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Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Spoonhunt Three

Dominic Lash has been a presence on the jazz scene for over a decade and has connections with a wide and diverse community of musicians and music people. He has launched his label, Spoonhunt in 2015 and now releases three CDs featuring a range of players and 3 different line-ups. On Limulus (CD001) Lash on bass, is with Javier Carmona on drums, Ricardo Teiero on alto saxophone and Alex Ward on electric guitar – this is the Dominic Lash Quartet. The recording is from Café Oto January 2019.

On Distinctions (CD002) the ensemble is Consort with a line up consisting of Douglas Benford on harmonium and percussion, Steve Beresford on electronics, Marjolaine Charbin on piano, Chris Cundy, Yoni Silver and Mark Langford on bass clarinet, Seth Cooke on steel sink and metal detector, Angharad Davies on viola, Phil Durrant on modular synth, Matthew Grigg on guitar/amplifier, Bruno Guastalla and Hannah Marshall on ‘ cello, Martin Hackett on Korg MS10, Tim Hill and Helen Papaioannou on baritone saxophone, Tina Hitchens on flute, Sarah Hughes on zither, Dominic Lash on double bass, Yvonna Magda on violin and Alex Ward on clarinet/amplifier. ‘Distinctions’ was recorded at Café Oto on January 13th, 2020.

Discernment (CD003) is Lash on double bass, John Butcher on tenor and soprano saxophones, Mark Sanders on drums and percussion and the late, great and extremely versatile John Russell on guitar. The recording was made at Café Oto on January 13, 2020.

All 3 CDs have different qualities and here is a brief look at each. They can be bought as a bundle too.

Limulus begins with ‘Alexithymia’ which is just under 9 minutes of wonderful, music with more than hints of melody. The track begins with tuneful meanderings which, Lash informed me was completely notated ,before the unleashing of powerful guitar and a devilment from the saxophone which is uplifting and beautifully nuts. The middle section is wonderfully rhythmic with bass, drums and guitar powering under improvised sax followed by a 3-way interlude between bass, drums and guitar before the guitar takes it high and loud. The whole atmosphere then plunges down to reveal a bass line, sonorous and bowed, rising from the depths.

Distinctions is just over 46 minutes of free and interactive music. It is composed with verbal and amplification notations. The ensemble (formed in 2013 and flexible in line up) fulfil their ‘raison d’etre’ which is to explore the possibilities of combining sustained tone music, improvisation and the relationship between acoustic and amplified sound.

The instruments are heard in many different combinations and explore sounds using sustained notes over tight rhythmic patterns. They see what you can do with a metal detector and kitchen sink and how single sustained notes can have any manner of sounds going on underneath, whilst still maintaining the purity of the open sound above. Nearly every part of every instrument, from the strings to the body of the stringed instruments are used and different sounds emerge, from the thuds and parps produced by the blown instruments to the electronic, ear splitting notes of the synthesised sounds. There are drones, sine waves, brief melodic statements, gentle murmurings from bass clarinets and more. There is a lot of texture and colour, even in the harder to listen to sections where the electronics mask the beauty of the interactions. The entire 46 minutes of the recording is a journey into sound-making, precision and different connections between instrumental sections. Each instrument can be heard, yet melds into the ensembled whole. Around the 35-minute mark there is a rising of strings and the double bass acts as the foundation around which they whirl. There is a life to this recording and the interaction between a good number of musicians at any one time is engaging. The final phrases reveal high, sharp pitched sounds rising over deep, relentless bass.

Discernment is four tracks ‘Discerning 1,2 and 3’ with the final track titled ‘Discerned’. As might be expected from the improvisers Lash is playing with here the sound is rich, full at times, light and gently layered at others and slightly bonkers at others. There is always conversation between the three improvisers I am familiar with – Russell, Butcher and Sanders and Lash’s additional input here is both impressive and discerning as he swells with deep textures, any gap. You hear how intuitive he is as a musician here. The combination is an interlude in time, a suspension of belief where different textures ease in and out, never forcibly but subtly and in a way which makes you think back and wonder when the sax joined in, when the bass added that deep tone and when the heck did the guitar come in with that particular rhythm? Russell always adds life and energy to music as well as a kind of restrained gentleness when others come to the fore and he does so several times when he bows to Butcher’s sax stretches and Sander’s drum intricacies – so they can be heard. There are hardly any gaps because each musician senses the patterns so well.

The 3 CDs work alone or as part of a 3-way package where you can hear different combinations, different interactions between big and smaller ensembles, musicians familiar or not so familiar with each other.

Lash has done a good thing here.