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Pinski Zoo: After Image

Chris May By

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Pinski Zoo burst onto the British delinquent-jazz scene in the early '80s, around the same time as Neneh Cherry's Rip Rig & Panic.

Rip Rig & Panic sweetened their avant-garde jazz content with vocals, guitars, songs with hooks, and some savvy rock and roll image building. Pinski Zoo, by contrast, made no concessions to the broader marketplace...or to anything at all. They served up a raw, unfiltered mix of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler-inspired tenor saxophone improvisations and rough-sex funk. And they peeled the socks clean off your feet.

This two-disc live set celebrates the band's uncompromising 25 years at the sweaty coalface of deep-seam free funk. The nucleus of the original quartet—saxophonist Jan Kopinski and keyboardist Steve Iliffe—still leads the assault. Bassist Karl Bingham joined in '85 and drummer Steve Harris in '87. So even today's core quartet has been together for very nearly twenty years. Kopinski's son Stefan joined on second bass in the late '90s.

The album was recorded across eight different venues in Britain during tours in '02, '03 and '05. There's both new material and re-arrangements of old favourites. Every tune, of course, is a band original, with Kopinski and Iliffe doing most of the writing.

The performances are as thrilling and unpredictable as any on the band's early-'80s breakout recordings. Utterly faithful to their original, post-Coltrane route to the jazz/funk shotgun marriage, Kopinski and Iliffe's playing is as shocking and in-your-face as it was back when they were freshmen.

Kopinski sounds practically untouched by the passing years. His playing is as hot and visceral and in-the-moment as it ever was, and his technique has grown beyond the merely formidable. He seems more comfortable with subtler nuances and lower boiling points, too: the unusually tender "Father Daughter (Ojciec)" here includes some rapturously lyrical playing.

Iliffe, who was always an arresting colourist and soloist, is on phenomenal form, with a tonal palette as broad as they come. And the rhythm section has never sounded so good: the twin-bass setup allows one player to maintain relentless, on-the-one, groove ostinatos while the other flies free above him.

In short, Pinski Zoo are still out there and still on cracking form. Organic, no-surrender, spiritually uplifting music, After Image is probably the best album the band has released to date. After 25 years at the barricades, that's an astonishing achievement.

Track Listing: CD1: Bounce; Spymistress; Father Daughter (Ojciec); Firepoint; Jab; Slim; Please Note; Polish Zigzag. CD2: Shed Bounce; Please Note After Image; Nu Choo; Night To Dream; Nathan's Song; Firepoint Sphinx; Stretcher.

Personnel: Jan Kopinski: saxophones; Steve Iliffe: keyboards; Karl Bingham: bass; Stefan Kopinski: bass; Steve Harris: drums.

Title: After Image | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Slam Records

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