Need to know? For sure. While only an EP in terms of length not much post-production has gone into it (it could do with proper mastering) nonetheless Portico is very impressive. Recorded at Portico Gallery in West Norwood, south London, hence the name, the recording features the bassist that we here at marlbank have appreciated most live this year Jihad Darwish whose eclecticism continues to engage and stimulate and is significant in the ensemble sound. Unknown to Known are very fresh and join the dots between free improv and a modernistic chamber sound dotted with intimations of Indo-fusion in a very unmannered and involving style.
This is ''free improv'' in a very different sense to the ''plinky-plonky'' school often identified with it in a classic London sense ie via the Mopomoso or Beresfordian schools or the complementary full throttle Evan Parker sound. In other words it's not Cagian, full-on Aylerian freak-out or anything like that and while still ''free''-sounding has more of an affinity to when Zakir Hussain collaborates with Dave Holland and Chris Potter certainly in terms of open creative feel and the sense of an improvisational journey throughout.
On the prior occasions coming across Darwish the bassist wasn't playing in such a free environment as this. But certainly this context suits him very well moving far away from more orthodox bebop or the blues when heard before with Guido Spanocchi and Marcus Bonfanti respectively.
Comprising four improvisations spearheaded by reeds, it's Yusuf Ahmed on drums and percussion who is excellent. He's touring with Joy Crookes whose Skin this year was a blinding revelation. Ahmed comes into his own chopping into an Indo-fusion domain on the fourth of these improvisations, sax chipping away and a head-bobbing momentum developing as Darwish's beat dances around. Tamar Osborn known for her work with Sarathy Korwar contributes baritone saxophone and clarinet most effectively and intertwines with Soothsayers saxist Idris (brother of Courtney Pine pianist Zoe) Rahman while Darwish deftly provides locomotion on bass guitar on the second improvision. ''Unknown'' to ''known''? Self- prophesying it's true. But why ever not on this remarkable evidence for starters. Wicked live, surely, they must be – this statement of intent strongly suggests. Stephen Graham
Yusuf Ahmed, top left, Tamar Osborn, Jihad Darwish, Idris Rahman. Photo: Unknown to Known Bandcamp page