Thelonius announced its arrival on the scene with a brief-but-fun self produced EP, Reminisce
, in 2012. The quintet, from Bristol in the west of England, blended its mix of influencesmost notably hip-hop and Thelonious Monk
into a hook-laden and imaginative set of tunes. It was over all too quickly. Thelonius returns with the download-only Crows On The Beeline
a whopping 29 and a bit minutes of music. It's still hook-y, still infectiously danceable, still mixing hip-hop, bebop and a few other things in ways that gladden the heart. Still too short, too. Crows On The Beeline
features original Thelonius drummer Richard Evans
, guitarist Tim Baker
and bassist Dan Darbon
. They're joined by Tom Haskins on saxophones and Toni Palmer
The Thelonius sound is underpinned by catchy, drum-led, grooves and full-on guitar chords. It's a sound that runs through original tunes such as the slow-burn "Julia"the band's tribute to hip-hop producer and major Thelonius influence J Dilla. It's also perfectly at home on Thelonious Monk
's "Straight No Chaser," fitting neatly into Monk's angular, fragmented, melodyBaker's guitar solo also sounds right at home on the tune.
A Tribe Called Quest's "Award Tour" is the album's other cover. Palmer opens up with a funky electric keyboard, Darbon and Haskins lay down a heavy, deep, groove and the whole thing flows beautifully.
Past band members Imogen Walker and Tom McMahon-Hoer share writing credits with the current line-up on "So Wrong, So Right." The tune mixes hip-hop beats with a rockier guitar sound, Evans' quirky additional percussion and a Latin-flavored mid-section. That might give the impression of an everything but the kitchen sink muddle but it comes across as a coherent, catchy, composition.
As a title "Hardcore Horn" sounds like it belongs in a Carry On movie, as a tune it mixes a simple bass/sax riff with soulful tenor and guitar breaks from Haskins and Baker. It's the album's smoothest number. "(The) Sofa Grooves" keeps Haskins' soulful sax but pairs it with a slinky R&B influenced groove led by Darbon's raw electric bass, set suitably high in the mix.
The band describes "Say Hello, Don't Whisper" as the album's centerpiece, which seems like a fair appraisal. It certainly gets the fullest sound, its impact heightened by multiple sax parts, a flowing mid section, hip-hop drum and bass and Palmer's tense, repetitive piano line. The most ambitious tune on Crows On The Beeline
, "Say Hello, Don't Whisper" is also an exception to the "catchy, drum-led, grooves and full-on guitar" foundation, preferring a more subtle approach to the rhythm. Crows On The Beeline
is the sound of a band in full flow, ideas, energy and enthusiasm leaping out of every tuneThelonius marches on.
Julia; So Wrong, So Right; Award Tour; (The) Sofa Grooves; Say Hello, Don't Whisper; Straight No Chaser; Hardcore Horn; Julia (Reprise).
Tom Haskins: saxophones; Toni Palmer : keyboards; Tim Baker: guitars; Dan Darbon: bass; Richard Evans: drums.