Mark Hanslip & Andrew Cheetham
String and Grid
Discus 141CD
Available formats: CD/DL


“Sting And Grid is an album of great joy and great sensitivity which bears repeated listening due to its relatively calm nature. A real delight for any improv lovers.” – Mr Olivetti, FREQ

“Very communicative and strong and balanced interplay. Great!” – Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY

Mark Hanslip – tenor saxophone
Andrew Cheetham – drums

Two world class players from the Manchester UK free improvisation scene deliver here a beautifully recorded set of pieces founded on pure instrumental skill. Hanslip’s elegant, singing lines are delivered with calm and precision, driven by Cheetham’s multi-textural percussion. It’s simply all about the playing, nothing more and nothing less.



Manchester is well known for its glories of the new wave era but very little for its Improv and free jazz scene. Let’s take a look at these former industrial wastelands that have been the delight of many artists in search of adventure. First of all, and this is what touched me the most in this record, is the serenity that emerges from this English duo. From polyrhythm to polyrhythm, drummer Andrew Cheetham applies himself to bungee jumping with Mark Hanslip’s sax in his sights. Without urgency, well concentrated, composed, like a craftsman adapts his gesture according to the elements, like the spider weaves its web according to the place, the duo’s pieces are played concentrated and in symbiosis. Be careful, we are not bathed in formaldehyde either, the two musicians are attentive to the slightest blink of an eyelash from the other. The drop of sweat is de rigueur and talk is not allowed. The sound is round, no higher in one than in the other, the consistency is quite astonishing and there is little or no urgency in their playing. It’s just that everyone evolves in their element, one plays elegantly, peacefully, a little jazzy, a very British elegance let’s say, for the sax, and the other is ecstatic and frolicking at all costs with an ardor and a seriousness that I really like. The contrast is beautiful and the whole thing is planted in an explosive spirit of serenity, a very visual game where we finely observe the playful looks and their deep and spontaneous understandings. – Valery John Klebar, STNT

I often think that the purest format for improv is the duo where one of the players is a drummer. There is something about the interplay between two musicians, both questing for fresh knowledge, plus the space provided between the grounding of the percussion and the wind scattered revelations of the instrument. Here, two doyens of the Manchester improv scene have convened to produce something which is at once immediate and joyful and proves that in this case two is definitely a magic number. The more you listen to improv drumming, the more it seems to make sense. With all rhythmic obligations lifted, the matter of propelling a piece falls to innate feeling and internal sensation which is unique to every player. Over these four pieces, Andrew Cheetham takes a full excursion through the kit that lays down rough, distant pathways through which Mark Hanslip‘s sax drifts as if it were a bird loosely following but watching expectantly for activity off the track. The sax is warm and welcoming; there are no terrifying skronks or vein-bursting high notes; but there is an approachability, a lightness that is totally accessible yet constantly strays from convention. You can hear subtle half-remembered hints of ’50s classics in a four-note run that then meanders back off. The drums roll and roll like sticks being pushed down a hill, their progress impeded by rocks, courses changed by tussocks but gravity always winning. The cymbals are warm; you can bathe in the shimmer of light that falls across the room, because on the whole this is sunny improv, two friends playing for the sake of playing. There are sections where the sax may fall into limbo, drifting, momentum briefly surrendered while the drums nudge and coerce, nibbling at the sax, urging it to be up and away. The short “A Little Pine” is more tom-based, with the sax spectral at points, lifting further into the atmosphere, the distance between it and the track growing gradually greater, the low and mysterious drawn-out tones having a lugubrious, veiled quality. Where “Cod Necessity” follows a similar path to the opening track, closer “Voisines”‘ is even more measured in parts, the spaces between the notes clearer, with Andrew sensitively reducing the action, intuitively withdrawing, calming things down but further highlighting the bond between the two. Sting And Grid is an album of great joy and great sensitivity which bears repeated listening due to its relatively calm nature. A real delight for any improv lovers. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ

Duo improvisation for tenor sax and drums by two fine performers from the Manchester scene: Mark Hanslip and Andrew Cheetham. Hanslip started in the mid-2000s in London as a keyboard player and toured with several jazz outfits and pop bands. He worked with Steve Lacy and Kenny Wheeler. Currently, he is based in the north of the UK, playing regularly with HTrio, an improvising collaboration of Otto Willberg (bass) and Andrew Cheetham. In 2018 they worked with Nate Wooley in a quartet format. He also participates in several other projects like HRH, a trio with drummer Paul Hession and laptop player Federico Reuben. Cheetham is based in Manchester since 2004, working as a drummer and teacher, working with many musicians from the local scene, and guested in performances with Damo Suzuki, Eugene Chadbourne, Rhodri Davies, a.o. So ‘String and Grid’ documents a meeting of two experienced performers excelling in four elegant and playful improvisations. The opening one, ‘Recursive Nest’, has Cheetham in a very active role, playing constantly changing patterns at high speed. Hanslip responds with more sparse and jazzy motives. Throughout the improvisation at the same intense and highly dynamic level with Cheetham using diverse percussion and drums. ‘A little Pine’ is a short 5-minute airy sound exercise with Hanslip’s delicate sax playing dominating. ‘Cod Necessity’ has Cheetham again in an overdrive role, playing in an exuberant way. Hanslip contrasts with his sensitive movements. Closing improvisation ‘Voisines’ is the most impressive one, with very communicative and strong and balanced interplay. Great! – Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY

