“The first release of my large ensemble music,” Alexander Hawkins says, referring to a summertime double CD that marks a decade of the magic touch pianist composer’s ensemble and which is currently streaming.
Recorded in different London studios two and a half months apart in late 2016-early 2017, compositions on Unit[e] are mainly Hawkins’ plus a piece by the Revolutionary Ensemble’s Jerome Cooper, and a co-write involving all members of the sextet who are violinist Dylan Bates, bassist Neil Charles, guitarist Otto Fischer, Hawkins, reedist Shabaka Hutchings and drummer Tom Skinner all familiar from Step Wide, Step Deep. The first seven tracks feature this sextet, while the last five are the more populated work Hawkins is referring to that happens to involve a 13-piece orchestra. Human’s Stephen Davis is the drummer on the Unit[e] large ensemble while other personnel in the larger outfit also include Dinosaur’s Laura Jurd and Hawkins’ Mulatu Step Ahead bandmate James Arben. A stirringly Art Ensemble of Chicago-like sound adventure where tonalities shift and shudder, rhythms rattle and hum, the double album is released in July on Hawkins’ own label. Before then in a pipeline of releases Hawkins appears on Roberto Ottaviano’s Sideralis, and on Human’s highly stimulating Fractured Lands.
Shop window dummies are not often known for their energy levels unlike the force field strung up on Mannequins, the title of an album from New York drummer-vibist Kate Gentile. As fry-ups go this is distinctly off the grid.
A free thinking unit featuring Tim Berne pianist Matt Mitchell who Gentile also has a band that she co-leads with called Snark Horse, the much lesser known reedist Jeremy Viner and bassist Adam Hopkins complete the band.
Gentile is not exactly a household name either and not much known beyond the close knit Brooklyn improv scene and is making her debut here, she is influenced by Jim Black and yep Berne, her official website biog notes that she is originally from Buffalo in New York state, arriving in New York city six years ago and name checks a few of her playing credits so far that include, no messing, Anthony Braxton and Kris Davis. Kate studied at the Eastman School of Music, according to the Jazz Right Now blog.
The video sound quality top is pretty lo-fi to be fair and represents the composition that features as the last track of the album in the same way that a photocopy does a painting. However, at least it gives a tracing. Mannequins itself was recorded by one of the great jazz studio engineers Mike Marciano and mastered by David Torn and has handsome sound even on a Soundcloud link.
Gentile implements a lot of great ideas on Mannequins, her open scrabbling loose notion of pulse and beat sitting alongside say how Seb Rochford operates when the ex-Polar Bear drummer allows himself to go free.
The quartet, wrapping things up, know how to read between the lines beyond notation by second guessing each other’s improvising direction whether in the ruck of group combustion or the darting run outs into the exposed, silently looming, out field.
Mitchell manages to move into another zone entirely beyond piano on Prophet 6 analogue synthesiser, and the album also contains an exploratory far sighted electronic element that gives more of a sharp focus of an insight into Gentile’s ingenious approach that seems to thrive on a quiet spiky drama all of her own devising.
The issuing label Skirl records has details about how to buy Mannequins, which is released in June. Updated 25/05/17 adding album track ‘Wrack,’ above