Tag Archives: Tom Farmer

Album and gig review: Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points (released Sept 2013)

JonLloydGroupThis is an extremely elegant album.  I don’t know why I am surprised at saying this. I suppose I thought that saxophonist Jon Lloyd, a musician who has spent his life exploring the boundaries of structure and freedom, would be challenging, in a negative sense. I was wrong.  At Sherborne Jazz Club on 7 December, tempted out by the name  ‘John Law’ I once more saw piano and fender rhodes in mutual support (the earlier occasion was Brad Mehldau at the Barbican).  If I had been distracted by the pianist, then it took only a few minutes to realise that this is a very special group led by a very expressive, communicative and generous leader.  The lineup on paper was breathtaking – Asaf Sirkis, Tom Farmer and Rob Palmer. Last minute changes of personnel saw Mark Whitlam and Joe Limburn replace the drummer and bass player respectively. They both had the gig of their lives, showing no signs of being replacements.  They were sensitively supported and encouraged by Jon and John, allowed solos and the freedom of their illustrious forebears on the album. It was a memorable evening, serving as a reminder, if one were needed, that excellent, accessible and enjoyable jazz can be heard outside London, you just have to make an effort to get there. The experience of the evening was an accurate flavour of the album.

All nine compositions are gems.  The exquisite X and Y  opens the album with buoyant bubbling soprano sax.  Even at its most penetrating, it has a warm, serene, caramel sound. The melody is pastoral, gentle, songlike. The lyricism of John Law is always heart stopping, such delicate shading, especially in Yaga where the piano could be a sitar. In 5678 I felt we were in square dance territory, where quick footwork was needed as the time signatures crossed, got jumbled and tripped each other up. It was fun!  I thought ‘This isn’t free jazz, I can hum this (phew!)’ and I relaxed, and so became more receptive to the delicacies on offer: the symphonic, almost-classical opening to V Points where the piano solo, with gentle snowflake motif (a signature John Law effect), creates a mood of uneasiness echoed by the slowly burning guitar, the wary walk of the sax towards a guitar that howls, a sense of chaos and pain which gently fades.  The thrum of fingers on piano wires.   There are many strands in this music, you uncover them with repeated listening. It is harmonious and democratic, there is no need for extended solos, yet take any instrument away and you would miss it. 

The video below, from June 2010 (and not on the album), is a wonderful taster of this very classy quintet, with slight changes of personnel.   They deserve greater recognition for the beauty of the harmonies and melodies, the purity and serenity of the saxophone, the electronic subtleties, its modesty despite a starry lineup.  The group tours in 2014, please go and see them! This group must not vanish.

Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points

All compositions by Jon Lloyd except Improv (Lloyd/Farmer/Sirkis)

Jon Lloyd, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet
John Law, piano, fender rhodes
Rob Palmer, electric guitar
Tim Farmer, double bass
Asaf Sirkis, drums

Jon Lloyd

Mary James 17 December 2013

Gig review: Empirical – 4 December 2013, Warwick Arts Centre

EmpiricalIt was the last night of Empirical’s tour promoting their fourth album, Tabula Rasa, and they fooled around – not with the music of course but in their interaction with each other – in Empiricism,  drums and bass made it almost impossible for the vibes to enter, he tried and then stepped back, only to return with gentle vengeance, a layer of shimmering sound like bubbles under water. In a beautifully shaped evening they reached back into their catalogue and gave us Eric Dolphy’s Gazzelloni  from Out n In,  and Yin & Yang  and In the Grill  from Elements of Truth and tasters from their latest double album. From the painful, shrieking Conflict in our Time  to the sublime vibes in The Healer,  the band showed they are masters of pacing, mood change and colour.

Of course we missed the elegant Benyounes String Quartet, who share the album and graced the album launch at the Purcell Room in October this year on tracks such as Ascent and Descent. Perhaps it was correct to omit such sublime compositions for our gig.  But it only took thirty seconds for the old Empirical magic to grab me again, that sound that sends shivers down my spine.  They are wonderful, exciting, to look at – it’s not just the suits, or Nathaniel’s elegant shoes with patent trim. No, it’s the graceful way that Tom moves his hand away from his bass in a gentle ark; the precision with which Lewis Wright places his mallets at right angles on the bars; the way Shaney Forbes’ drumsticks create lines in the air like the tracery of a Jackson Pollock, the minute attention lavished on his alto sax by Nathaniel Facey, every note the result of care and thought. And then there’s the sound, dizzying, disorientating, intoxicating, heady like an exotic bloom.  It resonates through the floor, your seat, your rib cage, into your brain.  They are quite like no other band for taking you to new places, stretching you, just go with them, their judgement is as impeccable as their tailoring!

Catch them in Cardiff at the Royal Welsh College of Music on 17 January 2014 and Birmingham CBSO on 18 January 2014.  They are rare and special, and deserve the very best venues and acoustics.

Nathaniel Facey, alto saxophone
Lewis Wright, vibraphone
Tom Farmer, double bass
Shaney Forbes, drums

Website Empirical

Mary James, 5 December 2013