“The words here and thoughts behind them unite us all and give us some hope for better days to come.” – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery NYC
Steve Day, poet, writer, percussionist has been around Discus Records for several years contributing sleeve notes for Keith Tippett recordings as well as reviews and other wordplay. Although he and comrades Peter Evans, Julian Dale, Mark Langford, have recorded for other labels, the Day Evans Dale Ensemble is a completely new venture with regular live dates in a range of venues. This seemed like an appropriate time to bring their ‘new thing’ to Discus Music; a mix of spoken word and spontaneous composition draws a direct line across ‘jazz’ and ‘poetry’. It’s difficult to try to label what’s going on here; there’s a strong political intent to many of these pieces – Not Quite Blue and Green Money are obvious contenders. The tracks Live In Seattle and Lorca reference late-Coltrane and Miles’ Sketches of Spain respectively. Check out Peter Evans’ electric violin excursions throughout; he positively interrogates the music, both questioning and confirming Steve Day’s spoken narrative. And whilst Mark Langford’s reeds and Charlotte Keefe’s trumpet feed into their ‘jazz’ links, they also establish this music as a non-verbal poetic voice. A similar idea is demonstrated by Julian Dale’s double bass hymnal quotes on The Pilgrim Mothers. He acts as a second ‘voice’ duet to Jennie Osborne’s renunciation of prayer on the final stanza, harking back to Charles Mingus’ work with Langston Hughes. The Sheffield Discus Regulars, Martin Archer and Peter Fairclough, are no mere add-on, they bring an outside perspective to this radical ‘activist’ session – a cohesive recording of aural visioning. If ever there was a time for such a thing it must be now.
Steve Day – voice, drums, djembi, congas, gongs, shekere / Peter Evans – 5-string electric violin, loops / Julian Dale – double bass, cello, voice / Mark Langford – tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, piano / Jennie Osborne – voice
Martin Archer – woodwind, software instruments, harmonica / Charlotte Keeffe – trumpet / Peter Fairclough – gongs, cymbals, war drum, woodblock, shakers, chimes
This ensemble is a grand confluence of players, all reacting to the philosophical, emotional utterings of poets Steve Day and Jennie Osborne. Green Money covers treatises on capitalism, spirituality, nature and life in general with layers of musical veneer, each thin strip chosen to perfectly enhance Steve’s unique delivery; the five-string violin churning queasily, the bass following on, stepping across cracks, drums filling in gaps, plugging spaces with well-timed shots. Steve’s voice gives an unusual perspective, a fine enunciation always surpassed by the words. You feel him tasting them, rolling them around like brandy and then carefully allowing them out, each word ideally formed. The players, himself included, swirl a magical, churning mixture, hypnotic dereliction, groaning grey and often uncomfortable, but only because that is what the message demands. The vocal delivery is a joy, almost as if the words have control of him and not the other way around, moving of their own volition. The players surround him chewing and chattering, working around the point being made and then impressing it firmly, spare streaks of trumpet and tipsy bass circling, ensuring nobody has tumbled into the pond. The words are delivered; then Steve stands back, allowing the others to interject and see what effect the connections take as they sketch in any missing details. There is a beautiful melancholy to the words of “Swan In The Evening” and the shimmering lake of sound suits them really well, the violin a birds’ wing lament, the bass a lover’s warmth, the dichotomy pulling at the listener. On “Green Money”, harmonica, violin and bass make a jittery, flailing combination, a New Orleans blues blow-out taken in a wild, free direction, Mark Langford‘s clarinet waiting on the French Quarter sidewalk, dusting for dollars as the capitalist dream dies in Steve’s brimming eyes. A fleeting memory of “Abide With Me” drifts around “The Pilgrim Mothers”, extra percussion giving further texture, the mildest African hint smeared across the thick, slow moving syrup of sound. At other times, they hint at jazz; but a hazy, loose vision, something conjured in a fevered dream, reacting to the rhythm of the voices, Jennie’s having a different sense of remove, but the two linking together well. Elsewhere, “Lorca” has a Spanish inflection to the trumpet, its echoing arid landscape redolent of filmic visions; but more often the feeling is a little darker, the duet on “War” being a case in point, the voices fronting sounds echoing the dawn of time, the players breaking up and veering off at tangents, a tumbling piano, precipitous bass, strings like feathers failing but still stretching. You never tire of the subtle insinuation of the backdrops that emerge unbidden when least expected, stepping lightly avoiding shadows, percussion rumbling like a distant storm. The quartet here has produced something really special, working on various levels, often unsettling the listener, but ensuring that they listen carefully because the messages, although at times oblique, are important with more to learn at every spin. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ
