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Reviews of Oriole


06/09/2006 The Guardian - John L Walters

Oriole Live @ The Vortex, London

Bands fronted by guitarists are frequently seen as an excuse for wailing and thrashing. Oriole, the sextet led by guitarist Jonny Phillips (part of the dynamic F-IRE Collective), provides plenty of useful evidence to the contrary. Sure, his parts are high in the mix, but he plays an acoustic guitar, specialising in intricate rhythm patterns and free-flowing, Spanish-tinged solos.
The arrangements seem to spring from Phillips' playing, sometimes feeling as if the band were one big guitar, with chiming piano from Nick Ramm and refreshingly understated drumming from Seb Rochford. Oriole's regular frontline is the highly effective pairing of tenor sax and cello: superb saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and Basquiat Strings leader Ben Davis. However, tonight Laubrock is unavailable and Acoustic Ladyland frontman Pete Wareham is deputising.
Migration to the Orange Trees shows Oriole at their best. The piece moves forward with assurance over an unshowy drum groove. There's a good balance between writing and improvisation: Phillips isn't afraid to include long through-composed passages, with ace counterpoint, while maintaining the impetus of a jazz performance.
Wareham's presence as substitute emphasises Phillips's strengths as band-leader and writer, and adds another slant to the sound. The grandiose Medem/ Temba displays the saxophonist's muscular style, while the delicate First Flight, with its lovely theme for cello and tenor sax, shows how easily he inhabits the radiant Oriole soundworld.


15/06/2006 24dash.com - Ian Mann

Laubrock, Davis and Rochford return to the stage accompanied by Oriole’s leader, guitarist and composer Jonny Phillips plus Nick Ramm on keyboards and Ruth Goller on electric bass.
They kick off with "Forms In Dust" the opening number on the "Migration" album. This is an excellent introduction to the band’s sound. Paced by Phillips’ acoustic guitar this is an excellent ensemble piece featuring the melancholy ring of Davis’ cello, Laubrock’s probing tenor sax and the subtle, shifting rhythms of Rochford. As ever the unfussy keyboards of Ramm help to stitch everything together, a function he performs in other ensembles too. Ensemble playing is very much a feature of Oriole’s music and it is shown to perfection here.
"Migration To The Orange Trees" is inspired by one of Phillips’ favourite places, Jerez in Southern Spain. Consequently the piece has a flamenco flavour opening with the handclapping of Rochford and Ramm before building in intensity as an ensemble piece and incorporating fine solos from Phillips and Davis. It comes full circle and closes with more handclaps.
Phillips is a prolific composer. Nothing from Oriole’s first album "Song For The Sleeping" remains in tonight’s set and five as yet unrecorded tunes are played. He must have the third album planned out already and "Migration" has only been out for just over a month! As if that’s not enough he was also a major contributor to the "Not Alone" album by vocalist Julia Biel.
A new piece "Levante" features next. The title refers to a warm wind from Morocco, which seems to be affecting the British weather at the moment. The tune includes a rare solo from bassist Ruth Goller and also a solo from Phillips himself. On record Phillips is mainly an ensemble player, concentrating on textures and supporting his melodic compositions. In a live context he allows himself more solo space and reveals what a fine player he is with a very distinctive style incorporating classical and Spanish influences. For me elements of his playing are still reminiscent of Ralph Towner.
"Passarinho" is more Brazilian in style with a samba rhythm and is yet another new tune. Nick Ramm is allowed some solo space on keyboards, as is Ben Davis on cello.
For "We’re All Angels Now" from the "Migration" album Laubrock and Ramm take a well-earned breather leaving the remaining quartet to perform this beautiful and joyous piece. There is a wonderful dialogue between guitar and cello delightfully underscored by the rhythm section.
More new material "Medem And Temba" follows incorporating solos from Phillips and Laubrock. This is superseded by yet another fresh tune "Between The Mountains And The Sea" with it’s lovely, lilting folk melody and more fine playing from the composer.
"Southern Train" is also unrecorded and after features from Davis and Ramm Rochford is unleashed to play a brilliantly polyrhythmic solo.
The set returns to the "Migration" album for the closing "Last Flight"/"Amen". These items also close the album itself and in the way that "Forms In Dust" opened both the album and tonight’s gig there is a certain symmetry here.
All in all another fine set with compositions ranging in mood from the melancholy to the joyous but all with a great melodic sense. Phillips is a fine composer and all the band excellent musicians who played superbly in very taxing conditions.
I have to say I preferred the Cheltenham set earlier in the year due to the cameo appearances of Julia Biel and Idris Rahman which added even greater variety to the bands wide stylistic palette. Also of course it wasn’t so unbearably hot. The heat had definitely affected tonight’s attendance with only around fifty in the audience but even so I think it’s a poor reflection on the city of Birmingham that so few people turned out for music of this quality. The World Cup may also have been a factor (Ingrid would like you to know she’s still supporting Germany).
Thanks to Jonny, Ingrid and Seb for speaking to me after the gig. Ingrid has recorded a duo album "Lets Call This" with pianist Liam Noble for the Babel label which should be well worth hearing. It should have been out by now but the release date has been delayed but everything is complete and it shouldn’t be long now.
Seb tells me that new albums by both Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear should be out by the end of the year. If the new material Polar Bear played at Cheltenham is anything to go by these releases should be a major event. Bring it on!
Despite being disappointed by tonight’s attendance Jonny says the album is selling well. The band are having a short break (Jonny is going to Jerez) before re-commencing the tour. Dates are listed at the end of the "Migration" album review.


