew Bourne, drummer Johnny Hunter, percussionist Hassan Erraji, fellow bassist Dave Kane and singer, songwriter and actress Keeley Forsyth.
He has been a member of saxophonist James Mainwaring’s Tipping Point quartet and of drummer / vocalist Sean Noonan’s band Pavee’s Dance. He has worked regularly with guitarist Craig Scott’s Lobotomy and Gastric Band groups and also with the collaborative bands Shatner’s Bassoon and Stoop Quintet.

Bardon has also released the wholly solo album “The Gift of Silence” on Discus Music, a recording that features him on both double bass and cello. Review here;

He subsequently appeared on “See You Or See You Sometime”,  another Discus release featuring label founder Martin Archer on saxophones and Walt Shaw at the drum kit. Review here;

Saxophonist Christophe de Bezenac is probably best known for his incendiary playing with the now defunct Trio VD, a group that also included guitarist Chris Sharkey and drummer Chris Bussey. A highly exciting live act Trio VD also released a series of excellent recordings prior to their eventual break up. I’ve not heard a lot from de Bezenac since although he was involved with the improvising sextet Spirit Farm which also featured Corey Mwamba on vibes and percussion, Adam Fairhall on piano, Dave Kane on bass, Anton Hunter on guitar and Johnny Hunter at the drums. Reviews of numerous Trio VD recordings and live appearances can be found elsewhere on the Jazzmann web pages.

JakTar’s début features a series of ten short pieces that the accompanying press release describes as a ‘suite’. All ‘compositions’ are credited to JakTar and I suspect that in truth all are fully improvised, it certainly sounds that way. Interestingly de Bezenac appears on tenor sax throughout, during his Trio VD days he specialised on alto.

JakTar therefore deploy the classic tenor sax, bass, drums line-up pioneered by Sonny Rollins and the same instrumental configuration that graced “See You Soon Or See You Sometime”.

The track titles are all in lower case and the proceedings kick off with the riotous “mitch bryan”, powered by the polyrhythmic crashes and rumbles of Hession’s drums and the busy thrum of Bardon’s bass. During his time with Trio VD de Bezenac was famed for the intensity of his playing and things are no different here as his tenor shrieks and rasps in highly belligerent fashion. It’s an excoriating opener that quickly blows any cobwebs away.

The press release accompanying my copy of the CD makes reference to “extended techniques on all three instruments that take the music into more textural and abstract areas”. That’s certainly the case on the brief “greenfaces” which features the sound of pecked tenor sax, what sounds like the use of a drum stick on and between the bass strings, in addition to slightly more conventional bowing,  plus the eerie percolations and shimmers of Hession’s percussion.

Similar methods are deployed on its spikier cousin “hans kru” which finds de Bezenac adding vocalised sounds to his armoury alongside the eerie sounds of Bardon’s bowing and the clatter of Hession’s drums and percussion. Several of the pieces sound as if they may have been edited / extracted from longer improvisations, this track being a case in point.

There’s no letting up in terms of intensity on “forn valour”, which sees the trio continuing their sonic experimentations, again reaching into the realms of extended techniques.

“commoner”  features slightly more conventional instrumental sounds from all three participants but is still a short and intense improvised performance.

At nearly eight minutes in duration “ron on tap” is arguably the album’s centre piece. It begins in typically gnarly free jazz fashion with the patter of drums and percussion allied to pecked sax phrases, followed by the sounds of grainy bowed bass before evolving into an intense three way discussion with Hession’s cymbals and gongs a particularly dramatic component. Extended techniques are again in evidence, particularly de Bezenac’s use of multiphonics. Eventually Hession sets up an almost regular pulse, the backdrop for the vocalised wailing of the sax, the collective playing building to a volcanic intensity featuring piercing sax and thunderous drumming before eventually subsiding once more.

“mongo grave” continues the trio’s abstractions with the instruments stretched to their limits. There are no conventional sax, bass or drum noises here as JakTar challenge the listener to identify the origins of their sounds.

“knotskar” features the sounds of Hession’s hands on skins alongside the high pitched fluttering of de Bezenac’s sax on one of the disc’s most atmospheric pieces. It’s one of the less frenetic items on the album but it remains dark and unsettling with a ghostly atmosphere, suggestive of being lost in a forest late at night.

Unaccompanied drums introduce “pip sucin”, with Bardon and de Bezenac subsequently responding to Hession as the trio crank up the intensity once more. Hession’s unstoppable flow prompts a suitably garrulous reply from de Bezenac as the pair trade musical blows, with Bardon’s bass cast in the role of referee.

The album concludes with “carn delk” which marks a return to the spooky atmospherics of the earlier “Knotskar”. Bardon sets the tone with an eerie arco drone, accompanied by the multi-phonic wail of de Bezenac’s sax. Hession sits out for a while before adding mallet rumbles reminiscent of the sound of distant thunder. It’s another intense and atmospheric performance, leavened only slightly by snatches of folk inspired melody, but rates as one of the most memorable pieces on the album.

“JakTar” is an uncompromising album, a musical white knuckle ride that will only suit so many ears. Easy listening it most certainly is not but free jazz aficionados will doubtless find themselves enthralled by the trio’s often abrasive soundworld. The fact that the album has been chopped up into ten mainly bite sized portions makes it easier to digest and the high degree of interaction between the musicians allied to the intensity of the playing and the command of both conventional and extended instrumental techniques is all very impressive and admirable.

That said it’s not an album that I can imagine myself returning too that often. As has often been said about free jazz it is best enjoyed ‘in the moment’ at a live event. I’ve enjoyed the playing of both Hession and Bardon with various line ups at the Queens Head in Monmouth over the years and the JakTar trio were booked to play there at some point during the Covid period. Of course the pandemic put paid to that and they have yet to return. I’d be more than happy to check them out live if they ever do.


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