Partisans, Swamp, Whirlwind Recordings ****
Back for their first album in five years Partisans re-invented jazz-rock on the UK scene in the late-1990s not that it was particularly apparent at the time. Hindsight, typically, is the only exact science. The four piece, co-led by saxophonist/clarinettist Julian Siegel, and guitarist Phil Robson, with Thaddeus Kelly on bass, and Gene Calderazzo, drums, have in the space of more than a decade and a half put out four albums the last three By Proxy, Max and Sourpuss on Babel, with their self-titled debut in 1997 appearing on the now long-gone EFZ.
Refreshed with an even more complex sound than before and now moving to Whirlwind Recordings Swamp was recorded in February over a couple of days at London studio Eastcote. With four tunes by Siegel and four by Robson (including the title track), it’s not all jazz-rock by any means, the album opens with tense morse code-like percussion on ‘Flip the Sneck’ and a high-life Afro-Caribbean lilt to Robson's guitar line Siegel sinuously exuberant on his first elaborate foray. The mood is mellow on ‘Low Glow’ Robson Sco-like with subtle development from bass and drums the plot thickening quickly. ‘Thin Man’ has more of a tortured ballad feel to it, Siegel on bass clarinet initially the shadowy foil to the main process of balladeering. Title track ‘Swamp’ has a squally distorted wah-wah glaze to it, the quartet entering Wayne Shorter territory a little bit more, the tension gradually ratcheting up. 'Veto' allows Calderazzo to call the shots at the beginning, with a lively driving beat that then pushes Siegel and Robson on. ‘Overview’ has a Lionel Loueke-like impetus to it rhythmically via Robson while again Siegel shows his reflective side, with lots of tonal resource spilling out when he plays soprano saxophone here, Calderazzo carving the beat like a master carpenter. ‘Mickey’ and final track ‘Icicle Architects’ (the latter more a chamber piece) complete what is a very accomplished album with some world class ensemble playing throughout.
Released on 22 September.
Partisans play Jazz in the Round on 29 September
Gene Calderazzo, top left, Thaddeus Kelly, Phil Robson, and Julian Siegel