14/06/2006 Birmingham Post - Peter Bacon

Flaming passion on hottest of nights

Ingrid Laubrock Quintet, Oriole, The Glee Club

Clearly, there were challenges to be overcome. The heat had melted the silver screws in Ingrid Laubrock's saxophone ligature, it was extremely warm under the stage lights, and if the air conditioning fan was merely moving warm air around within the Glee Club it was still making quite a noise in the process.
On top of that World Cup barbecue hangovers and continuing glorious weather had slimmed the Birmingham Jazz audience to the valiant few.
These two bands are from the London-based F-ire Collective and share a number of players, but their characters are strikingly different.
We started out in the darker, trickier world of the German saxophonist. Laubrock was recently awarded an Arts Foundation Fellowship for composition and it is easy to hear why. She is pushing hard to find new ways of writing jazz and encouraging improvisation.
The accent is not on extensive solos and much more on group interaction and overall structure - not the sort of music where the audience applauds each soloist as they take their turn.
Some pieces split the band in two with half taking one theme and the others playing a contrasting line that crosses it, interlocks, sometimes undermines it.
There is a dark humour here, a touch of Weill, even when the rhythm is from Brazilian carnival. The over-all impression is that a macabre clown lurks somewhere just out of sight.
If Laubrock's music has a shadowy, north European feel to it, the music of guitarist Jonny Phillips' Oriole is all southern sunshine.
The Spanish guitar roots it, the distinctly Brazilian uses of the electric piano adds further nuance and the drumming of Sebastian Rochford filters all kinds of Latin rhythms through his inimitable style.
In both bands the rich textures offered by harmony lines from tenor saxophone and Ben Davis's cello offer great delight, though Phillips' music indulges them more fully.
An excellent and long (exceptionally good value!) evening of some of the freshest sounds in jazz.


10/05/2006 Kerstan Mackness - Timeout

10/05/2006 Kerstan Mackness - Timeout
Guitarist Jonny Phillips might just be the next big star to emerge from the F-IRE Collective,the loose confederation of forward-looking musicians that include the Mercury-nominated Polar Bear and the hip-punk Jazz outfit Acoustic Ladyland, But while those bands embrace electronica, funk and rock influences, Phillips who played on the Polar Bear album and who regularly collaborates with folky songstress Julia Biel) is a different beast altogether. His music is a pastoral, impressionistic mix of soaring melodies and South American folklore that strives to create an aural form of magical realism. Dreamlike and beautiful, it sounds simultaneously contemporary and yet centuaries old. His band Oriole are something of a F-IRE collective supergroup with big haired drummer Sebastian Rochford (Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Fulbourn, Taversham), cellist Ben Davis (Julia Biel, Django Bates), Lee Konitz-ish saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (Monica Vasconcellos), claranetist Idris Rahman (Soothsayers), Danish bass player Anders Christensen (Paul Motion) and Brazilian Percussionist Adriano Adawali Itauna. Their new Album 'Migration' is an early contender for jazz release of the year, a sublime, slightly unsettling but emotionally rewarding work that draws on folk, north Brazilian, West African and Mediterranean music. Like the Norwegian pianist Christian Wallumrod, Phillips conjures music that is quietly intense, beguilingly beautiful and full of pleasingly robust tunes that stay with you long after you hear them. Expect waltzes, gentle samba, persuasive grooves, poignant themes and uplifting melodies that'll make you smile, think and want to dance.


