Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


ReedBass / Law Of Three

ReedBass / Law Of Three, The Marrs Bar, Worcester, 20/07/2023

Photography: Photograph of Roy Marchbank and Andy Edwards of Law Of Three by Laurie Monk.

by Ian Mann

July 24, 2023


Ian Mann enjoys this exciting double bill with the Birmingham based quartet ReedBass followed by the remarkable new ‘power trio’ Law Of Three.

ReedBass / Law Of Three, The Marrs Bar, Worcester, 20/07/2023

ReedBass – electric bass, Sam Rogers – tenor sax, Faisal Ahmed – keyboards, Leon Small – drums

Roy Marchbank – guitar, electronics, Mark Hartley – electric bass, Andy Edwards – drums

The final Music Spoken Here event at the Marrs Bar featured an exciting double bill with the Birmingham based quartet ReedBass followed by the remarkable new ‘power trio’ Law Of Three.

Promoter Dave Fuller was rewarded with one of the best attendances of the 2022/23 season with the audience really getting behind both bands and giving each a great reception.


First to take the stage was ReedBass, a quartet named after its leader. ReedBass the musician is an electric bass specialist, a busy session musician who has worked widely across a broad range of musical genres including jazz, pop, rock, reggae and musical theatre. He has been a professional musician for more than twenty years and is also an acclaimed music educator.

His own group plays in a broadly ‘fusion’ style that includes many elements of Black music, including jazz, funk, soul and gospel plus more contemporary musical developments such as hip hop, drum & bass and modern day R & B.

For the purposes of this review I’ll just refer to the leader as Reed. He was joined tonight by his regular quartet featuring Sam Rogers on tenor sax, Leon Small at the drums and Faisal Ahmed on keyboards, a Nord Electro 6 and a Roland Gaia synthesiser. The programme featured a selection of four of Reed’s original compositions plus an arrangement of one piece by Charles Mingus.

Things kicked off with “Godfather”, dedicated not only to James Brown, ‘The Godfather of Soul’, but also to the late Michael Brecker, described by Reed as the “most badass saxophonist ever”.  Driven by Reed’s deep bass grooves, Ahmed’s funky keyboards and Small’s sturdy backbeats the piece allowed Rogers to release his ‘inner Brecker’ with a powerful r’n’b style tenor solo. He was followed by Ahmed, who coaxed some filthy whistling sounds out of his synth. Finally the leader was given the opportunity to demonstrate his virtuosity on five string electric bass.

Among Reed’s bass heroes is the late, great Charles Mingus, who was also a celebrated composer and bandleader. The Mingus composition “Slop” was given a 21st century makeover with Reed’s electric bass leading the way and with Ahmed adopting an electric piano sound on the Nord for his solo. Rogers made another powerful contribution on tenor sax and Reed’s own feature was another virtuoso offering that saw him making extensive use of his ‘thunder thumbs’ in a solo that variously reminded me of Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller, both surely inspirations for the young Reed. His use of the body of the bass as a form of percussion also indicated a penchant for showmanship.

Reed was born in Birmingham of Jamaican heritage, his family having first come to the UK on the Windrush. His original composition “A PK’s Children”, the initials standing for “Pastor’s Kid”, honoured both his late father and celebrated grandfather / child relationships. Once again the composer led from the bass, sharing the solos with the impressive Rogers, while Ahmed’s keys added a touch of reggae to the proceedings.

Reed’s Jamaican heritage was celebrated further with the cleverly titled “Skatalite Dish”, which honoured both original Jamaican ska and the later Two Tone movement that originated in nearby Coventry. Featuring the infectious rhythms of ska the piece also included exuberant solos from Ahmed on keys and Rogers on tenor sax.

Finally “Jump Up” was an energetic excursion into pure funk territory, driven by Reed’s buoyant bass grooves and Rogers’ raunchy tenor. The piece was also notable for an extended drum feature from Leon Small, who had linked up well with the leader and hitherto anchored proceedings from the kit. He clearly relished the opportunity to stretch out further on the closing number.

ReedBass, the band, was very well received by the Marrs Bar audience and although they basically played a forty five minute support slot tonight they are due to return for Music Spoken Here’s final event of 2023 to play a full headlining set on 14th December. All those who enjoyed their performance tonight will doubtless be more than happy to check them out again more fully later in the year.


Law Of Three is a new trio featuring Midlands based musicians Andy Edwards (drums) and Mark Hartley (electric bass), plus Scottish born guitar virtuoso Roy Marchbank.

Most of the pre-gig publicity had centred around the astonishing speed of Marchbank’s playing and his use of music technology, including SWAM (Synchronous Waves Acoustic Modeling), developed by the Audio Modeling company.

The SWAM engine allows Marchbank to alter the sound of his guitar via the use of a breath controller, giving him access to sounds variously resembling reeds, strings and brass. It’s a lot more sophisticated then the old voice bags made famous by Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton back in the ‘dark ages’ of the 1970s and 80s.

SWAM is intended to overcome the limitations of conventional samplers and its immediacy is more suited to the improvisational nature of jazz. In Marchbank’s hands it’s a formidable tool, especially when combined with his already phenomenal technique, which owes something to Indian classical music (notably the methods involved in playing the sarod) and also borrows from gypsy jazz, flamenco, folk, rock and classical music. Marchbank has also developed his own range of ‘Phat Boy’ picks, his own use of which is a major factor in his singular sound.

