As a founder member of Loose Tubes and Polar Bear, saxophonist Mark Lockheart was at the forefront of two waves of reinvigoration of British jazz, one in the 1980s, the other in the 2000s. By age and experience, in 2022 he qualifies as close to an elder statesman of the music. But somehow one still thinks of Lockheart as a Young Turk. Mostly this is because he continues to search for new contexts in which to make his music.
On Dreamers, Lockheart leads a quartet completed by electric keyboardist Elliot Galvin, bass guitarist Tom Herbert and drummer Dave Smith. In the 2000s, Herbert was a member of Polar Bear alongside Lockheart, and Smith moved in concentric circles as a member of the Loop Collective. Galvin is a more recent arrival on the London scene; he is a member of trumpeter Laura Jurd's outstanding Dinosaur and, among much else, has co-led a stonking duo album with saxophonist Binker Golding, Ex Nihilo (Byrd Out, 2019), recorded live at London's Vortex. (Galvin is your actual Young Turk and a name to look out for).
Lockheart's writing for Dreamers references diverse sourceshe names John Zorn, Burt Bacharach, Duke Ellington and Kraftwerk among themwith Galvin's psych going on sci-fi inclined keyboards helping to bring a sense of unity. The sound is somewhere between the trippy filmic soundscapes created by Lockheart's label mates Slowly Rolling Camera, with whom he has recorded, and those heard on Italian saxophonist Alessandro Meroli's Notturni (Space Echo, 2021). Some of the tracks are loose and relaxed, others more urgent; some have a solid backbeat, others are more rhythmically complex; tempos are similarly varied.
There are twelve tracks, lasting on average between three and five minutes. There is fun to be had spotting the acid-era flashbacks among the titles: the Beatles receiving a shoutout with "Marmalade Skies" and Charles Lloyd, perhaps, getting another with "Dream Weaver." Other titles are more present day: "King Of The World" might be a reference to Britain's prime minister, Boris Johnson, whose childhood ambition was to be that king; "Gangster Rat," which follows, could well be the morally bankrupt Johnson again. Who knows. Anyway, most of the fun comes from the music itself (although, at the time of writing, there is also pleasure to be had watching Johnson crash and burn).
Dreamers; Weird Weather; Jagdish; King Of The World (Jagdish Reprise); Gangster Rat; Nature V Nurture; Flourescences; Marmalade Skies; Mirage; Sixteen; Dream Weaver; Mingle Tingle.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz and editor of the style magazine Jocks & Nerds; he was previously the editor of Black Music & Jazz Review magazine; he is Afrobeat consultant for Partisan Records and Google Arts & Culture.