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Big Bad Wolf: Pond Life

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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2017 introduced a fresh and important voice to the Jazz-Guitar World. 23-year-old London-based rising star Rob Luft released his highly acclaimed debut record Riser on Edition Records in July and further embellished that unquestionable success with the publishing of the object of this review the same month. Not only due to much attention concerning the above mentioned release but also musically, things seem to orbit around guitarist Luft on the self-produced debut record by Big Bad Wolf. Comprised solely of frontrunners from the Royal Academy and Leeds College of Music, this emerging outfit furthermore features Owen Dawson on Trombone, Michael De Souza on 6-string bass and Jay Davis juggling the sticks.

Pond Life finds these young and highly accomplished jazz-musicians experimenting with sound and rhythm in a very modern manner. Between Indie-Rock hints and Post-Rock elements, ornamented with jazz-infused outbreaks, Big Bad Wolf present an atmospherically charming body of pieces to which the virtuosity doesn't lie in the individual performances but rather in compositional originality, detailed arrangement and unique sonic treatment.

The album opens with the highly percussive "Canary" , where—typical for this record -rhythmically complex variations stand in the foreground, giving the simply constructed call and return melodies an energetic drive. "Flats in Dagenham" shares many similarities with the latter but enhances the overall structure with a delay intense solo by Luft. Generally unfolding at a slow pace, Pond Life sees the band taking a lot of time to develop gripping grooves on each track. On "Frog" and "Quiet Coach," which clock in at 6 and 9 minutes, this slow and minimalistic approach tends to become weary for very little development shows during the course of the tunes. When seeking exactly that—slowly developing pieces with much rhythmical detail and an ambitious soundscape—the gentlemen here have created the perfect set of songs. Yet, slightly more melodic material and further harmonic progressions wouldn't have hurt the nature of this music either.

Some vocal contributions are spread across the record, adding another dimension to the overall experience while coherently and effectively serving the compositions. The melancholic "Grassfish" —a highlight by all standards—displays mentioned vocal input that further elevates the already highly intriguing composition which, in contrast to most of the album, demonstrates a more progressive structure and more versatile instrumentation, due mainly to Luft's guitar tone that alternates between electric and acoustic guitar.

There's no question this group has an immaculate chemistry, leading to the tight and singular success that is Pond Life. Though probably not for every jazz fan (especially the ones on the look-out for bop endeavors), this debut outing from Britain comes highly recommended for all who seek modern innovation and recombination in jazz today.

Track Listing: Canary; Flats in Dagenham; Frog; Quiet Coach; Hopkins' Choice; Grassfish; Pond Life; The Plight Of The Typewriter;

Personnel: Owen Dawson: Trombone; Rob Luft: Guitar; Michael De Souza: Bass VI; Jay Davis: Drums.

Title: Pond Life | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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