Back in 2019, jazz pianist and composer Jacky Naylor was commissioned by Lancaster Jazz Festival to write a new suite of music. Naylor wanted to write about the wool and textile mills which he grew up with and explore the history of many Northern families. ‘The Industrial Suite’ then premiered at the Festival in 2019 – and now, these five compositions have been recorded to be shared with us again in 2021. ‘The Industrial Suite’ is a beautifully crafted set of works which tell the story of industrial growth and decline in the North of England through tight ensemble playing, interesting solos, and sensitive musicality across the board. This set of compositions are a really beautiful listen, featuring moments which challenge you, moments which comfort you, and moments which give you goosebumps. Naylor has composed pieces with a profound, underlying meaning, which are accessible and tasteful – it’s truly inspiring. Prepare to be blown away by this album.
‘Workshop Of The World’ opens the album with warm jazz chords and a pedalling bass. There’s so much movement to this piece, reinforced by the tight and rhythmic playing from the brass trio. There’s a sense of atmospheric anticipation throughout, maintained by the piano pedal and the irregularity of the time signatures. Naylor explains that this track represents ‘The mill town waking up. Workers are walking through cobbled streets toward the busy mill yard. Heavy, clunky machinery is turned on for another day’s work.’ This sense of a busy early morning with a diverse set of people moving as one is definitely reflected within the music, especially as the track moves into a Moonchild-esque ‘wonky’ groove. Naylor’s choices on his solo are so tasteful and yet so refreshing, so that Luca Caruso’s sensitive drum choices compliment his musical trajectory as the players build a feel together. Alex Hitchcock’s tenor sax solo maintains this atmosphere, only to then level up the whole piece’s intensity as he shreds over the backing.
“This is some truly impactful playing.”
‘Wakes Weeks’ follows, with a completely different feel – Naylor again plays solo on piano yet the harmonic ideas are more questioning and curious. The softness in tone from all three brass players is an amazing feat as they enter with breathy harmonies. Each player has such a clean and crafted approach to the music which contributes to the ensemble playing being so tight. This track represents a moment in time when ‘The factories are closed and families travel to nearby seaside towns and villages. The opening describes a train ride through expansive countryside, away from the mills.’ This explains the piece perfectly, as it feels both exploratory and exciting, yet also comforting – as Harrison Maund solos on trombone, there is a rise in atmosphere which is lifted even higher by Tom Syson on trumpet. It cannot be stressed enough how nice the musical choices are from both solos, and yet how beautifully their tone and intonation are consistently maintained throughout. This is some truly impactful playing.
Speaking of impact, ‘War of Attrition’ is completely arresting in its abrupt opening. Stabs from the brass trio open the piece, with darker, more dissonant choices from the rhythm section. Although the piece is busier, the playing is still extremely tight – the groove is kept moving by the walking bass from Will Sach, and all of the rhythmic landings from the players are executed perfectly. As Naylor solos, there is more dissonance than in previous tracks – and this makes sense in the context of its meaning, as ‘tensions between workers and mill owners explode into strikes and riots.’ The drum fills from Caruso are complex and intense, and Hitchcock begins to shred again on sax; there are lots of moments in which tension is deliberately stretched out, and we as listeners can feel the sense of conflict. In light of the track’s context, the playing is all the more impactful and important.
“It cannot be stressed enough how nice the musical choices are from both solos, and yet how beautifully their tone and intonation are consistently maintained throughout.”
In complete contrast, ‘The Last Mill’ opens with a beautiful sense of yearning from Naylor’s solo piano playing. This is a truly moving piece of music, especially as the brass enters and tastefully echoes the emotional feeling which Naylor has established. As Naylor explains, ‘Abandoned mills still dominate Northern skylines. Now derelict, they are a constant reminder of what’s been lost.’ This sense of loss is keenly felt throughout the piece; as Sach begins to solo on double bass this sense of conflicting appreciation and sadness is beautifully depicted. The unexpected harmonic choices aid this sense of conflict, adding to the piece’s moving quality. Sach’s playing is complex, but it’s so tastefully done that you wouldn’t initially identify this. This piece feels very profound, especially when considering the industrial period’s implications for a future we are still living through now.
‘Rebirth’ ends the album with another beautifully contrasting piece, featuring both dissonance and moments of comfort. The trumpet melody which opens this track is really beautiful – Naylor explains that ‘Mills and factories are given a new lease of life in the 21st Century. They are converted into vibrant art galleries, restaurants and flats.’ The painful and confusing parts of growth which are needed in order for rebirth are brilliantly depicted in this composition, as the band begin to individually add their own lines into an improvisatory section. Yet, they move as one because they begin to build the atmosphere together, and although it feels overwhelming, it’s also a beautiful moment of togetherness. A sense of constantly moving forwards through disorientation is prominent, and the album finally ends with questioning piano chords which leave us thoughtful and pensive.
“Naylor has composed pieces with a profound, underlying meaning, which are accessible and tasteful – it’s truly inspiring.”
‘The Industrial Suite’ truly takes us on a profound journey through history, whilst reminding us as listeners that this history is also relevant in the present and future. The beauty in this album is astonishing, and it’s greatly down to Naylor’s compositions themselves. Yet the individuality on this album is also compelling; the tonal and rhythmic execution from every player is inspiring, alongside brilliant improvisational knowledge and sensitivity. This album is definitely worth a listen for anyone who loves jazz music, but also for those who want to learn something about Northern history. Naylor has crafted a set of works which truly encompasses history, yet also renews and reshapes it too – amazing stuff.
Review by Evie Hill