(Binker Golding. CD review by Harry Stott)
Surprisingly straight up and filled with wonderfully lyrical flourishes, tenor saxophonist Binker Golding’s new record, Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers, is as grown up an album as anyone else in London’s much lauded, youthful jazz scene has thus far managed. Recorded with three of the young scene’s rising stars (and it is this ‘young’ element that people seem to focus on above all else), Golding strips back the fusion, switches off the electronics and creates a coherent, charming – if a little comfortable – set of tunes.
It’s worth noting at this point that Golding is 31, so to situate him as part of any youthful revolution feels a little odd (he has actually taught many of those he plays through his work at Gary Crosby’s famed school Tomorrow’s Warriors, of which he and the rest of the band are all alumni). Golding’s position as the elder statesman of the scene could actually be the reason behind the album’s more refined sound, starkly different to the prevailing style of his contemporaries.
Fans of each member of the Binker Golding Quartet’s will probably be surprised to hear them playing in such a context. Unlike the groove-focused fusion of hip hop, Afrobeat and the more accessible end of the jazz spectrum that defines London’s new wave, Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers is about each player showing off their plumage, strutting through their solos with a poise that is much less common in the aggressive, raucous sound of their other work.
The small group, acoustic set up Golding prefers here is more of a nod to post bop than anything modern, and it is key in establishing the more cultivated – if you can forgive the unpalatably pretentious track names, a repeat offence following the Latin-titled tracks of his recent EP, Ex Nihilo – environment. Golding’s tone on Exquisite She-Green is a high point, smooth in the vein of Stan Getz or Lester Young, and his soloing is a lot more compelling than it has been in the past. In his duelling duets alongside drummer Moses Boyd (as Binker and Moses), the latter’s ferociously inventive drumming sometimes left Golding overcompensating, willing his sax to do more than he really needed. However, in this line-up Golding declares himself the main attraction, and you can hear him relish the opportunity of playing such emotive compositions.
You, That Place, That Time is Golding at his melodious best: a warm embrace of a tune that is only bolstered by Joe Armon-Jones’ insatiably creative work on keys. Armon-Jones proves here that he has probably the finest chops of any in this young scene, as comfortable bashing out Horace Silver-esque solos as he is mixing jazz with hip hop beats, electronics and R&B in his solo projects.
The rest of the lineup follows suit. Dan Casimir on bass stays mostly under the radar, but pops up with a curiously melodic, stunningly expressive, stand-out solo on …And I Like Your Feathers. Drummer Sam Jones is on fine form too, relentless in his rhythmic invention, nodding to everything from hip hop to latin through the subtlest of flourishes.
With the new record, Golding may even have done enough to grab the attention of older jazz traditionalists (if that word has any real meaning in a jazz context), so warm are its shades, and so inviting are its melodies. The only criticism one could point to is that it does at times feel a little too comfortable: despite the frequent (and there are many) moments of lyrical wonder, there is not much new ground covered here, not many profoundly new musical questions raised. How much this matters probably depends on how much you prize invention over warm lyricism in modern jazz. When the latter is as good as it is here, it shouldn’t matter all that much.