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Friday, September 6, 2019

Somersaults – Numerology of Birdsong (Westhill Records, 2019) ****½

‘Numerology of Birdsong’ is the second album by Somersaults, who are Olie Brice on double bass, Mark Sanders, drums and percussion and Tobia Delius on tenor sax and clarinet. It follows their eponymous debut on Two Rivers (2015) and now this free flowing group have released another beautifully put together recording. Olie Brice and Mark Sanders have played as a bass/drum unit with jazz luminaries including Paul Dunmall, Evan Parker, Mikolaj Trzaska, Rachel Musson and Ken Vandermark. Toby Delius is a member of the legendary Dutch collective the ICP and Olie and Mark had long wanted to work with him. Now, on 'Numerology of Birdsong' they have and it was worth the wait. The trio have an October tour planned in the UK and Europe. This release is on Olie Brice's own label West Hill Records.

Just 5 tracks make up the CD and the first, 'Seek Stillness in Movement' is aptly named for its gentle melodic themes, which are transcended and interspersed with diverse and interesting percussion and bass lines. One section is a rhythmic repeat on drums with mesmeric bass and another a bass solo section - both equally interesting and uplifting - the sound quality is really good, which is so important for bass-led sections and hard to achieve in live recordings, which this is. The sax which leads in from the bass section is gentle but the drive begins early from bass and drums and the piece builds towards the end, complete with walking bass (read for that, 'faster, faster') and a glorious crescendo of sound from the drums. 'Numerology Of Birdsong' is peaceful, beautiful and there is a sense of listening. The woodwind warbling is perfect for the title and the bass breathing deeply underneath imparts the essence of hidden depth, perhaps danger to a small, fragile melody of a bird. The intuitive percussion bangs and crashes its warnings whilst the bird continues to dip and soar. Melodies are created, frantically chased and vanish into the depth of the percussion and bass lines yet occasional whoops and calls can be heard and eventually a heavier woodwind line emerges creating a steadying influence over the still heaving rhythms. Beautiful and so full of life.

'Turdidae' is breathy sax over deft and fast moving bass and percussion with a steady growing melodic development as the piece progresses whilst later stut notes and whistles add texture and layers. 'Thisteltuig' has a gentle start, but don't be fooled. As the piece evolves more layers are added, the textures deepen and, over the constant traveling bass, the percussion and woodwind have a riot with squeaks, trills, riffles and screeches. The final section with a resounding, deep, full throttle bass line under breathing, breathy sax is interesting.

'A Probable Warbler' finishes the album and there is little probability about this track- it is great improvisation and sees all three musicians exert themselves both as leads and supports in many directions. This is a standout track and simply great free jazz.

This is a great album, full of interest, differing tones, hues and colours and there is a huge amount of communication going on both between the players and with the listeners, all of which adds up to great improvised music.


olie brice said...

thanks for the review! really appreciated. The link to the bandcamp page seems to be broken though, it's this -