Binker and Moses – Journey To The Mountain Of Forever
(Gearbox Records GB1537CD – CD review by Mark McKergow)
This two-CD set from the London-based sax and drum duo is a breathtaking journey through a funky, stretched and exciting new musical landscape – rather like Kamasi Washington’s much-vaunted The Epic, only a bit smaller and even more interesting.
Tenor saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd are described by their own PR as a semi-free duo. That may be the case when performing live, but the music here is clearly very carefully considered, even if the final performances are rich in improvisation and interaction.Journey To The Mountain Of Forever is a concept album, taking the metaphor of a journey and going from the Now to the Infinite. The first CD, The Realm Of Now, is performed simply by the pair of them throughout. The strength of the tunes is an immediately obvious (and welcome) feature. Each track is a mini-masterpiece of pace, beat, tone and careful use of resources.
Binker Golding’s tenor sax tone is rich and full, which is particularly useful when he visits the lower notes to provide grunt and gravitas to the proceedings. Moses Boyd, still only 26, and graduated last year from Trinity Laban with a BMus (Hons) Drums, shows astonishing feel and flair in conjuring up a huge variety of beats, breaks, rattles and hums from his kit. The six numbers are all distinctive (which is in itself an achievement).
The Departure starts with a girding-the-loins introduction before jumping into a swaggering stride with amazing drum patterns and variations, and sax intensity. The funky Intoxication From The Jahvmonishi Leaves (as seen on Later with Jools Holland) leaps out like a latter-day James Brown workout – one can almost see the godfather of soul doing his moonwalkish shuffles off to one side while urging the musician onwards. Fete By The River turns calypso with an infuriatingly hummable tune and Golding touching fingers with Sonny Rollins across the void. And we’re still only halfway through the first disc!
Having departed The Realm Of Now at the end of the first CD, Binker and Moses arrive in The Realm Of The Infinite to find a group of their friends – including sax legend Evan Parker, trumpeter Byron Wallen and harpist Tori Handsley – already there. The second CD opens with a fairly writhing blast on The Valley Of The Ultra Blacks, with Parker’s soprano circular breathing forming a foil for Golding’s passionate blowing and the tabla of Sarathy Korwar giving another rhythmic dimension alongside the added drums of Yussuf Dayes. Handsley’s harp – as close as we get to a chord instrument on the entire album – then gently lifts into Gifts From The Vibration Of Light, with more tabla and Boyd’s bewitching drumming setting a backdrop for Golding in much more contemplative mood.
The added variety of the second CD makes for a worthwhile addition to the collection with plenty to enjoy – a particular shout-out for Wallen’s trumpet keeping up with Golding on Ritual Of The Root. (And if you don’t much like the new age sound of these track titles, you can just ignore them. That said the sleeve design, clearly adapted from a 12” LP format on the CD version, is detailed and luscious – I only wish I had a 12” sleeve to stare at during the playback, like we did in the old days.)
Throughout the album, my ear was drawn again and again to Moses Boyd’s work at the kit. His assurance, variety and sensitivity are outstanding, moving from cracking hard hip-hop to rumbling low tom-toms (forming a kind of proto-bassline) to atmospherics to strict rhythm. I started to wonder if he might be standing in the shoes of Jack DeJohnette before too long.
For all the variety of the second CD, it’s the first disc in this set that really defines it for me. Genuinely exciting, richly expressed, deeply soulful and utterly accessible, it’s a part of the nu-jazz journey which is now developing with musicians like Kamasi Washington, imbued both with jazz tradition and breakbeat aesthetics – only this isn’t achieved with a cast of dozens over years of sessions, it’s just two young Londoners working together to create something magical. My CD of the year so far.