Album reviews

Svarc/Hanley/Longhawn – ‘20/21’

Svarc/Hanley/Longhawn – 20/21

(Available on Bandcamp/ link below. Album review by Nigel Price)

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Considering the vastness of the jazz universe, it would be all too easy to make the mistake of shouting too loud, fearful that your voice will not be heard otherwise. A shout into the wind.

However, this little piece of art ‘20/21’ by Svarc, Hanley and Longhawn is most definitely not a frantic bid for stardom but is instead a glimpse of the intriguing and musically rich planet that’s inhabited by Leeds based guitarslinger Nik Svarc,  funky as hell drummer Steve Hanley and organ/keyboard groovemeister extraordinaire Martin Longhawn. This cool yet exciting trio opt to embrace and experiment with a plethora of sounds, textures and grooves in a tough yet pleasingly unhurried way. 

Svarc himself is a self confessed ‘gear nut’. He knows exactly which vintage classic guitar, amp or sought after effects unit will be perfect for each job. As such, he’s a very rare bird indeed. Ask yourself honestly who else there is in the UK with this dedication to art of sound? This valuable knowledge is deployed to maximum effect on this exceptional release.

Musically it would be impossible to ignore the influence of Scofield but that would be too easy. I could also say it’s impossible to ignore the influence of Medeski, Martin and Wood, Jeff Beck, The Headhunters, Jimi Hendrix, Scott Henderson, Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Krantz, possibly Pink Floyd and maybe even Freddie King. Countless others too. That’s a whole lot of listening!

This album simply couldn’t have been made by a trio that hadn’t put the hours in, done the hard yards and dedicated themselves collectively to their cause. Listening to the utter conviction on this record you get the distinct feeling that these guys would be making this amazing music even if nobody was listening.

I guess we, as musicians, are partly formed by what we hear and partly by what we’re taught, but with some people there’s an enormous slice of individuality that seems to come from out of the blue, producing the glue that binds all this stuff together to form a new, unique voice. Nik Svarc is one of those special people and shines bright  in this environment.

Each piece segues into the next which further enhances the swirling, dreamy, often slightly disconcerting soundscapes from which burst forth sections of deep funk, wailing blues and Meters-esque grooves, all delivered with unquestionable brilliance and musicality. 

The tracks are long, which gives you the time to get fully immersed in each, from the slow atmospheric groove of the opener ‘The Ask’, the punchy yet relaxed ‘Hidden’, the unbridled funk of ‘Little Brother’ (check out that drum sound…is that Harvey Mason I can hear??), and the euphoric journey into Zappa-like ‘Earth Abides’. Perhaps the track that stands out amongst this backdrop of gnarly blues and deep funk is the title track ‘20/21’, which with it’s soaring, climactic feel could easily become a soundtrack for NASA rocket launches! Nik lets LOOSE on this one, reaching stratospheric heights of dazzling improvisation, sealing his reputation as one of the finest guitarists we have in this little part of the galaxy. 

As if unhappy to conclude with this level of joy, the band washes it’s hands by exiting with the slightly perturbing ‘We Elastic’, and before you know it, they’re gone, back into the darkness from whence they came…

It’s a little piece of stardust that you’d do well to pick up and you can do so on Bandcamp – link below . (Sod Spotify…BUY it!)

BAND: Nik Svarc – Electric and Acoustic Guitars / Steve Hanley – Drums, Percussion / Martin Longhawn – Organ, Wurlitizer, Piano

LINK: SHL on Bandcamp

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