Troyka, Ornithophobia, Naim

From 2015. Lashing Lifetime and Holdsworthian elements together as raw materials Troyka pick up where 2012’s Moxxy left off even if Ornithophobia doesn’t quite scale the dizzying heights of the band’s self titled debut on Edition back in 2009. Still …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 7 months.

From 2015. Lashing Lifetime and Holdsworthian elements together as raw materials Troyka pick up where 2012’s Moxxy left off even if Ornithophobia doesn’t quite scale the dizzying heights of the band’s self titled debut on Edition back in 2009.

Still mysterious but succinct ‘Thopter’ – the news tonight: London is still under total lockdown the computerised voice intones eerily describing a virus that has been rumoured to cause gruesome deformities – and ‘The General,’ the only two of the nine tunes to smash through the five-minute mark.

Now on a new label Troyka are back to their normal configuration after a super-sized Troyk-estra episode, and making a difference Belovèd Trio bassist Petter Eldh who produces and has written a couple of the tunes but does not play (production values are high especially on the brilliant ‘Seahouses’ and the recorded sound typical of Naim is handsome) the trio laying down tracks partly at Eton College where Chris Montague who has written four of the tunes here including the title track happens to teach.

Organ sounds completely different here, a world away from its usual swinging jazz use, and Montague does not give in to launch into guitar hero mode although he easily could – as the most naturally gifted UK jazz guitarist to emerge since John McLaughlin in the 1960s, surely – or allow the band simply to jam on autopilot.

The programmed sounds and quixotic sci-fi alternative universe Downes creates on Hammond and synths throw you off the scent time and time again only now and then steered temporarily into more easily recognisable areas when drummer Josh Blackmore starts fleetingly on a drum ’n’ bass section on ‘Magpies’ for instance or even enters hyperactive dubstep mode on the fascinating vignette ‘Troyka Smash,’ another album high point.

A little more ponderous perhaps in places than on earlier albums, the ambient beginning of ‘Bamburgh’ for instance, the good news is Troyka retain their state of the art involved sense of improvisational interplay and refuse to accept jazz norms, the only question mark hovering here: have Troyka gone in just too deep?

Stephen Graham

Josh Blackmore, above left, Chris Montague, and Kit Downes, photo Naim.

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Dennis Rollins’ Velocity trio, Symbiosis, Dogwithabone Music

From 2015. The push and pull, sheer ease in execution, the mellifluous knitting together of trombone, Hammond organ and drums Symbiosis picks up where 2011’s The 11th Gate left off. Ex-Maceo Parker and Courtney Pine trombonist Dennis Rollins, …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 7 months.

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From 2015. The push and pull, sheer ease in execution, the mellifluous knitting together of trombone, Hammond organ and drums Symbiosis picks up where 2011’s The 11th Gate left off.

Ex-Maceo Parker and Courtney Pine trombonist Dennis Rollins, putting the instrument on the jazz map in recent decades, is here joined once more in his Velocity trio by Hammond organist Ross Stanley (who appears as the main pianist on Jamie Cullum’s latest album Interlude) and Portuguese drummer Pedro Segundo who first made his name on the London scene as a regular house drummer at Ronnie Scott’s.

A world away from Fred Wesleyian jazz-funk, an area Rollins excels at, this souped up straightahead trio belongs to another dimension, Rollins in a kind of Steve Turre space going to the heart of the classic jazz club sound unusual only that it is trombone rather than guitar or a sax fronting the trio. A Hammond trio is always a bit more than the sum of its parts, the organist’s pedal wizardry drawing on the role of bass player for added value and mobility, and Stanley here on ‘Reverence’ particularly shows just what he can do to inject a little more zip.

There is nothing showy about the trio, and even the covers, a raucously swinging highly accented treatment of Roger Waters’ ‘Money’ from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon; a respectful version of revered Portuguese anti-fascist songwriter Jose Zeca Afonso’s ‘Senhora De Almortão’; and a suitably sentimental lightly gospelised version of Amanda McBroom weepie ‘The Rose’ from the late-1970s, a big feature for the tonally magnificent Rollins, don’t flatter to deceive.

The New Orleans-flavoured Velocity-written ‘Boneyard’ provides deep jazzhead fodder the rhythm verging on a boogaloo, dancing shoes required here. The album swerves towards a party vibe by the end of ‘Bakkra’ using multi-tracked trombone against a big bass beat and crowd noise fed in, definitely something of a massive attack. SG

Pedro Segundo, top left, Dennis Rollins, and Ross Stanley