CD review

Zoophyte – ‘Out of the Cave’

Zoophyte – Out of the Cave
(Howlin’ Werewolf HWEP001. EP Review by Jeanie Barton)

Out of the Cave, available on Bandcamp, features a number of cats with a cool jive. Zoophyte is a song-writing project by vocalist Peter Jones and producer Trevor Lever. They released the album Signs of Life last year and this is a follow-up EP. It was recorded remotely because of lockdown conditions but this is not even noticeable, which is testament to how the jazz and technical community have adapted during Covid 19! Peter is a writer and journalist who, among other biographies, has written This is Hip: The Life of Mark Murphy. Tonally he definitely reminds me of Murphy; a laid-back crooner with a bop edge and a surprisingly high range.

The Jones/Lever songs are melodically quite abstract; not particularly catchy, rather atmospheric. I can imagine a hazy club, bourbon on the tables with the swinging band cutting through the smoke. The generous ensemble sounds close despite clearly having been apart; the arrangements are dense with the occasional solo peeking through. Tom Berge is on piano/organ; Andrew Cleyndert, double bass; Sophie Alloway/Mark Whitlam, drums; Mark Aston, Gunnar Mossblad, Bill Yeomans and Vasilis Xenopoulos on saxophones; and Graeme Flowers, trumpet.

An upbeat swing start with Cashmere, Diamonds and Leather is followed by a medium swing sojourn about madness and a missing Doctor randomly called The Haddock. Its quirkiness reminded me a little of Annie Ross’ Twisted although it’s nowhere near as wordy.

The saxophone solo on Moscow in May is a beauty [according to Peter Jones, an amalgam, edited from various takes in the classic Steely Dan manner, but mostly Vasilis Xenopoulos]. Again there are limited lyrics in this number, so it feels more like a theme perhaps rather than a song, brooding about being alone. I particularly enjoyed Map of Australia, the Latin number that follows the swing songs; it features gloriously rich percussion and contains quite self-pitying yet witty lyrics – rhyming Australia with failure! Flowers takes a sunny solo and the hung bass ending is cute.

This songwriting duo are churning out some interesting music and keeping cool introspection alive.

LINK: Zoophyte on Bandcamp

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