The UK has probably one of the most interesting and diverse jazz scenes in Europe. New bands such as Polar Bear, Trianglehead, Outhouse, Nostalgia 77, MA, Led Bib or Troyka (to name just a few) are constantly coming out with music that blurs the lines between jazz, rock, free jazz and pop. One band that has been around for a few years is the Twelves, originally known as Twelves Trio. In 2008 the group (then a trio) released the excellent 'Here Comes The Woodman With His Splintered Soul'. The group has moved on to become a quartet with a more open approach, mixing melodic free-jazz, some very driving rhythmic music and quirky themes that gradually stick in your head.
'Many Splendoured Thing (Pt 1 & 2)' a two part suite opens the CD with hard 'rocking' section features the wonderful guitar of Rob Updegraff and a gentler section for saxophonist Mark Hanslip, who floats over Pt 2 like a modern-day Stan Getz. The tune 'Spiders' almost boils away, guitar, bass and drums providing a turbulent undercurrent leaving the sax to weave lines which add colours to the music. One of the strong points of this band is it's ability to work rhythmically in a way that really opens up the music. The excellent rhythm section of Riaan Vosloo (acoustic bass) and Tim Giles (drums) improvise as one on the open sections or create heavily rocking grooves which swing like the clappers.
Whether touching on free-ish jazz as on 'Spiders' or 'Party Girls', or swinging on 'Kerfuffle', 'Eyeballing' or 'Mr Zero', the group constantly keeps the music cooking by merging drum'n'bass, dub, free-improv, and straight swinging jazz rhythms together.
The group seems to have absorbed many influences making for very interesting and diverse range of styles. The group tackled a traditional tune on their first album, quite a normal step since jazz (in it's early form) is all about folk music. On this album 'Shallow Brown', a traditional folk tune, is one of the highlights. The music rolls like the sea as Mark Hanslip treats the melody as if playing a tin whistle or bagpipe even, tremolo-ing by half closing the sax keys, whilst the rest of the group gently supports the tune in a lovely rubato fashion. Sax and guitar then floats upon a swell of rhythm as each one tells their story, as I read somewhere, 'like a modern day Naima'.
An excellent album, and obviously a the group that isn't standing still. Developing since it's first incarnation into a stronger unit that plays a music that is both daring and accessible.
Postscript : 'The Adding Machine' is a reference to Elmer Rice's American Expressionist play about Mr Zero, an accountant who seeks revenge after being replaced by an adding machine.
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