Martin Archer & Walt Shaw
Discus 177CD
Available formats: CD/DL


Martin Archer – alto, sopranino, tenor, baritone saxophones, saxello
Walt Shaw – drums and percussion

Because I make records in a number of different styles, I often filter and change my saxophone playing to match the style of the record I’m making. But when I make a work like this, you hear my playing in my natural, unfiltered style, and that style is determined by the many AACM records which were most influential in forming my own playing. That’s especially true in this duo setting with Walt, where the music is stripped down to its essence of blues + abstraction. It’s really simple, because I’m not a fancy player. I just play in a way which pleases me and which connects back to the players I really love to hear.

Walt is the ideal partner for this type of duo. Like me, he’s developed his own methodology and palette of sounds which is based on a feel for the architecture of the music as opposed to being rocket-fuelled by technical manuals.

On this session I chose to use all five of the members of the saxophone family which I play. The pieces are heard in the order we played them, and because we didn’t hang around between takes or do any second takes, you just need the same amount of time to listen to this record as it took us to make it.

The song titles are in the Hausa language, which Walt became familiar with when he and his wife Joanne taught as volunteers in northern Nigeria for a while.

– Martin Archer, March 2024.


No compromises to be made here. Martin Archer and Walt Shaw find themselves with some studio time over. Okay, let’s record an instant album, no forward planning. Walt Shaw designs the cover – charcoal & pastel, graphically exciting but no detail on the outer sleeve. Martin Archer sorts the sound just as it comes, in the order it came, presented as five ‘tracks’ over 48 minutes. All the titles are in the Hausa language from Nigeria… familiar to Mr Shaw. (I’ve been trying to get my tongue around Biyartabiyu and believe me, it ain’t a simple ‘by-art-a-by-you’.) Quite right, the concept is simple enough but this music is not simplicity under another name. Walt Shaw is arguably the most unorthodox of all the percussionists that inhabit the Sheffield end of Discus Music. The opening break from the Archer alto is initially straight forward, bouncing a short phrase of curio notes into shape but the percussion tangle of crash and clatter is another room away… whilst at the same time (sic) digging its way through to common ground.That kind of patterning is present throughout. Certainly sounds in partnership, yet a constant resistance to settle on a fixed dynamic. There’s a lot of movement, flicks and twitches, rubbings and smudges, scratching and unrest. If the reed gets tongued, then the skin and metal surely needs to take some kind of beating. And it does. Biyartabiyu, doesn’t come alone. It comes from Ayler & Murray, Zorn & Graves, Braxton & Cyrille, Watts & Stevens, Prévost & Gare – I could go on, this is a crowded market-place with pairings drawing from each other histories, often not intentionally, sometimes in homage, occasionally in defiance of the form it sprung from. The fact that Martin Archer puts himself through five different horns is unusual, though Anthony Braxton was known to move between alto, sopranino and bass saxophone in the same session. So, why should we listen to Archer & Shaw? (1) Because it was recorded in 2023 not in the 60’s, 70’s et al. (2) Because it is Archer & Shaw. (3) Because history may repeat itself but the context is inevitably, not identical, not ghosted, always unique to itself. (4) Because Hudu, track 4, the shortest slice of the whole, is a master-class. Here is instant listening and interpretation swooning between two improvisers. Maybe, you don’t need reasons as to why you should hear Biartabiyu other than it is bloody good (this is not a translation.) – Steve Day, June 2024

With the remarkable drummer WALT SHAW, his partner in Orchestra of The Upper Atmosphere, Engine Room Favourites, the Deep Tide Quartet and in a trio with Michael Bardon, MARTIN ARCHER now offers Biyartabiyu (DISCUS 177). Shaw, who lives south of Sheffield in Burton-on-Trent (Phil Seaman came from there) and is also an original as a visual artist, contributes the Hausa-language titles in addition to the artwork, because he once taught with his wife in northern Nigeria. With a fan of alto (‘Daya’), rough-tongued sopranino (‘Biyu’), tenor (‘Uku’) & buffalo bartion sax (‘Hudu’), Archer follows his undisguised lust for the abstract truth of the blues, polished through the prism of the AACM scene. The heartfelt emotion for the fire, sophistication and rhythmic polytonality of Great Black Music can hardly be more directly echoed. With Shaw as the three-armed medium of the rain and thunder spirit, and ‘Biyar’ as the plucker of the ears, who rounds off the sound fan with a hoarse but insistent saxello. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY

I’ve really appreciated [the] natural playing on sax, with such reminiscences of the Art Ensemble for instance, well enhanced by the drumming play by Walt Shaw. very nice music, really enjoyable to listen to. – Philippe Renaud, IMPROJAZZ

Ici, Martin ARCHER & Walt SHAW constituent un duo hors normes : le 1er jouant du sax (toute la famille, y compris le saxello) pour une série de solos soutenus par la batterie du second !

Contrairement à ses participations aux projets des autres, ici, la musique de Archer est réduite à son essence de blues et d’abstraction. Une économie de moyens qui se marque aussi au niveau des 5 morceaux de l’album, qui ont été enregistrés en temps réel – autrement dit en une seule prise et sans reprises par après. Ces morceaux portent des noms en langue Hausa du nord du Niger où Shaw et sa femme ont travaillé un temps comme volontaires. – Guy Stuckens, RADIO AIR LIBRE

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