Review: Simon Roth’s Mayday Project

Simon Roth’s Mayday Project
(Charlie Wrights, Wednesday 6th October 2010. Review by Fran Hardcastle)

You’ve gotta love Charlie Wrights for giving new blood a chance. As they did last night with the family affair that is Simon Roth’s Mayday Project. The project was established by the youngest of three brothers, drummer Simon Roth, as part of Roth’s dissertation on Cultural Hybridity in Contemporary Improvised Music at York University. The concept being to draw together influences from different musical cultures to create the bands sound.

The academic nature of Simon’s compositions was mainly noticeable in the volume of written notes on the page, spotted from my viewing point (at the bar). An academic approach it may have been but the compositions do not lack musicality, seen in stand-out charts like Fight or Flight. Pianist Tom Gibbs created an atmospheric start playing a delicate pattern underneath Derek Whyte’s ethereal bass solo. The prettiness of the intro soon took on a dark depth to it with sustained low notes on the trombone meeting Simon Roth’s rock drumming. A unison line lifted the composition into an anthemic chart with a heavy guitar solo from the middle Roth brother, Alex. Edge of your seat stuff.

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The Project had equal success with a couple of the more sensitive ballads, such as The Bather, a relaxed tune originally composed for pianist and Roth’s lecturer at York, John Taylor.

The most academic chart of the two sets was Prime Time, which uses prime numbers as its rhythmical influence, for example working in 19 with a sequence of 5/4, 5/4, 4/4, 5/4 bars. As a result, the tune at times appeared to be a rather extended collection of sketches although there was clear thread throughout.

The penultimate tune of the evening, East, seemed to be the real cultural melting pot chart of Simon Roths’ dissertation, with north African and perhaps klezmer influences in the main head, lead by the eldest brother, Nick Roth on soprano sax.

Having given their first performance on May Day last year, the ensemble have since developed more than an album’s worth of material. Roth hopes to be in the studio early next year in preparation for an album launch and tour from April. I’m looking forward to hearing their debut.
Soundclips, schedules, audio are on Mayday Project’s Myspace

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