While drummer Clive Deamer who is “out of the loop with Radiohead these last weeks,” says manager Matt Fripp, and could not be reached, bassist Jim Barr, trumpeter Pete Judge, and saxophonist Jake McMurchie of award winning Bristol band GET THE BLESSING thankfully were, and easily make the official 75 per cent marlbank quorum required for this interview. Yes, one exists.
Without ladling on the superlatives too much, and no money exchanged hands in the extensive brain shrinking process needed to arrive at the adjective, it is blindingly obvious that they have a stunning album on their hands, in BRISTOPIA (Kartel).
The Blessing 3, or 4 minus 1 if you prefer, start by talking about their hometown at the heart of it all, rise to a crescendo and conclude spectacularly with a much anticipated diminuendo.
Bristol, what does it mean to you?
JAKE Energy, tranquility, life. Above all home. It’s a great place to live and the most creativity-dense city I’ve ever known. We made the music for a film about Bristol recently — BRISTOPOLIS.
The film and music were commissioned by the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival and our long-term friend and collaborator John Minton made the film out of a century’s worth of footage found in the Bristol Archive.
None of us were born in Bristol but (most of us) call Bristol home. It was an intense and moving experience.
PETE Bristol is where this band was born and in which it is still trying to grow up, or, rather, in which it is still determinedly clinging on to childishness.
The city has a very special atmosphere. It’s a kind of crossroads city, where travellers often arrive intending to pass through and instead end up staying forever, seduced by the watery light and the distant hills, and by the like-minded fellow-traveller-staying-put people.
It’s hard to imagine these four people making this four-sided music, for nearly 20 years now, in any other city.
There must be something in the water, in the 1980s it was Weil’s Disease, now it’s otters. However, the title BRISTOPIA does at least hint at the fact that underneath all the glittery wonder we’re still on the road to hell in a handcart.
Ornette Coleman, what does he mean to you?
JAKE Energy, tranquility, life. The freedom with which he approached his music, the importance of melody, and above all the desire to push the music just a bit further each time are still a great inspiration to us.
PETE Ah, Ornette... not to mention Don, and that joyous dancing fearless quartet of theirs from the late 1950s/early 1960s... what a blast, what a spirit, what an intoxication, what an inspiration.
JIM Ornette to me means art outside the establishment outside of entertainment and outside of the need to qualify with displays of conventional technique or crowd pleasing stunts, just beautiful singular terrifying originality.
[For Jim] what bass do you play on the record and what studio techniques did you use?
JIM I mostly played a cheap copy of a Fender bass V1, which is a guitar essentially, but an octave lower. It's got 3,000 000 pickups and a tremolo arm, so, various pedals: tape delay, reverb, tremolo, harmoniser, etc. Also: jazz bass with nice crunchy ampeg bass amp studio techniques devised with TJ Allen from years of recording this band in unsuitable rooms: Cornish fishing huts; Welsh tin mines; and Bristol aircraft wing factories. [A] very simple setup as it has to be portable — more and more pedals for everyone every time (Clive has 700 drum pedals). Lots more saturation and “analogue” sounds on this record.
[For Pete] Do you like Olu Dara as well as obvs Don?
PETE Well, I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard any Olu Dara until you mentioned him. Nice player! I’ve always had a soft spot for cornet (including Don’s pocket cornet, of course). Have you heard Ron Miles’ cornet-playing on the recent Still Dreaming album? [marlbank, “yes!”] pure brilliance, and another example of Ornette’s legacy.
As for trumpeters... there’s the other Miles of course, just as wilful and unmistakable as Don in his own extraordinary patchwork of ways; a whole world in a single note.
I also like trumpeters who sound as if they’re not playing trumpets, especially the Scandi-love-children of Jon Hassell and the Arctic Circle (Palle Mikkelborg, Nils Petter Molvær, Arve Henriksen).
The future of trumpet in three words?
PETE Breath, brass, diminuendo.
Out on 21 September