Martin Archer
Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites
Discus 43CD
Available formats: DL


“Archer has done valuable and pioneering work with his experiments and sound collages. But as is demonstrated on this CD, he’s still a Jazzman at heart. As he aptly demonstrates here, there’s no reason for him to abandon any one musical form for another.” -Ken Waxman, Jazz Word

I’m reminded of the compositional systems of Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, of Sun Ra’s immediacy too – actually, I’m reminded of a lot of things that simply don’t equate with a White guy from Sheffield, England! A tribute? A demonstration of creative strength? A new direction? A little bit of all of that, and Archer pulls it all off brilliantly. – FRANCOIS COUTURE, MONSIUER DELIRE

Engine Room Favourites was formed in 2012 by Martin Archer, initially for a one off performance, and following that as a recording unit and permanent configuration.

The concept of the group is to write music structured primarily around the four drummers / percussionists, and to orchestrate this with material from the other players giving them a great deal of freedom to re-invent and re-interpret their scored material with each new performance.

The format harks back to Archer’s earliest experience in creative music, as a follower of the AACM school of music pioneered by Art Ensemble of Chicago, Leo Smith, and Anthony Braxton. This is a style which has never been really followed up by European musicians, nevertheless it remains the model for Archer’s contributions to jazz based music. Archer has said “the appeal of this style to me is that it remains considered, spacious and open, without sacrificing any of the improvisational heat and energy which places its exponent players firmly in the avantgarde tradition”.

Engine Room Favourites are not postmodernists, not retro stylists, but instead keep their eyes and ears firmly on a forward path jazz might have taken in the next period, but never quite did.

Martin Archer – sopranino, alto & baritone saxophones, bass clarinet

Laura Cole – piano
Corey Mwamba – vibraphone
Graham Clark – violin

Seth Bennett – bass
James Archer – bass clarinet
Kim Macari – trumpet
Lee Hallam – trombone

Peter Fairclough – percussion
Walt Shaw – percussion
Johnny Hunter – percussion
Steve Dinsdale – percussion

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One never knows what direction British multi-reedman Martin Archer will impart as he surges forward in a stealthy world of avant-jazz, electronics, or discombobulated jazz-rock. Hands down, he’s one of the more creative musical souls on mother earth. Each new album marks a distinct journey. His fresh outlook and cornucopia of disparate concepts, executed with large and small ensembles—along with several albums collaborating with legendary British vocalist Julie Tippetts—represent a succession of distinguished agendas. Here, Archer’s bountiful resourcefulness once again shines radiantly within a large ensemble format, where not all the musicians perform in concurrent fashion. The album title might allude to a loud industrial-music type program, but in actuality, Archer cites the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) as a major influence within the album notes. Comprised of three extended works, each piece is a study in semi-free jazz, incorporating capacious characteristics and an open forum for the artists to expand their wares. It’s cohesive, but almost anything goes via the whirlwind tour. Dual percussionists and drummers, strings, horns and vibes all play significant parts amid an incessant reinvention process. On “Of the Above,” violinist Graham Clark expresses lament leading to the band’s aerial bombardment, spanning creaky sax notes and brash breakouts, and segueing back to the violinist’s sonorous passages along with pianist Laura Cole’s lush chord developments. Numerous contrasts and unexpected delights abound. The final track “Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favorites” is partitioned as a multi-part suite. Here, asymmetrical horns, low- key rumblings and harmonically appealing choruses, hinging on traditional jazz and blues, are intersecting components of a lengthy journey. Add Clark’s sweet violin phrasings and Corey Mwamba’s cool and jazzy vibes work to a medley of cleverly concocted abstracts and temperate moments, and notions of an avant-garde film soundtrack come to mind. Nonetheless, Archer synchronizes an attainable blend of discordant mini-themes with harmonious passages throughout much of the program. A mark of invention along with qualitative factors has become a telltale constant within Archer’s diverse discography. This 2013 release is yet another example of his far-reaching proclivities and fertile imaginative powers. – Glenn Astarita ALL ABOUT JAZZ