05/05/2006 Bev Stapleton - All About Jazz

Cheltenham Jazz Festival Review

Jonny Phillips' Oriole were absolutely exquisite, possibly my favourite performance of the whole festival. Music with a strong Brazilian feel but taking in other influences, with exquisite instrumental playing from Ingrid Laubrock (tenor), Phillips himself on acoustic guitar, Ben Davis (cello) and pianist Nick Ramm.


05/05/2006 Chris parker – Vortex Website

Cheltenham Jazz Festival Review

"Oriole, starting Sunday’s proceedings with another Jerwood Rising Stars gig, turned in one of the festival’s standout performances. Their music (written by leader/guitarist Jonny Phillips) is simply beautiful: deliciously easy on the ear, attractively lilting (utilising mainly South American gently wafting rhythms) yet frequently culminating in rousing climaxes exploiting the clear rapport between the admirably versatile saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and the sonorous cellist Ben Davis. Joined by the superb clarinettist Idris Rahman and plaintive singer Julia Biel for one number each, Oriole were utterly beguiling, their music immediately accessible but containing many understated felicities of touch and feel, and (given the exposure they deserve) they have the clear potential to reach audiences way beyond the confines of jazz.”


05/05/2006 24dash.com - Ian Mann

cheltenham jazz festival review

On Sunday lunchtime Rochford was back behind the drums with Oriole the band led by guitarist Jonny Phillips who were playing a Rising Stars gig at the Town Hall Pillar Room. Oriole were promoting their excellent new album “Migration” which is reviewed elsewhere on this site. The music is described in detail in the album review but this show was an excellent advertisement for the bands abilities and for the album. For this performance Phillips had assembled a core group of himself, Rochford (showing a completely different side to his musical character), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Ben Davis (cello), Nick Ramm (piano) and Ruth Goller (electric bass). There were two delightful cameo appearances from Idris Rahman who played clarinet on “We’re All Angels” and from singer Julia Biel on “Song For The Sleeping” the title track of the first Oriole album. Although the bulk of the material was drawn from “Migration” there were still two as yet unrecorded pieces “Pasarinho” and “Southern Train” (on which they threw in a humorous quote from “Cherokee”) which bodes well for the future. My mate Paul who had never heard the band before absolutely loved it and rushed off and bought the album. This music deserves to be widely heard as it is beautifully written and played and not at all “difficult”. Sadly as the singer/songwriter Dean Carter once said “Most people don’t know most music exists”.


02/02/2006 Tony Dudley Evans

"Jonny’s band Oriole is part of the F-IRE Collective. What impressed me was the mixture of Jazz with Latin rhythms, especially the Brazilian material which captures the gentle sensuality of that music very effectively."


20/08/2005 Humphrey Lyttleton - Jazz Line Up

"A beautiful sound by a group called Oriole. In recent times they have received enthusiastic critical attention for the originality and texture of there sound.”


21/07/2005 Rob Witts - www.classicalsource.com

Rhythm Sticks Festival - Live Review -
Purcell Rooms

In what amounted to a mini-festival within the “Rhythm Sticks” season, the London-based F-IRE Collective presented an evening of wildly contrasting music, emphasising the organisation’s friendly eclecticism. F-IRE was described by the pianist Robert Mitchell as “an ever-growing party”, and despite an atmosphere muted by the day’s terrorism events, an attractively informal and inclusive spirit prevailed.
After such precisely formed intensity (Robert Mitchell), the world-jazz of Oriole came as welcome contrast. Jonny Phillips’s band offered a musical utopia planted somewhere between the Americas, West Africa and Europe, whose unorthodox line-up produced a beautiful blended sound-world all its own. The predominant rhythms were Latin, an impression heightened by Adriano Adewale Itauna’s sonorous cahon and frisky triangle, over which Ben Davis’s cello and Ingrid Laubrocks' silvery tenor floated wistful melodies. Nick Ramm was a decisive presence on keyboards, and Seb Rochfords' loose-limbed, sardonic polyrhythms kept things from getting too tasteful. There was a lot of obvious give-and-take between the musicians; even when one took a solo, it was clear that this was just the top-note of a complex, shifting web of sound. Only a mid-tempo number introduced as “a song about the train” never left the station, but guest vocalist Julia Biel’s soulful rendition of “Song for the Sleeping” sent shivers.


02/05/2005 Kerstan Mackness - Timeout

"Cinematic folkish lullabies exploring the cultural pathways between
West Africa , Brazil and Europe. Gentle beautiful music that is
surprisingly affecting."


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