Adam Bishop

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Reviews of Adam Bishop


05/04/2007 Ian Mann - 24dash.com

This own label release is the debut recording of saxophonist Adam Bishop. Born in England but brought up in Canberra, Australia, Bishop returned to the UK in 1998 and quickly established himself on the British scene. For this record he has assembled something of an all star band with rising star Jim Hart appearing on vibraphone, the ever dependable Larry Bartley on bass and the dynamic Shaney Forbes at the drums. It is an impressive line up in anyone's book.

Now aged thirty-two Bishop started out on tenor and was initially influenced by bebop but a period spent studying in New York inspired him to adopt a more contemporary approach. Saxophonist Steve Coleman and bassist Dave Holland were particularly influential in this regard and echoes of their styles can be detected in Bishop's writing. The use of vibes is reminiscent of Holland's deployment of Steve Nelson. Since returning to the UK Bishop has added soprano sax and bass clarinet to his repertoire. As a result "Sanctuary" has a broad instrumental palette and is consistently interesting.

Five of the seven tracks are Bishop originals, with the two outside compositions coming from such legendary figures as Billy Strayhorn and John Coltrane.

Bishop's "Crank Call" opens the album with the leader's biting soprano cutting a swathe closely followed by Hart's highly percussive and metallic sounding vibes. Bartley is rock solid on the bass and Forbes negotiates some tricky rhythms as the quartet probe deep into the harmonies of the piece. Hart solos imaginatively and at length and taken as a whole this is both an invigorating and intriguing way to kick off the album.

Another Bishop original the tender ballad "For Drew" shows the reflective side of the band. Hart's vibes are now bell like and lyrical and Bishop's smoky tenor filled with a choked intensity. Bartley's sensitive bass and Forbes delicately understated drumming complete this bittersweet dedication to the memory of a dead friend. It is a beautiful tune and a worthy tribute.

The title track also by Bishop also has a reflective feel and again features his cool tenor. However the music goes through a number of tempo changes and this is less of a mood piece than it's predecessor. The playing is characteristically excellent. This is a very accomplished band.

Billy Strayhorn's "UMMG" is another vehicle for Bishop's tenor playing and is driven by the energetic and inventive drumming of Forbes. Previously with Tomorrow's Warriors, Forbes is presently attracting a good deal of attention as a member of trumpeter Abram Wilson's band. Hart weaves in and out of the melody and solos effectively and Bartley is the rock that holds it all together, as usual.

"True Or False" highlights Bishop's versatility with bass clarinet featuring on the intro and soprano featuring strongly thereafter on another serpentine composition. The grossly underrated Bartley is allowed some solo space in which to showcase his rich, warm tone. An extremely capable player Bartley seems to be able to handle anything thrown at him, but his self-effacing personality means that he sometimes doesn't get the acclaim his talents deserve.

"Windmills" also features Bartley as a soloist alongside Hart's vibes and Bishop's feathery soprano on this typically thoughtful composition. The tune commences with Bishop playing unaccompanied, but later in the piece judicious use of overdubbing sees him duetting with himself.

Coltrane's "Satellite" sees some relatively straight ahead tenor from Bishop and a bravura vibes solo from Hart. This remarkable young musician is also an accomplished drummer and pianist. Britain's answer to Lionel Hampton, perhaps?

Forbes contributes some dramatic drumming, but overall it is his playing on the more reflective pieces that impressed me on this album. His intelligent and supportive playing on these numbers reveals a different side of his musical personality to those of us only familiar with his more flamboyant work with Wilson and the Warriors.

Bishop has produced a high quality debut album that speaks of even better things to come.

His writing is intelligent and intriguing and his playing is confident, assured and free of bluster. He is a thoughtful musician who likes to take his time and who uses that time effectively. The sympathetic support he receives from a first class band is a big help and the interaction between the players is excellent throughout the album.

There is a genuine rapport here. From a technical point of view the recording, by the ever reliable Chris Lewis, is excellent.

Good stuff. Well done to all involved.


02/04/2007 Chris May - allaboutjazz.com

A gorgeously lyrical tenor saxophonist, Adam Bishop has emerged from the sideman shadows with the most assured and compelling British jazz album to be released so far this year. He's in the company of three other young London tyros: vibraphonist Jim Hart, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Shaney Forbes. On Sanctuary the quartet play supple, melodically vibrant jazz with a spiky modern edge. It's a hugely enjoyable mix, and one with considerable depth.
Starting out as a straight-ahead bop player, Bishop—born in England in 1974, brought up in Australia, and resident in London since 1998—cites saxophonists Steve Coleman, Albert Ayler and Wayne Shorter as later influences, along with composer Olivier Messiaen. I don't hear much Ayler influence on Sanctuary myself, but there are certainly echoes of Coleman and Shorter. Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, in his Canto (ECM, 1997) and onwards work, sings out from time to time too—sometimes in the harmonic twists and turns of Bishop's tunes (all but two tracks are originals); always, and more tellingly, in the healing, restorative quality of his music.

The album is dedicated, rather movingly, to Bishop's friend, Drew Sydes (”who lives in every note I play”), and several of the tracks reference sickness and loss. Three consecutive tunes in particular—”For Drew,” the Zen-like title track, and Billy Strayhorn's more agitated “U.M.M.G.” (for Upper Manhattan Medical Group)—are presumably part of this dedication. If it sounds depressing, it's not. Bishop creates lovely, uplifting music throughout, and the listener is revived and replenished by hearing it.

Bishop has chosen his colleagues well. Hart's rich, resonator-on-eleven tone fits hand in glove with the saxophonist's velvet muscularity and recalls Milt Jackson in his early Modern Jazz Quartet days, with an admixture of the angular and the acerbic. Bartley, an engaged and listening bass player if ever you heard one—a bandleader in his own right, he's also an important member of saxophonists Ingrid Laubrock's and Denys Baptiste's bands—provides his characteristically propulsive but un-flashy energy. Forbes, a star graduate of Gary Crosby's Tomorrow's Warriors, is a rock solid anchor and inventive soloist. There is little collective improvising—all of the seven or eight minute tracks are essentially theme/solos/theme constructions—but a high degree of group interplay is sustained throughout.

Emotionally articulate and thoughtful music which repays repeated listenings, Sanctuary announces the arrival of another talented voice on London's saxophone scene.


24/03/2007 Chris Parker - Vortex Review

Leading a tight, muscular yet sensitive quartet (completed by vibes player Jim Hart, bassplayer Larry Bartley and drummer Shaney Forbes), Bishop showcases not only a considerable compositional gift on this, his outfit's debut album, but also a tenor tone that recalls, instead of the usual contemporary models, the work of one of his tutors, Mark Turner: a highly affecting liquid, warbling sound hardening when required into a steelier approach. He also operates on soprano and on one track, 'True and False', harmonises with himself on soprano and bass clarinet. Another of his declared influences is Steve Coleman, and there is a restless, slightly slippery, nervy quality to some of Bishop's pieces, resulting in Billy Strayhorn's 'UMMG', for instance, taking on an appropriate edginess. Overall, though, this is an unequivocally enjoyable, accomplished album, setting an intriguing new saxophone talent against a skilful, elegant but robust rhythm section spearheaded by the alternately glowing (on ballad material) and tastefully vigorous Hart. One to watch.


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