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The Weave: The Weave: Knowledge Porridge

Phil Barnes By

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Once there was a time when to be an individual meant pursuing self-realisation, working out who you were, how you felt about the world and what you believed for yourself. If that meant that say Thelonious Monk, Sun Ra or Charles Mingus were viewed as eccentrics then too bad, it was just how they were or wanted to be seen. Regrettably in our modern age things have changed and individualism now has more than a whiff of selfishness, nasty politics and a bizarre denial of a connection and responsibility to the wider society that enables your success. Yet old school individuals do still exist and on the evidence of this fine CD Liverpool's The Weave are very much in that category not having been drawn, to the best of my knowledge, to dubious offshore 'tax efficient investment opportunities.'

Led by trumpeter Martin Smith the band has a particular openness in their sound, in the sense that they have assimilated many different styles of music from within and beyond jazz, in a way that feels entirely natural. So, for example, while there are clear nods to Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard in Smith's style, his biography reveals that while tutored by Ian Carr, he is also a lifetime member of the Wizards of Twiddly, who backed the late Kevin Ayers. Smith has also recorded with UK indie royalty including Super Furry Animals, the Coral and Shack whose Michael Head takes a break from his current Red Elastic Band project to add 12 string acoustic guitar to album closer "Princess Salami Socks." Even the title of the album comes from the unexpected source of the chorus to the La's "I.O.U.," giving another specific link back to that especially fertile Liverpudlian counter culture of the late 1970s and 1980s. That said, it is the Ayers link that is most telling in terms of the sound of this collection though since it taps into that late 1960s, early 1970s folk rock, Canterbury scene with all the eccentricity and old fashioned individualism that implies.

With a band that is capable of playing many styles like this the key is to go with it without preconceptions, allowing it to settle and cohere in your subconscious. Give the Weave a couple of listens and your patience will be rewarded -the stylistic shifts feel right, natural and not at all capricious. So opener "The Pogo" is an infectious soul-jazz groove led ably by Rob Stringer's piano, punctuated with attractive trumpet from Smith and Anthony Peers. It was co-written by Smith with the late Jimmy Carl Black, the drummer with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, who apparently also penned some lyrics for it that have regrettably been lost. Yet the album is just as likely to take the path of the title track's shift between a New Orleans march played by a combination of Tom Waits and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, exemplified by Anthony Peers' admirable Viv Stanishall type monologue on the pitfalls of pursuing material things over wisdom. My personal favourite is "Evolve and Expand" on which Luciana Mercer of Stealing Sheep overhauls and extends her own song from her band's current 'Not Real' album—the Weave providing a fluid backing that flits between hypnotic repetitive lines, muted trumpets, vocalese and even a touch of tango. Somehow it gels and works well—the warmth of Mercer's voice disguising the unsettling lyric that includes the lines "They will cook you up and grind you down for glue and clay, To make a tiny hook for you to stay forever and a day...." This beats my other favourite "Princess Salami Socks" by a short head. The song is dedicated to Smith's seven year old god-daughter, beginning as a lullaby and developing into a fine cello duet by her parents Georgina and Jonathan Aasgaard intended as a metaphor for the child's journey into the world.

There really isn't a dud on the album though and the Weave have all the hallmarks of a group of musicians who know and understand each other well musically—essential for the level of understanding and integration shown on some of these pieces. Were we to ask the Weave the loaded question 'why play jazz?' I suspect their answer would be along the lines of 'we just play music instinctively and this is what comes out.' The label 'jazz' is just something we listeners attach to the music rather than a description the band would necessarily recognise -'Knowledge Porridge' feels like listening unobserved to a band play what they love for their own amusement, rather than say trying to score hipster points off London A&R men. It's a wonderful record and one that is all the better for being out of step with current trends. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: 1. The Pogo; 2. Trumpet Ear; 3. I'm in Your House; 4. Our Day on the Mountain; 5. Evolve and Expand; 6. Para Parrot; 7. Our Fathers; 8. Not on Your Nelly; 9. Knowledge Porridge; 10. Princess Salami Socks.

Personnel: Martin Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn and musicbox; Anthony Peers: trumpet, flugelhorn and spoken word; Anthony Ormesher: guitar; Hugo "Harry" Harrison: double bass; Tilo Pirnbaum: drums; Rob Stringer: piano (1, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 10); Andrzej Baranec: piano (2-4, & 8); Vidar Norheim: vibraphone (2-4, 7-9); Stuart Hardcastle: percussion (1,3, 8 & 9); Luciana Mercer: vocal & acoustic guitar (5); Michael Head: 12- string acoustic guitar (10); Georgina & Jonathan Aasgaard: celli duet (10).

Title: The Weave: Knowledge Porridge | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced


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