The first episode of Ulita’s micro-commission ‘The Secret Elevator’ was recently released, featuring beautiful storytelling in the form of poetry, song, piano accompaniment and visual art. Ulita consists of a creative trio: poetry and vocals from Nishla Smith, piano and arrangements from Tom Harris, and visual art and video editing from Luca Shaw. Although this combination may at first seem unusual, the way in which this combination of different art forms compliment one another, and create new meaning and interpretation through collaboration, is truly inspiring.
We are so excited to bring you the very first in our series of micro-commissions - short, original compositions for the digital era.
The first commission is The Secret Elevator by Ulita, who are lead writer and composer Nishla Smith, composer and musical director Tom Harris, and visual artist and designerLuca Shaw.
Find out more and watch the video.
We caught up with John during the release of the John Pope Quintet's debut album, and chatted about his process, working with the other musicians in the band and memories of Lancaster Jazz Festival.
Wow! 'Mixed With Glass' is an epic piece of work! Could you tell us a bit about the compositions and how the album developed?
The tunes on this record are all pieces I wrote specifically for this band. Some I wrote in a big batch quite early on, and others have drifted in over the years we’ve been playing together. A couple (‘Ing’, ‘Misha’) are tributes to specific musicians, and others are more emotionally driven. When we play live we usually include some cover tunes as well, but for this first album I wanted to keep it all original. I suppose til now I’ve mostly been known as a side person in bands, or as a total improviser, so it was important to me to make a statement as a composer; I do this to! And also it means I have to write another new batch now...
Leeds-based band Slow Loris have just released a new EP on New Year’s Day, 2021 - Sounds Hoof is definitely a powerful and intense first listen for the new year. Mixing influences from rock, electronic music, jazz and even metal, this EP falls under the ‘alternative’ category; it’s precisely this alternative and experimental approach which gives the EP its emotional intensity and unique musical interest. The band’s name Slow Loris is explained on their Bandcamp - ‘Slow Loris is a small nocturnal mammal, he has a toxic bite, a rare trait among mammals’. The band have chosen a name which reflects their sound: music with a fascinating dark intensity, and a piercing and unexpected bite. As a guitar-heavy band, Slow Loris challenge the expectations of rock and guitar-based music through their irregular time signatures, chromatic electronic elements, and complicated grooves - Sounds Hoof has a lot to offer.
John Pope Quintet’s debut album has just been released in January 2021 – even though the Quintet have played together since 2016, they have never released a group recording. Having performed live at jazz festivals for years and become established in the UK jazz scene, John Pope Quintet’s recorded work is long anticipated. Mixing a love of free jazz, hard bop and 60s avant-jazz, Mixed With Glass is an accomplished live work of incredible proportions. Composed by John Pope himself, each track features something new – moments of tight, soulful ensemble playing mixed with shredding solos, and quiet, melancholic melodies mixed with experimental and avant-garde techniques which seek to undermine the accepted foundations of the music. Mixed With Glass provides some classic swinging grooves with much more adventurous and challenging soundscapes: there’s something for every listener.
Leeds-based band J Frisco make music which is self-proclaimed to be genre-fluid, improvisational and experimental. Listening to their new album Cut Throat for the first time, this sense of experimentalism definitely comes across, alongside the darkness and abruptness of the album’s title. Featuring industrial electronic elements, distorted guitar and lamenting saxophone, this album is definitely a difficult listen in many ways. Yet, J Frisco push the boundaries of music, and of improvisation itself – recording the album in one week, and professing that the trio themselves were unsure what would be produced at the end, reveals their commitment to the practise of experimentation, and their willingness to push the boundaries of musical ideas.
We caught up with J Frisco about their new album Cut Throat, the history of the band and their approach to music.
Tell us about how J Frisco formed and some early memories of you playing together?
We met at Leeds College of Music, we kept bumping into each other and kept saying we should have a jam together, we hardly knew each other… Eventually we booked a rehearsal studio and jammed, free improvising. It was incredible. It was the first time all of us had played with just women, and it was really quite electrifying.
We spoke to Craig about his latest album I Am Revolting, his approach to music and advice for young musicians.
Tell us more about the new album, what direction it has taken and how it formed? Where can people pre-order and find more info?
The album is called I am Revolting, it is intended as an allegory of our navigation of the digital age - as the lines between physical selves and digital anima become blurred, we are overwhelmed with the exponential growth of information & consensus reality crumbles as our individual reality tunnels and ideologies become increasingly radicalized.
Charlotte Keefe is a trumpeter and flugelhorn player who continues to push the boundaries of the jazz genre – her accomplished tone, understanding of extended techniques, and technical ability allow her to experiment with improvisation more than most. ‘Charlotte Keefe Quartet Live’ is a collection of recordings released in 2020 but taken from a live performance by Keefe’s Quartet at Jazz in the Round back in March 2019. Although these performances are categorised as free jazz and free improvisation, they are by no means inaccessible to the average listener – combining moments of wholeness and unity with moments of disparity and disorientation, Keefe’s Quartet play with our expectations as an audience, and create soundscapes which are both pleasing and challenging for the listener.
We caught up with Jacky as he was recording the Youth Jazz Commission he wrote and performed for the 2019 Lancaster Jazz Festival.
Hi Jacky, what's are you up to?
I’m recording the ‘Industrial’ suite I wrote for Lancaster Jazz Festival at Livingston Studios in London. Since the festival, we’ve had the opportunity to play the music again at different venues, enabling the music to grow and develop.