Twice I have come out of Roller Trio gigs and each time felt weightless, my brain fizzing with the tunes and the energy transmitted from the band to us. The Leeds-based trio who studied jazz at Leeds College of Music because they thought it was “the easiest option” (presumably discovering that it was not?) are winners of many awards and plaudits. Most recently, their saxophonist James Mainwaring received a Musician’s Benevolent Fund award in their Emerging Excellence Award series.
Emerging? That sounds like a butterfly struggling out of a chrysalis. No, James Mainwaring is the real thing, there is nothing delicate about this fledgling. Seeing him on stage, I immediately thought of Michael Brecker and more recently, of Marius Neset, that nagging feeling that there was more than one saxophone on stage when I could see there was only one. The electronics are subtle, just a little bit of distortion like static. Roller Trio combine extraordinary technical skills with a great sense of fun, they like being entertaining (a bit like World Service Project who impart a similar sense of enjoying themselves and all the more so for us being there too). Roller Trio are proof that insanely memorable tunes are not the result of dumbing down.
But thinking about the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly is perhaps an appropriate analogy – there is a sense that a struggle is going on. The sax tries to break free from the clutches of the guitar and the drums. Sometimes it shrieks, brays and roars. It is granted its freedom in the pastoral ROR’. This is my favourite track. It starts with an Eastern feel, the guitar like a sitar, the sax bubbles like a stream, the guitar picks out a Tales of the Riverbank melody (see this video for the reference), the drums tick and purr gently, then the stage is set for the most sublime melody on sax. If you only heard this track you might wonder why they are called visceral, gutsy, loud. They are all those things of course. But that is the metamorphosis – from gritty and urban to this beautiful tranquil track with just a hint of something to trouble the surface like the buzzing of a wasp on a summer’s day.
Roller Trio have recorded their second album (digitally stored in a folder endearingly named Doris by their engineer) and are touring with Go Go Penguin in October 2013. See them if you can, they are truly wonderful.
James Mainwaring, tenor sax and electronics
Luke Wynter, guitar
Luke Reddin-Williams, drums