Mick Beck – tenor sax, bassoon, and whistles
Anton Hunter – guitar
Johnny Hunter – drums
“It’s been a while since Beck put out one of his trio releases, but The Hunt Is On emphatically shows why threesomes are his favourite means of creating dynamic music and performance. A first release from a refreshing mix of generations and styles partnering Beck’s experience and power with the younger talented Hunter brothers. They easily span free music and free jazz, even making incursions into the wild west and middle European fantasies. The group was formed about 18 months ago and immediately caught the attention of critics and audiences: “…truly mind-blowing, ranging between a cardiac arrest, epileptic fit and a nervous breakdown. The trio are extremely tight, threatening to unravel before skilfully coming back into sync. There is some jaw-dropping guitar work and Mick is a maestro on the saxophone, the music oscillating between anger and desolation.” – Rob Aldam, Now Then Magazine Oct 2013″
The album has 4 tracks, each of which explores the group’s varied relations with different idioms in depth. 1) Hunting for Metal. Somewhere between rock and a hard place, this is found. Sax and octavided guitar over some tumultuous percussion, a new element is forged. 2) Hunting for the Ultimate Chord. The bird-like ocarina and the human whistle suggest some options, followed by off-reed bassoon, pizzicato guitar and delicate stick on metal. Double diminished explorations come to a temporary resolution. Then the hunt is on again via pitched percussive interventions and low growly sounds of a distinctively questioning kind. Is the answer found? Yes of course in the sense that there isn’t one. 3) Hunting for Young Quasars. Perhaps appropriately, this is the longest track, given its astronomical significance – the borderline between brilliant light and a black hole. What starts a bit like amphibians in a jungle and morphs through weird sustained wails into intricate swanee whistle assaults and dizzy slides. It moves into a stonking jazzy section, a strange conversational duo between sax and guitar, and then a sustained assault led by a drum barrage sounding much like the new year’s Thames firework display. The intergalactic analogy can’t be sustained too much given that sound doesn’t travel across outer space very well, but you might get the general drift… 4) Hunting for Water. Bassoon with insertions from recorder, nose flute, train whistle, acme thunderer and vixen call. Self explanatory. Who wants water when there’s beer anyway?
Saxophonist Mick Beck has been a fixture on the Sheffield free music scene since the early 1980s, but in this trio with the two younger Hunter brothers he sounds more like a denizen of some imaginary Chicago. His tenor darts from chatterbox quack to exasperated wail on the pugnacious “Hunting for Metal”, but he’s more playful on the longer tracks, exploring whistles, nose flute, and a rudely blurting bassoon. The guitar sharpens from soft peda; swells to tightly twanging pings, while the drums sketch a needle-sharp metallic pointillism of tinkling clatter-splat. Agressive when it needs to be, but comfortable winding down into unhurried, meandering humour, it sounds like a miniature Art Ensemble at play. – DANIEL SPICER, WIRE
I fratelli Hunter (chitarra elettrica/batteria) e l’esperto Mike Beck (sax tenore, fagotto e whistles), da Sheffield con dinamico furore impro. Bravi nell’evitar il frantumarsi di denti e palle (nostri), lungo quattro movimentazioni, in ripetuta paranoia metropolitana (l’iniziale Hunting For Metal), incarognita d’hard bellicoso e desolata/strepitante, nello sfiancamento di un fiato da “Ultima Fermata A Brooklyn”. Ironica e disarticolata di pigolamenti e fratture in Hunting For The Ultimate Chord, di fagotti e ocarine, emulsioni di corde, legni e metalli in sollecitazione. Intrico a maggior tasso free la lunga Hunting For Young Quasars, disarticolata conversazione a due (chitarra/sax), poi stritolata dall’azione insistita della batteria. A concluder tra fischietti da naso, fagotti esasperati, corde in twang e colpi in libertà. Ne esci curioso e in vita.Roba non da poco. (Four stars) – KATHODIK
Musical mythology includes many sounds defined geographically such As Mississippi Blues, the Viennese atonalists, Chicago-style Jazz and the Canterbury Rock Scene, so why not make a case for Sheffield Improv? Certainly the steel making city was the birthplace of Free Music most uncompromising prophet – Derek Bailey – and over the years a raft of others improvisers such as Tony Oxley, Paul Hession, Martin Archer and Simon Fell have had associations in the place. All of which leads to this top-line slab of Free Jazz from long-time Sheffield affiliate Mick Beck, who plays tenor saxophone, bassoon, and whistles. Besides the notable music another point of interest is that the trio is filled out by two much younger players. They are brothers Anton Hunter on guitar and Johnny Hunter on drums, who may in fact, be interlopers from Manchester. A sturdy drummer with evidentially no desire to join the insect music crowd, Johnny Hunter’s steady beat is sometimes enlivened with pops, cracks and resounds as well as cymbal tickles, often turning the rhythm into a crescendo of irregular bumps. Anton Hunter, who also recorded the four selections at an unnamed time and place – October 2013 perhaps – offers some distinctive coloration to the tunes. Influenced by Rock like his sibling, his spindly guitar licks take more from the more sophisticated side of Chet Atkins and the less funky parts of Grant Green than anything invented by Bailey. Almost from the first the three improvisers mesh and, for instance, when Beck turns from faint whistling and unpacks his bassoon on “Hunting for the Ultimate Chord” his wild boar-like snorts are chromatically complemented by bell reverb and cymbal pressure on one side and bulldozing twangs on the other. Eventually, following some light-hearted peeps from what sounds like a penny whistle, Beck returns to the mammoth double reed. His tightened obbligato signals a satisfying ending. Beck is more of a Trane spotter on saxophone, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal of his righteous honking which drags the Hunters along with him as if they’re involved in a particularly invigorating hounds-and-fox pursuit. Beck’s tongue slurs, slides and yelps are always there whenever he plays, although the extended “Hunting for Young Quasars” appears even tougher – in a good sense. Lip-bubbling his lines into atonality on that track, the saxophonist’s output moves from tree-top altissimo to bog-deep chalumeau and lower. By the mid-point all three players lock into a mesmerizing AMM/Necks-like groove that stops and starts at will as if a switch is being clicked. Irregular drum patterns and strokes which suggest arco bowing as much as picking add to the effervescence that finally reaches a crescendo of freer textures. More off-centre drumming, variable string plucks and reed peeps combine as the piece slowly fades. Proof that high quality improvised music is being produced away from better-known population centres, following the title’s instructions to seek out this disc will lead to ample musical rewards. – Ken Waxman JAZZ WORD
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