by Ian Mann
April 18, 2018
Relocates the classic sound of the jazz organ combo into a contemporary context. A good balance between the experimental and the original with the tried and tested.
Jon Shenoy’s Draw By Four
(Jellymould Jazz JM-JJ029)
Born in Hertfordshire of Anglo-Indian heritage Jon Shenoy is a multi-reed player, composer, arranger and band leader now based in South London following studies at the capital’s Goldsmith’s and Guildhall Schools of Music.
He first appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as a member of pianist Ivo Neame’s octet playing clarinet on the excellent 2012 album “Yatra”.
Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/ivo-neame-yatra/
More recently he was part of the eleven piece ensemble led by the saxophonist and composer Jeremy Lyons on the similarly impressive “The Promise of Happiness” (2017) with Shenoy credited with clarinet and tenor sax.
Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/the-jeremy-lyons-ensemble-the-promise-of-happiness/
Shenoy’s other credits include work with the Heritage Orchestra, trumpeter Rory Simmons’ Fringe Magnetic, pianist Arthur Lea’s Bootleg Brass and award winning vocalist Claire Martin’s Hollywood Romance ensemble. He also performs regularly with the Ronnie Scott’s Big Band and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra.
As a leader Shenoy fronts the swing revival band King Candy & The Sugar Push, which also features the talents of Puppini Sisters vocalist Kate Mullins.
But, arguably, his main creative outlet is his quartet Draw By Four which relocates the classic sound of the jazz organ combo into a contemporary context. As the band name suggests the group is a quartet and features Shenoy on a range of saxophones, clarinets and flutes alongside Sam Dunn on electric and acoustic guitars, Chris Draper at the drums and Will Bartlett on Hammond B3 organ.
The band name stems from a 2017 commission which saw Shenoy composing a three movement suite as a response to three paintings by British artists, J.M.W. Turner, Gill Holloway and Winifred Knights. The “Framework Suite” represents the core of this album but the repertoire also includes four other Shenoy originals plus three inventive arrangements of pop tunes and jazz standards.
“After initially thinking that these compositions would sit isolated in our repertoire I then realised that the title “Framework” related to this band as a whole, conveying the notion that each member provides a part of the frame within which a musical picture is formed. I Like to think that my
music, whilst being strongly rooted in lyricism and traditional forms, has enough flexibility that we can swap musical roles, providing backgrounds sometimes, subjects at other times. I like
de-constructing the compositions in rehearsals , making sure we know each other’s parts so that when we paint a picture together we’re all working from the same palette”.
The album commences with the sound of the rousing “Nite Trip”, inspired by Dr. John and the music of New Orleans. This is an energetic, hard driving slice of sax and Hammond boogaloo with Shenoy and his long term musical associate Will Bartlett sharing the solos together with guitarist Sam Dunn. Draper also shows up well at the drum kit, providing energy and propulsion as well as enjoying a brief solo feature.
“Hand In Hand” is more reflective and initially sees the impressive Dunn switching to acoustic guitar. This is a real slow burner of a piece and features Shenoy’s gently smouldering tenor, his solo followed by Bartlett with a carefully constructed organ solo full of subtle gospel flavourings. Finally we hear the impressive Dunn, now on electric guitar. Although it gathers intensity and momentum as it progresses this piece captures something of the lyricism of which Shenoy speaks.
So too does the quartet’s arrangement of the Beach Boy’s “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder”, written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. This is delivered as a gorgeous jazz ballad, commencing with Bartlett’s churchy Hammond and later featuring the warm sounds of Shenoy’s pure toned tenor sax. Draper wields the brushes with great sensitivity and there’s a thoughtful, eloquent guitar solo from Dunn. Shenoy briefly doubles on flute, adding a Wilson like depth to an impressive and imaginative arrangement.
“Tomorrow’s Worriers” (great title) sees the quartet turning up the heat once more on a more contemporary sounding piece that mixes powerful riffs and grooves with urgent solos from Shenoy and Dunn, the latter bringing something of a rock influence to bear in a spiralling, highly inventive solo. The piece also makes effective use of dynamic contrasts, with brief organ led moments of reflection punctuated by dense barrages of collective noise.
The shimmering “My Horizon” then calms things down once more and closes the first section of the album. The piece opens with Dunn’s gentle guitar arpeggios, these subsequently forming the backdrop for Shenoy’s gently yearning tenor statement in this serene and lovely duo performance.
We then move into the “Framework Suite”, the first movement of which is “Breakers”, inspired by Turner’s painting “Breakers On A Flat Beach”. Shenoy admits to being influenced by fellow saxophonist Tim Whitehead’s “Turner and the Thames” project as the spur for using paintings as a source of inspiration for composition. Musically he also acknowledges the influence of saxophonists Seamus Blake and the late Michael Brecker, both of whom led organ combos at various points in their careers. As a writer he has acknowledged the influence of composers as diverse as Eddie Harris, Dave Holland and Tim Berne.
