Dice Factory: Dice Factory (2012)

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Dice Factory: Dice Factory
London-based quartet Dice Factory gets its name at least in part from Luke Rhinehart's 1971 novel The Dice Man, a work which seems to have found new fans among the current generation of emerging musicians, writers and artists. Dice Factory contains four such emerging players, each a member of at least one other major UK group—saxophonist Tomas Challenger
Tomas Challenger
sax, tenor
(Ma, Outhouse), pianist George Fogel
George Fogel
George Fogel

(Ma, Andre Canniere Group), bassist Tom Farmer (Empirical) and drummer Jon Scott (Kairos 4tet).

Just how closely the band sticks to Rhinehart's dice-throwing philosophy on its eponymous debut isn't clear: although the balance of dice-throwing randomness with the more structured and pre-planned concept of the factory is reflected in the music. The players can swiftly move from gentle melancholy to wilder, freer, passages but they never allow chaos to reign however undisciplined the music might sound like it's becoming.

Challenger and Fogel contribute most of the tunes, with Farmer adding two of his own. Although Scott gets no writing credits his inventive percussion is consistently fine and gives the album some of its most enjoyable moments, such as his loose-limbed groove on Challenger's "You're Lucky." "Heyu Nantucket," by Fogel, is a microcosm of Dice Factory's approach: abrupt shifts of tempo and mood, excellent ensemble playing, solos which dart off in various directions but never so far as to lose touch. The band is also capable of a more fluid style as evidenced by Farmer's "Eternal Sleep"—where piano, bass and drums set up a rich mid-tempo rhythm over which Challenger crafts a sympathetic tenor solo—and Challenger's "Pipes," who's deceptively prosaic title hides a languid and reflective tune.

Challenger's "Gooch" is named for Graham Gooch, a former captain of the England cricket team. It's an immediately likeable track, a deceptively repetitive rhythm acting as a foundation for Fogel and Challenger to weave some rather beautiful harmonies. Maybe Dice Factory will single-handedly establish Mr Gooch's celebrity status in the world of jazz? It's a nice thought, but probably a little too random an occurrence even for Rhinehart. The establishment of Dice Factory's reputation seems like a much safer bet.

Track Listing: Heyu Nantucket; Gooch; Saribund; You're Lucky; Eternal Sleep; Zout; Eternal Moment; Pipes; T.N.G.; Saribund (Coda).

Personnel: Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone; George Fogel: piano; Tom Farmer: double bass; Jon Scott: drums.

Record Label: Babel Label

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