If Martin Archer’s career is so fascinating, it is in large part because of the artist’s unabashed eclecticism. Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites is a free jazz project, AACM style – and an entirely acoustic project. Archer (saxes, bass clarinet, bass recorder, bass harmonica) is backed by 11 musicians: brass, strings, piano, vibes and four other percussionists. The CD features three tracks of increasing duration, from 4 to 42 minutes. Composed cells with lots of room to improvise, “heads” surfacing here and there, fluxes coalescing into vamps – I’m reminded of the compositional systems of Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, of Sun Ra’s immediacy too – actually, I’m reminded of a lot of things that simply don’t equate with a White guy from Sheffield, England! A tribute? A demonstration of creative strength? A new direction? A little bit of all of that, and Archer pulls it all off brilliantly. – FRANCOIS COUTURE, MONSIUER DELIRE

Jazz?Free jazz?Rock?Or even contemporary classical music? Free-chamber-jazz-rock maybe? Martin Archer sees to position his current latest solo album “Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites” music in the tradition of the AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). Although it usually stays in avant-garde realms, at the same time he still retains significant blues roots. What do I hear? Yes, I would say “Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites’ offers free, right angled, almost electrically amplified instrumental music, with volume, presented in colour and varied, powerful and virtuosic, pretty jazz-heavy, with Archer’s woodwind at the centre, and with Graham Clark’s violin sometimes leading. Lots of percussion is used, plus a piano, a vibraphone and all sorts. His computer and the effect appliances are largely left out this time. Prog? Not really. Chamber Jazz, the most appropriate term would be (I think), and sometimes prefixed with “Free”. Who eg ” Fourth “by Soft Machine estimates” Relationships “of Annexus Quam,” Kaleidoscope of Rainbows “by Neil Ardley (or its” Symphony Of Amaranth “),” The Bird and the Sky Above “of Finnegans Wake or on the BBS-reviewed albums of Keith Tippett , who should be able to find favour with “Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites’, and impressed by the here-to-be found sounds to be (and should consider an investment in). Excellent musicians here are but certainly swinging and not prog! – Achim Breiling (paraphrased in parts by Martin), BABYBLAUE

We have written in recent times of multi instrumentalist Martin Archer teamed with singer Julie Tippetts, and here we are struggling with a new solo work. He had already told of the great instrumental fantasy of Archer and here the dowry is confirmed with the eclecticism. If ‘ Serpentine ‘ investigated the combination of electronics, spoken word and avantprog, here instead we have an entirely acoustic work in which our, supported by a massive band of as many as twelve instrumentalists structured around a core of four percussionists, moves firmly in jazz. Of course, given the circumstances, we are in a quite sophisticated jazz, avant-garde experimentation, and in fact the album is explicitly inspired by the work of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the collective of Chicago where they operated names such as Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie and many others. In practice the symbols themselves of avant-jazz. Three tracks on this cd, with a duration ranging from 4 minute Engine Room, 42 of the title track, for a total of over 70 minutes of music. A little too much, and it will happen my aversion to overly lengthy album, but interesting enough to be easily sustainable. Exuding of great creative freedom, extensive musical spaces, inner calmness that musicians are free to improvise but also to place more structured elements, sometimes almost swingeggianti, other limits from parts of Chamber music (the numerous and beautiful violin interventions). A huge musical canvas where everyone leaves his mark somewhere, the other scribbles, impiastra every now and then the entire sound design. Wonderful the first twenty minutes pass initial and last track where there are excursions to the lonely winds, scattered and rarefied percussive buttresses, vibraphone, piano, stop-and-go almost maudlin Gypsy violin notes, that at one point it magically coalesce for a few minutes in a March to the Art Ensemble Of Chicago just to melt and thin out again. Alfio Castorina – KATHODIK – 4 stars

