by Ian Mann
November 02, 2015
“Let Go” builds upon the success of the band's first record and again highlights the contrasting writing styles of the four members while still retaining a unified and distinctive group sound.
(Efpi Records FP023)
In November 2012 I witnessed an excellent performance by the newly constituted band Let Spin at the Green Note in Camden Town as part of that year’s London Jazz Festival. Although only formed in the June of that year Let Spin were already a highly cohesive unit with a strong group identity.
All of the musicians in Let Spin were already familiar to me due to their work in other contexts, this was very much a contemporary jazz “supergroup” with Moss Freed ( leader of Moss Project) on guitar, Led Bib’s Chris Williams on alto sax, Ruth Goller (Oriole, Acoustic Ladyland, Big Cat, Moss Project, Melt Yourself Down) on electric bass and Beats & Pieces Big Band’s Finlay Panter at the drums.
Most of the material played at the Green Note found its way on to the group’s superb eponymous debut album which was released on Efpi Records in early 2014. Let Spin is a genuinely democratic entity with all four members contributing compositions to the band repertoire and the rapport that the group has developed during its relatively short existence is very impressive.
2015 sees the release of Let Spin’s keenly anticipated second album. Once more the recording appears on the Manchester based Efpi label, something that emphasises the links between the London and Manchester jazz scenes with both Freed and Panter having emerged from the latter.
“Let Go”, which features Goller’s distinctive artwork, continues to emphasise the democratic and collaborative character of the band with each group member contributing two compositions to the album. This time round the band ‘work-shopped’ the tunes more fully within the group than they did with the first record. The result is music that has been shaped by the band as a whole but which still retains the distinctive characteristics of the individual composers
The first piece we hear is Goller’s piece “I Like To Sound Like A Rainforest”, which the composer dedicates to the memory of the late, great Charlie Haden and which was written on the day of Haden’s death. Goller has spoken of how the tune “took me all of five minutes to write, it was almost as if it was already there, ready to just be written out”. Appropriately the tune begins with the sound of Goller’s electric bass, delicately shadowed by Freed’s guitar FX before Williams picks out the folk like theme on alto. Let Spin have been variously described as “prog jazz”, “punk jazz” and “skronk” but as this intro demonstrates they are capable of producing moments of real beauty among the muscle and gristle. Later the tune picks up an energetic urgency as Williams’ powerful alto solo is fuelled by the propulsive surge of Goller’s bass and Panter’s drums.
Williams’ piece “Walt’s Waltz” takes its title from the anti-hero character in the TV series “Breaking Bad” and has been described as “a soundtrack to the character’s destructive life story – unrelenting and full of rage, but with a good heart”. The music is the kind of full on, riff driven skronk jazz typified by the composer’s ‘other band’ Led Bib or by Goller’s former employers Acoustic Ladyland. The heavy riffage is punctuated by squalling, more freely constructed episodes and the music bristles with an edgy, urgent urban energy throughout.
Goller’s “All Animals Are Beautiful” celebrates her love of nature and includes the occasional jungle noises among the the dubby grooves, chunky riffs and trippy solos. The composer describes the piece as having a “bendy melody”, make of that what you will, but to me it suggests malleability and this is a piece that is constantly evolving and shifting shape as it moves through a series of dynamic and emotional contrasts.
Panter’s first offering with the pen is “Disa”, the Maltese word for the number nine. The title references both Panter’s Maltese flatmate and the meter of the piece. Technicalities aside it’s a highly accessible and beguiling tune with an arresting central riff and a touch of Balkan / Middle eastern exoticism about Williams’ alto playing. Improvisation plays a key role in Let Spin’s music and there’s a lengthy passage of more freely structured playing before the main riff/theme kicks back in.
Williams played with pianist Laura Cole’s Metamorphic group as well as with the more obviously confrontational Led Bib. The gentler side of Williams finds expression on his splendidly atmospheric “Killing Our Dreams”, a slow burner of a tune that gradually builds in intensity around a recurring melodic motif with the composer’s emotive alto lighting the way.
The title of Freed’s “E.V.A” is an abbreviation meaning “Extra Vehicular Activity”, science speak for a space walk and the source of inspiration for Goller’s cover. Like the previous piece it’s a slow burner that gradually builds and develops, the initial icy atmospherics depicting the stillness and silence of space before events take a more dramatic turn as Freed successfully attempts to create a mood that is both “dangerous and sinister”. The transition is attained via dramatic, powerful, soaring solos from both Freed and Williams with both axe and sax heading for the outer reaches of the cosmos. Freed has described the tune as being a stylistic homage to the great New York based drummer and composer Jim Black.
Panter also pays homage on his composition “Rotation”, a piece he dedicates to “all the rock that I love”. As on his previous offering there are experiments with time signatures and meter but there’s also a gratifying amount of rock riffage and power on a piece that has both balls and brains. Williams sax, sometimes treated, wails and soars, Freed delivers some of his heaviest riffs and Pater drums up a storm. It’s invigorating stuff.
The album concludes on a relatively elegiac note with Freed’s “Rothko’s Field”, another richly impressionistic and atmospheric piece that helps to demonstrate the versatility of the band. The composer’s gently spiralling guitar is at the heart of the arrangement but there’s also some good work from Williams on alto and from Goller on grounding bass. The intelligent use of spacey guitar FX adds greatly to the success of the piece.
“Let Go” builds upon the success of the band’s first record and again highlights the contrasting writing styles of the four members while still retaining a unified and distinctive group sound.Jazz intelligence combines well with rock energy and urgency and although this may not be an album for the dyed in the wool swing or bebop purist any listener with an interest in contemporary jazz developments should find plenty to enjoy here.
Let Spin have just finished touring the new album but if you missed them there is still a London Jazz Festival appearance to come plus a number of dates scheduled for early 2016. Please visit http://www.letspinband.com for details.blog comments powered by Disqus