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Tom Skinner: Voices Of Bishara Live

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Tom Skinner: Voices Of Bishara Live
Best known in the U.S.A. as a member of the late Sons of Kemet and now The Smile with Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, Tom Skinner has been a vital presence on London's underground jazz scene for twenty years. Yet remarkably, only in 2022 did the drummer and composer release his first album under his own name. Voices Of Bishara (International Anthem) featured Skinner alongside four friends and fellow radicals, tenor saxophonists Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings, playing together on record for the first time, cellist Kareem Dayes and bassist Tom Herbert. As jazz supergroups go, this line-up would be hard to beat.

The album's title was inspired by American cellist Abdul Wadud's solo album By Myself, which he released in 1978 on his own Bisharra label. Other modern-day inspirees include cellist Tomeka Reid. In a 2022 AAJ interview, Skinner says: "This record is an attempt to put something truthful into the world at a time of rising dishonesty and disinformation. 'Bishara' means the bringer of good news... We [the band] pay homage to the idea of collectively spreading light where there is increasing darkness." The full interview can be read here.

Voices Of Bishara was one of the top albums of 2022, at least in this parish. The only disappointment was that its playing time was barely over thirty minutes. Talk about leaving them wanting more. Voices Of Bishara Live, however, is a 2xLP, and the live-performance extended playing times capture the band stretching out. For instance, there is an extended version of Skinner's "Bishara" and also an extended version of Wadud's "Oasis" (seven minutes on By Myself, twenty minutes on Voices Of Bishara Live). Two other pieces from Wadud's album are also included: "Camille" and "Happiness," neither of them heard on Skinner's studio album.

The longer playing times are not just quantitively better, but qualitatively too. Like Wadud's album, Skinner's is mesmeric, at times bordering on trance music, and the longer the track times, the deeper the listening experience. At the time of writing, there is no YouTube available from Skinner's live album, but the 2022 clip below gives a good idea of its power.

Neither Nubya Garcia nor Shabaka Hutchings is in the band on the YouTube. Both players were replaced shortly after Voices Of Bishara was recorded by Chelsea Carmichael and Robert Stillman, who are seen on the video and heard on the live album. Founder members cellist Kareem Dayes and bassist Tom Herbert remain in the line-up and are heard both on the studio and live albums.

It is remarkable that the album has made the transition from the studio to the stage so effectively, because once the studio album was in the can, Skinner got busy with the editing scissors, there being plenty of time to do so during lockdown. He applied the scissors with gusto, rather in the manner of Miles Davis' studio Jedi, Teo Macero, or disco auteur Theo Parrish, who in the late 1990s began creating tracks in a process which was as radical as William Burroughs' literary cut-up technique, though without the element of random chance. "It was really empowering to fuck it up a bit," says Skinner in his AAJ interview. "To mess around with the music and see what happened."

What happened was sonic lightning, and it has struck again, in the same place.

Track Listing

Bishara; Red 2; The Journey; The Day After Tomorrow; Oasis; Camille; Happiness.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Chelsea Carmichael: tenor saxophone and flute.

Album information

Title: Voices Of Bishara Live | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: International Anthem Recording Company


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