Thursday 5 December 2019, 7.30pm
PAT THOMAS / piano
ANTONIN GERBAL / drums
JOEL GRIP / bass
SEYMOUR WRIGHT / alto saxophone
[Ahmed] – the quartet of Pat Thomas, Antonin Gerbal, Joel Grip and Seymour Wright – make music of heavy rhythm, repetition and syncopation set deep into an understanding of jazz and the obscure depths of its history. Across the 2 LPs which make up ‘Super Majnoon [East Meets West]’ the group work and rework the music of the late musician Ahmed Abdul-Malik to create a stamping, swinging, relentlessly propulsive record where profundity and physicality root right back to ecstatic feeling.
Abdul-Malik was a NYC bassist, oudist, composer, educator and philosopher who fused aspects of American, Arabic and East African thought, ethics, meanings and beliefs in open and experimental ways to make vital, forward leaning jazz. [Ahmed] reimagine the notes of Malik as they push for new ground. Melodies respirate, swell, escalate and combust in a driving jazz which yes is technical, yes is accomplished, but ultimately just foot-to-the-floor swings.
‘Super Majnoon [East Meets West]’ is a title fused from the leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka Bechir Attar’s description of [Ahmed] after hearing them in Switzerland last year (Majnoon is the arabic slang for ‘crazy’), and Abdul-Malik’s 1959 album East Meets West. Arriving as a double LP, the first comprises studio recordings of [Ahmed] at Hong Kong’s Empty Gallery in 2018 and the second a scorched live recording at OTO from August 2018. The record features photos by Bert Glinn and Taku Unami and ‘in and out’ liner notes by James G. Spady – historian and journalist from Philadelphia, the author of books on Marcus Garvey and the trilogy of groundbreaking books on hip hop (Nation Conscious Rap, Street Conscious Rap, The Global Cypha).
“When a musician plays, he should paint a picture”: said Malik, “he should portray wind, movement, war, the universe – and after he finishes, he should be able to repeat in words what he has just said in music. The Man I Love – things have all been said before – over and over again. The reason people don’t come to concerts is that they’re used to the sounds.”
To guard against this “stagnation,” said Malik, jazz must branch out, experiment, fight the inbreeding that is now its wont. Musicians must stop looking inward, and instead, open their eyes to the imaginations of other cultures.
– Malik interviewed by Bob Gannon Metronome 1958.
Elaine Mitchener is an experimental vocalist and movement artist whose work melds different vocal styles encompassing free-improvisation, contemporary new music, sound art, music theatre and dance. She has worked and performed in a wide variety of contexts with leading artists including: Apartment House, Van Huynh Co, Steve Beresford, Sonia Boyce, John Butcher, Attila Csihar, Alexander Hawkins, Tansy Davies, George Lewis, Christian Marclay, Phil Minton, The Otolith Group, Evan Parker, Alasdair Roberts, David Toop, and Jason Yarde. She is co-founder of experimental jazz quartet the Hawkins/Mitchener Quartet (with Neil Charles, Stephen Davis and Alex Hawkins).
“Mitchener is a distinctive presence and interacts with her body and the remarkable sounds she produces: speech, soulful singing, breathless percussive bursts, skittering across octaves.” (Ben Luke, Evening Standard)
“SWEET TOOTH is a vital black British addition to those seminal creative statements of resistance and defiance from the African Diaspora.” (Kevin Le Genre, Jazzwise)
Pat Thomas studied classical piano from aged 8 and started playing Jazz from the age of 16. He has since gone on to develop an utterly unique style - embracing improvisation, jazz and new music. He has played with Derek Bailey in Company Week (1990/91) and in the trio AND (with Noble) – with Tony Oxley’s Quartet and Celebration Orchestra and in Duo with Lol Coxhill.
"Sartorially shabby as Thomas may be, and on first impression even rather stolid, he has a somewhat imperious charisma that’s immediately amplified when he starts to play. Unlike other pianists whose virtuosity seems to be racing ahead of their thought processes Thomas always seems supremely in command of his gift, and his playing, no matter how free and ready to tangle with abstraction, always carries a charge of authoritative exactitude." - The Jazzmann
Antonin Gerbal is a percussion player, improviser and composer, active in the field of contemporary musics – from jazz to non-idiomatic languages. He has studied music at Paris Conservatory and philosophy at EHESS. In 2009 he co-founded Umlaut France, an organization which runs the eponymous label and organizes concerts and festivals in Paris and Berlin. Antonin Gerbal is mainly using percussion elements to develop multiple accesses to musical languages in jazz, improvised or written music. He has collaborated with many international artists and played in United States, Japan, Russia and Europe.
For a number of years now, energetic double bassist, filmmaker and producer Grip has played an important role for the new scenes of improvised music in Europe. As founder of Umlaut Records, he opened up for creative forms of organizing collectives of musicians and promoting their music internationally. Since 2003 he has been one of the main organizers of Hagenfesten in Dala-Floda, Sweden, a stand-alone festival, and quite frankly possibly the most pleasant venue for free improvised music not only in Sweden but in the whole of Europe. Few other places offer quite the same endearing combination of sophisticated musical risk-taking, and up-beat, social get-together. Grip’s musicianship is informed by a similar knack for welding musical sophistication with social communication, often with an analog film camera at hand. With a handful of short films Joel Grip met mexican filmmaker Mauricio Hernández and shortly the film production company Umlicht was established. They are right now working on their second feature film together.
Seymour Wright’s work is about the creative, situated friction of learning, ideas, people and the saxophone – music, history and technique – actual and potential.
His solo work is documented on three widely-acclaimed collections - Seymour Wright of Derby (2008), Seymour Writes Back (2015) and Is This Right? (2017).
Current projects include: abaria with Ute Kanngiesser; [Ahmed] with Antonin Gerbal, Joel Grip and Pat Thomas; @xcrswx with Crystabel Riley; GUO with Daniel Blumberg; The Experimental Library with Evie Ward; XT with Paul Abbott; a trans-atlantic duet with Anne Guthrie, and, with Jean-luc Guionnet a project addressing an imaginary lacunae in Aby Warburg's Atlas Mnemosyne.
His writing has been published in C//A, Sound American and The Wire.
Neil Charles is a bassist, electronic producer and composer. He regularly performs, records and tours with numerous jazz, classical and contemporary music bands and ensembles like alex Hawkins, mingus big band, has played with Terence Blanchard, black top and is a member of the electro-acoustic jazz trio, Zed-U.