Ron Caines / Martin Archer AXIS
Blutopia
Discus 152CD
(2023)
Available formats: CD/DL

 

“The fourth collaborative album by Brighton based saxophonist Caines and Sheffield multi-instrumentalist Archer finds them honing their fruitful modus operandi with even more concision.” – Daniel Spicer, Wire

“Somehow both inviting and uncompromisng, it works as a collection of vignettes and as a well-crafted integral whole. Five stars.” – Roger Thomas, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

“The ensemble passages are spikily fraught, but these are punctuated by quite lyrical passages where the music defies expectations and serves high notice of how the line between composition and improvisation can be blurred; it seems to sidestep obvious precedents and stake out its own defined space.” – Nic Jones, JAZZ JOURNAL

Ron Caines – soprano, alto & tenor saxophones
Martin Archer – sopranino & baritone saxophones, clarinet, flute
Graham Clark – violin
Laura Cole – piano
Charlotte Keeffe – trumpet
Chris Sharkey – electric guitar
Gus Garside – double bass
Johnny Hunter – drums

For this fourth collaboration between Caines and Archer, we’ve concentrated on the pure, raw jazz feel of Ron’s playing – a rawness which reflects Charles Parker filtered through the prism of British jazz from the 70s or thru AACM music, rather than then more polished sound of many of today’s players. A sequence of short tracks mixes every possible combination of the players from solo through to full ensemble, with instrumental colours scattered around the canvas of what is effectively a concerto with Ron’s highly individual sound at its centre.

Ron’s work with East Of Eden was a massive influence on the teenage me, and it is a massive pleasure and privilege for me to be able to present Ron’s late work across these Discus Music releases. – Martin Archer

 

72CD - Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis
72CD
Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis
Les Oiseaux De Matisse
88CD - Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis
88CD
Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis
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28CD - Beck Drenching Pleasure
128CD
Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis
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Reviews

The fourth collaborative album by Brighton based saxophonist Caines and Sheffield multi-instrumentalist Archer finds them honing their fruitful modus operandi with even more concision. Caines’s melancholy motifs for alto form the basis of short tracks performed by a core trio with bassist Gus Garside and drummer Johnny Hunter. Archer then invites guitarist Chris Sharkey, pianist Laura Cole, violinist Graham Clark and trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe to add harmonic depth with sensitive overdubs, creating rick yet uncluttered tapestries redolent of early AACM cuts. A couple of longer collages assembled from improvised snippets reveal Archer’s considerable skill as a studio technician, sounding more like an ensemble responding to live conduction then a talented crew scattered over hundreds of miles. – Daniel Spicer, THE WIRE

British saxist Ron Caines used to play with East of Eden, one of the best (yet unheralded) progressive bands of the 1970’s (1969-1978). Ron Caines got together with fellow Uk saxist and Discus labelhead, Martin Archer and put together a band called Axis. This is their fourth disc and the members of the band (an octet) are mostly taken from other bands/projects which have been released by Discus over the past few years. Both pianist Laura Cole and trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe have fine leader dates out on Discs. The guitarist, bassist & drummer also have impressive resumes playing with bands like TrioVD, the Geordie Approach & ARC. Aside from Mr. Caines, the only other member I know about previously is violinist Graham Clark, who worked with Daevid Allen and was a member of Gong and Deviant Amps.    There are some lengthy liner notes by Martin Archer explaining how these sessions came to be, but it doesn’t matter that much since it is music itself, the outcome that we are left with. Ron Caines wrote all of the pieces here with arrangements by Martin Archer plus some improv collages were used as well. Things begin some chugging rhythms with some sly sax on top as well as the trumpet joining in in the last part of the piece. For “Glyphx”, Archer takes Caine’s alto sax with the bassist & drummer and then adds a layer of (nicely arranged) horns to the top and some violin as well. Except for three group improvs, Mr. Archer added instruments to each piece, adding colors, harmonies and occasionally short solos. For the one long piece here, “Ancient & Modern”, Mr. Archer took some improv collages and added instrumentation. I really like this piece as Mr. Archer has added several layers of instrumentation here and there like a shrewd tapestry which takes a while to figure out. This disc is some 71+ minutes long and has 17 tracks. Hence it takes a while to listen to it all. All but two pieces are under 6 minutes and each one seems to have something inventive or unexpected going on. I am about 3/4’s the way through and I am still hearing some surprising twists, turns and combinations. Overall, there is more than enough interesting music found here to make this long journey worth the wait. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery NYC

