Tag Archives: Apocalypse Jazz Unit

August 2018 – upcoming London pop and rock gigs – The Mantis Opera, Bozo Zoo, The Butterfly Wheel and Imogen Bliss (25th August); Norwood & Brixton Foodbank fundraiser with Treasure Of Woe, Carl White and Apocalypse Jazz Unit (also 25th August)

15 Aug

The Mantis Opera + Bozo Zoo + The Butterfly Wheel + Imogen Bliss, 25th August 2018There are several reasons that I’ve been following the exploits of The Mantis Opera this year. One is the music: an illuminating synth-rock rush through cunningly orchestrated post-classical complexity and brainiac alternative pop, topped with similarly cerebral lyrics which slide fizzing, thinking ribbons through philosophy, logic and linguistic theory before binding them back into more down-to-earth life situations.

If this sounds hideously dry or snooty, it isn’t. This is simply music which is neither ashamed of its own cleverness, nor too self-absorbed or chilly to invite you along for the ride. They’re among an increasing number of newish, bumping-along-in-the-underground acts who share this kind of quirky enthusiasm and possess the requisite smarts and chops to back it up. Tom O.C. Wilson, Prescott, Thumpermonkey and Lost Crowns spring immediately to mind: bands and songwriters who see nothing wrong with turning out songs with the depth and twists of playful short stories, of compressed novels-of-ideas or of meandering Flann O’Brien-esque digressions.

As regards The Mantis Opera, I’ve been chucking around terms like “wide-awake brain music” and “avant-prog keeping watch from under a dream-pop veil” and I’m not going to drop those yet, although I might have to come up with a few more if the band are going to keep up regular performances.



 
The other reason that I’m keeping an eye on The Mantis Opera is that they tend to keep interesting gig company. Whether they’re good at being invited or are inordinately good at charming their way into lineups, the band seem to have a knack for fitting onto a wide variety of different bills, and this end-of-the-month gig at Paper Dress Vintage is no exception.

Two summers old, already pegged as “rust-bucket swing” and compared to “Mark E. Smith manning the Hot Five”, Bozo Zoo play rootsy jazz-folk and rhythm & blues on drums, double bass and comfortably sleazy sax. Hollering, theatrical vocalist and off-the-wall lyricist Mark Warren (who also handles the inevitable, ubiquitous ukulele) ensures that they tilt into a similar realm of bulging-vein vigour and twisted circus berserkery to that of The Tiger Lillies. A few decades ago he was bobbing about in the kind of lucky-dip underground bands that showed up on Org Records compilations: now he’s singing up budding cabaret gallimaufries of music hall songs and ditties about chess grandmasters. On top of all this, Bozo Zoo seem to have fused Spinal Tap with Schrödinger, via recent online mutterings about “a new drummer but we’ve also kept our drummer… but it ain’t a band with two drummers… but we have got two drummers… it’s complicated.”


 

Hailing from east London and extensively festooned with mysticism, The Butterfly Wheel aren’t quite the esoteric revelation that they’d like to make out. Plenty of their surface schtick – the Gothic theatrical trappings, the Early Music dirge-wails, the stripping away of Western pop tropes in favour of frowning middle-continent antiquity – is more than familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Dead Can Dance (or of the host of intense, tousled imitators DCD spawned over three decades). What is refreshing is the shifts underneath those surface. A female duo, their songs reshuffle and transform archetypes for an increasingly feminised new time. There’s the sense of old stone patriarchal gods and legends being chipped away at; of more hopeful alternatives being birthed out of the sea; of the stories sitting up and rewriting themselves. We’ll have to see where it leads.



 
From Camberwell and Coldharbour, Imogen Bliss reshuffles Eastern European folk songs and tufty pop covers on voice, mandolin and loop station. The examples below are Armenian and Balkan/Romani, sandwiching a reworked Cure hit: the latter may not sound a great deal different to those pixiedreamgirl uke songs which still bog down every other cinema advert, but Imogen sounds awake and illuminated rather than sun-drenched and casually dreamy. I’m guessing that she’s got other tricks up her sleeve…

 
Paper Dress Presents…
The Mantis Opera + Bozo Zoo + The Butterfly Wheel + Imogen Bliss
Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique,, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Saturday, 25 August 2018, 7.45pm
– information here and here
 

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Norwood & Brixton Foodbank Fundraiser: Treasure Of Woe + Carl White + Apocalypse Jazz Unit, 25th August 2018On the same night, there’s this. Lovers of righteous noise, here’s your chance to sample some noise that’s a bit more righteous…

“London promoters Wrongpop and Chaos Theory have gotten together for a one-off special event to raise money for Norwood & Brixton Foodbank: some of the best new underground bands out there have agreed to bring you their sounds for this excellent cause, so it’ll be a phenomenal evening with extra positive vibes. 100% of ticket sales go to the charity.

