Family Band
Family Band
Discus 146CD
(2023)
Available formats: CD/DL

 

“Family Band is 2023 jazz played by people who understand the giants (Ornette, Coltrane, Cherry) who we’re all in debt to….. A smart multilayered recording, recommended no health warnings.” – Steve Day, 2023

“An extraordinary vibrancy that feels like it blows through the last seventy years of jazz history, alighting briefly and then flitting off, always propelled by the supple and engaging rhythm section.” – Mr Olivetti, FREQ

“There is much to admire across this long-player, virtual founts of energy, alacrity, and surprise that embraces jazz’s legacy while heartily expanding upon it.” – Darren Bergstein, DMG, NYC

Kim Macari – trumpet
Riley Stone-Lonergan – tenor saxophone
Tom Rivière – bass
Steve Hanley – drums

Family Band is the eponymously titled 3rd release from this quartet of like-minded friends and collaborators. This is a band in the truest sense, with no leader contributions come equally from Kim Macari on trumpet , Riley Stone-Lonergan on tenor saxophone, Tom Rivière on double bass and Steve Hanley on drums. The group met while studying at Leeds College of Music in 2008, founding the band in 2015.

The album was recorded over two days in early February 2020 by Tim Thomas in an old farm outbuilding near Doncaster that now houses a recording studio. Although in hindsight the shadow of a global pandemic loomed large, this period in the studio represented a final period of normalcy for the band, with time spent playing with the studio dogs Harold and Wilson while everyone focused on creation in a rural setting.

The album includes compositions by all members. Kim Macari’s Deft But Bereft is a frantic piece of protest music set against the apocalyptic paranoia of a Cold War era radio broadcast. Stone-Lonergan’s Mistake Not is a coiled spring acting as a jumping off point for his improvisatory fire. Hanley’s emancipatory choral One Road features spoken word by Macari and acts as a powerful call to action. The freewheeling and unpredictable swing of Rivière’s Monty takes inspiration from the shifting tempos of Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones on Ornette Coleman’s classic New York Is Now!

The album cover features a painting commissioned especially for the release by improvising bass player, artist and composer Ozzy Moysey.

 

Reviews

I like drummers who like cymbals. Its immediately obvious Steve Hanley has picked his carefully, they sing. Even on the opener, Riley Stone-Lonergan’s Bastard Gentlemen, a kind of Dewey Redman type slice of free-bop, has Mr Hanley’s cymbal strokes perfectly balanced within the forward momentum. The sustain is allowed to exquisitely hang in the air well pass the strike that set it in motion. A small detail but such things matter. It pisses me off that on the up-and-coming Family Band March tour, they’re playing my hometown on a night I’m gigging elsewhere. Ashburton, you’re in for a treat, this quartet are magic. Steve Hanley is not the only good news. There’s no keyboards in this band, the absence frees up the tenor sax/trumpet frontline from being locked into chord changes (though they’re almost imaginary). Four of the seven tracks are written by bassist Tom Rivière. He writes original quirky lines (and arrangements?) and Kim Macari’s trumpet is able to get up close on the Stone-Lonergan saxophone, so the two are able travel together with Rivière’s bass weaving an array of bottom-end threads beneath. The track Monty is genuine ‘quartet’ music. By which I mean, although the frontline solos are undoubtedly top of the mountain stuff, the intricacy is in the ensemble – the switch from tenor to trumpet is a little perfection. Macari trades the melody below the sax and then slowly unfolds a precise pinched sound-poem, with bass drums (& those lovely cymbals) offering counterpoint. It’s a four way reflective ensemble study, neat as completion. There’s two pieces of spoken word on the album – Deft But Bereft and One Road. The former reminds me of the rap Charles Mingus experimented with (and maybe George Clooney’s classic McCarthy witch-hunt movie Good Night And Good Luck). One Road takes a different tack; restrained comment on our current political paralysis in the face of corruption and crisis. Heartfelt, it doesn’t sit easily with all that’s gone before it; all the more powerful for that being the case. Look, Family Band is 2023 jazz played by people who understand the giants (Ornette, Coltrane, Cherry) who we’re all in debt to. Family Band plus engineer, Tim Thomas, have come up with a smart multilayered recording, recommended no health warnings. – Steve Day, 2023

