by Ian Mann
February 13, 2014
Some of the music is the kind of full on "skronk" one might expect from the members' pedigrees but there's also a high degree of subtlety and sophistication alongside the sonic bluster.
(Efpi Records FP013)
The four piece band Let Spin was formed in June 2012 with the members representing a 50/50 split between the London and Manchester jazz scenes. From the capital come alto saxophonist Chris Williams and electric bass player Ruth Goller while guitarist Moss Freed and drummer Finlay Panter represent the Manchester faction. Now based in London this all star quartet is a comparative super-group with its members having seen service with a number of influential acts at the rockier/punkier end of the jazz spectrum including Led Bib (Williams), Acoustic Ladyland (Goller) and Beats & Pieces Big Band (Panter). Freed concurrently runs his own group Moss Project, which also includes Goller.
I saw the group perform a superb live set at the Green Note in Camden as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival and was impressed with just how well integrated the band were even at this early stage of their career. Much of the material played that night turns up on this album and it’s a pleasure to hear it again. Let Spin is a highly democratic unit and each member brings two tunes to the eight track programme. Some of the music is the kind of full on “skronk” one might expect from the members’ pedigrees but there’s also a high degree of subtlety and sophistication alongside the sonic bluster.
The album commences with Goller’s “Castle, Sea, Ferry”, one of the highlights of the group’s Green Note set. Based on an Alpine fable and taking musical inspiration from the trio of Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano and Paul Motian this is an episodic piece that transposes folk like motifs with the band’s more muscular stylings as guitar and saxophones wail and roar. But there’s subtlety too, as expressed by Goller’s imaginative chordal bass playing, Panter’s colourful drum work and the more reflective moments of Freed and Williams.
Panter’s blistering “Awowowa” opened the Green Note show and it’s delivered equally powerfully here. The press release reveals that the piece was inspired by the E.S.T. tune “When God Created The Coffee Break” and that it was originally written for big band (presumably Beats & Pieces) before being arranged for Let Spin. It’s a vehicle that enables Freed and Williams to really cut loose, both individually and collectively, propelled by Goller’s fluid but muscular bass guitar and Panter’s powerful, rock infused drumming. Variety comes in the shape of an unexpectedly gentle coda.
Freed’s “How To Woo A Dolphin” wasn’t name checked at the Green Note, although it’s highly likely that it was actually played. The piece begins with a passage of solo guitar accompanied by an electronic drone before opening up to embrace more orthodox band territory with both Freed and Williams delivering searing solos as well as meshing well together. The piece embraces a variety of moods and numerous dynamic contrasts which the highly flexible rhythm section of Goller and Panter handle with considerable aplomb.
From the pen of Williams comes the tune “Shapes & Sizes”, a tune originally recorded on the Led Bib studio album “Bring Your Own”. The composer was keen to adapt it for the guitar/alto sax instrumentation of Let Spin and this version loses nothing of the intensity of the Led Bib original.
Centred around Goller’s bass guitar riff the piece incorporates more inspired interplay between Williams and Freed plus further scalding solos from each before the music heads off into freely improvised territory before eventually resolving itself in a riff based finale.
Panter’s “102 Hill Street” is also centred around a bass guitar riff, one that has its origins in a late night jam. The angular melody and dark textures came later but the net result is a powerful and compelling piece of music featuring bellicose alto sax and heavily treated guitar, powerful drums and with that undulating bass groove underpinning it all.
I remember Goller’s “Piper” as being one of the most atmospheric pieces of the Camden show and it also represents something of an oasis of calm here . The piece combines modal melody with the influence of Eastern European music. Animal lover Goller describes the piece as being about “a dog I never knew” and it’s a vehicle for Williams to show a more lyrical side to his playing, albeit while still maintaining something of his characteristic “edge”.
The saxophonist’s own “Up And At Them” is aptly titled, a high energy item that closed the Camden show and prompted enthusiastic shouts for an encore. Strongly rock influenced, with Williams citing the influence of the bands Queens Of The Stone Age and White Denim, the music combines high energy and song like structures with a spirit of improvisation, after all this was yet another piece that grew out of a jam, this time with drummer Kit Joliffe. Propelled by Goller’s grinding bass riff Freed and Williams play with paper stripping intensity. It’s easy to see how this piece has become such a live favourite. At Camden it reminded me of the last edition of Acoustic Ladyland but there’s plenty of Williams’ other band Led Bib in there too.
The album concludes with Freed’s slow burning and atmospheric “A Change Is Coming”, a tune in part inspired by the “Americana” of Bill Frisell. The combination of blues harmonies and pentatonic melody is highly effective with Freed utilising his various guitar effects judiciously. Like close associate Kit Downes his updating of the blues tradition seems both natural and effective.
“Let Spin”, the album, doesn’t have quite the same visceral impact as the group’s live shows but it’s still a highly rewarding listen that highlights both the subtleties of the band and the intelligence and variety of the writing. Not that it’s short on energy, there’s plenty of chunky riffage and powerful soloing with the more “in yer face” writing of Williams and Panter contrasting well with the more introspective approach adopted by Goller and Freed. This is a very well balanced group and the four members make a great team in addition to excelling as individuals.
Let Spin are about to embark on a tour of the UK, dates listed below. Their live performances are highly recommended, catch them if you can.
Mon Feb 17 The Bell Inn - Bath - 9pm Free
Tue Feb 18 Dempseys - Cardiff - 9pm £7/£5
Wed Feb 19 The Lescar - Sheffield - 9pm £5
Thu Feb 20 Matt & Phreds Jazz Club - Manchester - 9pm Free
Fri Feb 21 Fox and Newt - Leeds - 8:30pm £8/£6
Sat Feb 22 Zeffirelli’s - Ambleside - 8:30pm Free
Sun Feb 23 Splinter - Newcastle - 8pm £8/£6
Tue Feb 25 The Art Bar (Formerly The Bullingdon) - Oxford - 9pm Free
Wed Feb 26 The Tin Music & Arts Centre - Coventry-8:30pm £6 adv, £8/£4
Thu Feb 27 The Vortex - London- 8:30pm £9/£6blog comments powered by Disqus