“Formed from members of Long Slow Dissolve,The Love Me Tenders and Witchfist, Treasure Of Woe play stoner and psychedelic jams on guitar and drums. We’ve seen this duo doing their thing at The Facemelter last September and they just keep on recording their jams and releasing them online, so have a listen at the link and get down for the full live experience.


 
Carl White are a guitar/drums experimental rock duo, originally formed in Brighton and now based in London. Over the years they’ve shared the stage with acts such as Nitkowski, Alpha Male Tea Party, Flies Are Spies From Hell, Witching Waves and The Mae Shi.They’re currently working on a new EP, from which there will be a single/video released in the next couple of months.


 
Apocalypse Jazz Unit were started in 2013 by Rick Jensen as a recording project, after nearly three years of not making music. After numerous albums, Rick recruited some new and old musician buddies and started playing live. AJU quickly went from a small group to an over-the-top collective of psycho improvisers, with up to seventeen members at any one time. To date, they have released over seventy albums and have played a ton of gigs. AJU harnesses the spiritual fire of free-jazz of the ‘60s, mixed with a bit of disco when the mood takes them. Always high-energy and with a heavy sense of humour, AJU can easily swing from delicate and sombre, to full-blast horn mayhem.”


 
Wrongpop & Chaos Theory Music Promotions present:
Norwood & Brixton Foodbank Fundraiser: Treasure Of Woe + Carl White + Apocalypse Jazz Unit
The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London, NW1 0AP, England
Saturday 25th August 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – Phil Robson Organ Trio UK tour; Phil Robson and Christine Tobin projects debut in New York; London jazz judders with West Hill Blast Quartet, Apocalypse Jazz Unit, Øyeblikk and a Tom Ward/Adam Fairhall/Olie Brice/Andrew Lisle quartet.

2 Mar

Phil Robson Organ Trio, UK tour, March 2016

I have no idea what this has to do with the Phil Robson Organ Trio…

Despite having recently followed many a London jazzman’s dream and relocated to New York, (alongside his wife and collaborator, singer Christine Tobin), Phil Robson hasn’t forgotten his home country. Best known as guitarist for long-lived British post-bop quartet Partisans, he’s also followed a four-album solo career which seems to have developed into another British-based full band project, the Phil Robson Organ Trio. The Trio (Phil plus Partisans drummer Gene Calderazzo and British Hammond organ ace Ross Stanley) are embarking on a short early-March tour of England and Wales, playing music from last year’s acclaimed album ‘The Cut Off Point‘ (on Whirlwind Recordings). I’ve only heard bits of it, but what I’ve heard suggests a dancing, cleverly-constructed yet liberated skein of jazz: drawing on a rock-based solidity (and perhaps a little bit of Phil’s long-ago hard rock’n’metal beginnings) while also enjoying the kind of mischievous, warm, ever-shifting tip-and-a-wink chord sequences thrown into British jazz during the ‘80s and ‘90s by the Loose Tubes school. See what you think…


 

Dates are as follows:

Phil is back in New York at the end of the month, where he’ll be unveiling a new project.

Phil Robson's Icicle Architects + Christine Tobin Duo, 30th March 2016

Taking their name from one of Phil’s Partisans tune, Icicle Architects feature veteran New York drummer Adam Nussbaum (who’s played with Gil Evans, Carla Bley, Johns Schofield and Abercrombie, Michael Brecker and too many others to list), ‘Saturday Night Live’ bass player James Genus and saxophonist Donny McCaslin (bandleader, Steps Ahead/Dave Douglas alumnus and most recently an art-rock darling due to his band’s prominent contributions to David Bowie’s jazz-steeped swansong ‘Blackstar’). There’s not much information on what they’re intending to do, so for now you’ll just have to imagine Phil’s tunes fed through a New York sensibility and multiple generations of exploring the noise: post bop, free jazz, fusion and avant-garde.