Family Band‘s latest (and self-titled) release, their third since forming in 2015, finds them further exploring their interactions as a quartet and how personal ideas form, and then coalesce when presented to a democracy fully at ease with one another and anxious to express the diversity that jazz welcomes currently. Over the seven pieces presented here, the players take the basic idea delivered by one member and add fire and energy to it. This causes an extraordinary vibrancy that feels like it blows through the last seventy years of jazz history, alighting briefly and then flitting off, always propelled by the supple and engaging rhythm section. The joyful bass- and drum-led strut of opener “Bastard Gentlemen” is cool yet bustling and has a swing that sax player Riley Stone-Lonergan uses as a stage to turn his instrument inside out. The handover to Kim Macari‘s trumpet is seamless and further limit-pushing is undertaken. The rolling drums and frenetic bass action somehow urge the horns on, like a mirror held up showing the truth and allowing it to shin through. The longer “Monty” is slower and more melancholy, the drums textural and the feeling is more thoughtful, more provocative, the sax heady and enthralled, sweeping the exquisite bass playing up into its arms. They play around with motifs like threads in a maze, dropping brief snippets and running into the distance before appearing once again, somehow returning, often unexpectedly, but always welcome. They like playing with gravity as if there are elliptical orbits, instruments swinging ever further away from the initial motif, only to cause uproar as the atmosphere is breached and they lurch past, the gradual attraction luring them ever closer. Things here are visceral but considered, the solo bass manipulation of “Changing Reflection” slowing things down, stripping them away, the monochrome palpable, a sawed dynamism heading into echoic grandeur. The room plays its part, cocooning the players and allowing the experiments to unfold. The cold war paranoia of “Deft But Bereft” allying a 1950s radio broadcast with a mutant hybrid of protest jazz and blazing rock’n’roll, the emerging hysteria nicely framing the apocalyptic imagery. The sheer momentum that runs through a lot of the album is a testament to the rhythm section, a mania that excites and flusters in equal measure, the cymbal taps on “Mistake Not” like the nervous tic of an accused man. The sax on the other hand wails with the kind of freedom we can usually only dream of and gives an amazing contrast to the mystical absorption. The New Music Of The Spirits” has a kind of end of day reckoning, a series of dusky manoeuvres circling the sandy sculptures of an unknown place, windblown and empty; a hint of the east, but not one that you can rely on. It feels as though it is playing with your expectations, leading you on a dusty goose chase, but one which can’t prepare you for the bruised heartbreak of closer “One Road”, Kim’s desolate words pulling at the threads of your jumper until everything starts to unravel. It is an unexpected end to an album that is full of surprises, but one which is ever open to interpretation, demanding revisiting and never disappointing when you do. It is hard to believe this was recorded in forty-eight hours. Is there more lurking under their easy exterior? On the strength of this, we can only hope so. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/family-band-st/

I believe strongly in an artists’ responsibility to use their voice to shout about what’s important, and my work often has political, moral and ethical motivation. With this more than just sympathetic attitude, the trumpeter Kim Macari from Fife goes to work in London. Martin Archer was able to win her for Engine Room Favourites, Storytellers, the Deep Tide Quartet and the Anthropology Band, but above all she has been playing in the FAMILY BAND since 2015. With her partner Riley Stone-Lonergan on tenor sax, Tom Rivière on bass and Steve Hanley on drums, two who had also approached Discus with stair wit. Family Band (Discus 146CD) was created in February 2020 in a barn converted into a recording studio near Doncaster, and Stone-Lonergan’s ‘Bastard Gentlemen’ reveals Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry as a blueprint for the animated interplay of a rough saxophone with a fiery or sensitive trumpet. Far more than Laura Jurd and Charlotte Keeffe, Macari shows a temperament like Jamie Branch. However, Rivière also demands deliberate and sorrowful tones from her and all the others in ‘Monty’ and the elegiac tuned ‘Changing Reflection’, whereby the fast pizzicato and flickering tickling sprinkle enough salt into the ‘Monty’ soup, which is then spooned with tears. The modernist sophistication of the early 60s continues to provide the inspiring incentive, except that instead of the shadow cast by apartheid and the Vietnam War, I-can’t-breathe and last-generation feelings accompanied the approach of the epidemic. Macari’s ‘Deft But Bereft’ makes fun of the Red Scare alarmism and the Your Family, Your Country pathos of the McCarthy era with a propaganda sample and counters blaring cavalry trumpets with completely different freedom-oriented fire music. In Stone-Lonergan’s ‘Mistake Not’ the trumpet staggers between melody, insistence and snappy uptempo. With ‘The New Music of the Spirits’, Rivière evokes solemn contemplation to swinging fanfare. And Macari finally asks about Hanley’s sad, internally troubled ‘One Road’, what we can hold against the critical review of our failures of future generations? [BA 118 rbd] – Rigobert Dittmann BAD ALCHEMY

