If you like Polar Bear, you'll almost certainly go for this remarkable UK trio, which includes this year's Mercury nominee Kit Downes on Hammond organ. As with Polar Bear, there are themes that often have jazz inflections but deployed in eccentric ways, and the players have a taste for slow builds and unusual instrumental colours – in this case the frequent use of minimally noodling, churchily plaintive treble figures from Downes's organ, set against rugged tenor sax or bass clarinet sounds, and creative percussion–playing that mixes power and playful surprises. The trio features multi-reeds player and composer James Allsopp and drummer Tim Giles alongside Downes, and the structured parts are as absorbing as the improvising, and often indistinguishable from it. Meditative bass clarinet figures weave around the spooky Hammond before slow, crunching grooves crank up and darkly repetitive themes follow. Multiphonic, pad-flapping tenor sax sounds echo Evan Parker; the title track is a repeating tenor motif that begins to stretch out over Giles's remorseless groove; and the improvised counterpoint of the organ and tenor later in the set is inspired.
The Golden Age of Steam: Raspberry Tongue | CD review
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3