Christine Tobin will be playing the same gig as a voice-and-piano duo with pianist Kevin Hays (of the Sangha Quartet, Bill Stewart Trio, John Scofield Quiet Band and plenty more). Again, there’s not much information on this but Christine can always be relied upon to draw multiple ideas and traditions into her world of song, working her low-key but flexible voice across originals, improvisations or interpretations (mingling tones and echoes of Leonard Cohen, Betty Carter, Joni Mitchell and Cassandra Wilson, plus influences from her native Ireland such as the Yeats poems which underpinned her 2012 album ‘Sailing To Byzantium’).

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Back in London, and back to this coming weekend…

West Hill Blast Quartet + Apocalypse Jazz Unit, 5th March 2016

Apocalypse Jazz Unit
Hundred Years Gallery, 13 pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England
Friday 5th March 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“The inimitable Apocalypse Jazz Unit was conceived in 2012 as a solo recording project by saxophonist Rick Jensen and has since transmogrified into a live band with a variety of equally deranged improvisers. Since April 2013 Apocalypse Jazz Unit has been a tornado of activity, releasing forty digital albums whilst bringing experimental mayhem, eclecticism and a sense of humour to their countless performances. The band currently lines up Rick on tenor saxophone, clarinet, harmonica horn and monotron with David O’Connor (sopranino saxophone, flute), Thomas Tronich (alto saxophone) Paul Shearsmith (pocket trumpet, balaophone), Hywel Jones (trombone) and Rebecca Gleave (violin).”


 

Originally this gig was also going to feature Brighton’s West Hill Blast Quartet featuring trumpeter Daniel Spicer (a member of the improvising sextet Bolide and duo Mandarin Splashback, and performer of solo spoken word/poetry), saxophonist Ron Caines (a founder member of prog-psych group East of Eden), double bass player Gus Garside (a mainstay of Brighton’s Safehouse collective and a member of string trio Arc and duo Static Memories) and percussionist Andy Pyne (of The Black Neck Band Of The Common Loon, Medicine & Duty, Shrag and Kellar). Unfortunately, they’ve had to pull out due to illness, meaning that the Apocalypse Jazz Unit is going to step up with an extended set. (Here’s a taste of the Quartet anyway…)


 

Rick Jensen promises “an epic display of transcendental jazz of… well… apocalyptic proportions. What you will get is the largest version yet of the band and it’ll also be the last gig I organise for a while due to my impending unemployment and the need to watch my money, so please do come and support this one…” (For me, this one would be worth attending if only to find out what some of those instruments Rick and Paul are playing are.)

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And there’s time to mention the latest LUME gig…

LUME presents:
Tom Ward/Adam Fairhall/Olie Brice/Andrew Lisle + Øyeblikk
The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, England
Sunday 6th March 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“For our next gig at the Vortex we are excited to present two new collaborations! Come and hear some fresh new orginal and improvised music!

Adam Fairhall and Tom Ward, 2015

This night features the debut performance of a new group featuring four highly creative improvisers who have appeared at LUME in other projects, but have never played all together. Tom Ward (alto sax, bass clarinet, flute) and Adam Fairhall (piano) had their names drawn out of the hat at our randomised free improvisation night last Summer, and following this initial encounter (a toy piano and bass clarinet duo) they decided to get a band together with double bass player Olie Brice and drummer Andrew Lisle. The quartet will play new music by the bandmembers, starting from a few common reference points. The band will employ a flexible approach to harmony and form, including investigating negative harmony and stretching out with extended improvisations. Influences include the Greg Osby ‘Banned In New York’ album with Jason Moran, the ‘Monk’s Casino’ album with Alexander von Schlippenbach and Rudi Mahall, and Fieldwork with Steve Lehman, Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey.

Øyeblikk, 2016

The two members of Øyeblikk – Dee Byrne (alto saxophone/electronics) and Ed Riches (guitar/electronics) – met in 2008. They have collaborated in various projects such as improvising sextet Zonica (Gareth Lockrane, Xantone Blacq, Elliot Galvin, Tom McCredie, Pat Davey) and more recently as an improvising duo using electronics. Tonight they will be joined by drummer/percussionist Matt Fisher who plays in Dee’s band Entropi. Øyeblikk (‘moment’ in Norwegian) describes the ethos of the project: a spontaneous narrative of soundscapes, riffs and themes taking the listener on a cosmic, sonic adventure. The title Øyeblikk is a nod to the fact that both Ed and Dee have a connection with Scandinavia, Dee lived in Stockholm for seven years and Ed spent a part of his childhood in Norway.”

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More gig news to follow…

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