Marchbank has travelled widely and absorbed a broad range of musical influences. His life story thus far is a fascinating one and can be found on his website,, which also includes links to his Bandcamp page, which includes details of his half a dozen recordings to date.

But Law Of Three isn’t just about Marchbank. Edwards and Hartley are also virtuosos on their respective instruments with Edwards having worked with Robert Plant and with the prog rock band IQ. He is also a prolific Youtuber and podcaster and the audience tonight included some who had been attracted to the gig by Edwards’ online output. He is also a music tutor at Worcestershire College in Kidderminster.

Hartley has also played with Robert Plant and also with a variety of other bands across the musical spectrum – jazz / fusion/ rap/ funk/ hip-hop / heavy metal. He came to jazz via the influence of heavyweight bass heroes Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius, who remain strong influences on his playing, particularly in the improvisational framework of Law Of Three.

Marchbank sees his experiments with advanced guitar techniques and music technology as the natural successor to Pat Metheny’s work with the guitar synclavier and Allan Holdsworth’s with the synthaxe.

Indeed the late, great Holdsworth (1946-2017) appears to be something of a touchstone for Law Of Three and the trio commenced with “Hazard Profile”, a multi-part track from the 1975 Soft Machine album “Bundles”. The piece was written by Karl Jenkins, now a celebrated classical composer, who was part of the Softs line up at that time, as was Holdsworth.
The piece proved to be a good vehicle for Law Of Three with Marchbank demonstrating his jaw dropping virtuosity and deploying ‘touch guitar’ techniques alongside the SWAM and Phat Boy technology. His dizzying speed was complemented by saxophone like sounds produced via the breath controller.
Hartley was also hugely impressive on four string electric bass as he delivered his own virtuoso solo. Edwards drove the music forward and held it all together from the drum kit. A stunning start.

Accustomed to speaking to his students Edwards handled the announcements, leaving his colleagues to do their talking through their instruments. Sam Rogers, an old friend of the band, was summoned back to the stage to guest on an arrangement of the Billy Cobham tune “Stratus”, a track from Cobham’s classic 1973 fusion album “Spectrum”. The saxophonist, who had already excelled with ReedBass, more than held his own in such heavyweight company as he delivered another powerful solo and entered into a series of thrilling musical exchanges with Marchbank, their daredevil instrumental fuelled by the monumental bass and drum grooves laid down by Hartley and Edwards. The rhythm team were then to enjoy their own individual features, with Hartley establishing his own claim in the ‘thunder thumbs’ stakes.

The core trio performed the original composition “Sevens”, the title a reference to the complexities of its time signature. Hartley and Edwards handled the rhythmic challenges with aplomb while Marchbank conjured more extraordinary sounds from his guitar, variously imitating flutes and pan pipes.

Incredibly this was Law Of Three’s first gig and Edwards described their début performance as being “semi-organised”. This was the cue to “make some stuff up” as the trio jammed on the fly around a drum and bass groove which encouraged Marchbank to generate eerie synclavier like sounds from his guitar. Hartley’s bass feature included guitar like sounds that sometimes reminded me of the playing of Steve Swallow, but also incorporated moments of Jaco-esque virtuosity. Marchbank then joined to create an increasingly funky guitar / bass dialogue before Edwards delivered a dynamic feature that eventually evolved into a restless drum / electric bass exchange.

A second homage to Holdsworth came in the form of the guitarist’s own “Devil Take The Hindmost” from the 1985 album “Metal Fatigue”. Inevitably this was something of a showcase for Marchbank, whose scintillating solo variously made use of the new SWAM technology and the more old fashioned tremolo arm. The bass and drum features were no less impressive as Law Of Three closed out their set in dramatic and dynamic fashion.

A dazzled but delighted crowd gave the trio a great reception and the inevitable encore saw Edwards inviting Rogers back to the stage for a final improvisation that the drummer dubbed “Jam With Sam”. An unstoppable funk groove provided the platform for a further series of exciting guitar and sax exchanges, with Rogers playfully inserting a selection of quotes from well known jazz compositions. Marchbank’s use of the breath controller saw him producing some sax like sounds of his own, it could almost have been a twin tenor ‘cutting contest’ at times.

Law Of Three certainly made a big impression on their début performance and one can imagine them building quite a substantial following, particularly among hardcore fusion followers. There’s also the scope to appeal to curious rock listeners too, particularly progressive rock fans.

All three group members are remarkable musicians, and guest Rogers was hugely impressive too, but it’s the extraordinary playing of Marchbank that really makes the group stand out. I’ve rarely seen or heard such distinctive and astonishing playing, he really has developed something unique and it was a rare privilege to see it performed in Worcester.

Critics might complain about a lack of light and shade but Law Of Three is primarily about instrumental virtuosity and rhythmic power. It’s a particularly macho brand of jazz but it’s style that this trio (occasionally quartet) plays extremely well and tonight’s audience seemed to love it.

I’ve come to regard fusion as a style of music that is best enjoyed in the live environment where the power of the music and the instrumental virtuosity can be most fully appreciated. Recordings are often overproduced and lose something of the visceral quality that distinguished tonight’s two performances.

That said I’d love to hear any subsequent recordings from both ReedBass and Law Of Three, neither of whom have got any product out there at the moment, as far as I know.
My thanks to Leon Small of ReedBass and to Roy Marchbank of Law Of Three for speaking with me and providing information vital in the writing of this review.



blog comments powered by Disqus