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Articles by Phil Barnes

INTERVIEWS

The Spike Orchestra and John Zorn's "The Book Beriah"

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Sam Eastmond is the composer, arranger, and trumpet player best known for his work as bandleader and co-founder of the Spike Orchestra. That UK based large ensemble has released two studio albums to date, Ghetto on their own label followed by Cerberus as part of a collaboration with the legendary John Zorn on his Masada Book Two project.Great though Ghetto was, Cerberus has proved to be the more significant both in terms of creative development to date and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Erica Bramham: Songs From A Midnight Room

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Social media engagement can make all the difference for young artists seeking to build a following, but it can also distract. The virtual world demands constant novelty and 'events' and if you enter that maelstrom there is the ever-present fear of being forgotten as your posts slip off the bottom of your followers' phone screens. One artist looking to make sense of all this is Australian singer songwriter Erica Bramham, who you may remember from her exemplary 2016 debut Twelve ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Walter Smith III: Twio

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The awareness of an audience or home listener is a key rite of passage in the creative development of an artist. Its something that usually becomes an issue as a performer moves beyond that initial creative surge of their early work, that build-up of compositions that led to initial success and attention has been exhausted and audience expectations have grown. So Walter Smith III's decision to revisit classic jazz tunes on this collection was not one that initially quickened the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Nils Frahm: All Melody

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As we try and make sense of our world there is always a temptation to simplify the complex, to set parameters or limiting factors on a choice or decision to make it manageable. For many this translates into only feeling successful if particular pre-conditions are met--say if a particular person or clique acknowledges our worth, maybe it is by purchasing the latest shiny gadget or simply through winning some irrelevant competition with our peers. Hard won experience teaches us that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star

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If 2016's Man Made Object, their first for Blue Note, was an exercise in consolidating past triumphs while signposting potential ways forward, then there can be no doubt that with A Humdrum Star GoGo Penguin have stepped into a version of that future. Ostensibly the title is a self-effacing reference to a Carl Sagan TV series “Cosmos," emphasising how small and insignificant our world is and by extension our own petty concerns are. The quote reads “We find that we ...

BOOK REVIEWS

All That's Jazz

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All That's Jazz Sammy Stein 198 Pages ISBN: 13: 978-0-9557670-9-8 Tomahawk Press 2017 Sammy Stein is a brave woman. Take that title--not just a riff on “All That Jazz" to cover a personal memoir of time spent in the jazz trenches but ALL that IS jazz. This is a book that in the author's words attempts to ..."share this wonderful music with as many as possible, to allow people to understand that jazz ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mammal Hands: Shadow Work

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Our best musicians can soak up influences from many diverse sources, assimilate them into their own style, and allow them to emerge during improvisation. This is why, as readers of this site will surely be aware, a piece can sound different in the hands of two skilled jazz musicians even when the raw material of the composition is constant. When this level of openness is maintained over time it can allow musicians, such as Mammal Hands here, to show a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Zara McFarlane: Arise

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Zara McFarlane's If You Knew Her from 2014 promised much, being a wonderful, individual, mixture of jazz, reggae and soul that viewed the singer's Jamaican roots through the prism of her UK birth and London upbringing. It was an original blend that signaled the arrival of a major talent on the UK scene, setting a path that McFarlane has continued to purposefully stride down on this superb follow up. Everything about this collection has been thought through -from ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference

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Being lauded as the “saviour of jazz" would weigh heavy on the shoulders of any young artist, even one so confident as to release a 170 minute treble CD as their 2015 debut. Yet Kamasi Washington pulled it off on the appropriately titled The Epic, with its ambitious, eclectic subject matter and surface similarities to spiritual jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders. Those that stuck with it were rewarded with an album that seemed to inhabit its own niche or world, ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

New and Notable Releases

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Sometimes in summertime the living isn't quite so easy and life contrives to get in the way of finding and celebrating the great music that is out there waiting for us. This article is an attempt to distill personal favourites from the many releases that have crossed my path in the last few months--had time been more plentiful many of these would have merited a full review. Because of the period in which the albums reached me there is an ...