A tight yet exploratory set that neatly balances brains and brawn.
Daniel Spicer 2011
Twelves Trio’s 2008 album, Here Comes the Woodman With His Splintered Soul, announced the arrival of a promising new jazz unit, led by double-bassist Riaan Vosloo, and featuring two of the bigger hitters from the 21st century Brit-jazz revival: ex-Outhouse tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip and Fraud drummer Tim Giles. Boosted to a quartet with the addition of guitarist Rob Updegraff, Twelves deliver on that early promise – and then some.
As on the previous album, the basic template for The Adding Machine is the kind of swinging free-bop exemplified on US bassist William Parker’s 2005 quartet album, Sound Unity. Like Parker, Vosloo’s playing holds a warm throb that manages to inject a hint of soul into even the most fractured abstractions. Party Girls whips up a loose yet propulsive groove, not unlike Miles Davis’ Felon Brun; while Kerfuffle starts with a brief, strutting head before hurtling into a tough lope, with bass and drums ruggedly intertwined like gnarled roots. Giles – surely one of the most talented drummers of his generation – is on flaming form throughout, delighting in rhythmic games and, on tracks like the opening Many Splendoured Thing: Part 1, rolling in and out of time with the muscular daring of a young Tony Williams.
Against the background of this sturdy rhythm section, the two melodic voices react with a surprising, almost counter-intuitive lightness of touch. Hanslip is rapidly becoming one of the more original voices on the London improv scene – as recently illustrated on his duo album with percussionist Javier Carmona, DosaDos. Here, he studiously avoids macho histrionics or post-Ayler over-blowing, sticking instead to a clear, straight lyricism, largely occupying the middle range of the horn with a cool, unflustered maturity. It’s an approach that leaves room for Updegraff to explore slightly heavier and more extended techniques on electric guitar, with echoes of Hendrix’s dive-bomb feedback control jostling with some of the atmospheric echo-shadings of the much under-appreciated British guitarist Ray Russell.
It all adds up to a tight yet exploratory set that neatly balances brains and brawn. Here’s hoping it’s not a one-shot deal from this impressive new quartet.