Album review

Mark Lockheart – ‘Dreamers’

Mark Lockheart Dreamers
(Edition Records, EDN1195. Review by Graham Spry)

Mark Lockheart is a saxophonist and composer who first entered national consciousness in the 1980s with Loose Tubes, and was later co-leader of Polar Bear. His albums with Jasper Hoiby and Liam Noble or in his own groups have most recently been issued on Edition Records.

On his latest album, Dreamers, he is accompanied by musicians much celebrated in their own right, namely Dave Smith (drums), Tom Herbert (electric bass) and Elliot Galvin (keyboards). Smith has appeared in projects of great diversity in and around jazz, most famously in Fofoulah and Juju that explored West African rhythms. Herbert has previously worked with Lockheart in Polar Bear and is best known as a member of The Invisible. Galvin has demonstrated his often quirky and always virtuosic keyboard talent in solo projects and with Dinosaur. Lockheart’s saxophone is, as always, the lead instrument and he remains as confident and self-assured as on his celebrated album In Deep.

The album’s title, Dreamers, and its fractally dissonant album cover suggest music of a dreamlike quality but, if so, it is a dreamworld with sonic echoes of what has inspired Lockheart’s expansive musical palette. Throughout the album there are conscious allusions to the music that has influenced him, from John Zorn and Burt Bacharach to Kraftwerk and, least surprising in this case, Duke Ellington, the inspiration for Lockheart’s 2013 album Ellington in Anticipation.

In general, the album’s playful song titles provide a good description of the music. The album’s opener and title track, Dreamers, is suggestive of Nirvana and has a disorientating dreamlike ambience. The two tracks Jagdish and King of the World (Jagdish reprise) evoke the feeling of hearing music in an Indian temple. Gangster Rat is inspired by a famous Banksy cartoon. The title of Marmalade Skies is a clear reference to John Lennon’s imagination. Dream Weaver can’t help but be a tribute to Charles Lloyd. The album as a whole alternates between psychedelic dissonance and strong memorable tunes, most obviously in Marmalade Skies and Sixteen, to finally culminate in the diminuendo of Mingle Tingle.

Lockheart is currently on tour across England where he is performing the music from this album to enthusiastic audiences. For reasons beyond anyone’s control Elliot Galvin has been unable to join the band on tour for the early dates, but very fortunately jazz guitarist John Parricelli has stepped up to the plate to take his place. Although Parricelli is a very different musician to Galvin, not least in his choice of instrument, his inspired and imaginative take on Lockheart’s tunes is an intriguing contrast to Galvin’s whilst never seeming less than a natural fit.

Inevitably, in a live concert the compositions are presented more as a set of tunes than as a sequence of tracks, but this gives the opportunity for each number to shine individually. In a concert on this tour I attended, the tunes the audience most enjoyed seemed to be Gangster Rat, Dreamers and Jagdish.

The album celebrates the wealth of musical traditions that have inspired Lockheart, but also brings a freshness to this multitude of styles that can continue to be profitably explored in the future.

LINK: Dreamers at Edition Records

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