CD Review: Pigfoot – 21st Century Acid Trad

Pigfoot – 21st Century Acid Trad
( Village Life. CD review by KaiHoffman)

This is my first journey into the world of Pigfoot and it really excites me. I have to admit, when I first put 21st Century Acid Trad on the CD player, listening from my present perspective of traditional swing, and harmonious tonalities – and without someone holding my hand – certain aspects of the album were rather like a physical assault. But then I remembered the Berg in my past… This recording sneaks up on you, grabs you around the ankles and forces you listen in a new way. Taking these classic tunes and creating an entirely different atmosphere from what you might expect, Pigfoot lures you into a world where you can hear it’s not safe to go out at night, but you’re gonna have a heck of a good time if you do.

Recorded live at the Vortex Jazz Club, the album order has been masterfully chosen to take you right to the border of madness then bring you back, safely, tonally, and make you feel just reassured enough that you’ll venture on to the next tune, and then the next.  Quite an experience for the listener. There is plenty of playing on the edge, with every virtuosic member of the band shining through at various points, producing a vast spectrum of sound qualities, especially in the way the brass can can completely alter their sounds, from whispery and floating to laser-like, haunting, harsh and back again. I would have liked to hear more extended technique from the piano and drums however – the brass are going there, so I reckon it’s safe for the other guys too. They’re pushing the envelope, but I’d like them to push it even further.

Every track of 21st Century Acid Trad is strong, but Mood Indigo had a particularly effervescent glow – I loved the extended brass techniques and vocalisations, and the virtuosic, rhythmically complex soloing of pianist Liam Noble.The absolutely brilliant tuba playing of Oren Marshall is a particular feature of this album. Having long been a master of this most uncontrollable elephant of an instrument, Oren somehow manages to make it dance, elegantly, with a bottle of gin in it’s hand, throughout the album – there were moments of Mussorgsky, whisperings of Alec Wilder, and the heavy stomp of Pigfoot. Brilliant. Trumpeter Chris Batchelor tends to be the most tonal of the group, though when he goes off-piste he stays there, man, and really gets his groove on, with a sound sometimes haunting and soprano-saxophone-like, sometimes like an alarm bell warning you of dangers to come.

I love the way in which Pigfoot employ traditional ideas and techniques with their modern, ‘acid’ sensibilities, with changes in rhythm and tonality, the ‘out’ soloing mixing with the traditional-sounding influences. There are lots of exciting ideas which must have been quite mesmerising to hear live in the club – this music needs that live energy, which the Vortex has very successfully captured on the recording. The group – and in particular drummer Paul Clarvis – react to each other on a dime and create a remarkable sense of ensemble playing. You can feel the vast stores of energy that Pigfoot pour into every tune, but which is particularly rousing on Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, the last track on the album, with just the hint of resolution coming from the tuba at the end. (Phew!).

Once I got myself past the idea of expecting anything like your traditional Sunday afternoon tonalities, and realised we were definitely at around 3am on a Tuesday night, the whole experience of this album began to make sense to my ears. This is what happens to jazz when it drinks a little too much and ends up in the alley behind the bar, rather than in the bar itself. The flickering glimpses of traditional harmony are like dry, warm shelters from the thunder and rain. Don’t read the track listing first, don’t compare this to anything you might be expecting, don’t think, just listen. Because it isn’t what you’re expecting, it’s something entirely new. And I suspect that that’s probably the whole point….

Release date 31st March. Distributed by Proper

Categories: miscellaneous

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