A jolly good time comes courtesy of this quartet, but look out, ’cause there’s some sharp edges adorning this instrumental roundabout. The self-titled 3rd at bat for trumpeter Kim Macari, tenor saxophonist Riley Stone-Lonergan, double bassist Tom Riviere, and drummer Steve Hanley is a dandy. The opening two pieces, “Bastard Gentlemen” and “Monty”, rip away the veneer of the last 60 years of both American and British jazz as they move through a freewheeling array of post-bop and freer genre tropes, the album’s former an ex-pat swinger flaunting its stuff under Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus bigtop, the latter a more languid number effecting a buskier tone of Ornette-esque proportions, glimpsed through the lens of Harry Miller or Mike Westbrook’s smaller, lithe ensembles, the lineage more prima facie than Prime Time. There is much to admire across this long-player, virtual founts of energy, alacrity, and surprise that embraces jazz’s legacy while heartily expanding upon it. “Mistake Not” surely grasps this, Stone-Lonergan’s saxes alternating acrid tones and fleet shouts across Hanley’s rippling cymbals and whipcracked snares, a delightful counterpoint of rhythm and brass that conjures memories of Steve Coleman’s early Five Elements’s quirkier salvos. And even during the blustier, melancholic refrains of “The New Music of the Spirits”, where the entire band lock horns in a dense blues-march the likes of which Roland Kirk wouldn’t sneer at, it’s evident these youngsters contemporize an entire book of rich history with enormous gusto and a zeal usually reserved for their more experienced elders. For this particular Family, everything old is surely new again. – Darren Bergstein, DMG