Leo Records ‘Jazz’ & Poetry poet Steve Day, electric violinist Peter Evans and double bassist Julian Dale as the namesake of the DAY EVANS DALE ENSEMBLE were together with tenor saxophonist & bass clarinetist Mark Langford already 4/5 of the Blazing Flame Quintet. In Green Money (DISCUS 142), however, timbres are added, which Martin Archer, Charlotte Keeffe and Peter Fairclough, as well as sensitive, watercolors with Woodwind, electronics, harmonica, trumpet and, next to Day’s own, further percussive dots. Not to mention Jennie Osborne of the Moor Poets as second voice. The lyrics are by Day, only the dissonantly illustrated ‘War’ comes from Osborne, who blames China neither gunpowder nor Covid-19, also If both spreads like pandemic. Day thematizes the usual witty and wordy rape of humanity in the colours of the Union Jack. In ‘Sophia’s Needle’, Noam Chomsky’s bank vault stands out. Orchestrated in ‘The Swan In The Evening’ swan wing beat a separation? In ‘Green Money’, the bluesy dollars of Furry Lewis and the oligarchic billions from the World Bank and Wall Street, with which the DiEM25 leader Varoufakis wants to conjure up, not green. We are thy women in the Valley of the Shadow of Death sing ‘The Pilgrim Mothers’, Call anywhere Plymouth. Take it all, fluttered by Bluthänfling und der heiligen Krähe. Day and Osborne celebrate John Coltrane’s “Live in Seattle”: It was September 1965 with LBJ at the Whitehouse still at war with a world of water-carriers and babies. With ‘Lorca’, a man becomes trumpet and arcomelancholy with Walt Whitman in his pocket, his days in the dust of the night Scribbled. In the memory of the civil rights activist with sax and bass clarinet Maya Angelou (1928-2014) warns Day: If history is just a mystery we too become ghosts. With lines like Able to detect doubt impersonating a shout / grasped out of ornithology; two dots for idiots. / She heard the hesitancy freezing in the breeze; / blowing a terrible tease of uncertainty – in the opaque ‘The Cuckoo Not The Crow’ – he lets rappers turn pale. And with ‘Pauli Murray Writes to the Roosevelts’ he beats once again the Bow from Jane Crow to Black brothers who, decades later, cannot breathe clean air. “The Edge of England” & “Curving Sentences” gather Days Selected Poems in print, but only the musicalized performance shows him completely as a British bard with enough Beat blood, the burden of an old white man to enchant with bittersweet sophistication. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY
Vocalist Steve Day is also a noted poet and author of several books. The first piece, “Not Quite Blue” features a thoughtful poem read by Mr. Day with layers of floating, suspense1-filled sounds underneath. After reading over the poetry several times, I realize that Mr. Day has a number of the obsevations that many of anti-fascist, sensitive/sensible types have around the world, especially anyone who has had their elected officials move further to the right. The music that accompanies the words, is often subtle and supportive without getting in the way of hearing the words that are being spoken. There is one piece which I really dig called “Live in Seattle” which discusses the great late-period record by John Coltrane, record of heavy spiritually screaming double saxes with Pharoah Sanders also up front. Mr. Day talks about how the music on this album changed the way he heard music and its placement in time/history. The several instrumentalists here get a chance to stretch out a bit in between the words and do a fine job of playing in inspired spurts. Another highlight is the one poem/lyric written & partially spoken by Jennie Osborne called “War”. The words and music are particularly effective, dark, brooding & observant, something us Henry Cow fans could well appreciate. At first I thought that the serious words here would get in the way of my enjoyment of this disc but after a while I came to the conclusion that many of left-leaning liberals (old hippies) are feeling the same way about the way our world has become less hospitable to all decent beings and that we all want to complain and hopefully change our world for the better. In other words we all have friends out there who are reaching out to be a part of the better part of the mass of humanity. The words here and thoughts behind them unite us all and give us some hope for better days to come. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery NYC
It is too easy to say the instrumental improvisations serve as a vehicle or embeddedness of the spoken words by Day and second vocalist Jennie Osborne. Also, the instrumentalists perform and ‘speak’ with distinct voices, as, for example, in the solos by Keeffe, Evans, and Dale demonstrate. This contrasts with the Meson album, which aims for an electronically treated collective sound. Both albums are interesting and very worthwhile in relating poetry and improvisation with one another. – Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY
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