The Mahout

Artist: George Haslam

Date of Release: 01/10/2004

Catalogue no: SlamCD318

Label: SLAM

Price: £9.99

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Track Listing









Borah Bergman piano;
George Haslam baritone sax, tarogato; Paul Hession drum set.

The 7 tracks on this new album include 3 trio pieces and solo tracks by each member, the intention being to give each individual more space outside the hectic free improvisation of the trio.

The trio tracks were recorded (June 2003) on the first occasion the three musicians played together – each eager to play but at the same time wanting very much to hear what the others had to say. The studio session was a high-energy affair, both mentally and physically draining, leaving the solo tracks to be recorded at later dates. In a much calmer environment the 3 musicians later took advantage of the space and freedom of the unaccompanied solo to make their own statements – creating a short gallery of self-portraits.

Track details:

Track 1 ‘The Mahout’ 11 minutes, 7 seconds. Bergman, Haslam, Hession.
Track 2 ‘M.E.W.’ 3 minutes 17 seconds. Haslam.
Track 3 ‘Streams’ 8 minutes, 18 seconds. Bergman.
Track 4 ‘Ancient Stars’ 7 minutes, 21 seconds. Bergman, Haslam, Hession.
Track 5 ‘The Varmint (for Jack Elam)’ 5 minutes, 23 seconds. Hession.
Track 6 ‘Dusk’ 4 minutes, 47 seconds. Bergman.
Track 7 ‘Zircon’ 8 minutes 22 seconds. Bergman, Haslam, Hession.

Tracks 1, 4 and 7 were recorded 12 June 2003 St Ives, England
Track 2 was recorded 23 October 2003, Oxford, England.
Tracks 3 and 6 were recorded September 2003, New York City, USA.
Track 5 was recorded 15 October, Colne, England.




01/08/2004 Jason Bivins

The Mahout / M. E. W. / Streams / Ancient Stars / The Varmint (for
Jack Elam) / Dusk / Zircon. 48:23.
Haslam, bari s, tarogato; Bergman, p; Hession, d. June — October 2003, England and NYC, NY.
Energy Jazz is alive and kicking! Slam label boss George Haslam has long had a knack for creating
challenging situations for himself, and this robust threeway encounter proves a success. He’s a restless player, whose avid search for new groupings and apparent mania for diving into seemingly inhospitable idioms recalls Herr Brötzmann (whose current instrumental druthers Haslam shares). Hession’s long tenure with the British avant-garde has found him playing mostly in the circle surrounding his colleague Simon H. Fell, with whom Hession has recorded some seriously hair-raising sessions. His fierce, frequently busy playing can often be mistaken for lacking detail and subtlety; in fact, Hession’s imagination (and hands, of course) simply move faster than most listener’s ears (hear this in his excellent solo piece, “The Varmint”). His partnership with Haslam was cemented on their 2002 duo album Pendle Hawk Carapace. Given the stylistic proclivities of two of these players, the fleet-fingered Bergman naturally fits in well with these fellows. The tart-toned tarogato dominates the rambunctious opener, which only occasionally gives you room to breathe. These guys simply launch themselves forward as soon as the tape is rolling, constructing and destroying ideas and exchanges
with insane speed. The velocity and relentlessness of this music isn’t too far off from Death Metal, believe it or not. But despite this intensity, the lugubrious baritone opening to “M. E. W.” gives a clue to the emotional heart of this music (although when Haslam blows both his horns at once it’s certainly an abstracted emotionalism). This proves only a brief interlude as Bergman comes crashing out to begin “Streams.” The density and complexity of his phrasing, and the rapidity
with which his ideas are pursued, are matched on this solo track only by the quality of his construction (since there is a clear, if unorthodox logic to this creation; it’s easier to sense this on the reflective “Dusk,” which is almost like listening
to one of Bergman’s knuckle-busters slowed down to 16rpm). When the trio reconvenes for the following track, there is a considerable clarity to the piece, with each musician pursuing a different and contrasting tempo which overlap and dissolve.
An invigorating recording.
Jason Bivins
Cadence August 2004


01/05/2004 Paul Donnelly

Pretty much anything that George Haslam plays on is guaranteed to be worth listening to and this is no exception. Joining with demon pianist Bergman and long-term percussion associate Hession he helps create a trio that is overflowing with energy and invention. For this set there are three group improvisations plus two solos from the keyboard and one each from the other two. Naturally the trio work is fiery and explodes at you from the opening assault by Bergman. The title track is an all out torrent of sound with Haslam’s tarogato sounding at times a little like Mike Osborne’s alto, writhing and wrestling with lines that vary from intensely melodic to harsh and raw. Needless to say Bergman’s two fisted approach to the piano is in the foreground much of the time and its aggressive, edgy drive seems to push and inspire Haslam. I mean I’ve heard in him many contexts but this is one of the most exciting and demanding.He is just as capable though of offering a considered and reflective performance as on his tribute to Mal Waldron, ‘M.E.W.’ where he uses both baritone and tarogato. The two instruments meet in the middle of the track and their contrasting registers harmonize in a sombre, moving duet. It is a pity that Haslam couldn’t have afforded himself more solo space as this brief instance is one of the highlights of the CD for me.Bergman’s first solo piece couldn’t be further removed however. ‘Streams’ is aptly named as it features the streams of rhythm that course from the full length of the keyboard. It is restless music which never pauses for breath and is perhaps best heard in this solo context. His second piece, ‘Dusk’ demonstrates a more pensive side of his work, drawing on the emotions experienced at that time of day. There is space and light between the measured fall of notes though I wouldn’t call it lyrical, maybe impressionistic is a more fitting tag.

I have to say I’m not that fond of the drum solo but Hession’s contribution, ‘The Varmint’, is a good deal more subtle and varied than some I could mention. Brushes graze the skins punctuated by softly rung or bowed cymbals and I was reminded of the work of Frank Perry at one point. Again there is light and space as well as rhythmic variation and I wasn’t tempted to skip the track, which is unusual.Haslam keeps coming up with interesting combinations, producing excellent results for those who like both his free improvisation and his more melodic inclinations. This set is certainly a worthy addition to a growing collection of essential work.


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