Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

75

Black Top: No. 1

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
No. 1—the energetically contrapuntal debut album by the duo Black Top—is, in reality, a trio endeavor. UK based multi-instrumentalists Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas have been a frequent presence in the London club scene, sharing their live performances with a host of up and coming UK artists. Among them, saxophonist Steve Williamson is the most well established having recorded with vocalists Abbey Lincoln and Cassandra Wilson as well working live with Courtney Pine, Iain Ballamy, and Archie Shepp. Williamson joins Black Top in what is surely the most improvisational recording work of his career. The marriage of Robinson and Orphy's Afro-Caribbean influenced improvisations and Williamson's jazz-funk-traditional roots make for a highly effective collaboration that is unique in its totality.

No. 1 consists of three original pieces, of which the first two account for almost forty minutes of the album. "There Goes the Neighbourhood" opens to Willamson's tenor weaving long serpentine lines. The dark ambience is punctuated with sporadic marimba from Robinson which varies from being synchronous to somewhat disembodied from the sax. Thomas's piano adds a percussive tautness to the piece, often trading places with the marimba and at other times playing in such close proximity that the two become extensions of each other's natural characteristics. The electronic components added by both Robinson and Orphy create a colorful kaleidoscope of sound.

With its sweeping interconnectivity "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" maintains a core theme—but just barely— as the players race around it carrying everything in their instrumental cache. Thomas leads the chase, romping inside-out through the melody, touching briefly on Latin influences and eventually flaying the keyboard without ever losing complete site of the fundamental phrasing. Robinson, now on vibes, paints colorful and intricate patterns while eccentric electronic cadences drive the forward momentum of the piece. The relatively brief closer, "Archaic Nubian StepDub," features cyberpunk rhythms, playing off Williamson's subdued jazz-funk dialect.

No. 1 has the sound of a bigger band thanks to the musical diversity of Robinson and Orphy. It is all the more remarkable that this is a live recording and conjures the image of the two musicians frantically multi-tasking to keep up the pace. Yet in the music there is no sense of frenzied activity. Despite the persistent concentration of electronic rhythms, these pieces have the forceful dignity and beauty of a Jackson Pollock painting. Black Top manages to successfully blend compatible freedom of expression with measured grace. As a result, No. 1 is something very different and very rewarding.

Track Listing: There Goes the Neighbourhood; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; Archaic Nubian StepDub.

Personnel: Pat Thomas: keyboards, piano, electronics; Orphy Robinson: trumpet, marimba, vibes, steel pan, electronics; Steve Williamson: saxophones.

Title: No. 1 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Babel Label

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
  • No. 1 by Karl Ackermann
Read more articles
No. 1

No. 1

Babel Label
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Rats Live on No Evil Star CD/LP/Track Review
Rats Live on No Evil Star
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 9, 2018
Read We Two CD/LP/Track Review
We Two
by David A. Orthmann
Published: December 9, 2018
Read Angel Band: Free Country Vol. 3 CD/LP/Track Review
Angel Band: Free Country Vol. 3
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: December 9, 2018
Read The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-1969 (Vinyl box set) CD/LP/Track Review
The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-1969 (Vinyl box set)
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 9, 2018
Read The End of the Universe CD/LP/Track Review
The End of the Universe
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 9, 2018
Read Little Big CD/LP/Track Review
Little Big
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 8, 2018
Read "The Velvet Rage" CD/LP/Track Review The Velvet Rage
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 28, 2018
Read "Untitled Album" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled Album
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 3, 2018
Read "Ranky Tanky" CD/LP/Track Review Ranky Tanky
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 5, 2018
Read "Doubles, Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Doubles, Vol. 1
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 17, 2018
Read "Plunged" CD/LP/Track Review Plunged
by John Sharpe
Published: February 5, 2018
Read "Life Anthem" CD/LP/Track Review Life Anthem
by Jerome Wilson
Published: June 20, 2018