Album review

Snazzback – ‘In The Place’

Snazzback – In The Place
(Worm Discs – Album review by Mark McKergow)

Snazzback is a seven-piece Bristol band sitting across jazz, beats, electronica, Afro-Latin and hypnotic rock, part of the latest wave in new music to emerge from the South West city’s thriving scene.  This is their first LP/vinyl release and is appearing on Worm Discs, legendary party curators at the Worm Disco Club. Snazzback themselves have been performing for several years, with their 2018 debut album Hedge now sold out on CD (and still available for download).

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When bands talk about blending jazz and hip-hop elements, the question always arises about how much of the performance is created in the studio with production, samples, loops and so on, and how much is live joint performance. The latter is at the heart of the jazz tradition and, unquestionably, is at the heart of Snazzback’s spirit.  Renowned for city-centre busking and live shows, the group clearly loves playing together, experimenting, jamming, getting loose and tight all at once.  The results are tremendously musical, lots going on, instrumental dexterity meeting grooves meeting spot-on vocal performances in a generous avalanche of 21st century collectivism.

The 12 tracks on the album (along with new single Reading, not appearing here for no good reason) showcase all kinds of influences which nonetheless build up into a distinctive group sound, with four vocalists guesting on different numbers. The opener Alice features the gloriously named singer China Bowls who can use her distinctive voice at any level from tiny and up-close to rising above a cacophony of horns – perhaps a little reminiscent of Suzanne Vega. The band is in right from the start, Hal Sutherland’s keyboards rippling in delightfully unexpected twists and saxophonist Dave Sanders contributing a powerfully shrieking alto solo, modulating into a twin trumpet-sax section before Alfie Grieve takes over the solo on his horn. The tune segues into Drunq Choirs, a short piece of trance with a more electro feel and shifting drum rhythms.

Ponder is based around a short spoken-word performance by Solomon OB, leading into Snazzual, an extended performance underpinned, as is so much of the album, by double bassist Richard Allen and drummer Chris Langton.  Their work is fizzingly inventive, motoring along beneath ensemble horn riffs and extended lines, and it’s all played live – Allen in particular is a powerhouse amidst slipped beats and shifting patterns while Langton brings a quiet and effective multiplicity of swing into his rhythms. It all reminded me somewhat of the contributions of bassist Si John and drummer Clive Deamer in Roni Size’s Reprazent over two decades ago, a previous example of Bristolian innovation and genre-bending. On Snazzual they have plenty of space to stretch out as percussionist Myke Vince takes a turn out front, the horns coming in and out with written unisons lines and the accompaniment switching dynamics most effectively. The tune returns for a short vocal section featuring Soss later in the album.

The shifts in mood continue into Whirlpools featuring a spoken word poem from Bethany Stenning before we’re off into extended jazz territory again with Triangle, with space for a jagged guitar feature section from Eli Jitsuto amidst more superb rhythm section spiralling. China Bowls appears on three more tracks including the closer BST which also sports gyrating piano from Hal Sutherland. There is such a lot to enjoy and celebrate about this album, not least some fine young musicians putting in the hours to find their place both in sound and in their community. 

Worm Discs is a new and expanding enterprise which seeks to bring together new, cutting edge and jazz-proximate music from around the UK.  As well as Snazzback they have signed groups from the Bristol area including Run Logan Run and Dundundun, as well as Scottish New Music Innovation In Jazz award winner Liam Shortall’s corto.alto project and Glasgow’s AKU!. Clearly worth watching in the coming months. 


Preview and order In The Place on Snazzback’s Bandcamp page:

Video of Snazzback’s new single Reading:

Worm Discs on Bandcamp:

Liam Shortall (on Worm Discs) wins Scottish New Music Innovation in Jazz award:

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