- Heyu Nantucket
- You're Lucky
- Eternal Sleep
- Eternal Moment
- Saribund (Coda)
Tom Challenger (tenor): George Fogel (piano): Tom Farmer (bass): Jon Scott (drums)
Recorded February 2011, Eastcote Studios [54:56]
These four British musicians are all Guildhall alumni. Challenger and Fogel were both associated with the band Ma, and Challenger also with other bands. `Dice Factory' is probably derived from Luke Rhinehart's 1971 novel The Dice Man.
The ethos here is toward the cerebral and the influences range from pianist Vijay Iyer - an almost omnipresent influence on so many younger players - and MBase. Fogel's increasingly avid dissonant flurries on the opening track, Heyu Nantucket, propel Challenger's Steve Coleman-derived tenor playing, which is both angular and unsettled. Gooch, the next track, remains quite elliptical; the notes don't mention it - there are in fact no notes - but the hero of the piece is the Essex and England cricketer of the same name, namely Graham Gooch. No one could be more sympathetic of the honour paid to that outstanding batsman than me but the tribute remains opaque.
Their take on the Baroque Sarabande - named Saribund - matches assured and expressively lyric piano writing with jerky rhythm in a way that is almost cussed in its abruptness. This element of abrasive and conjunctive writing in some ways sums up the band. So too, in its way, does the super-articulate and technically outstanding Challenger tenor solo on You're Lucky. It's refined, assured and rather bloodless. There's no doubting the energy, and fine ensemble of Zout, not the slow, pensive Scandinavian element at work throughout Pipes. The varied writing at the heart of T.N.G. highlights the sharply interlocking tenor and piano heartbeat of the group, with its subtle bass and drum underpinning. Here Fogel takes off on a truly exuberant solo.
I wish there had been more exuberance and less role playing in this set. As with so many younger musicians who stray in these stylistic waters, much here is still a bit too studied, and still a bit too academic.