Binker and Moses – Dem Ones
(Gearbox Records GB1530. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)
It’s always a sign of outstanding musicianship when you realise that you’re listening to far fewer players than you first thought. A sufficiently gifted pianist can suggest an entire orchestra, and various cunning small combos may punch well above their weight. But this album features a really striking duo — tenor saxophone and drums — whose playing is so accomplished and integrated that it’s easy to forget you’re not listening to a whole band.
The tenor sax in question is that of Binker Golding, leader of his own quartet and co-director of the Nu Civilisation Orchestra . He is rewardingly in league with drummer Moses Boyd, winner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians 2014 Young Jazz Musician Award . The two first met in the development program of Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors and played together in Zara McFarlane’s band and play together now in Boyd’s The Exodus.
Now they’ve teamed up with Gearbox Records and created an album that is both cutting edge and retro — recorded not just with all analogue equipment but also all valve, and with the minimum number of steps in the audio chain to preserve the accuracy and immediacy of sound, as evidenced by the opening track, No Long Tings. This presents to us Binker Golding’s deft and exultant sax tenor, floating out clouds of sound, shot through with Moses Boyd’s drum hits like spots of light seen through smoke, the percussion played with military precision (though a very unmilitary hipness). It concludes with Golding playing incantatory and hypnotic repetitive phrases, as though summoning a shamanic trance.
In a dramatic contrast, Man Like GP has a warmer and more festive mood, displaying a Golding now reminiscent of Sonny Rollins playing St Thomas, adroitly launching a sunny excursion with broad, bright, marine-blue horizons and Boyd’s tingling cymbal play providing a bite of salt in the air, before setting up a dense shimmer of drums like a sheet of spray sweeping over a boat. Golding’s sax is the bow cutting through the waves. ÈSÙ (a title which may signify a Yoruba deity, the divine messenger) sees the sound world undergo another radical transformation. The tenor here is minimal, evoking a tentative yet insistent birdsong. Under the chirping of the sax, Boyd’s drumming is solid and subtle.
The wittily punning title Black Ave Maria heralds a piece that begins with wavering, tense sax flickering in and out and is dominated by a Middle Eastern feel. Moses Boyd keeps a steady horizontal pulse going while Binker Golding sweeps up and down over it in accelerating curves of sound, building to a finale which is breathless — only for the listener, Binker has plenty of wind to spare — and ends on an adroit shimmer of ethnic percussion from Moses like a beaded curtain closing.
The Eastern feel continues in The Creeper which is distinguished by a searching and thoughtful tenor, a firm and complex shimmer of drumming underpinning it with confidence and precision, like the steel rods that run through the most ornate and decorative of buildings. Then Moses sits out and lets Binker solo weightlessly, floating in midair until a haunting pulse of percussion asserts itself again. This is possibly the most virtuosic performance in the set, in a quietly un-showy way. It contrasts strikingly with Retox an abstract modernist scorcher.
Gearbox, an outstanding niche vinyl label, has begun expanding beyond its area of specialty — discovering lost tapes of greats like Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott — and is now shining a light on the new British jazz scene while retaining their painstaking audiophile aesthetic.