By initiating RON CAINES / MARTIN ARCHER AXIS, Martin Archer has created an opportunity for the saxophonist of the legendary East Of Eden to unfold a fascinating late work in the golden autumn with “Les Oiseaux De Matisse” (2018) and “Dream Feathers” (2019). In June 2022, they met again in Brighton to rhythmize their fan of soprano, alto & tenor sax (Caines) and sopranino & baritone sax, clarinet and flute (Archer) with Johnny Hunter’s versatile beat and Gus Garside’s eloquent arco & plonic bass. How Hunter was able to become the father of little Elvin between working with Revival Room, Sloth Racket, Blind Monk, Spinning Work, Loose Time plus x – respect. However, these 2-day recordings are only the raw material for Blutopia (DISCUS 152CD), which Archer perfects layer by layer into a 17-part kaleidoscope characterized by Caines’ jazz feeling: With the forest-green chirping violin by Graham Clark (Engine Room Favourites), the crimson shades of the electric guitar by Chris Sharkey (ex-Acoustic Ladyland, Roller Trio) from Leeds, with Bösendorferei by Laura Cole (Beck Hunters, Keith Jafrate) in the Keighley Moors at Airdale, and most recently the trumpet beam of Charlotte Keeffe (LIO, Alex Ward, Paul Dunmall), but also with ‘Street Drums’ by Nowhere, who set the whole thing in motion like a locomotive and immediately betray Archer’s genius as mixmaster, whose studio wizardry stretches and compresses Axis from a pensive Caines solo (‘Reverie’, ‘Pale Alto’, ‘Marcel’) to octet (‘Spike Island’). ‘Acrylic’ hints at the painterly aspect with a Colean touch, ‘Random’ with a ghostly guitar the spontaneous aspect, ‘Portland’ the cement grey with alien grace, ‘Morocco Rose’ with crystalline drops a dreamy one, ‘Pepper Spray’ the burning interesting one. ‘Ornette’s Leap’, where Sharkey shows his teeth and Keeffe writhes like a snake, was a big leap from before to after, which as ‘Ancient & Modern’ savours each of its turbulent 13 1/2 minutes. – Rigobert Dittmann BAD ALCHEMY [BA 120 rbd]

Having lost track of saxophonist Ron Caines since the heyday of the UK Musicans Collective movement, it’s cheering to see him co-leading an intriguing non-ensemble (several parts were recordced separately) alongside Martin Archer, here on reeds and flute….. Somehow both inviting and uncompromisng, it works as a collection of vignettes and as a well-crafted integral whole. Five stars. – Roger Thomas, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

MARTIN ARCHER is an extremely busy bee, because besides running his label DISCUS MUSIC, he also produces and plays on most releases. Here he is playing the sopranino and baritone sax, clarinet and flute on the album of RON CAINES, and in addition he invited his band AXIS that consists of 6 more musicians to play along and give it a real British Jazz approach. Improvised freestyle jazz is definitely the way to go here from scratch to finish. 17 songs in total, with a clear focus on the sax, because Ron himself also plays soprano, alto & tenor saxophones. Sometimes quite experimental and improvised most of the time, this CD is clearly recommended to the open-mind jazzfans out there. – Gabor Kleinbloesem, STRUTTER’ZINE

To the best of my knowledge this is the third album by the Caines / Archer Axis, and if memory serves I’ve now reviewed all three of them for this site. Over the course of those albums the line-up has largely been settled, but the music has remained fresh. The music also belies the apparently slightly painstaking way in which it was put together, with musicians making their contributions “after the facts” of the basic tracks. The solo Caines required no such work, and on something like Bell (on alto sax) he evokes the spirit of Marion Brown, in terms of slightly fractious lyricism, and of Peter Brotzmann. This is not to suggest that Caines has no vocabulary of his own; indeed, in the following Hunting Horns he adapts to a group setting without compromising his identity. For all of its titular evocation Ornette’s Leap has character to spare and only alludes to Coleman in passing. Chris Sharkey’s guitar supplies angular accompaniment for Caines (on alto again) while in places Hunter hints at something close to a rarefied strain of swing. Ancient & Modern is by no small distance the longest piece on the album and turns out to be something quite other than a blowing vehicle. The ensemble passages are spikily fraught, but these are punctuated by quite lyrical passages where the music defies expectations and serves high notice of how the line between composition and improvisation can be blurred; it seems to sidestep obvious precedents and stake out its own defined space. – Nic Jones, JAZZ JOURNAL

The “AXIS” of UK saxophonist Ron Caines and multi-reedist Martin Archer, also on organ and electronics, in a subtle septet with outstanding players including Laura Cole on piano and Johnny Hunter on drums, in a set of dream-like and lyrically beautiful improvisations, merging electronics and horns over a powerfully solid rhythm section that create warm textural cycles. – SQUIDCO

British multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer (who turns 67 this month) pursues a panoramic range of interests, reflected in the varied output of his Discus Music imprint. He might reference free jazz, avantpop, prog-rock, noise or electronica, but the bottom line is that he sees boundaries between these genres as permeable, ripe for subversion even. As a consequence, he tends to generate his own forms, with a fondness for post-production alchemy, which means that these two fascinating outings contain some inevitable twists. It is Blutopia that hews closest to the jazz vernacular, but this isn’t a straightforward blowing date. Fellow saxophonist Ron Caines is the only person to appear on all seventeen tracks in the generous 72-minute program, either alone, in duet or as part of a group. Drummer Johnny Hunter and bassist Gus Garside are present on ten cuts, with Archer primarily on baritone saxophone on slightly fewer. While that foursome was in the studio simultaneously, Archer has subsequently woven in a cast of regular collaborators: Chris Sharkey (electric guitar), Graham Clark (violin), Laura Cole (piano) and Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet). Each sometimes add counterpoint, contribute to ensemble unisons or intertwine with the lead voice. So adroitly has he undertaken the overdubbing that, without the sleeve notes detailing the genesis of the music, a listener would never suspect that the cohesion exhibited is anything other than organically produced. Caines’ inspiration is laid bare on the dedication “Ornette’s Leap”, confirmed by his fluent but angular alto lines, shaded by overtones, emotive scuffs and frayed blues inflections, especially on the wistful unaccompanied “Bell” or the ballad-like “Hunting Horns” where Sharkey’s jangling guitar conjures a whiff of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time. Archer’s baritone shines through most prominently on the collective “Ancient & Modern”, but it is his placements of the additional instruments throughout which elevate the album into something special. – NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD

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