Clown Revisited

Artist: Nick Ramm

Date of Release: 17/04/2006

Catalogue no: 896

Label: F-IRE

Price: £12

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Track Listing







Samba Mal Au Dos








The Notestand




There Are Many Ways




The Beat Root






visit............. www.nickramm.com




10/05/2006 Ian Mann www.24dash.com

By Ian Mann - 24dash.com
(4 stars out of 5)
Nick Ramm may not have as high a profile as some other members of the F-ire brigade such as Ingrid Laubrock, Seb Rochford or Pete Wareham but this album shows him to be a highly talented musician and an excellent composer. Ramm has been an important member of several bands including Timeline, Oriole and Jade Fox but this is his first solo project.

Clown Revisited is the band put together by Ramm to perform his highly distinctive compositions inspired by playing in the house band of a circus on tour in Denmark and Holland. The musicians accompanied acrobats, magicians, trapeze artists, jugglers, contortionists etc. Ramm, however, was most inspired by the clowns and decided to base an album on his circus experiences.

Although the music is thoroughly composed, Ramm left plenty of room for improvisation and several of the album's tracks are first takes. The instrumental line up is totally unorthodox, and in all probability unique. Ramm plays piano and organ and he is accompanied by Finn Peters on flute, Ben Davis on cello, drummer and percussionist Dave Price and the remarkable Oren Marshall on tuba.

The music itself defies categorisation. Wilfully whimsical, it owes something to the eclectic style of those great British mavericks Django Bates and Huw Warren.

Like the clowns that inspired it this music never stands still, it is always quirky and quixotic, constantly changing in style and tempo. It is a tribute to the musicians that they negotiate these twists and turns seamlessly and that the music always sounds unforced and natural. Apart from the circus Ramm's compositional palette also takes in influences ranging from chamber music to vaudeville, English folk music to Latin America, Kurt Weill to New Orleans parade bands and several other sources on the side.

The emphasis is very much on ensemble playing rather than traditional jazz soloing, but this does not detract from the individual brilliance of the musicians.

The arrangements are paced by Ramm's precise piano and Peters' effervescent flute. The cello and the tuba are sometimes perceived to be lugubrious instruments, but this theory is soon disproved by the fleetness of foot and speed of thought of Davis and Marshall. Both are a revelation throughout.

The music is also surprisingly rhythmic courtesy of the crisp, imaginative percussion of Dave Price and the extraordinary bass lines conjured up by Marshall. It is highly melodic too, full of good tunes and Ramm seems to be a composer just full of ideas. The production and mix are superb and enhance the writing and playing to perfection.

The album hangs together so well as an entity that it seems invidious to pick out individual tracks. However "There Are Many Ways" contains the spoken words of Jack Sims reciting his poem of the same name. I don't normally like spoken words on albums as they tend to detract from the music and lose their impact after the first hearing. However, this piece is very effective and the backing by Ramm and the band is entirely appropriate to the mood of the piece making this one of the best poetry and jazz juxtapositions I've heard. I don't think I'll be reaching for the skip button just yet.

This is an excellent debut from Ramm showing his great potential as a composer. Despite its unorthodox line up the music is charming, witty, intelligent and melodic and certainly not difficult. It deserves to do well and we should hear a lot more of Nick Ramm in the future.


10/04/0006 Chris Parker

Nick Ramm, pianist/keyboards player, is the composer/leader of Clown Revisited, and the ten pieces on this album were inspired by two trips he took to Denmark and Holland to play in a circus house band, accompanying acrobats, jugglers and clowns. These last clearly had the most profound effect on the music here, which is played by one of the most unusual and original combinations of instruments you're likely to encounter: flute (Finn Peters), cello (Ben Davis), tuba (Oren Marshall), piano (Nick Ramm) and drums (Dave Price). There are Afro-Peruvian rhythms (Samba Mal Au Dos), the odd cha-cha-cha (The Beat Root), a scurrying humorous piece that instantly brings clowns to mind (The Notestand) and numerous pieces with tricksy rhythms and tempos that manage to balance compositional and improvised elements to perfection. Texture, however (given the instrumentation), is at least as important to this extraordinary music as straightforward propulsiveness, and in both ensemble passages and occasional solos, the combination of Marshall's consistently dignified, poised whump, Davis's sonorous cello contributions and Peters's agile, surprisingly gutsy flute is a beguiling one. Overall, though, this is very much Ramm's baby: his compositions are pleasingly varied but cohere intelligently as album elements; his piano playing is percussive and forceful, fluent and imaginative as required; his control of the various musical elements at his disposal exemplary. All in all, a highly entertaining album that reveals fresh subtleties every time it's played.


03/03/0006 Selwyn Harris - Jazzwise

Truely original musicians can often find inspiration in those types of music that appear at first to be hopelessly uncool. The rest of us just have to play catch up. And so it is with London-based pianist/keyboardist and composer Nick Ramm. Formed in 2003, his five-pice band Clown Revisited was originally inspired by a short tour of Denmark and Holland playing keyboard with a travelling circus, of all things. On his debut album released this month on the F-ire Collective recording imprint, there's certainly echoes of the fun-and-thrills fantasy world of the big top. But that's far from the whole story. You may have heard Ramm contributing to some of the adventurous bands linked to the F-ire Collective including Timeline, Oriole, and Jade Fox and the big band Synergy but Clown Revisited gives us the first real taste of his unique strengths as a composer too. On Flashes of a Normal World Ramm's excellent melodious themes and witty, ideas-packed arrangements betray the influence of maverick Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal, the global Englishness of Loose Tubes/Django Bates, and the European school of Stravinsky and Weill's light-hearted theatre chamber works. Entertainment isn't a dirty word here too: the Broadway musical, Moulin Rouge burlesque, the oompah type street band riffs of Chicago and second-line New Orleans are either consciously or unconsciously a part of Ramm's aesthetic. It's quite rare at the moment, but entirely refreshing to find a serious jazz artist unafraid of making what is essentially light-hearted, yet creative improvised music. Ramm is joined by an unusual line up consisting of cello (Ben Davis), tuba (Oren Marshall), drums and percussion (Dave Price) and flute (Finn Peters) and a mate Jack Sims who recites a poem 'There are Many Ways' in an English tea room type instrumental setting. The tuba player extraordinaire Oren Marshall plays a typically diverse role from a New Orleans/Chicago style bass through to more avant improvisation.This is very percussive music and while Ramm semms to prefer his band to imply the groove, perhaps a steamier percussion section might have given an extra boost to a couple of tracks. As it is though , this is an unfashionably charming and unique debut from a musicion who's worth keeping a very close eye on. (3 stars out of 4)


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