A look back at the Irwin Mitchell mjf originals Anton Hunter’s Article XI

So, the dust has settled. I’ve gathered together a bunch of reviews and photos on my website www.antonhunter.com, but in keeping with the rest of this blog, I thought I’d just share some thoughts and the like.

The week itself was a bit of a blur, I missed most of the festival itself due to rehearsals, and also I spent the opening weekend playing in Germany with Beats & Pieces (great fun, as ever). It was great to hear back the opening night on Radio 3, and Johnny’s set at Band On The Wall sounded like it was great. The bits I did see were pretty special, Adam Fairhall’s Imaginary Delta was the MJF Originals three years ago, and a big inspiration for me at the time, so it was great to see it again at the RNCM, with added poems from Jackie Kay. Silence Blossoms were the highlight of the week for me, and a few other people I spoke to too. I know I’m biased as they’re on our label Efpi, but this band never cease to amaze me, such gorgeous songs, and constantly in a state of reinvention through improvising.

Back to me anyway. The gig ended up being quite emotional, and I was quite taken aback by the response when we finished. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some of my favourite musicians for a week, and really honoured that they all contributed, both in the build-up and of course on the night itself. Three days later we did it all again at The Vortex in London, having everyone in the same place for a week felt like too good an opportunity to pass up, so we made the most of it and recorded that gig too (keep your eyes peeled for an album on Efpi next year). The London date felt less emotional for me, but we did two sets and stretched out a bit to explore some different areas, and was probably more relaxed. I was keen to leave enough space in the music for the performances to vary from gig to gig, and the Vortex gig definitely fulfilled that. Opinions amongst the band varied as to which was better, so I think the album will end up being a mix of the two gigs (or even double-gatefold vinyl if anyone with any money is reading this…).

As an aside, I had found out just before the gig that my parents had their first ever date watching some theatre at Central Library, which was a nice coincidence, and gave me the opportunity to embarrass them during the gig.

Anyway, I’ve you’ve been reading, or if you came to either of the gigs, thank you ever so much for indulging me, I’ve enjoyed it all immensely!

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Anton Hunter’s Article XI at Central Library. Review by the Manchester Evening News

Some of the most energising jazz arises from a workshop environment where guiding force helps all the personalities put their stamp on a common purpose.

And so it was with Manchester-bred Anton Hunter’s Article XI,  performed in the impressive setting of the revamped central library.

The project, generously supported by MJF sponsor Irwin Mitchell solicitors, involved a band of 11, led by rising star Anton.

Each musician recorded an interpretation of a basic motif suggested to them by Anton.

The combined efforts were then honed into a selection of interchangeable pieces and then rehearsed briefly.

Results panned out beautifully into a suite of eight arrangements.

Drummer John Hunter and bassist Eero Tikkanen set out swinging, fluid structures over which the horns set out their loose-limbed lines.

Eero’s playing was a revelation to me all night; fresh and natural without the slightest hint of cliché. 

The first piece (’20’) had Eero’s lone bass appearing half-way only to be overtaken by scrabbling saxes and then all the horns playing a swaggering anthem.  

“It was a great event and a good example of arts patronage at its best”

Anton stepped back for the majority of the evening, acting as conductor, adding judicious comping throughout and a measured solo on the second piece.

Mette Rasmussen excelled during her furious alto workout with drums and bass on the third piece.

On the fourth piece, entitled C# Makes the World A Better Place, Anton set up quiet, synth-like strains with a slide on his fretboard. The throbbing saxes lurked about until a final enthralling chant from the horns.

The fifth piece was my favourite. A dramatic, somber but ever-so softly swinging theme, reminiscent of Ellington/Strayhorn, gave way to trumpeter Graham South’s breathtaking solo, full of poise and invention. It was followed by the equally impressive trombonist Seth Bennett and a team finish in which everyone sounded just right.

The very final piece segued into a driving beat with an impressive statement from trombonist Richard Foote.

A climatic final anthem was pounded home with decorative lines added by the horns.

It was a great event and a good example of arts patronage at its best.

