Reviews of Mark Huggett
01/11/2006 Richard Haslop, South Africa Audio Video Magazine
review: Richard Haslop
One of the best things about this job is the number of times terrific music arrives from an entirely unexpected source. Dan Wilson is a Durban based bass player with a real (for that read non-musical) job whom I remembered from a couple of gigs with local songwriting legend Syd Kitchen several years ago. When we reconnected more recently he passed on a few CDs he'd been involved in, home produced affairs by outfits called Creeper and Issinglass to be precise. I liked them well enough to play a few tracks on the radio, and to regret, not for the first time, the fact that music of this quality doesn't necessarily translate into a viable living. But they didn't prepare me for "Max Roach Park", named after the great American drummer who composed music in memory of both the Sharpeville massacre (Tears For Johannesburg) and the June 16 uprising in Soweto (Suid Afrika 76).
Mark Huggett is an English drummer; the other members of the Project, spread far and wide, include a Norwegian trumpeter living in Alaska; and the first track, Vuleka, featuring local voices placed so they seem ever so slightly dissonant, sounds the way I imagine a Bill Laswell piece might if he brought his thunderous bass and World Music production predilections to this country. It works beautifully, but cuts off just as it really gets going.
No matter, as it turns out, though I'd have liked more. It leads into Mr.M.D., a tribute to the great Miles that manages to work the rhythm-heavy 70s jazz-into-rock territory, and to feature an impressionistically muted trumpet with just a hint of electronic treatment, in such a way as to avoid the pitfalls that beset most similar testimonials, and then to build its own momentum on top of that. On the introductory bars of Kenyon, too, Wilson's bass approximates the opening bass clarinet figure on "Bitches Brew" but, having made the point, it moves on and out into a compelling bass and drums duet. Moving on and out is the object, of course, and what separates the intriguing from the merely imitative.
A Native American chant provides Zuni with its central motif and, once again, we're in a World-ish jazz area, guitar washed this time, that the group tackles with absolute confidence and considerable musicality, while William Blake sets up a potent though never overbearing groove over a simple piano figure. For the outstanding Tau Ceti, we're back in the kind of Miles terrain recently fruitfully investigated by Terje Rypdal and a couple of other Europeans, and more than holding our own so that the musical grid references signposted along the way never detract from the record's own compositional essence.
Pray brings a fine album to an appropriately thoughtful close.
11/09/2006 DJ Senor Cerveza, Wired Magazine
Record of the Month Max Roach Park, Absolutely Stunning...Seriously good new jazz...14 Superb tracks...Ranging from the funkier end if the market to the impossibly laid back, especially on track 3, Zuni, Max Roach Park is the kind of record you'd hear in an aching cool club, a particularly sophisticated dinner party or at 6am when you've rolled in from a club and need to RELAX...
Makes you want to go an lay in a beach in the sunshine...The fact that the whole album is professionally packaged and looks great only adds to the polished feel of the music....Highly, highly recommended, seriously, go buy this now!
07/09/2006 Annie Whitehead
The grooves and the melodies are wonderful; really fresh, new and inventive, and the production is superb - essential listening for anyone who wants to know what's happening on the jazz scene today.
30/11/0006 Ian Mann, 24dash.com
When I first set eyes on the album cover I knew I wanted to like a record with a title like that! Fortunately Wilson and Huggett don't disappoint and their global grooves make for fascinating listening.
Rhythm team Wilson (bass, keyboards) and Huggett (drums) were inspired by reggae legends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare- pretty good role models for any rhythm section I'm sure you'll agree. Innovative UK trombonist Annie Whitehead and her colleagues Jennifer Maidman and Steve Lodder have also been major influences.
For "Max Roach Park" Wilson and Huggett have called on musical friends from all over the world. There are South African and Native American musicians on therecord together with players from England, Ireland and Norway. Huggett is London based and these influences reflect the cosmopolitan vibe of the city.
"Vuleka" opens the album, it's walloping grooves augmented by the South African voices of the Vuleka organisation. Bassist Wilson is a native of South Africa and this in part reflects his roots.
The groove continues on "Mr M.D." which I assume is a tribute to Miles Davis as it features the Milesian trumpet of the Norwegian musician Yngvil Vatn Guttu. Guitarist Dave Warren also shows up strongly. As on the previous track the muscular tenor saxophone of James Tartaglia also features prominently.
24dash is based in Hereford as some of you are probably aware by now so we have a special reason to salute James as he also hails from that fine city. He joins a list of Herefordian jazzers that includes the great Mike Osborne (alto sax), bassists Thad Kelly and Ben Hazelton and trumpeter Bryan Corbett.
We also gave the world The Pretenders (alright the American chick was the star but she had a hell of a band behind her) and Mott The Hoople (we'll claim Hunter as our own). Not bad for a so called provincial backwater.
Tartaglia comes from a family of ice cream salesmen. Does this make him jazz's answer to Francis Rossi? Mind you I'm sure the Berkeley trained Tartaglia knows a lot more chords!
