Reviews of Mike Walker
18/08/2008 Roger Farbey - All About Jazz
Review as appears on www.allaboutjazz.com
Madhouse and the Whole Thing There
Mike Walker | Hidden Idiom (2008)
By Roger Farbey Discuss
The debut album by British guitarist Mike Walker is surprisingly short, around forty five minutes, which is actually a good thing considering it seems an almost mandatory requirement nowadays to cram a full eighty minutes worth of sound into every CD, all of which is not necessarily worth hearing. Quality rather than quantity is the keyword here. This, however, is a well-considered six track sortie, with an unusual opener, The Latin-edged “A Real Embrace,” evoking a very early Return to Forever, Antonio Carlos Jobim or even Hatfield and The North. Strangely, for a guitarist's first album under his own name, there is only a mere whiff of very subtle acoustic guitar heard on this track, with some relaxed Stan Getz-style sax soloing. Some unobtrusive strings are also thrown into the mix but never become cloying.
The lack of full-on guitar is compensated for on the second track, “Owed to J.C.,” a punning title dedicated to Mancunian poet John Cooper Clarke (Walker himself hails from Greater Manchester, in the UK). This is a real barnstormer with some astoundingly good blues guitar, reminiscent of Buddy Guy at his most ferocious. “In Two Minds” is another mover, and though short, it gives Walker the chance to really let rip on his less bluesy, more jazzy chops. That said, this is no relaxed Joe Pass meets George Benson convention, it's well and truly into Allan Holdsworth territory but mercifully minus the Synthaxe.
”Still Slippy Underfoot” is a short and quiet bridging track a thousand miles away from the previous one, and which again offers little overt guitar work, relying on clarinet to supply a pastoral melody. Then by dint of juxtaposition, a couple of sampled voices surreally introduce “I'll Tell 'im,” which begins with Walker's stinging guitar playing the head. Some fine reed soloing from Iain Dixon takes up the majority of the track, but when Walker finally gets to solo his fuzz guitar simply bursts forth with pent-up energy and imagination.
The final track, “Dad Logic,” has Walker flexing his musical muscles yet again with some fine electric guitar work. No repetition, no clichés, just sheer brilliance and the whole madhouse thing beautifully composed and arranged. A damn fine guitarist and a damn fine album.
Visit Mike Walker on the web.
Track listing: A Real Embrace; Owed To JC; In Two Minds; Still Slippy Underfoot; I'll Tell 'im; Dad Logic.
Personnel: Mike Walker: electric guitar, acoustic guitar; Iain Dixon: tenor sax, baritone sax, clarinets; Myke Wilson: drums; John Ellis: electric piano, organ; Sylvan Richardson: bass guitar; Djamila Skoglund-Voss: vocals; Kirsty Almeida: vocals; Laura Hassell: vocals; Georgina Bromilow: vocals; Evette Walker: vocals; Paul Bentley: vocals; Caju: vocals; Mike Walker: vocals; Jack Walker: vocals; Nikki Iles: piano (6); Paul Kilvington : Synthesizer (1, 4, 6); Les 'Cizerace' Chisnall: piano (6) Alan Tokely: french horn ( 1, 4, 5); Suzanne Higgins: flute (6); John Helliwell: melodica (1); Chris Manis: conga, pandeiro, percussion (1, 3, 6); Caju - percussion (1); En Hudson - harp (1); Mark Heart: spoken voice (2); Paul Newton: trumpet (2, 6); Neil Yates: trumpet (2, 6); Andy Schofield: alto sax (2, 6); Madhouse Strings (1).
Style: Modern Jazz | Published: August 18, 2008
18/07/2008 Alan Brownlee - Manchester Evening News
Mike Walker - Madhouse And The Whole Thing There (Hidden Idiom)
LONG overdue, but Manchester's guitar hero Mike Walker finally releases his solo album. It's obviously a work of maturity.
The very beautiful Still Slippy Underfoot demonstrates that composition is as important as the improvisation.
He doesn't disappoint with funky workouts like In Two Minds and I'll Tell Him - the funk is Walker's great single contribution to Manchester jazz - where his fretwork overwhelms with its slashing power.
Walker's lyricism is ferocious - and vice versa. By contrast, Dad Logic is subtle and sophisticated and emulates the slinky perfection of Aja-era Steely Dan.
Don't wait so long time next time, Mike.
04/07/2008 Jack Massarik
Madhouse (and the Whole Thing There)
Northern guitar heavyweight Mike Walker, overlooked by arts-funding bodies but never by musicians, makes a stunning debut here as leader. As always his solos are brilliant but so too is his writing. A collage of original verse, nutty voiceovers and hip fringe-jazz elements (Sergio Mendes, BB King, Steely Dan) blends into one ecstatic, deep-grooving whole. A True Embrace is a sexy samba for female voices and Iain Dixon's tenor sax. Dad Logic and I'll Tell 'im are absorbing jazz-rock modes, and an elegant brass miniature is incongruously called Still Slippy Underfoot. A Mancunian masterpiece.
26/06/2008 Stuart Nicholson
Stuart Nicholson’s Jazzwise review July 2008
Mike Walker – Madhouse & the Whole Thing There ****
For such an accomplished musician as guitarist Mike Walker, with a CV replete with names form the very top echelons of the music that include George Russell, Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland, Arild Anderson, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and Mark-Anthony Turnage, it is astonishing to realise that ‘Madhouse & the Whole Thing There’, is in fact, his debut album. Suffice to say it’s gestation was long and fraught, but seldom can there have been a more impressive debut in British Jazz than this. Walker has an imagination of enormous sweep but also the skill and taste to realise his vision. From the opening ‘A Real Embrace’ a Brazilian samba with echoes of CTI and Claus Ogerman, to the freely improvised trio romp ‘In Two Minds’ to the album’s centrepiece ‘I’ll Tell’im’, which succeeds in cramming much detail into small spaces, this is an album to hunt down right away.
23/05/2008 John Fordham
Mike Walker, Madhouse and the Whole Thing There
Friday May 23, 2008
Mike Walker is one of the most powerful jazz guitarists in Europe, but a surreal intelligence, extra-musical talents and a teaching career have kept him from the stardom his skills could have brought him - and still might. Walker is 46 and has never left his native north-west England. This is his first album under his own name but, far from sounding like an insular personal journey, this debut is a soaringly confident piece of idiosyncratic contemporary fusion, with brief borrowings from what sound like radio monologues and pub singalongs dropped into the thick-textured, backbeat-smacking grooves. Walker doesn't dominate, but has put the narrative shape of the venture first, as well as the changing colours and grooves of a taut group (at times a little unwavering in its drum patterns) augmented by all manner of guest specialists. Saxist/clarinettist Iain Dixon is magnificent throughout - Stan Getzian on the Latin opener and as ghostly as Benny Maupin's Bitches Brew bass clarinet on I'll Tell 'Em. Walker delivers a slashing, free-electric guitar tour de force on In Two Minds, and Nikki Iles's piano drifts tantalisingly in and out of the jazzier Dad's Logic.
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