Wishing everyone who has followed and supported my work in 2018 a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’m signing off for the festive break, but the blog will be back early next year with news of upcoming activities.
The Favourite Animals large ensemble will gather for a one-off 2018 date on 10th December at City, University of London. I’m looking forward to playing this music again, with a nine-piece version of the group:
Dee Byrne – alto sax
Sam Andreae – alto sax
Tom Ward – bassclarinet/flute
Graham South – trumpet
Tullis Rennie – trombone
Cath Roberts – baritone sax
Anton Hunter – guitar
Otto Willberg – double bass
Johnny Hunter – drums
The concert is free to attend, but you need to register your place on the City website as spaces are limited….
Earlier today (Sunday 30th September) I was a guest on Ivor Kallin’s Ambrosia Rasputin Show on Resonance FM. It was a lot of fun chatting to Ivor and playing some tracks by friends and collaborators as well as some of my own, so I thought I’d post links here to the music I played. You can find the relevant albums on Bandcamp by clicking through on the embeds below. The whole show is available to listen to on Mixcloud, and also features two duo improvisations from Ivor (on viola) and me (on baritone sax) live in the studio.
We opened with a couple of my own pieces:
Then I played ‘Bone Machine’ by the Pixies! A classic track that I don’t need to link to here…
Next up was some Entropi:
And then some Article XI:
And a track from the new album by Tom Ward and Adam Fairhall, the first release on Madwort Records:
To round things off I played Dee Byrne’s composition for Saxoctopus:
Big thanks to Ivor for inviting me! It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday lunchtime.
Reviews of the Favourite Animals album have been appearing since its release in December. Have a listen as you peruse what the critics had to say below…
In the March issue of the Wire magazine was a half-page triple review from Stewart Smith of the Favourite Animals and Article XI albums, plus Sloth Racket’s live album ‘See The Looks On The Faces’. Favourite Animals are described as as ‘lurching between riff and abstraction’, ‘maintain[ing] an elegant balance between emergent melody and the wilder activity at its fringes’…
Also in print was a great Jazzwise review from Thomas Rees, who writes that the ‘gritty and anarchic’ Favourite Animals album ‘confirms Roberts’ talent as a composer and Luminous as a label to watch’.
Excitingly, Dave Sumner at Bandcamp Daily (also of Bird Is The Worm) included Favourite Animals in his list of ‘The Best Jazz On Bandcamp: January 2018’. ‘On first listen,’ he writes, Favourite Animals sounds like it may be broken,’ but he then goes on to describe ‘startling moments of altered perspective’ in an enthusiastic mini-review complete with Bandcamp embed.
Steve Day published an extremely detailed writeup on Sandy Brown Jazz, describing the album as ‘a brilliantly conceived big band construct’ and ‘radical contemporary music which is absolutely on the money’. ‘Favourite Animals are making a ‘mindset’ change not just a musical one,’ he writes to close the review.
Sammy Stein on Something Else Reviews also has good things to say about the album: ‘Everyone creates, is supported and leads at different times… [and] there is also a sense of one-ness and understanding which only happens when musicians are completely intuitive of each other.’
Lee Rice-Epstein posted a lovely four star review of the album on the Free Jazz Collective blog (‘bursts out of the speakers’!).
On The Quietus, Stewart Smith included the Favourite Animals and Article XI albums in his Complete Communion Jazz Roundup: UK Special: ‘Roberts and Hunter show new possibilities for the leftfield big band by combining sophisticated ensemble writing with state of the art extended techniques from the wilder shores of free improvisation.’
One of the first reviews that came in was from Gert Derkx on Op Duvel (in Dutch). A bit of online auto-translation help for my almost non-existent Dutch suggests that he counts Favourite Animals, among a number of current bands, as proof that exciting improvised music can be made by large lineups!
Ian Mann at The Jazz Mann came to the Birmingham gig of our Favourite Animals/Article XI tour in December, and reported back with a great review of both bands on his blog. ‘The music of Favourite Animals is consistently mutating, never remaining in one place for long and taking great delight in stylistic and dynamic contrasts,’ he writes of our set, going on to describe the gig as ‘an absorbing and intriguing evening of uncompromising music making at the interface where the composed and the spontaneous conjoin to rewarding effect.’
The Newcastle gig was also reviewed: Steve H on Bebop Spoken Here describes the Favourite Animals set as ‘very cinematic’ and the gig as a ‘brilliant doubleheader’.
Compiling this post prompts me once again to thank the 90 truly amazing people who backed my crowdfunding campaign to make the Favourite Animals album last year. Without you, the music wouldn’t have made it out there and into the ears of music lovers and critics! Thank you!!
Favourite Animals live photo by Oliver Dover.
It’s almost out there! Today I shipped out albums to all the crowdfunder backers, and pre-orders are up on the Bandcamp site. The release date is 4th December, so if you order a copy between now and then, it should drop onto your doormat on the day. Even though we only recorded this in August, I feel like I’ve been working on it for a really long time, so it’s good to get it over the line. The first track is streaming online now:
Next up, it’s all hands on deck as we finish the last of the logistics ready for the double bill Article XI/Favourite Animals UK tour. Here’s the flyer again – come out and see us if we’re in your town…
Favourite Animals is heading out this December on a double bill tour with Anton Hunter’s Article XI. The two ensembles share several members, so we thought it would be fun to take them out together! We have four dates around the Midlands and the North, with both bands releasing albums around the same time. The tour is supported by Arts Council England and The Fenton Arts Trust.
I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo today for the upcoming Favourite Animals album. It will run until 4th October. From the campaign text:
This August I gathered my ten piece ensemble Favourite Animals to record a studio album at City, University of London. Thanks to our trombone player Tullis Rennie who lectures there, we had access to the world class facilities over three days. With Alex Bonney engineering, we recorded loads of music. Now I need YOUR help to get it out there! I’m fundraising to cover the musicians and engineers’ fees, mixing, mastering and CD production, ready for release this December when the band goes on tour.
You can check out the video below and support the campaign here. Help me make it happen!
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…