“Breakers” begins with the sound of waves upon a beach while Dunn’s guitar mimics the sound of seagulls. In a sense the piece represents a continuation of the previous “My Horizon” as Shenoy and his colleagues present a musical depiction of the interstice between the sea, sand and sky as the composer explains;
“I became fixated with Turner’s depiction of the sea in this painting. The point at which it meets the sky or the sand is unclear, the perfect depiction of something that constantly shifts back and forth and undulates beneath the weather. The swell of the bass line and the jig like melody were all meant to take the listener to this quintessentially UK coastal scene where I could counter the serenity of the gulls and the lapping waves with the threat of the next set of breakers”.
Musically the group do this via Shenoy’s sax melodies, Draper’s evocative mallet rumbles, Dunn’s guitar atmospherics and the gentle swell of Bartlett’s Hammond. Interjections of wilful dissonance hint at that latent threat from the sea. Some of the group’s live performances have featured projections of the paintings, but this is richly evocative and atmospheric music, even without the benefit of the visual images.
One of the seeds for this project was the work “Colonsay Harbour”, painted in 2006 by Shenoy’s late great-aunt Gill Holloway. Shenoy confesses to have not really known her well, but she represents a strong artistic tradition within the family.
Shenoy says of the picture;
“This painting was exhibited at a retrospective of Gill Holloway’s work. I was particularly drawn by the way she’d captured the light from different hours of the day, forming the Scottish landscape from a range of colours. By comparison the sea appears rather glacial, drawing you to the safety and warmth of the harbour. I framed this lyrical piece with shifting harmonic blocks, each one chiming in a new change of temperature as the hours of the day wear on.”
Again the music is richly evocative as Shenoy’s sax pipes warmly and gently while Dunn’s chilly guitar atmospherics embody something of that ‘glacial’ quality. The shimmering, almost minimalist intro is superseded by a more conventional passage featuring an attractive melody featuring the burnished glow of Shenoy’s tenor, this punctuated by more impressionistic interludes.
Water imagery features in all three movements of the “Framework Suite”. The final item is “The Deluge”, painted in 1919 by Winifred Knights when the artist was only twenty years of age. The painting draws on biblical imagery and depicts a series of figures attempting to escape the forthcoming flood by fleeing to higher ground.
“I was struck by the rhythms of the figures as they try to escape the flood. I attempted to match the desperation of the subjects with a frenetic ascending melody tethered to the ground by a harmonic sequence with strong descending guide tones. I don’t know how much traditional faith Knights had, her praising character looks distracted in the painting and my composition makes a half hearted plea for salvation knowing full well that the ark has already departed”.
It’s a very different piece to the two works inspired by seascapes. Here the music is intense and powerful with Bartlett’s swirling Hammond replicating the swell of the rising waters. Shenoy’s tenor is hard hitting and incisive while Draper drums with a corresponding urgency. Dunn again draws on rock elements with a pithy but cogent solo and there’s a thrilling series of sax and keyboard exchanges.
The album concludes with two arrangements of standards commencing with “Marriage Is For Old Folks”, a song written by Leon Carr and Earl Shuman and once recorded by Nina Simone. This takes the quartet into more orthodox jazz organ territory with Bartlett’s gospel flavoured Hammond leading the way on another hard driving groover. Shenoy and Dunn both weigh in with powerful solos while Draper’s dynamic drumming keeps the pot bubbling as he locks in with Bartlett’s surging Hammond and also enjoys an explosive drum feature towards the end of the tune.
Finally we hear the quartet’s arrangement of a more familiar jazz standard, Arthur Schwartz’s “You And The Night And The Music”. There’s no let up in the energy levels here as Draw By Four charge through the piece with Shenoy’s rootsy, r’n’b flavoured tenor sharing the solos with Bartlett’s Hammond, the organist relishing the opportunity to cut loose and unleash his inner Jimmy Smith.
These last two pieces show that Draw By Four are more than capable of replicating the classic sound of the organ combo but elsewhere, and particularly on the “Framework Suite”, they also reveal their ability to update the format and create something more fresh and adventurous. It’s good to hear them putting a personal, and very British, stamp on the formula, although there’s plenty of good old fashioned meat ‘n’ potatoes on the menu too.
“Framework” represents a good balance between the experimental and the original with the tried and tested and one would imagine that the group’s live shows are highly stimulating and enjoyable affairs. They are currently still touring in support of this début with forthcoming live dates listed below;
Fri 20th – Ronnie Scotts (Late Show)
Sat 21st – Ronnie Scotts (Late Show)
Mon 30th – Bexley Jazz
Wed 2nd – Purcell School (artist workshop)
Mon 7th – Pizza Express, London Soho
Friday 22nd – Cadogan Hall, London (12-2pm)
Fri 21st – Basement, York
Wed 26th – Swing Unlimited (Bournemouth)
Fri 28th September – Fleece Jazz (Suffolk)
Sat 29th – Jazz UP (Hitchin)
More at http://www.jonshenoy.com
blog comments powered by Disqus