Tom Challenger previews the tour by his band MA which kicks off at the Vortex tonight
The band I’ve been running for 5 years now – MA -is playing in a handful of venues around the country, starting with The Vortex tonight, and heading to Leeds, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Manchester…. MA was formed initially as a trio with myself, Ross Stanley (Organ) and Dave Smith (Drums). Quickly, after a short tour with UK Drums/Electronics legend Steve Arguelles, MA evolved into a quartet with Matt Calvert on Electronics and processing. Last year, their successful release of their full Debut Album – ‘The Last’ attracted wide praise.
MA play a hybrid of improv and electronica, with hefty amounts of composition thrown in for good measure. The result is a blend of Experimental Jazz meets Electronica meets Dub meets….The music to come on this tour – there’s a preview here – will be released in the autumn….
This music began it’s development back in 2011, when I wrote a new piece for MA with two extra percussionists (which was performed at the Loop Festival of that year). It was conceived so that the writing would heavily inform the improvising. Therefore the mood of the piece would be dictated primarily by the material – and not so much the language being utilised (in any particular moment) by the improviser. It felt very restrictive, although the end result was extremely effective (this will be released later in the year).
In the following months, we ‘played the music in’ as it were, and somehow, got to the point that you can see/hear. In that time many things have changed: The harmonic and rhythmic information (developed for this tune by Dave Smith) have become a lot more intertwined; The orchestration/instrumentation has altered, and this has had an effect on the mood of the piece. For me, the biggest change (and this is in no way exclusive to this composition/band!) has simply been the fact we’ve played it a lot of times, and our musical intuition has nibbled away at the material, as such that it is what it is, now. We are freer within the given music, thus being able to interpret and improvise on a different level (some would say a higher level – but this is a different discussion for a different day!)
However, not all of our material is developed like this. One particular example of something completely different is the title track of the album ‘The Last’. I brought a chord progression in, described the feel I wanted and counted it off. I improvised a melody, and it stuck. Simple. I sometimes wish it was always that easy…but then, what would be the point?!
MA will be appearing for the majority of gigs as a trio (a recent experiment – that is proving to be very fruitful), and Ross Stanley will be playing with us in Nottingham, along with James Maddren on Drums.
Putting on a tour in this current climate is extremely challenging, and one the most heartening things about my experiences of organising this particular run of gigs is the help and support we have received.
As a member of the Loop Collective I collaborate with many collectives and organisations. Crucial to this tour have been: Lima, Dialogues. The Vortex , Nottingham Contemporary. SE Collective, EFPI and Jazz Services
I look forward to finally taking this band out of London – It’s going to be very exciting!!!
Thu 10 8:00pm The Vortex, Dalston
Fri 11 8:00pm The Fox and Newt, Leeds
Sat 12 8:00pm The Bongo Club, Edinburgh
Thu 17 8:00pm Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham
Tue 19 8:00pm The Sandbar, Manchester