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by Ian Mann

January 25, 2012


"Cohesion" consolidates Partikel's progress and is a worthy follow up to its eponymous predecessor.



(Whirlwind Recordings WR4618)

Here at The Jazzmann we were rather proud of being among the first to pick up on the potential of Partikel, the exciting young trio led by saxophonist Duncan Eagles. The group’s eponymous 2010 début (reviewed elsewhere on this site) appeared on the F-ire presents imprint and updated the classic sound of the Sonny Rollins saxophone trio for contemporary ears in an adventurous but intrinsically melodic manner. This was music that was both challenging AND accessible and something of a buzz began to build around the band, something that their exciting and personable live performances have encouraged. I saw them produce an often blistering performance at the 2011 Brecon Jazz Festival, quickly captivating the crowd in what had initially seemed an unpromising lunchtime slot.

Since then Partikel have continued to hone their skills with further touring (plus an acclaimed Monday night residency at The Hideaway at Streatham) and the title of their keenly awaited second album “Cohesion” seems particularly appropriate as bassist Max Luthert and drummer Eric Ford become even more central to the Partikel group sound. Duncan Eagles still contributes the majority of the group’s material but this time round his two colleagues also add to the writing process with Luthert contributing the original tune “Assam” and Ford bringing an arrangement of the traditional “El Schmeckl”. Duncan’s brother Sam Eagles adds the brief “Intro” and “Outro” snippets that effectively bookend the album.

Much of the music heard at Brecon appears on the new album and it all sounds fully “played in” as the group confirm their rapid progress. The album appears on the Whirlwind record label run by expatriate American bassist Michael Janisch, an early champion of the group. Despite the change of label Partikel have very wisely kept the rest of their back-room team together with Alban Low’s distinctive artwork once again gracing the cover of an album engineered by Derek Nash and Tyler McDiarmid.

The album commences with Sam Eagles’ brief “Intro”, a joyous opening with Duncan Eagles’ sax dancing above Ford’s rich mix of shakers and other percussion. Duncan’s “The Restless Child” represents the first full composition and is a good example of the trio’s strengths. A strong melodic theme provides the basis for improvisation with Eagles’ powerful tenor sax gaining momentum in conjunction with Luthert’s virile bass lines and Ford’s inventive, energetic drumming. It’s rooted in Rollins but has a post bop, contemporary sensibility with Ford’s drumming also adding a Latin element to the mix.

Next comes “Follow Diversion” which opened their set at Brecon, another Rollins like theme that allows Eric Ford plenty of room to show his skills, the drums almost taking the lead at times. Eagles later takes flight, soaring above Luthert’s rock solid bass lines and Ford’s dynamic drumming.

Luthert’s “Assam”, although commencing with Ford’s drums is slightly more reflective with Eagles featuring on soprano. Initially light and airy his tone becomes more astringent as he probes more deeply. Luthert’s deeply resonant bass lines again form the backbone of the piece with Ford skilfully colouring in any gaps.

“The Blood of the Pharoah”, a dedication to London based drummer Pharoah Russell, has Ford at his most colourful, he regularly augments the sound of his kit with shakers, woodblocks, cowbells etc. Eagles’ long, brooding sax lines give the music an often melancholy quality reminiscent of Polar Bear (whose own “Drunken Pharoah” from their “Peepers” album is also a dedication to Russell).

As at the Brecon live performance Luthert’s unaccompanied “Bass Solo” provides a bridge into the folk tinged “Market Place” with Eagles’ soprano sax dancing lightly around Ford’s lithe polyrhytmic
drumming as Luthert’s solid bass lines provide a powerful rhythmic pulse.

“Room” blends passages of long lined tenor with bursts of a type of cerebral funk in a compelling and convincing manner. The beginning of “The Cove” is as atmospheric as it’s title suggests with wispy tenor shadowed by Ford’s quietly exotic drumming. However there’s a sudden sea change part way through as Luthert dramatically increases the pace. Eagles and Ford respond instantly and the mood instantly swings from sombre to joyous without sounding in any way incongruous, a tribute both to the quality of the writing and the close empathy between the three young musicians.

“The Optimist” closed the trio’s Brecon set and is as upbeat as it’s title suggests with some of Eagles’ best playing of the album. He has an impressively large and rounded tone but is also a highly expressive soloist. Ford also gets yet another chance to impress with a lengthy drum feature that has become a significant element of the trio’s live shows.

Sam Eagle’s “Outro”, a brief free wheeling snippet of improvisation closes the album with Ford’s arrangement of “El Schmeckl” appearing as a bonus track. It’s a very tasty bonus too, an exuberant item featuring the arranger’s restless and colourful drumming prominently and with Eagles and Luthert making characteristically powerful contributions. It’s a piece that I can see making an appearance on the trio’s forthcoming tour, possibly as an encore. Partikel will be touring the UK in February and March 2012 and I’ll be covering their gig in Much Wenlock. The full list of dates appears below.

In the meantime “Cohesion” consolidates Partikel’s progress and is a worthy follow up to its eponymous predecessor. In the world of these three highly skilled musicians the lack of a chordal instrument hardly seems to matter. Eagles’ consistently strong melodic themes give the trio plenty to get their teeth into but without losing the interest or patience of the listener. North African, Latin and Caribbean elements all add to an impressively varied sound palette. I’ve no doubt that the coming live shows will win them many more friends.


1st Feb - The Lescar - Sheffield - 8.30pm
3rd Feb - Bradford Jazz - Yorkshire - 8.30pm
9th Feb - Welsh Jazz Society @ Café Jazz - Cardiff - 8.30pm
15th Feb - 606 Club - ALBUM LAUNCH - London - 10pm
16th Feb - Teignmouth Jazz Club - 8.30pm
3rd March - The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock, Shropshire - 8.30pm
14th April - The Kings Place, Hall 2 - London - 7.30pm

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