They bring a very contemporary sense of urgency to their music and the standard of both the playing and the writing is excellent throughout. – The members of Family Band first met when they were studying at Leeds College of Music in 2008, eventually coming together as a band in 2015. The group’s début album “Bring Lulu” appeared in the November of that year and was followed in 2018 by “Board of Origin”, a live recording documented at the 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival. In its early days the band’s material was composed entirely by Riviere but, as befits its name, the group has since become a more democratic unit and this third, eponymous release finds all of the band members contributing compositions. I surmise that the band name was chosen partly because of the fact that Macari and Stone-Lonergan are life partners but also as an expression of group solidarity. The band members like to describe themselves as ‘jazz activists’ and there’s a left leaning political commitment behind their largely instrumental music. The instrumental configuration is the classic ‘chordless’ quartet model of saxophone, trumpet, double bass and drums pioneered by Ornette Coleman. Indeed the group’s début album included a version of the Coleman composition “Latin Genetics”, the only non-original piece to have been recorded by the band. As with other jazz musicians the individual band members are heavily involved with other projects. In addition to leading her own groups Macari has worked with musicians such as guitarist Anton Hunter and pianist Sam Leak. Ex NYJO member Stone-Lonergan is an integral member of QOW TRIO alongside bassist Eddie Myer and drummer Spike Wells. Steve Hanley is a member of saxophonist Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat quintet and both Hanley and Riviere are part of the trio Treppenwitz, together with pianist Matthew Aplin. Although it was released in January 2023 the new “Family Band” album was actually recorded at Swan Studios near Doncaster in February 2020 with Tim Thomas at the mixing desk. It represented the last real period of ‘normality’ for the band prior to the pandemic. The album kicks off with the energetic bustle of Stone-Lonergan’s composition “Bastard Gentlemen”, a joyous introduction to the band with Riviere’s rapid, highly propulsive lines and Hanley’s busy drumming fuelling the rumbustious tenor sax soloing of the composer and the bravura trumpeting of Macari. Stone-Lonergan has deeper roots in the jazz mainstream than his bandmates and there’s a real sense of swing here, alongside the more obvious Coleman influences. Riviere takes over the writing on “Monty”, a longer piece that unfolds more slowly over the course of its eight and a half minute duration. Sax and trumpet combine effectively as they probe tentatively above the fluid rhythms of bass and drums, the music subsequently gathering momentum as Stone-Lonergan solos, stretching out and exploring more expansively above a quickening bass and drum pulse. The horns briefly coalesce before Macari’s solo, a more subdued but no less absorbing excursion. This is followed by a bass and drum dialogue as Riviere and Hanley begin to assert themselves more, with the composer citing the work of bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones on the Ornette Coleman album “New York is Now!” as a source of inspiration for this piece. Riviere is also the composer of “Changing Reflection”, initially a Coleman style threnody that features the rich, dark sound of the composer’s bowed bass, played solo for much of the time, but also given sensitive percussive support from Hanley. The piece gathers momentum with the return of Stone-Lonergan and Macari, the pair growling at each other in a thrilling series of trumpet and tenor exchanges above the free-wheeling rhythms of bass and drums. Macari’s “Deft But Bereft” features a sample sourced from a 1950s Cold War US radio broadcast set among the band’s ironic musical commentary, a mix of wonky trumpet voluntaries, belligerent tenor sax and military rhythms. It’s 21st century protest music set to a 1950s soundtrack and asks “just how much has changed?”, particularly with the war in Ukraine still raging on at the time of the album release. Macari’s trumpet playing plus her political stance and musical militancy have evoked comparisons with the late, great Jaimie Branch, and understandably so. Meanwhile listeners of a certain age, such as myself, may be tempted to think of this piece as a grown up, and far more musical, version of Hawkwind’s “Sonic Attack”, itself inspired by those Cold War broadcasts. Stone-Lonergan takes up the compositional reins once more for “Mistake Not”, which fairly tumbles out of the speakers with the composer’s hard edged tenor soloing urgently above the frantic bass and drum rhythms. Macari’s feature sees the trumpeter allowing herself more space, but her solo is still both powerful and eloquent. Riviere’s “The New Music Of The Spirits” has a prayer like quality that suggests that its roots are in the spiritual jazz of the 1960s. Unaccompanied horn motifs recall church music while Macari plays a mournful trumpet solo above a gently rumbling groove featuring the sounds of mallets on toms. Stone-Lonergan’s solo is more forceful, evoking memories of Dewey Redman and John Coltrane and set among a rolling groove featuring the clatter of Hanley’s sticks on rims. The album concludes with a second spoken word piece with Hanley’s music combined with Macari’s poetry. Fife born Macari delivers her words in a soft Scottish accent but her message is stark and pertinent as she regrets the passivity of the people in the face of war, global corruption and impending ecological disaster. It’s not just a British problem, it’s one that extends to the whole of the ‘developed’ world and I’m as guilty as anybody. The music is suitably sombre and frames the message perfectly. The music on “Family Band” is indebted to Ornette Coleman and to many other jazz greats, with Charles Mingus and Henry Threadgill among others mentioned as influences. Family Band don’t seek to disguise this but they bring a very contemporary sense of urgency to their music and the standard of both the playing and the writing is excellent throughout. I’m not always a fan of spoken word items on recordings but it’s the two verbal pieces that help to make this album so distinctive and which help to put the power of the instrumental pieces into perspective. Globally things seem to have got a lot worse since the album was recorded so its spirit of rebellion is now even more relevant than ever. A closing aside, is the band’s decision to name their third album after themselves a reference / homage to the politically informed 1970s rockers the Edgar Broughton Band who also waited until their third recording to name an album after themselves? Probably not, but you never know. – Ian Mann https://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/family-band-family-band

From a light-hearted and almost irreverent beginning ( Stone-Lonergan ‘s Bastard Gentlmen ), the record (recorded in 2020) gradually moves towards a mockery of the stereotypical Cold War paranoia typical of certain British culture (Macari’s Deft But Bereft ). The 4 of the group are former (musical) school mates from Leeds. Very close-knit, they are all composers and present a modern jazz, steeped in swing, in which decisive rhythmic structures and well-polished pre-structured riffs allow space for incisive and biting solos, mindful of the lessons of the great masters. And even in pieces with a more subdued tone, such as the almost hymn The New Music Of The Spirits by Rivière ), they do not abandon the energy, which only becomes more suffused and atmospheric. It’s their third album, and it’s a very good test. – Alessandro Bertinetto, KATHODIK https://www.kathodik.org/2023/05/26/familiy-band-family-band/

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