GoGo Penguin Fanfares Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Based on this debut album, GoGo Penguin seem destined for great things.

John Eyles 2012

In the increasingly overcrowded field of piano trios, any new arrival must have some eye-catching feature to stand out. That probably explains why a jazz trio comes to be called GoGo Penguin, a name which is not easy to forget. But in fairness to this excellent group, their music would have attracted attention even if they had been called the John Smith Trio.

Pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Grant Russell and drummer Rob Turner met while studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in their native Manchester. They soon started jamming together and creating new music. It wasn't long until they attracted the attention of trumpeter Matthew Halsall, whose Gondwana label releases this terrific debut album.

One of the keys to the success of GoGo Penguin is that it is not a conventional solo-based piano trio with the keyboard to the fore. Instead, the three players and instruments are equal in status; for much of the time they play simultaneously, their individual lines complementing each other and fitting together to create a coherent whole.

Throughout Fanfares, the music fizzes with irresistible energy and a rhythmic drive generated by all three players. The results are highly danceable and it is no surprise that the group has a cult following in the north west of England. When GoGo Penguin play live, even on slower pieces there is more moving and grooving in the audience than is customary at jazz gigs.

None of the group members is 30 yet. Their youth is reflected in the eclectic influences they cite, including Aphex Twin and Massive Attack alongside Brian Eno, Debussy and Shostakovich. Such influences are not blatantly obvious but are subtly integrated together. However, one influence which is deliberately made obvious is that of e.s.t.

GoGo Penguin say their group might not exist but for the Swedish trio, and the album’s opening track, Seven Sons of Björn, was written by Illingworth after Esbjörn Svensson’s death. Its driving piano riff backed up by some dramatic bass from Russell makes it a fitting tribute. On this showing, GoGo Penguin seem destined for great things.

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