Mercury nominees 2014: Polar Bear

The previous nominees trail a host of jazz-world accolades, but have marshalled influences including hip-hop and electronica for their latest tilt at the award

Who? Seb Rochford, Pete Wareham, Mark Lockheart, Tom Herbert and Leafcutter John are the British two-sax group, who waited four years to release the follow-up to their fourth album, Peepers. Incorporating more electronica into their sound with this album, not to mention industrial and even the odd hip-hop beat, their music is rooted in jazz but not restricted by its form. They’re also part of the music community the F-IRE Collective and Polar Bears’ members operate in a variety of separate solo and group ventures, most notably the voluminous haired Rochford, who the Quietusdescribed as the “one degree of separation between Brett Anderson and Herbie Hancock, Yoko Ono and Peter Doherty, Brian Eno and Adele”.

The album: In Each and Every One

Previous releases to date:

Dim Lit – 2004
Held on the Tips of Fingers – 2005
Polar Bear – 2008
Peepers – 2010

What we said: “Electronics plays a bigger role, with the introductory Open See a sonic vapour of airy whistles and glowing, pulsing effects. Be Free and Chatpot are delightful rhythm games on delicate sax motifs, distant hoots and synthesised vocals, set against Seb Rochford’s clappy drum grooves or soft clatters; the snappy rimshots and lazy tenor-shruggings of They’re All Ks and Qs Lucien are irresistible all the way to their finale.”

What they said: “I wanted for there to be a strong rhythmic drive that propels it, and then sometimes for there to be the feeling of pure space.” – Tom Herbert.

Notable Mercury-friendly accolades: They were nonimated for a Mercury back in 2005 (and lost out admirably to the mighty I Am a Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons). Previous albums have been nominated for BBC Jazz awards, while their second album was selected as one of “100 jazz albums that shook the world” by Jazzwise magazine.

Likelihood to win: The album may havereceived a rapturous five-star review from Guardian jazz expert John Fordam, but Polar Bear currently sit as outsiders at 25/1.

Stream the album:


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