Six Strings & The Beat

Artist: Phil Robson

Date of Release: 07/07/2008

Catalogue no: 1507

Label: Babel

Price: £11.99

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Track Listing







Rubber Duck




Quick Silver








Hold You




The Mook








Wishing Well




Silver Threads








Sticks & Stones






“…a hot contender among European releases for 2008” **** ?John Fordham, Guardian May 2008

Six Strings & the Beat features:
Phil Robson - Guitar
Peter Herbert - Double Bass
Gene Calderazzo - Drums
Emma Smith - Violin
Jenny May Logan - Violin
Naomi Fairhurst - Viola
Kate Shortt - Cello

… what happens when you imagine a string quartet with a guitar trio… the sizzling sonorities of all those strings interweaving with influences from Ornette to Oumou Sangare, Americana to Afro, deliver a lyrical, spacious and powerful groove.

Originally born of a commission for Derby Jazz Week 2007 by Derby Jazz, this exciting collaboration, Six Strings & the Beat, are releasing their eponymous debut CD, featuring the compositions of guitarist Phil Robson for this exceptional & diverse group of musicians.

“…his best album to date.” Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise Magazine May 2008




18/08/2008 David Hart- Red Orbit

www.redorbit.com 18 August 08
by David Hart (source Birmingham Post)

Text taken from

Phil Robson
Six Strings & The Beat (Babel)
A jazz guitar trio and a string quartet - a combination I approach with strongly mixed
feelings. I can see why the more experimental jazz players and the more adventurous
young classical musicians might want to collaborate, but even the most successful
projects (Basquiat Strings, Acoustic Triangle in Three Dimensions) have their clunky
moments when you get that nagging feeling this could be more of a cul-de-sac than a
path to a new musical world.
So heartfelt gratitude to Phil Robson for allaying all my fears - he finds so many
completely different ways of combining these musical forces and the traditions that lie
behind them on this record that it is diffcult to know where to begin in singing their
praises. As a composer and player he has really hit a sweet spot here.
With Phil on guitar are Peter Herbert on double bass and Gene Calderazzo on drums
and the strings are violinists Emma Smith and Jenny May Logan from Basquiat
Strings, Naomi Fairhurst on viola and cellist Kate Shortt, who is also in the band of
Robson's partner, Christine Tobin.
On Songbird, for example, they create a West African groove, full of funk and
contrasting textures of rough and smooth, with Shortt imitating the kora.
Hold You is a gorgeous, sad-as-anything ballad with Tobin singing.
But for the full scope of this project, try Louisiana. It nods towards Bill Frisell while
avoiding imitation and moves between heavy distorted guitar and chamber string
playing, ending in a drum- driven groove while all the time maintaining its cohesion.
Sorry for the delay in telling you about this one - I've robbed you of at least a month
of happy listening. So, don't delay - buy it now!


11/07/2008 Jack Massarik

Six Strings & The Beat (Babel)
Jazz and strings make uneasy bedfellows but guitarist Phil Robson avoids the usual pitfalls with this sparkling suite for viola, three violins, cellist Kate Shortt and Austrian double-bass maestro Peter Herbert. Boosted by Gene Calderazzo's propulsive drumming, his 10 original pieces stay strong, forsaking syrupy sweetness in favour of nimble bluegrass, grungy punk, supple straight-ahead swing and two unsentimental ballads, gracefully sung by Christine Tobin. This is innovative music, performed with crisp precision and rhythmic elan, and it's a substantial achievement by a fine player who has not hitherto been particularly noted for his writing.
JACK MASSARIK - Evening Standard edit delete


30/06/2008 Chris May - All About Jazz

Six Strings & The Beat
Phil Robson | Babel (2008)

By Chris May

Surrounded by an animated buzz since its live debut in 2007 at Derby Jazz Week, London-based guitarist Phil Robson's first outing with a string quartet proves to be every bit as exciting as the grapevine promised.
Best known to date for his work with the revved up and riotous Partisans band, which he co-leads with saxophonist Julian Siegel, Robson's credentials as a composer and arranger have already been well established—both with the Partisans, of whose Max (Babel, 2005), for instance, he wrote half the pieces, and under his own name. But the sophistication and inventiveness of his writing for a string quartet still comes as a surprise.