To hear the fifth piece online, albeit without the benefit of mastering go here

The musicians were:

Anton Hunter / guitar, electronics

Graham South, Nick Walters / trumpets

Mette Rasmussen / alto saxophone

Sam Andreae, Simon Prince / tenor saxophones

Cath Roberts / baritone saxophone

Seth Bennett, Richard Foote / trombones

Eero Tikkanen / bass

Johnny Hunter/ drums

Review Written by Andy Cronshaw for the Manchester Evening News

 

 

 

 

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Mette Rassmussen- Alto Sax

Mette_Rasmussen_by_Peter_Gannushkin-08

And so we come to the final member of the group. I first met Mette through Sam Andreae, who introduced us when he was studying in Helsinki. She is hands-down one of the strongest improvisers I know, her alto saxophone tone is so powerful. UK audiences may have seen her playing with Trio Riot on one of their many tours over here, but she’s also making a big impact internationally. On a recent tour of the US, she could be seen with Craig Taborn and Devin Hoff amongst many other, and already this year she has toured in a duo with Chris Corsano and a trio with Ståle Solberg and British keyboard wizard Alan Silva. You may have seen her playing with Rudi Mahall, Tobias Delius, Wilbert de Jode and Axel Dorner as well. Basically, she’s really really great and in heavy demand, so I’m pretty pleased she’s coming to do my gig!

Trio Riot are one of my favourite bands, and each time I see them it gets better, the way they do so much with such a simple line-up (two saxophones and drums) is quite inspiring, and on their recent tour it was great to hear how they’d developed new material, still finding new areas to explore both compositionally and improvisatory. Well worth your time.

Anyway, moving on to my music, this excerpt should line up with the one I gave Johnny on drums (read the blog if you need to catch up…). The melody is very aggressive and spiky, and I knew Mette would respond well to that; the improv she sent me continues the aggression well and takes the melody into some new territory. The trick is going to be trying to blend this with what Johnny sent me, as they both explore different areas. Stay tuned…

Mette
http://vimeo.com/72887847 – Trio Riot filmed by, as ever, Angela Guyton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DE2GV58KLo – Mette in duo with Chris Corsano

https://soundcloud.com/mette-rasmussen-1

 

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Richard Foote- Trombone

Image

Richard is another musician that I first met through booking gigs in Manchester, this time through our Freedom Principle series (www.freedomprinciple.co.uk), and he brought his quartet ‘(bink!)’ up from Birmingham, where he was studying. At the time he was coming to the end of his studies and already sounding pretty damn good, and since then has gone from strength to strength, cropping up in the bands of Mike Fletcher, Jonathan Silk and more. He’s also been running his own “Sort Of Brass Band Thing” called Young Pilgrims who are pretty firey as their soundcloud testifies http://youngpilgrims.co.uk. All this also means that there’s plenty of opportunities to see him during the festival, Young Pilgrims will be out and about on Sunday 20th, and Richard is also playing with the Jonathan Silk Big Band on Wednesday 23rd. There’s a load of large-ensembles on at this year’s festival in fact, you’re pretty much spoilt for choice, so do have a look www.manchesterjazz.com.

Anyway, on to the music. I wrote this extract as one of the first things when I started work on this suite and it’s, unusually for a me, a fairly upbeat groovy riff, which I felt was perfect for Richard to get his teeth into. He came back to me with three different improvisations, ranging from some new-orleans style solos to more introspective melodic lines. Definitely gives me some different options as to where the music is going.

Imagewww.richardfoote.co.uk

Right, I’d better dash anyway, as I type this we’re a couple of days away from the first rehearsal, and there’s a load of music I need to type up..

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Nick Walters- Trumpet

nickI first met Nick through Graham South, when we both played in his student big band at Manchester University. Nowadays he resides in London and can be seen with a wide range of groups, including festival favourites Riot Jazz and his own 9/10-piece Paradox Ensemble (whose debut EP is out on, surprise surprise, Efpi Records). We play together in Skamel and Beats & Pieces Big Band, in both of which I have the dubious honour of having to solo directly after him… He’s an incredibly melodic player, whose improvising never ceases to bring out a smile in me. He is also at home exploring textural soundscapes, but he makes crafting beautiful melodies out of nothing look effortless!

