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Binker Golding: Abstractions Of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers

Chris May By

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None of the new, legion improviser-composer tenor saxophonists on London's underground scene are more accomplished than Binker Golding, and unlike many avant-garde players, Golding has a thorough knowledge of the saxophonists who preceded him. His originality is, in a phrase coined by Harold Rosenberg, art critic on The New Yorker in the 1970s, "emblazoned with the authority of the past." This grasp of history makes Golding not only an enfant terrible of the new London jazz, but an eminence grise, too.

Since 2015, Golding has shaken up British jazz with a series of wild and adventurous albums. Three of these were made with the drummer Moses Boyd in the semi-free duo Binker and MosesDem Ones (2015), Journey To The Mountain Of Forever (2017) and Alive In The East? (2018), all on Gearbox. Most recently, Golding tore the rulebook into even smaller pieces on Ex Nihilo (ByrdOut, 2019), recorded live with the keyboardist Elliot Galvin.

Abstractions Of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers is certain to create another stir, though not, this time, for revolutionary fervour. The album confounds expectations by lovingly adhering to the imperial paradigm that the new London scene is seeking, not to overthrow, but to reconfigure. If it was included in a blindfold test, most people would probably struggle to identify Golding, who sounds more straight-ahead than at any other time in recent memory.

Golding's quartet is completed by three other luminaries of the scene. Keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones' Starting Today (2018) and Turn To Clear View (2019), both on Brownswood, are masterpieces of nu-fusion. But here, like Golding, Armon-Jones proves to be as eloquent in the older vernacular as he is in the new one. Bassist Daniel Casimir is part of the exceptional quartet led by the alto saxophonist Camilla George, another player whose present-tense music is steeped in knowledge of the past. Drummer Sam Jones studied on the Tomorrow's Warriors community programme on which Golding is a senior tutor, and has toured with the singer Zara McFarlane, in whose band Golding first came to notice in 2014.

The album itself is a force ten gale of acoustic jazz; its grit and bite and urgency stick in the mind. Unexpectedly, there are contrasting moments which suggest the Pat Metheny Group circa Offramp (ECM, 1982). The Golding group's performance is massively more in-your-face than the PMG's ever was, but the toplines and changes of some of the tunes conjure an ambiance of nostalgia similar to the one that imbued much of Metheny and his collaborator Lyle Mays' work.

A clue, perhaps, lies in remarks Golding makes about the album. "It's about experiences I had throughout my teenage years and twenties," says the 33 year old. "It's about remembering, forgetting, thinking you've forgotten and remembering again. It's about people and friends that you'll never see again and times that you can't go back to. So you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future."

Track Listing: I Forgot Santa Monica; Exquisite She-Green; Skinned Alive, Tasting Blood; …And I Like Your Feathers; You, That Place, That Time; Strange-Beautiful Remembered; Fluorescent Black.

Personnel: Binker Golding: tenor saxophone; Joe Armon-Jones: piano; Daniel Casimir: double bass; Sam Jones: drums.

Title: Abstractions Of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Gearbox Records

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