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Jim Hart's Gemini Narrada Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Contrast is Gemini's not-so-secret weapon.

Martin Longley 2009

Initially coming to prominence as a member of Alan Barnes’ Liquorice Stick All-Sorts, Jim Hart is now ready to reveal his rather more modern compositional talents, this debut disc featuring just over an hour's worth of his own pieces.

The Gemini band represents a new wave of British jazz, featuring a flashy cast of alto saxophonist Ivo Neame, bassist Jasper Høiby and the now-ubiquitous drummer Dave Smith. Høiby may hail from Denmark, but he’s found a new home on the London jazz scene, not least as a bandleader himself, with the similarly dashing Phronesis. Gemini are also involved with the Loop Collective, something like Son of the F-ire Collective, propounding similar self-help strategies for London musicians.

Right from the opening Four Little Words, no dithering is allowed. The foursome gets straight into a propulsive intricacy that dominates most of the ensuing action. Themes ring in unison between vibraphone and saxophone, with Smith's drums rattling out a series of embellishing accents. It's a busy sound, but without clutter; like watching a confined chipmunk, desperately impatient for release (this is meant in a positive sense). All of the hyperactivity serves the melody, with Gemini managing to impart organic warmth on pieces loaded with spiny constructions.

With a jolt, Dark Moon shifts down to minimalism, opening with a drum solo. The band enters and the spuming resumes, as micro-phrases create a stippling effect. Høiby has an unusually calming role – whenever he takes a bass solo, all else is stilled. This is a repeated technique that doesn't grow stale. Deviation is a prime example of how Hart's compositions swing with thoughtfulness, but the following Crunchy Country is an odd-tune-out, with its rocking-tattoo progression – as it struts along, one can easily imagine Acoustic Ladyland laying into an interpretation. Halfway through, though, it slumps into a Charles Mingus blues hangover, preparing the way for another atypical cut. The closing Last of the Leaves offers a reflective calm, as Hart imitates a slumbering church organ.

Images of Eric Dolphy and, by descent, Frank Zappa flit through the listener's mind, which also senses a likeness to the more recent work of John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet. Seven minutes is the average length of each number, and with its changeable moods, the album is very well-paced throughout. Contrast is Gemini's not-so-secret weapon.

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