On Six Strings & The Beat, Robson has succeeded, where many have failed, in hard-wiring a string quartet into the jazz music surrounding it. The four players are creative members of the larger band, equals alongside double bassist Peter Herbert, Partisans' drummer Gene Calderazzo and Robson himself. Not only do the strings contribute vibrant riffs and counterpoints, their players also include two compelling improvisers: cellist Kate Shortt and violinist Emma Smith.

Robson acknowledges guitarist Bill Frisell as an influence—along with rock and jazz guitarists including Jimi Hendrix, Pat Martino, Barney Kessel and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin—and the breadth of Six Strings & The Beat is reminiscent of some of Frisell's recent work with strings. Its sweep may not be as kaleidoscopic as Frisell's double-CD suite, History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008), and the project's budget was tiny by comparison, but with its shorter length and leaner personnel, Robson's album has reach and punches well above its weight.

Robson touches down in Mali for the desert blues-informed “Songbird,” on which Shortt's cello evokes the country's kora music; in New Orleans, for “Louisiana,” written in remembrance of Hurricane Katrina and containing some heavily distorted, pain wracked electric guitar; and in Hungary, for the Bela Bartok-inspired “Quick Silver.” Elsewhere he conjures up saxophonist Ornette Coleman's full-tilt abandon on “The Mook,” and dips into Americana on “Hillbleeoos,” on which he alternates between bluesy slide guitar riffs and fast-picked passages derived from bluegrass.

A wonderful album, one of the highlights of British jazz in 2008, and a direction that very much deserves further exploration.


27/06/2008 Ray Comiskey- Irish Times

Six Strings & the Beat
Robson, a brilliant straight-ahead guitarist who doesn't let that define him, caused a major critical stir with the live premiere of this music last year. The group, with Robson, Peter Herbert (bass), Gene Calderazzo (drums), string quartet and, on two tracks, singer Christine Tobin, recorded it soon after. Robson cites Bartók, Ornette Coleman, Hendrix, Malian folk and Americana as inspirations, but this doesn't do justice to the richly inventive writing, nor to the deft way the strings (all of whom can improvise) are incorporated into the musical discourse. In a varied yet surprisingly homogenous album there is much to savour: the brusque astringency of Quick Silver , the diverse lines of Rubber Duck , the unity of the written and improvised on Silver Threads and The Mook , and above all Robson's skill in using his resources with rare freshness and imaginative purpose. www.babellabel.co.uk


09/05/2008 John Fordham - Guardian

John Fordham
Friday May 9, 2008
The Guardian - ****

This is the jazz-and-classical-strings venture set up in Phil Robson's home town of Derby, and launched at the Derby Jazz Week festival last year. Robson is a fascinating UK one-off: a guitarist with an explicitly pre-Hendrix/McLaughlin/Scofield devotion to straightahead jazz swing (which qualifies him for the BBC Big Band), but whose curiosity runs much wider. His reputation is international: he has worked with former Miles Davis musicians such as drummer Billy Hart and saxophonist Dave Liebman.
String quartets are often consigned to classy riff-playing in jazz, but the four women in Robson's project (particularly cellist Kate Short) all improvise and converse with the jazz players (Robson, bass virtuoso Peter Herbert and drums firebrand Gene Calderazzo), and the ideas touch on Bartók quartets, Mahavishnu Orchestra-like dramatic hooks and ingeniously fluent bop guitar that even Barney Kessel fans could relate to. The album doesn't entirely sustain the melodic fizz of its early tracks, but the insistent motifs of Rubber Duck, the rapturous atonality of Quicksilver, the slowly winding melody of Wishing Well(with Christine Tobin's voice), the ecstatic whirl of The Mook and the sparse rock electronics rising out of a sighing-strings dreamscape on Lousiana amount to a hot contender among European releases for 2008.


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