Elegant playing is to be found in the freshly released improvisations from the Mancunian duo, Mark Hanslip and Andrew Cheetham, fusing soft singing lines with multi-textural percussion. – Corey Mwamba, BBC Radio 3 Freeness

Featuring Mark Hanslip on tenor sax and Andrew Cheetham on drums. I know of British saxist Mark Hanslip from a handful of discs with Tony Bianco, Paul Dunmall and Keith Tippett, most of which are on the FMR label. I hadn’t heard much about drummer Andrew Cheetham before now although he has recorded with Eugene Chadbourne and Alan Wilkinson. This disc was recorded at Queens Ark Studio in Manchester, UK in August of 2017. The sound here is sprawling, swirling, intense and free-wheeling. Both musicians work well together as they soar together tightly, as one unified force. The first great album of tenor sax/drums duets was John Coltrane’s ‘Interstellar Space’, recorded in 1967. This disc comes from a similar place although it is not nearly as intense, while both players are more measured and not as over-the-top, building in density slowly. There are two pieces here in which the duo lay back and create a more calm dialogue which I like more than the storm-like blusters. On the last piece the duo build from a more restrained beginning and slowly build to an intense frenzy of activity. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG NYC

Here’s what we need in these combative times: two of the most affable chaps associated with the North West English scene engaging in some good natured tenor and drums argy-bargy. Drummer Cheetham keeps up a rapid yet controlled barrage, skilfully chucking in blurred tom rolls, nippy rim shots and emphatic kick punctuations without losing his train of thought. Saxophonist Hanslip comes in tentative at first, offering guarded snippets before becoming more opinionated, garrulous even. – Daniel Spicer, THE WIRE

In the briefly worded press release issued with this CD we are told “It’s simply about the playing, nothing more and nothing less.” That to a degree sums up this duo’s approach to the free-improv world. Theirs is a no-nonsense approach to the improvisational process. The saxophonist, mainly staying within the natural range of his instrument, evokes a strange connection to the work of Sonny Rollins, despite his chosen mode of expression. Drummer Cheetham is clearly at home with his partner, delivering a constantly changing background encompassing the complete kit but rarely choosing to concoct strange or ugly options. The music does carry a certain coherence this particular strain of jazz often lacks and whilst it is never going to convert the army of non-believers, those with an ear for such sounds will find much to satisfy in the twosome’s commitment. – Peter Gamble, JAZZ JOURNAL

Kleine Welt: MARK HANSLIP hat sein Tenorsaxofon zwischen Nostalgia 77, Outhouse und Ed Gaudens Crux auch in Tony Bianco’s Utoma Quartet geblasen. Drummer ANDREW CHEETHAM hat in Manchester einerseits Deadhead-Psychedelic mit Desmadrados Solda­dos De Ventura gerockt und mit seinem Mit-Soldado Edwin Stevens auch in Irma Vep und als Yerba Mansa. In den letzten Jahren aber fand man ihn bei Waterless Hills, Richard Dawson und insbesondere dem Psychedelic-Folk-Star Jane Weaver. Er nahm sich jedoch mit dem Soldados-Gitarrero David Birchall auch schon andere Freiheiten, zu zweit und im ABC Trio. Und ebenso mit Hanslip, im H Trio und zu zweit. String and Grid (DISCUS 141 CD) zeigt die beiden 2017, ihn poltrig und ticklig animiert, mit einer Fülle kollernder Beat­lawinen und zuckender, crashender Blitzschläge, Hanslip als in sich gekehrten Brüter, der nach Tönen und Tonfolgen fischt und sie in launigen Wellenschüben hin und her schwenkt. Bei allem Druck, den Cheetham macht, und allem vogelscheuchend klappern­dem Alarm, behält er doch seinen suchenden, bedächtig kostenden Gestus bei. Als er­fahrene alte Krähe lässt er es sich trotz des Krawalls sogar genüsslich schmecken, er pickt hier und da und kaut genüsslich seine Lieblingsfrüchte. Bei A Little Pine’ mischen die beiden gedämpfte und fast tonlose Laute und kleine Wellen mit pochendem und metalle­nem Klopfen. Dann wieder knatternder und hageliger Schub für vergnügt geknörten, flott gekrakelten Tenorgesang. Und ‘Voisines’ steigert das noch mit entfesselt agilen Rundum­schlägen und impulsiv stoßendem, sprudelndem, schnörkelndem Uptempo. [BA 116 rbd] – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY

But instead of minimizing their sounds to bite-sized tidbits they offer the equivalent of multi-course musical banquets on each track. Throughout the invigorating spread contains hearty helpings of percussion syncopation paired with extended reed techniques. At the same time, no matter how much novelle cuisine-like textures they add to their meal, the comfort food of melodic overlay is always part of the service. This is especially obvious on “ cod necessity”, though cowbell clatter, drum rat-tat-tats otherwise back the saxophonist as he divides the theme into smaller and smaller bits. Moving from scoops and slap attacks to flattement and flutters Hanslip’s reed menu items could satisfy any gourmand. As a response to Cheetham’s cymbal chatters or wooden thumps, depending on the bill-of-fare, he even tosses in an amuse-gueule of whispering hisses or buzzing tonguing. The extended “recursive nest” which starts off the disc is a full repast in itself. Filled with tongue stops, mashed rhythms and flavored with elongated clarion flutters from the saxophonist and a desert of bass drum smacks, topped with tick-tocking clanks from the drummer it’s a filling musical brunch that should always be on the menu. – Ken Waxman, JAZZ WORD

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