Blending and contrasting vamping horns, violent percussion and spiccato strings, this CD mark a welcome return to Jazz by Sheffield-based reedist Martin Archer. Now mostly involved with electronic-oriented sound design and what he calls “creative Rock”, his dormant talents on sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones and bass clarinet are given full reign here, as part of a 12-piece acoustic band. Besides a brief introduction the session is divided into the 25 minute “Of The Above”, composed by Archer and percussionist Peter Fairclough and the eight-part title track penned by the saxophonist. Although Archer links the performance here to pioneering Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) sessions he does himself a disservice. Few if any AACM compositions are as concerned with the spatial pulsations arising from four percussionists – five if you count Corey Mwamba’s vibraphone – featured on both major tracks. More crucially the tunes’ frequent turn-arounds and transitions are based on chordal dissonance rather than other motifs. In other words reed and/or percussion narratives are usually re-directed by the angled piano pulsations of Laura Cole or jittery counter-melodies arising from Graham Clark’s violin. Considering the 2012-2013 recording date and the sometimes harmonized saxophone lines, it’s likely that some studio wizardry took place during the session. This appears especially to be the case on “Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites” at those junctures where trumpeter Kim Macari’s and trombonist Lee Hallam’s arching grace notes arise in contrast to the massed reed work. Among the sequences that appear during the composition’s 42 minutes are those which are unadulterated exploding cacophony and others that express such light swinging rhythms that they’re the equal, of anything played by a well-rehearsed modern biggish band. As the narrative unfolds, Archer takes on different identities on different horns. His snorting baritone works up to altissimo crackling; he peeps flute-like tones from the sopranino; and his alto playing slides from toughness to split tones. While the rattling percussion, piano glissandi and cross-pulsed fiddling combine for the finale, the piece’s true climax comes a few minutes before that. Smack dab in the middle as piano keys pound, low-pitched bass clarinets slurp and the percussionists’ tones ricochet from stentorian shudders to sloping nerve beats contrapuntal brass lines move the focused tension upwards and out of the polytonal interface. The conclusion somehow harmonized the horns and strings into a near-Celtic refrain. Sprawling with vibe-clatter, plunger brass and reed squeaks, “Of The Above” is the more legato of the pieces, balancing on a string continuum, extended with some expressive pianism. By the finale, Clark’s jittery output suggests Billy Bang’s; with Archer’s speedy alto sax line wedded to Trane emulation. Meanwhile the percussionists emphasize every note with precision, As the theme moves back and forth the freedom and feeling of Jazz is confirmed. Archer has done valuable and pioneering work with his experiments and sound collages. But as is demonstrated on this CD, he’s still a Jazzman at heart. As he aptly demonstrates here, there’s no reason for him to abandon any one musical form for another. -Ken Waxman, Jazz Word

The feeling of this remarkable work can only really be fully appreciated by listening to it as a sound line without a beginning or an end: a construction that one builds and breaks up repeatedly, where one enters and leaves in turn. On three occasions the eponymous track hints at a theme – the first time half way through – developing it in a little march rhythm, only to quickly let it drop into nothing. Starting from an arbitrary point near Chicago, where Archer’s fascination for the developments fostered by the AACM takes shape, all the musicians in turn head off towards Great Vienna, covering brief stretches towards a WebErnian silence. At some point, however, someone has a different idea and starts going towards New Orleans, followed in due course by the others, until the next rethink, which brings the twelve back again towards the Old Europe, and then back again, each time deploying different and exquisite instrumental combinations.– Fucile MUSICA JAZZ

