CD review

BedMakers: Tribute to an Imaginary Folk Band — ‘Live in Berlin’

BedMakers: Tribute to an Imaginary Folk Band — Live in Berlin
(Jazzdor Series #8. AlbumReview by Peter Slavid)

BedMakers is an occasional pan-European band of improvisers who brought out their first album in 2018. Around that time they appeared at the Jazzdor – Berlin Festival and that concert was recorded, mastered last year, and finally now released as an album.

French saxophonist/clarinetist Robin Fincker is well known in the UK as is bass player (and producer) Dave Kane. From France come drummer Fabien Duscombs and violinist, and experimental sound artist Mathieu Werchowski.

The band is associated with the Toulouse-based collective Freddy Morezon, and is billed as a tribute to an imaginary folk band, reminding me of that other improvising French collective the Association à la Recherche d’un Folklore Imaginaire. The music, however is pretty well guaranteed to horrify most fans of folk music. Fortunately it should appeal to most open minded jazz fans. This is exciting high-quality improvised music with the occasional hint of folk music.

The information accompanying the album talks about the band’s engagement with the Anglo-Saxon folk tradition. The name of the band may have originally come from the traditional English song The Bedmaking, but that’s about the clearest Anglo-Saxon link I could find. There are snippets of folk tunes scattered freely throughout the album, but to my ear they are mainly Celtic tunes not English ones.

Having said all that doesn’t take anything away from what an enjoyable album this is. The mix of lilting melodies and fierce improvisation is a potent one, especially when in the hands of such talented musicians. They may start with a folk tune but then they manipulate twist and distort it into something out of shape and very different, before revisiting fragments of the melodies.

The album is structured with four tracks titled Parts I to IV with two long tracks of around 15 minutes each, and two shorter ones of five and six minutes. It’s in the longer tracks that the band really comes in to its own.

After a short meandering introduction Part II starts with a brief folksy lament followed by improvising between Werchowski’s violin and Dave Kane’s bass. The saxophone and violin then bring in a snatch of a melody which is definitely Celtic in origin. This soon expands into different combinations of collective improvisation with the melody re-emerging, albeit briefly, at various intervals.

In many ways the folk music link is a bit misleading. Their earlier album from 2018 (which is still available on Bandcamp and is also on Spotify) had a much clearer link to recognisable traditional tunes from which the improvising sprang. This live performance is a bit more distant from the folk melodies but retains all the excitement and imagination of a live improvising band.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations

LINK: Live in Berlin is available as CD or Download from Bandcamp

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