Hot on the heels of the Guardian review is this lovely writeup of the Madwort Sax Quartet album by Stewart Smith in the Wire magazine:
The second Ripsaw Catfish album ‘Namazu’ is available to pre-order from Raw Tonk Records now – with the CDs shipping out on 17th March. Recorded over two gigs at Cafe Oto (for Match & Fuse Festival last October) and IKLECTIK (for LUME’s LJF triple-bill special last November), it’s a nice record of where we’re at with the duo, nearly three years after our first release ‘For The Benefit Of The Tape’. The excellent artwork is by Colin Webster. Namazu is a giant catfish from Japanese mythology, responsible for earthquakes but usually restrained by a stone to its head…
We’re playing a cluster of Ripsaw Catfish gigs as part of the Five Years of Raw Tonk celebrations: Pletterij, Haarlem, NL (17th March); De Singer, Rijkevorsel, BE (18th March); De Ruimte, Amsterdam, NL (19th March); Hundred Years Gallery, London (25th March); St Margarets Church, Manchester (26th March); and at a venue tbc, Oslo, NO (2nd April). We’re also appearing at Thinking/Not Thinking Festival on 8th April at New River Studios, London.
I’m just back from a fantastic trip to Bern, Switzerland, playing at Jazzwerkstatt‘s tenth anniversary festival with Word Of Moth. Dee and I were invited by Marc Stucki and Benedikt Reising, the artistic directors at Jazzwerkstatt, to bring a LUME ensemble to the festival and collaborate with some Swiss musicians. Two sax players who have spent the last decade building up the festival into its current five-night form, Marc and Benedikt share a lot of common ground with us, so it was a great to chance to get an insight into the Swiss take on artist-led endeavours like our own. They both appeared several times across the programme as players, popping up in horn sections of various different ensembles and as part of established collaborations. It was clear that Jazzwerkstatt inhabits the same territory that LUME aims to; creating self-produced gigs and festivals that allow the artistic directors to develop their own work within the context of a wider community of artists and collaborators.
The festival venue was Turnhalle, the converted gymnasium of an old school building that is now inhabited by a truly amazing cross-arts space called PROGR. The building houses artists’ studios, venue spaces of different sizes, two cafe/bar/restaurant options and a new ‘living room’ open for use for small events and meetups. It was immediately evident upon walking through the school gates that this is a place with a strong artistic community around it.
In discussion on email with Marc and Benedikt before the festival, we decided to expand the usual Word Of Moth lineup of me, Dee, Seth Bennett and Johnny Hunter to include Oli Kuster (keys), Simon Petermann (trombone) and Lukas Thöni (trumpet). LUME suggested the instrumentation, Jazzwerkstatt picked the players, and the rehearsals were booked in. Rather than writing new music for the collaboration, we arrived in Bern armed only with the existing quartet repertoire and a plan to arrange new versions of the music through rehearsal with the Swiss musicians. This approach felt slightly risky, but it was closest to the spirit of how Word Of Moth usually works (simple frameworks for pieces, that we flesh out into arrangements together). We had spent the past couple of weeks working intensively as a quartet for the recording of our first album and two UK performances, so the band felt in good shape as we set out. Oli, Simon and Lukas turned out to be a great fit, and over the course of two rehearsals at PROGR we assemble a set of music for the gig.
The technical team working on the festival were a total joy to work with, and the gig had possibly the best live sound on stage I’ve experienced. They also used a very pleasing 3D stage plan (see above) to discuss how we wanted to set up. As our second rehearsal was a public one taking place on the stage, we worked on the music as the team simultaneously set up the microphones and monitors, and by the end of the afternoon everyone was ready for the gig. I liked this approach as it meant we had quite a long period to acclimatise ourselves on stage, which I think meant I felt more comfortable in the space when it came to the performance.
Our set was on the festival’s opening night, and we played to a packed house of enthusiastic listeners. After months of discussion and preparation, the gig felt like it was over in about two seconds (as these sort of things usually do); but the unanimous feeling after the show was that it had gone really well. Thanks to Jazzwerkstatt’s very generous hospitality we were able to stay on for the rest of the festival, and conversations with our three Swiss bandmates during that time revealed that everyone was keen to play together again in the future. We left Bern having made many new connections, heard all sorts of new music, and encountered a new city and its artists. Thinking back over the trip as I write this I’m left with a feeling of optimism; that exciting taste of a new creative thing emerging and looking around for where to go next. We have already started talking about how to make a UK return leg happen, so I have a feeling that the next LUME/Jazzwerkstatt encounter will be making itself known before too long…
It’s out there! Well, almost. The Madwort Sax Quartet album is available to pre-order from Efpi Records now:
We’re touring to celebrate the release: catch us at Jazz North East, Bridge Hotel, Newcastle (12 February); Plink Plonk, York Tavern, Norwich (1 March); A Little Bit Of Nothing, Derby (2nd March); IKLECTIK, London (5 March) and The Wonder Inn, Manchester (6 March).
Word Of Moth (complete with new drummer Johnny Hunter) has lots of stuff planned for this year, starting with a flurry of activity in February. We’re appearing at the first LUME Lab gig on 8th February at IKLECTIK, presenting new music that we’ve been working on. Then we’re heading into the studio to record an album, before heading to Wolverhampton on 17th February to play at Jazz At The Arena. After that, we’re off to Bern, Switzerland to play for Jazzwerkstatt at their tenth anniversary festival! It’s all happening….
Sloth Racket has a new video! Our good friend Ben Owen has made this great short film of us playing at a LUME gig at The Vortex in May this year. The piece we play is called ‘Shapeshifters’ and will appear on our second album, coming out in Summer 2017.
More videos of the band can be found on the Sloth Racket page. Also this month, some new nice words about the band have appeared online; from Dave Sumner on his latest Bird Is The Worm ‘This Is Jazz Today’ dispatch, and from Stewart Smith in his 2016 jazz/improv roundup on The Quietus. Thanks both!
Some recordings have emerged of a nice gig I was involved in last month. Extra Normal Records invited me, Tullis Rennie and Far Rainbow to play at a specially-curated edition of the long-running Canterbury night Free Range. Tullis and I played a duo, then Far Rainbow played a set, then we all joined together for a quartet to end the evening. It was a lovely gig: Kyle (Extra Normal) and Sam (Free Range) were great hosts! You can listen to the sets on Soundcloud:
Anton Hunter has posted a video of the LUMEkestra playing his composition ‘LUME Kestrel’. The gig was at IKLECTIK or 14th November, as part of our special LUME triple bill show for the London Jazz Festival. As well as Anton’s piece we played compositions by Paulo Duarte, Tom Ward, Martin Pyne and Dave Kane. It was a lot of fun, and the ensemble will definitely appear again in 2017: its mission is to create a space for the composers around LUME to experiment with writing for large groups.
I was quite pleased with my flyer for this gig too:
Lancaster Jazz Festival have released the live recording of my large ensemble gig for them in September. It’s available to stream and download from Bandcamp, with the proceeds being split between fundraising for the next LJF commission and helping me to finance a studio recording with the group (which has been inadvertently named ‘Favourite Animals’). Have a listen…