However, I digress.
The voices Native American of the Zuni people appear on the next track, appropriately entitled "Zuni" in their honour. This is a haunting piece of work, the voices set against Huggett's chattering percussion and Wilson's low register bass growl.
"Fireweed" is back to the big grooves with Tartaglia again to the fore.
Huggett has stated that he wished to use vocals on the album but not in the cliched "standards" style. Following on from the distinctive singing we have already heard Guttu now adds a semi spoken Norwegian vocal to "Mello".
It would seem that Wilson and Huggett have chosen to fire their best shots early. Despite it's fine title "William Blake" tends to meander as does the following "The Forty Niner" and both tracks, though not unpleasant seem somewhat unfocussed compared to what has gone before.
"Bells" is more consciously laid back and the flute of Irish musician Teresa Walsh adds much to the atmosphere.
Guttu's trumpet takes centre stage for "Chesil" and "No Mans Land", both semi ambient meditations with a Miles Davis flavour.
The brief drum and bass duet "Kenyon" carries us forward to "Tau Ceti" which once again features the big acid jazz style grooves which characterised the early tracks of the album. Wilson and Huggett at are at their most effective in this mode but perhaps a whole album in this vein would be too much. Their attemptsto vary the pace, although not wholly successful are therefore to be admired.
"A Greener Room" is a feature for Huggett's drumming. The closing "Pray" sees Guttu's trumpet sound drawing closer to that of his compatriot Arve Hendriksenor perhaps Nils Petter Molvaer . It is offset by Wilson's multi-tracked electric bass.
Overall "Max Roach Park" is a success. It's best moments are very good indeed and mostly appear on the album's early tracks. The use of vocals is imaginative and should perhaps have been more widespread as the album flags later on and loses some of its energy and focus. The heavy grooves give may to a more ambient approach which is not as successful or distinctive.
At it's best the duo's approach recalls that of Jah Wobble - mighty grooves, multi cultural elements but still an unmistakable London flavour, albeit with agreater jazz influence. Jah Wobble meets jazz, if you like.
And finally... yes there is a real Max Roach Park. It is in the London Borough of Lambeth and was named after the great American jazz drummer when he visited the city in the 80s for the London Against Racism concert. Partisans also dedicated their 2005 album "Max" to him. This excellent record deserves your attention also, it's a superb blend of rock energy and jazz chops and features Thad Kelly(mentioned above) on bass.
Jazz Direct Records
Review by Ian Mann
27/10/0006 All About Jazz; Jeff Dayton-Johnson
Too few musical groups call themselves projects; perhaps they fear unwarranted comparison with the Alan Parsons Project (you know, I Am The Eye In The Sky). As indeed they should.
Some groups nevertheless really are projects, which is to say, not necessarily long-term relationships but rather short to medium-term agglomerations of talent, with a fixed objective and a focused vision. So it is with Max Roach Park, the new record by the Dan Wilson/Mark Huggett Project. (The record is named for a park in the Lambeth borough of London.)
The inputs on Max Roach Park are the largely discredited raw materials of a lot of New Age products: a vaguely spiritual subject matter, sound samples from the traditional music of many continents, and most of all a pleasant but bland hypnotic style tending toward quietism. English drummer Huggett and South African bassist/keyboardist Wilson's refashion these elements, casting in greater relief the worthy elements therein: trance and texture.
Huggett and Wilson emphasize the repetitive, trance-inducing qualities of the music, something they share with their less interesting New Age brethren. They remind us that this now-diluted practice has robust, energetic precedents: you can hear the spirit of bracing Moroccan Gnawa music in the relentless riffs of the Count Basie Orchestra, or of Funkadelic. This lineage is echoed on the record's opener, Vuleka. Its rhythmic elements taut funk by the leaders, overlaid with South African group chanting lock together according to some evident metric correspondence, but not without sounding at every point as though they are trying to pull the other elements apart. Mesmerizing.
Further along the trance continuum is the crystalline, contemplative electric music of Miles Davis's In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) which no one ever labelled New Age.Huggett and Wilson successfully inscribe Max Roach Park in that vein.
Within tracks there is considerable textural variety: witness the guitar and trumpet lines on Tau Ceti, or the circular African rhythm wedded to a nagging sax honk on William Blake. (Blake was another artist who refused to water down his spiritual aspirations. And he was from Lambeth, too.) So too in the track sequencing there are topographical ups and downs along the way, from the crisp funk of Vuleka to a long, meditative closing Pray.
Huggett and Wilson clearly never meant to make anything like a New Age record; I hope not to have caused confusion. If anything, their musical ethos is nearer to that of Jim Black's Alasnoaxis (whom they even sonically resemble on A Greener Room, with its downcast, Downtown rock n roll guitar): a deceptively simple and unostentatious combination of elements that nevertheless strikes a deep-seated emotional chord.
All About Jazz
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