His influences, as you can hear best with his Paradox Ensemble, come from a more funky place than my own, but there’s some distinct cross-overs, namely around bands like Tortoise. There’s a distinct sound to his writing, and I’ve been lucky enough to play his compositions in Paradox, as well as Skamel and Beats & Pieces. Again, another musician who sounds like himself in a multitude of different settings. Also, I have huge beard envy.

This excerpt was written in a reflective mood (I’ll tell you the full story on the gig, if you ask me nicely). One of the challenges of this project is finding the right balance between saying what I want to say but leaving room for the musicians to add their voice. In this instance, I felt Nick was the right man to expand on what I’d given him, and the improvisation he sent back proved me right. He also recorded this during a three=month trip to Africa.  That’s the dedication you can expect from Nick, not letting a small matter like his holiday get in the way of the music.

Nick
http://www.nickwalters.net

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Seth Bennett- Trombone

P1030044 As I type this, Seth is currently attempting to go to sleep in the van, I’d post a photo but I’m not sure he’d be so happy about that. We’re on the way to Wooda Farm in Cornwall for a residential organised by Sound And Music where we get to hang out and improvise with some awesome musicians in beautiful surroundings (read more about that in Seth’s own blog post here http://blog.soundandmusic.org/2014/02/19/seth-bennett-reflects-back-on-a-weekend-of-improvisation-in-deepest-darkest-cornwall/). Ordinarily, Seth is a fantastic double-bassist, and you may have spotted him out and about with, amongst others, folk singer Mary Hampton, afro-punk Dadaists Orchestre Tout Puissant Marchel Duchamp, the Orchestral Sinfonia of Leeds and contemporary jazzers I.D.S.T. I first heard him as one of two bassists in Laura Cole’s group Metamorphic and remember being really impressed with how well he fitted into the sound, not an easy task when there’s two of you fighting for the low-frequency space.

Seth has also led his own projects which include folk/contemporary improvisers 7Hertz, trio Nut Club and co-leading improvisation big band, the Bennett Cole Orchestra (whose gig at Seven Arts in Leeds recently really blew me away, check out the opening track here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4ACWMvPxDw). So to his trombone playing, not many people know about it but he’s just as strong an improviser on brass as he is on bass. It’s really important to me to get people in the band who’ll do more than just read what I put in front of them, every member of the band leads their own groups and will bring a lot to the final sound.

The excerpt I’ve given to Seth I had initially intended to be fairly melancholy, but it turned out it inspired a fairly ferocious bit of jazz playing. I think I marked the tempo a bit too quick, but also it’s good to know I should leave room for Seth to stretch out a bit and get a bit loud. Possibly not in this tune, but definitely somewhere…

Seth

sethbennett.com (not to be confused with the BBC sport reporter Seth Bennett, although our Seth did genuinely teach the other Seth’s sister the double bass for a while)

 

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Sam Andreae- Tenor Sax

 

sam

One of my oldest musical collaborators, we set up the quartet HAQ together in 2008 which was the beginnings for me of consciously trying to blend the composed with the improvised. You may also know him from one of his many bands (deep breath now): Trio Riot, Silence Blossoms, Strikethrough Me And You, Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, Aaargh! And many more besides. He is also one third of Efpi Records, and established the Freedom Principle gig series many moons ago.

It’s ok for me to say nice things about him, because he’s currently on a solo tour of Japan so probably won’t read them. Speaking of his solo work, you should check out the video below, filmed by Angela Guyton in her house of him playing solo saxophone and electronics. What really impresses me about Sam is how we manages, across such a diverse range of bands, to still sound totally himself, and be totally committed to each project. He also makes a decent curry, but that’s probably not overly relevant here.

The excerpt I wrote for Sam I intended to play in unison with him, and the rhythmic values are approximate so far. In his improvisation based on this, the areas he went and explored suggested a couple of different tonalities, to the point where I now think the harmony part in the last bar work much better by just changing one note. Which is all very boring for you I’m sure but I was really excited when I discovered that.

SamI’ve also been struggling with titles this week, this piece is provisionally titled “C sharp makes the world a better place” which is obviously terrible, so any suggestions greatly received. Answers on a postcard…

http://samandreae.com <http://samandreae.com/>

http://vimeo.com/93347815 – Silence Blossoms in Manchester, album out soon on Efpi Records

http://vimeo.com/95712881 – Solo Sax

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