Sunday, February 06, 2011

One That Got Away

Partikel - Partikel (F-IRE)

Amazon has the official release date for this debut album from London jazz trio Partikel as October 2010, but somehow it's only just passed under my radar. It's a shame I didn't pick up on it earlier as it should undoubtedly have been included in my albums of the year list.

Partikel are a young band and it would be an easy argument to suggest that they might perhaps have recorded their debut album too early, before the individual players had really found their compositional or improvisational voices (they are recent graduates from Trinity College of Music's jazz course). This proves emphatically not to be the case, however. Saxophonist and composer Duncan Eagles, bassist Max Luthert and drummer Eric Ford honed their skills hosting jam sessions at the Hideaway venue in Streatham, South London, and so emerge as a fully formed, empathetic and interactive unit on this thrilling debut album.

Eagles' writing is melodically accessible and direct, thus potentially introducing new audiences to more sophisticated rhythmic techniques and to more interactive performance. This is a world where Luthert's propulsive lines and Ford's creative drumming (often incorporating an interesting range of auxiliary percussion instruments) have fundamental and vital roles in the ensemble. There are other contemporary jazz groups operating in a similar area - Kairos 4tet spring to mind as the most obvious contemporary comparison point. Partikel are exploring these avenues with a similar commitment to creativity, energy and accuracy.

Although the melodies may be direct, this is not to say that they are without depth. Oojimaflip has lines that seem straightforward - but it is a real skill to write compositions this immediate, but which serve as an inspiring springboard for improvisation and experiment - rhythmic modulation is a common feature of the band's daring and exciting music.

The band make great use of the space and freedom afforded by the piano-less trio format. Eagles plays with an impressive dynamic range and a full bodied sound, with consistently imaginative phrasing. He is more than ably supported by Luthert and Ford, the former a completely dependable presence, anchoring the music, while Ford plays creatvely and expressively throughout. Often, as on the track that gives both the band a name and the album its title, the band create a wealth of material from very minimal foundations - in this case a simple riff built from very few notes. Even when the music veers into freer territory, there is still the sense that the band are still exploring outward from the basis of the original idea.

The album is bookended by two short segments recorded at soundchecks, perhaps there simply to demonstrate the band's open-mindedness and continual development. In between are compositions rich in variety. Highlights include the unexpected twists and turns of Cryptography and the delicate, graceful lilt of The River.

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