Category Archives: Touring

Favourite Animals album reviews round-up

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!

Live reviews

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.

What Love

This month I’m part of Seth Bennett’s ‘What Love’ project; three gigs for a brand new group, interpreting/responding to the music of Charles Mingus. Also playing in the ensemble will be Kim Macari (trumpet), Ollie Dover (alto saxophone and bass clarinet), George Murray (trombone), Adam Fairhall (piano), Johnny Hunter (drums) and of course Seth on bass. Each member of the band will bring an arrangement of a Mingus composition (or their own Mingus-inspired new composition). It should be good fun! You can catch us in Sheffield, Cambridge and Manchester. See the flyer below for dates and venues…Update: now with rehearsal video….

Favourite Animals album now available to pre-order!

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…

Sloth Racket live album and November gigs

A Sloth Racket live album ‘See The Looks On The Faces’ is coming out this month on the excellent Tombed Visions label. David McLean, who runs the label, approached me earlier this year and we came up with a plan to record the summer tour with a view to putting something together. The resulting album features music from our gigs in Cambridge (at Listen!) and Norwich (at Plink Plonk), expertly captured by our own Anton Hunter, who brought his recording set up on tour. David was keen to present two versions of a composition, and so ‘Edges’ appears twice on the album – but in very different forms…

To support the release we’re playing in Manchester, Canterbury and London. Come along – and grab yourself one of the limited edition Tombed Visions cassettes while you’re at it! Check out the poster below for all the info.

A tour for December

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.

Sloth Racket ‘Shapeshifters’ album and tour

The second Sloth Racket album ‘Shapeshifters’ is available to pre-order today, with albums shipping out and full release on 12th June (on Luminous). Recorded in October 2016 at Blueprint Studios in Salford, the album is made up of four new pieces that we developed over the course of our Autumn tour. Have a listen to a preview track and order your copy in advance from the Luminous Bandcamp site.

To launch the album we’re heading out on tour at the end of June, with support from Arts Council England. The tour takes us to some new places, perhaps the most exciting of which is the first ever edition of Listen! in Cambridge. Listen! is being set up by dedicated London jazz scene supporters Carol Garrison and Graham Lee, who have relocated to Cambridge and decided to get their hands dirty setting up a new outpost for adventurous music there. As well as Cambridge we’ll be playing in Bristol and Norwich for the first time, plus returning to Leeds and Brighton to play at Wharf Chambers and Safehouse. To start things off we’ll be doing a set on the Saturday of the second LUME Festival, which presumably you’ve already got your tickets for…

Here’s the tour itinerary, with links to more info on the gigs:

24th June London: IKLECTIK (LUME Festival)
26th June Leeds: Wharf Chambers (presented by Sproggits)
27th June Bristol: The Old England (presented by Pull The Strings)
28th June Brighton: The Verdict (presented by Safehouse)
29th June Norwich: York Tavern (presented by Plink Plonk)
30th June Cambridge: Unitarian Church (presented by Listen!)

See you out there!


Trip report: Raw Tonk Records fifth birthday mini-tour of the Lowlands

I’m back from a few days in Belgium and Holland with Ripsaw Catfish, on the Raw Tonk Records fifth birthday mini tour of the Lowlands. The touring party was three duos: Colin Webster and Andrew Lisle; Graham Dunning and Dirk Serries and Ripsaw Catfish. We were away for three nights, playing at Pletterij in Haarlem, De Singer in Rijkevorsel and De Ruimte in Amsterdam. Colin brought the entire Raw Tonk catalogue, which made for a formidable merch table. 23 releases! It didn’t stay looking like this for long though, as the Haarlem audience snapped up a sizeable chunk of the stock on the first night…

Each night we changed the running order: it was interesting to compare the three gigs as whole evenings, as well as each duo’s changing music. In particular, Graham and Dirk had never played together before, and it was fascinating to hear them create their music together for the first few times. I hope there will be more to come. The Pletterij date (which was reviewed by the Opduvel blog) coincided with the release of our second Ripsaw Catfish album on Raw Tonk, ‘Namazu’, so that gig became our album launch. It opened with a blasting set from Colin and Andrew:

Video and audio from these gigs are on their way: all three were recorded so I’m looking forward to listening again. Rob Braken took this photo of our set, also at Pletterij:

I can’t find any decent quality photos from our second gig, at De Singer in Rijkevorsel, but it was a lovely evening (reviewed on Peter Prong’s blog). I was struck by the great hospitality at all the gigs and the friendly audiences! At De Ruimte in Amsterdam, where Anton and I also played last year, the room is at the top of an old ‘traffic tower’, with views across the city. Despite the amount of glass, it still manages to feel really cosy:

A massive shout out to Dirk, who drove us around in a van each day from our base in Rijkevorsel (where he lives). The Simpel & Goe B&B where we stayed, incidentally, was excellent! Colin took a selfie of the gang on our way to have dinner before the gig at De Singer:

The Raw Tonk fifth birthday celebrations continue over the next couple of weeks. You can catch the Raw Tonk Festival at Hundred Years Gallery in London on 25th March (tickets), The Old Bank in Manchester on 26th March (tickets), and a Raw Tonk triple bill at Cappelens Forslag in Oslo on 2nd April.

First two photos by Dirk, last two by Colin, middle one by Rob Brakel.

Five Years of Raw Tonk Records

This month, Colin Webster’s mighty Raw Tonk label is celebrating its fifth birthday with a burst of activity – including lots of live dates for Ripsaw Catfish! First up is the Raw Tonk Lowlands Tour this weekend. We’re heading to Haarlem, Rijkevorsel and Amsterdam as part of a cluster of three duos:

After that there’s some brief down-time before the Raw Tonk Festival hits London and Manchester. For these gigs Anton and I will be playing trio sets with Dee Byrne for the first time:

And then to top it all off, we’re heading to Oslo on the first weekend of April for a triple bill of Ripsaw Catfish, Tom Ward/Andrew Lisle and KTHXBYE at Cappelens Forslag.

Happy birthday Raw Tonk – amazing work Colin!!

Madwort Sax Quartet album available to pre-order

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).