Outhouse: Outhouse (2008)
The two tenor saxophone-led Outhouse quartet are members of London's Loop Collective of musicians, a younger sibling of the city's pioneering F-ire Collective. Both collectives are focused on the exploratory, culturally inclusive and on occasion brutally iconoclastic end of the jazz spectrum, and between them they've put forward some of the most exciting British jazz of the past three or four years.
To date, the longer established F-ire have created the biggest stir, with Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and groups led by saxophonists Ingrid Laubrock and Finn Peters. But with their self-titled debut album, Outhouse shoulder their way straight into the vanguard.
Outhouse cite drummer Jim Black's Alas No Axis and saxophonists Tim Berne and Ellery Eskelin amongst their key references, and the confluence of rich rhythms and gutsy horns those names suggest is central to their music. Six of the eight tracks are written by saxophonists Robin Fincker and Mark Hanslip, and all are concerned with the relationship between composed and improvised music, and between form and groove.
In this respect, Outhouse explores similar territory as Finn Peters' Butterflies (Accidental, 2008), but with an altogether fiercer and more in-your-face aesthetica rough diamond to Peters' polished jade. More obviously, there are parallels with David Liebman and Ellery Eskelin's explorations of the space between form and improvisation on Different But The Same (Hatology, 2003) and Renewal (Hatology, 2008).
Rhythmvigorous and often ostinato driven, but nuanced and never a mere thrashis key to Outhouse's music. Nowhere is this better displayed than on the nearly ten minute long "Japa Seloho," which features guest percussionist Kaw Secka on tama, the Senegambian talking drum. Secka's laser-precise stick work blends with Dave Smith's kit with an intimacy unusual in jazz/African drum duets. It's a groove Outhouse explored further at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts in May, 2008, in a performance featuring five sabar (djembe) drummers from Gambia.
The other guest is vocalist Jeanne Added, whose spacey, wordless vocals are engaging features of three tracks. Fincker's clarinet also makes occasional appearances. The clarinet solo on "Spiders"with "Mu" one of the album's more soft-footed tunesis particularly lovely.
An assured and brilliantly realized manifesto from a headline new band.
Track Listing: The Tin Box; Spiders; Japa Seloho; Pig; The Foreign Meat; Mu; Zmerish; Canvas.
Personnel: Robin Fincker: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Mark Hanslip: tenor saxophone; Johnny Brierley: bass; Dave Smith: drums; Jeanne Added: voice (5, 7, 8); Kaw Secka: tama (3).