By pure chance, I’ve recently been getting a hefty fix of seventies Brit prog jazz – written on a large scale – courtesy of the two Mikes (Gibbs and WestBrook). So, picking up on meta-musician and label magnate Martin Archer’s Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites gives a rare continuity to my, ahem, listening regime. The rock fusion complexities of Martin’s more recent projects (Orch. of the Upper Atmosphere, Combat Astronomy) have taken a back seat for a while as Blue Meat… dives d-e-e-p into the world of the AACM-influenced, multi-directional jazz blowout. A less travelled route for sure. Reuniting after a one-off gig a couple of years previous, this twelve-strong aggregation – made up of violin, vibes, piano, double bass, four percussionists and a wind quartet – finds Martin opting for a cameo role; eschewing the more common concept of the bandleader being at the very epicentre of the action. A perfect democracy is created where all the instrumental voices get more than a fair crack ‘o’ the whip. Though a special gold star must be awarded to violinist Graham Clark, whose lyrical and, at times, edge-of-seat bowing skills really do take this three-parter into other dimensions. All roads though, seem to lead to the vast machinations of the title track (don’t they always?), where twitchy free form dialogue seamlessly coalesces into a recurring theme that comes on like a twenty-first century homage to Johnny Dankworth’s “African Waltz” single from 1961. Strange but true. So here’s yet another triumph from the Yorkshire quadrant. I’d defy you to name another label that consistently delivers a more solid body of challenging work than the house of Discus. And…as to the titling, I still don’t get quite why there’s an allusion to Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen’s Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers Favourites album of yore…country swing certainly isn’t on this agenda. Answers on a postcard please. – SOUND PROJECTOR

You thought the version of King Crimson currently treading the boards in the USA, with its front line of three drummers was a new idea? Well, maybe in rock music it is, but here with his group Engine Room Favourites Martin Archer is one step ahead. “The concept of the group is to write music structured primarily around the four drummers / percussionists…” as it says in the information section. The brass, reeds, and piano of the rest of the band reinterpet scored music over the four-man percussion section. There are no guitars on this record – this is avant jazz band music like you never heard before. – ROGER TRENWITH, ASTOUNDED BY SOUND

Discus label boss Martin Archer, who is a skilled composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist, also turns a nice phrase. His succinct liner note comment regarding this homage to the Chicago-based AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) is not only worth repeating, but is better than any equivalent that I could generate. As Archer observes, this particular style of free jazz exploration, now fifty years old, “remains considered, spacious and open, but without sacrificing any of the improvisational heat and energy which place its exponent players firmly in the avant garde tradition; plus, even at its most abstract, it never strays too far from the blues.” The most obvious parallel with this music is the notable work of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, all of whose members also belonged to the AACM. In concert, the Art Ensemble of Chicago would shift effortlessly from pure sonic abstraction (sound for sound’s sake) and approximations of vocal sounds, into classical chamber music. Gospel, Dixieland jazz, world music, blues, funk and hard bop. Archer and his eleven group members cast the same wide net. The range of expression on Blue Meat is enormous, and one of this strengths of this type of collective improvisation is that the music seems to be freshly minted every time you hear it. The first short piece, “Engine Room Induction,” serves as a kind of fanfare, with horns and brass playing a somber, somewhat astringent theme, partly in counterpoint and partly in unison, with percussion rolling underneath. The next long piece, “Of the Above,” is a veritable kaleidoscope of sounds and musical genres, with the lyric interplay of plucked bass and piano giving was to soprano saxophone scalar runs and trills and then a lovely interaction between violin and bowed bass, followed by a briefly agitated combination of vibraphone, violin, bass, drums and growling bass clarinet. This rich improvisational feast continues for another fifteen minutes, moving from chamber jazz reverie to abstract hard bop to vigorous free improv with a decided harmolodic edge, in the manner of the classic Ornette Coleman groups. Archer’s excellent saxophone work is featured in the latter stages of the composition, together with some very dynamic polyrhythmic percussion. The last extended piece, forty-two minutes in length, is actually a suite of eight different sections which exhibit even more variety, The first section has a prominent melody line which then become a vehicle for improvisation; a vibraphone is used effectively in this piece, in combination with saxophones, trombone and violin. The point of reference is perhaps some of the more abstract and challenging releases from the old Blue Note catalog, from the likes of Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Grachen Moncur III and Andrew Hill. The third section begins with an almost normal, swinging, small group blues groove before easing into an ethereal violin cadenza. The sixth section briefly returns to this almost Basie-ish blues groove before evolving into a very delicate vibraphone solo – and the piece ends with a reprise of the same theme. And so it goes…with never a dull or predictable moment. Highly recommended for the discerning and adventurous listener. – BILL TILLAND

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