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meets, I Dig Monk, Tuned


by Ian Mann

January 09, 2014


With its shifting moods and dynamics this is an album that demands a degree of work from the listener but it's well worth the effort.


“meets I Dig Monk, Tuned”

(Diatribe Records DIACD016)

The young Dublin based quartet ReDiviDeR first came to the attention of UK jazz audiences via their Match & Fuse collaborations with London based quintet WorldService Project. An EP featuring the music of both bands was recorded in 2011 and is reviewed elsewhere on this site.

ReDiviDeR is led by drummer and composer Matthew Jacobson, who writes all the group’s music, and an unusual instrumental line up is completed by Colm O’Hara on trombone, Nick Roth on alto sax and Derek Whyte on bass. The group are keen to emphasise the palindromic nature of their name and a love of wordplay also informs this, their second album, a successor to 2011’s “Never Odd Or Even” (yet another palindrome).

The phrase “I Dig Monk, Tuned” is an anagram of “United Kingdom” and has been chosen to reflect the band’s decision to invite four of the UK’s best young jazz musicians to Dublin to make guest appearances on the record. Thus we also get to hear Kit Downes on keyboards, Alex Bonney on trumpet and electronics, Ben Davis on cello and Alex Roth on guitar. Jacobson’s brother Daniel, who makes music under the name ZoiD,  is credited with Matthew as co-producer and also added a degree of post production work and processing.

Besides the obvious inspiration of Thelonious Monk Jacobson also cites Charles Mingus, Jim Black, Tim Berne and Deerhoof as influences. The young drummer/composer is currently studying on a Fulbright Scholarship at the School for Improvisational Music in Brooklyn, New York and is also involved in other projects including work with the European quintet Aerie,and Dublin songwriter/improviser Laura Hyland’s band Clang Syne. He has also toured and recorded with the Irish folk/jazz/minimalist Ensemble Eriu. In 2013 he appeared at Glasgow’s Sonica Festival as part of a collaboration with composer and instrument builder George Higgs.

Jacobson’s avant garde credentials are reflected in the music of ReDiviDeR, the pieces on the new album acting as frameworks for a healthy degree of improvisation. The tunes on the new record seem to be more freely structured than those on the earlier EP beginning with “Twin Kodes”, the first of several anagrammatic titles, this being a mangling of the name of their first guest, pianist Kit Downes who appears here on Rhodes. The piece opens in free form fashion with studio chatter and Downes’ keyboard musings shadowed by the quietly energetic bustle of Jacobson’s drums. “Between cerebral and groove” runs a much quoted line from a Wire magazine review of a ReDiviDeR live show and that’s much in evidence here as the rest of the band join in with O’Hara’s trombone prominent in the mix. Just when things are threatening to get funky, albeit in an abstract kind of way, Zoid’s post production methods come into play and the mood changes abruptly for an eerie, impressionistic section featuring Rhodes, electronics, trombone and brushed drums. This mutates into a more forceful passage of dirty, powerful odd meter grooves finally culminating in some dazzling unison passages. With its shifting moods and dynamics this is an intriguing opening piece with Downes in fine form and prominent throughout, his playing is both receptive and inventive.

The brief “I, Lute Nerd” incorporates studio chatter and Jacobson’s into a brief glitchy/dubby little episode shaped by the post production work of Zoid. It’s an enjoyable little cameo but only forty two seconds long and represents a companion piece to the later “End it Rule” (of which more in due course).

“Animal Code” features the trumpet and electronics of second guest Alex Bonney. It begins serenely enough but soon metamorphoses into a three way brawl between the horns of Bonney, O’Hara and Nick Roth underpinned by the clattering drums of Jacobson plus a variety of electronic effects. Later there’s an unsettling dream like electronic episode before something of the horn driven dissonance re-emerges in the tune’s latter stages. 

Cellist Ben Davis, leader of Basquiat Strings, is the guest on “Bin Saved”, one of the more obvious anagrams. There’s nothing obvious about the music though, on what, for me is the highlight of the album. Whyte’s rich bass and Jacobson’s brushed drums introduce the piece, creating, alongside O’Hara’s trombone, a jumping off point for Davis’ cello improvisations. Davis is one of the best cello improvisers around and he’s in excellent form here, fluent and inventive and no more so than on an extended passage of rich, dark solo cello. Nick Roth subsequently takes over and steers the music in a more aggressive direction with his full on alto sax soloing. Finally there’s an elegiac closing passage featuring the sumptuous low register blend of Davis’ cello and O’Hara’s trombone.

“End it Rule” is another forty second collage of music and speech which appears to feature Downes’ Rhodes although he’s not credited on the album cover. It’s more likely another example of ZoiD’s post production processes.

“Velvet Pouch” is another stand out and features the guitar of Alex Roth (brother of Nick, I believe). It’s a darkly textured but forceful piece embellished by ZoiD’s electronica and featuring strong bass and drum grooves along side Alex Roth’s inventive, often FX laden fret work. There’s a strong rock influence at work here plus shades of Berne and Black.

Album closer “May I Agree” sees Bonney returning to the fold. Initially, tricksy, Mingus like, unison horn riffs are driven by Jacobson’s snare rhythms before Roth and Bonney drop out leaving O’Hara to deliver a trippy, dubby, electronically enhanced trombone solo. There’s also a snippet of Bonney’s trumpet/electronics combination before the triple horns assert themselves once more. Of the album’s main tracks it’s the one that is most obviously through composed although all of them have some degree of underlying structure.

ReDiviDeR are less immediately accessible than their colleagues WorldService Project but their cut and paste, mix and match compositional approach has many similarities. “I Dig Monk, Tuned” is an album that demands a degree of work from the listener but it’s well worth the effort. I found myself getting more and more into this music with repeated listening. ReDiviDeR will be touring France in 2014 with Match & Fuse colleagues Alfie Ryner and dates in Italy and Norway are also planned. Let’s hope they get to play in the UK too.

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