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The Weave

Knowledge Porridge


by Ian Mann

July 17, 2015


Great tunes, a high standard of musicianship all round and some exceptional solos, all of this enlivened by a very healthy dollop of Liverpudlian wit and wisdom. The buzz continues to grow.

The Weave

“Knowledge Porridge”

(Rufusalbino Records)

Liverpool band The Weave created a bit of a buzz with the release of their eponymous début album back in 2013. The distinctiveness of the record prompted a flurry of interest among the London based media and it also received national airplay on both Radio 2 (Mark Radcliffe) and Radio 3 (Late Junction).

This follow up recording, also released on the Rufusalbino label, looks set to create an even bigger impression. Thanks to local venues such as The Grapes and The Caledonia the Liverpool jazz scene appears to be booming and other local groups such as Marley Chingus, Blind Monk Trio and Dead Hedge Trio are also starting to attract wider attention.

The Weave was formed and is led by trumpeter Martin Smith who also writes most of the group’s material. He is joined by second trumpeter Anthony Peers, guitarist Anthony Ormesher, bassist Hugo “Harry” Harrison and drummer Tilo Pirnbaum, all of whom were present on the group’s début album. Also making a substantial contribution to The Weave’s first album was pianist Rob Stringer who this time round shares key board duties with Andrzej Baranec. Vibraphonist Vidar Norheim and percussionist Stuart Hardcastle also appear on the majority of the tracks. The album also features additional guests including vocalist/guitarist Luciana Mercer who sings her own song “Evolve and Expand”. The closing track “Princess Salami Socks” also features the 12 string acoustic guitar of Michael Head and the twin cellos of husband and wife team Jonathan and Georgina Aasgaard.

Smith’s list of influences is wide and includes such diverse trumpet stylists as Brits Digby Fairweather and Ian Carr and Americans Bobby Shew, Marvin Stamm, Louis Armstrong, Clark Terry,  Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard and the inevitable Miles Davis, but it’s Fairweather that he credits as his initial inspiration. Smith is also an experienced rock and pop session musician and has had a long association with the Liverpool band The Wizards of Twiddly who once served as the backing group for the late Kevin Ayers. Besides the obvious jazz influences The Weave’s music also draws on Liverpool’s pop heritage with the album title “Knowledge Porridge” being sourced from a line in a La’s song. 

As a member of The Wizards of Twiddly Smith got to play with the late Jimmy Carl Black, one time drummer with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Co-authored by Smith and pianist Rob Stringer opening track “The Pogo” once had lyrics written by Black, the words themselves now sadly lost. The instrumental album version is dedicated to Black and is a hard grooving item introduced by Pirnbaum’s and featuring Stringer’s pounding piano plus a catchy twin trumpet hook.
Later there’s some thrilling interplay between the two horns above a driving beat. With its arresting riffs and grooves it’s like Horace Silver updated for the 21st century and crossed with The Bad Plus and Get The Blessing.

Smith’s “Trumpet Ear” has an engagingly eccentric theme that recalls previous jazz eras. It provides the jumping off point for excellent and highly distinctive solos from Peers, Baranec, Smith and Ormesher. 

Also from the pen of Smith the similarly quirky “I’m In Your House” introduces guest soloist Norheim at the vibes, his ebulliently perky solo followed by Ormesher on the guitar, initially cool but gradually building up a head of steam with an engagingly agile solo.

“Our Day On The Mountain” was inspired by a walk up Snowdon. It features a typically memorable theme from Smith imbued with the pop accessibility and air of genial eccentricity that distinguishes much of his writing. Breezy yet wistful it includes inspired solos from Baranec on piano, Smith on flugelhorn (echoes here of the late, great Kenny Wheeler) and Harrison on highly melodic double bass. Pirnbaum’s shuffling, contemporary drum grooves contrast well with the retro stylings of the other instruments.

“Evolve and Expand” is a song written by guest vocalist Luciana Mercer, with whom Smith has worked for the last six years or so. The tune is paced by Mercer’s acoustic guitar and flexible vocals . There’s a faint air of Canterbury scene eccentricity about it allied to the self conscious quirkiness typical of so many contemporary female singer-songwriters. The arrangement includes a strong contribution from Stringer at the piano plus the woozy sound of muted trumpets. 

“Para Parrot” is the sole writing credit for bassist Harrison. It fits well into The Weave ethos as it combines gypsy jazz and New Orleans elements with a contemporary sensibility. There’s a rollicking piano solo from Stringer allied to a feature for the composer’s double bass - always at the heart of the tune - and finally Peers’ invigorating vocalised trumpet.

The title of “Our Fathers” acknowledges the importance of the strong paternal line. Jointly written by Smith and Ormesher together with Konstantinos Lagogiannis it is wistful and almost hymn like while also conjuring up cinematic images of sun baked landscapes, something encouraged by the mariachi style trumpets. Solos here come from Peers on emotive muted trumpet and Stringer revealing his lyrical side at the piano.

“Not On Your Nelly” celebrates Liverpool’s strong Irish heritage and was inspired by the playing and writing of trumpeter Neil Yates from nearby Manchester. Yates has worked extensively with Irish whistle players and has brought some of their techniques to his trumpeting to create a highly distinctive style of playing. He has passed on some of his “generous and inspirational trumpet wisdom” to Smith and Peers along with his love of combining “traditional Irish melody with jazz harmony and improvisation”. All of these elements are included in this rousing and invigorating Smith penned tune, a kind of jazz jig that incorporates sparkling solos from Norheim and Smith. 

The Weave’s début featured a track titled “The Ballad of Bernard Swimmins” which included a monologue written and performed by the Liverpudlian poet Simon James. The group obviously have an affinity for the spoken word that perhaps has its origins with the 1960s pop/poetry collective The Liverpool Scene. On the title track of “Knowledge Porridge” the words are written and spoken by Anthony Peers and incorporated into Martin Smith’s rousing, hard grooving, tango influenced tune. Peers’ oratory has evoked comparisons with Viv Stanshall but overall it’s neither as humorous nor as entertaining as that of James on the previous album. Musically “Knowledge Porridge” the track includes another strong contribution from Stringer at the piano plus an engaging trumpet solo, presumably played by Smith.

The closing “Princess Salami Socks” is dedicated to Smith’s young god-daughter Olga and is introduced by the tinkling and twinkling of Norheim’s vibes. It’s a charming, quirky waltz with an arrangement that includes the 12string guitar of Michael Head and a warm toned cello duet beautifully played by Georgina and Jonathan Asgaard, Olga’s parents.

Hard core jazz listeners might be less than enthused by the two vocal tracks but overall “Knowledge Porridge” represents an excellent second helping from The Weave. There are some great tunes, a high standard of musicianship all round and some exceptional solos, all of this enlivened by a very healthy dollop of Liverpudlian wit and wisdom. Reports suggest that they are a highly exciting live prospect too. The buzz continues to grow.   

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