CD REVIEW: Extemporize – Capital

Extemporize – Capital
(Extemporize CD. Album review by Rob Mallows)

Drummer-led albums are very often all about groove. This debut album from Extemporize, led by London-based drummer Mark Heaney and released a few months ago, showcases a band generating energy and a raw, gritty sound very much in line with current fashions in jazz. And there’s groove by the bucketful.

Mark Heaney is a seasoned session drummer, described by Modern Drummer as ”mind-blowing”. His new band comprises keyboardist Pete Billington, bassist Jerry Soffe and Stuart Henderson on trumpet. Extemporize already has a defined sound which is rather sparse and moody, but also spiky and immediate in its dynamism. It will divide opinion. This is jazz for the grime and hip-hop generation: there’s no hint of swing or hummable melodies. It’s all about heavy-duty rhythms that hypnotise the listener.

The album starts off in almost silence, before Heaney’s bass drum kicks in on Capital with an infectious beat, over which Henderson’s echo-filled trumpet sound brings to mind Tutu-era Miles Davis. Slow, expansive melodies, little in the way of ornamentation, and a sustained decay. A satisfyingly moody start. Third track Time also begins with just drums and the simplest, dirtiest of bass sounds, building up a cool, minimalist soundscape into which Henderson’s trumpet slips easily.

Heaney’s drumming chops are best displayed on eleventh track Search, which is a supremely energetic drumming display over a simple bass motif. Very unusual to hear a track that is essentially a drum solo. The heaviest track is number twelve Shinjuku, where Heaney’s insistent kick drum and hi-hat meld with Soffe’s almost House-like bass into a deep, rhythmically repetitive soundscape, through which Henderson’s trumpet punches with exciting power.

The production values on the album can occasionally seem a little rough round the edges, it is after all a first album. Perhaps sonic awareness is something which develops over time and with more experience(?) Nevertheless, overall it does hang together well as an organic, ‘as-live’ recording.

Perhaps the only other criticism of this album is that at times it over-plays the ‘cool’ card, to the extent that a few tunes – such as fifth track Towers – drag and interrupt the flow of the album. Extemporize is clearly in thrall to the trip-hop vibe, and it’s the more energetic, up-tempo numbers where Heaney, Soffe, Billington and Henderson produce the real fireworks.

I like what this band is trying to do in augmenting the modern jazz groove with vitality and atmosphere.

LINK: Mark Heaney website

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