The Playtime Trio – Tangential Excursions
(Interrupto Music. IM006. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
The house band at the regular Playtime night in Edinburgh turn their hand to many different styles, from mainstream through bop to free jazz – often in the same evening. In this incarnation, they’re deep into improvisation. Sometimes wholly improvised music can be difficult to listen, outside of the gig in which it is created; sometim es it can be difficult to listen to, full stop. This recording of two sets from a single gig last year isn’t hard, and makes sense as a recording, too.
The three musicians – Tom Bancroft (drums), Graeme Stephen (guitar) and Martin Kershaw (alto and soprano saxophones and bass clarinet) – have a knowledge and experience of each other’s playing going back years. They take turns to lead, the music morphing from one form to another; almost as if different sections or tracks were evolving as one listens.
Stephen uses a variety of pedals to build up his sound, creating loops of multiple tracks which he, Bancroft and Kershaw play with. Sometimes he sets up a bass line and then solos over the top; sometimes he is building the colour and texture, almost like a painter adding to the canvas. His loops seem to rise and fall twisting back on themselves and becoming reversed unruly they slowly disintegrate. His playing is inventive and melodic.
Kershaw is similarly versatile. He uses the bass clarinet clarinet as a drone, or to play a soulful, organ-like melody. There are some tempestuous saxophone solos, angry notes cascading front his soprano, and there are some beautiful, tender and romantic sections, too.
Balancing the guitar and reeds is Bancroft’s rhythmic drive. He shifts gear, pushing on or holding back. He sets up a groove – some sections are almost funky – he swings, and he rocks. At times his playing is solid, at others loose, almost flowing. The one thing missing from listening to this recording compared to the live experiences is Bancroft’s sense of humour: he incorporates a lot of humour into his playing, much of it visual, and this doesn’t necessarily translate to the recorded medium.
The melodic and rhythmic progression in these excursions makes them very approachable and enjoyable. They way they twist and turn, moving from one form to another as the emphasis shifts from one musician to the next holds one’s attention across both sets.