Artist: Roller Trio
Album: Roller Trio
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Deep Heat 6:40
Roller Toaster 8:07
Howdy Saudi 4:29
The Nail That Stands Up 5:04
The Zone 11:15
A Dark Place To Think 5:29
The Interrupters 3:46
Where’s My Whip 6:00
The young Leeds based group Roller Trio have attracted a compelling amount of critical praise for their eponymous début album released on the F-ire Presents imprint. A recent BBC radio live broadcast from the Band On The Wall, Manchester, part of Jazz on 3’s “Introducing” showcase, will have done their reputation no harm at all (the programme was originally transmitted on July 23rd 2012) and the trio have won the approval of such influential commentators as Jez Nelson, Kevin Le Gendre, John Fordham, Gilles Peterson, Chris Parker and Peter Bacon both for the quality of this album and for their exciting live shows. Indeed the band sent a tape of one of their earliest live appearances direct to F-ire with the result that they were immediately invited to make an album.
The three twenty somethings-James Mainwaring on saxophone and electronics, Luke Wynter on guitar and Luke Reddin-Williams on drums- emerged from the same jazz course at Leeds College of Music as trio VD, Dave Kane and Matthew Bourne. The College and the associated LIMA circle (Leeds Improvising Musicians Association) has ensured that the Yorkshire city has a strong jazz and improvised music scene that retains a distinct regional identity despite regular cross fertilisation with numerous London based players. Roller Trio are the latest beneficiaries of this process and like trio VD and others seem destined to make a reputation on the national stage. Their influences range from saxophonists Tim Berne, Chris Potter and Anthony Braxton to rock bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Soundgarden, taking in hip hop and electronic artists J Dilla and Flying Lotus along the way. Nobody hearing this album could doubt that Roller Trio’s music is created by young, enthusiastic and highly skilled musicians with a broad range of contemporary influences. This is what gives their sound a freshness and vitality that has not only delighted the commentators mentioned above but has also won them a young and enthusiastic audience, many of them outside the usual jazz demographic. It is perhaps no coincidence that Roller Trio won the 2011 Peter Whittingham Jazz Prize, previous winners have included Led Bib and WorldService Project, two other bands who have done much to introduce jazz virtues to a young audience.
Roller Trio build their material from the ground up, recording group improvisations and “developing the bits they like”. It’s an organic process which the group describe as an “on the fly method”. This approach gives their music an urgency and accessibility and their tunes are packed with catchy hooks that mix rock immediacy with jazz sophistication.
The nine co-composed pieces that make up the album begin with the appropriately energetic “Deep Heat”, a lively mix of interlocking lines featuring urgently pecked saxophone,beguiling and sophisticated jazz guitar chording and economical, rock influenced drumming. Mainwaring “treats” the band’s sound very effectively utilising an array of effects drawn from the worlds of experimental rock and dub reggae. There’s a hint of trio VD in the trio’s densely knit sound but on the whole the Rollers are a good deal less confrontational and eschew VD’s trademark use of voices and speech samples. What they do is no longer exactly new but it does reveal a refreshing enthusiasm and a shed-load of potential.
“Roller Toaster” is more heavy on atmosphere with Mainwaring brooding effectively above the lattice of Wynter’s guitar and Reddin-Williams’ quietly energetic, neatly detailed drumming. The tenor man later stretches out to solo authoritatively- already highly gifted he’s a player of enormous promise. Despite the jokey title this is a piece that packs a considerable emotional impact.
“Howdy Saudi” (great title) is riffy, punchy and hooky with more furiously interlocking sax and guitar lines and with plenty of space for drummer Reddin-Williams. In his more declamatory moments Mainwaring sounds a little like Acoustic Ladyland’s Pete Wareham, an indication perhaps that this item is likely to become something of a live favourite.
By way of contrast the following “ROR” is positively anthemic, perhaps the nearest Roller Trio get to a ballad as Mainwaring emotes above a brushed, E.S.T. style groove. Structurally it seems to owe something to a stadium rock flag waver but is no worse for that with Mainwaring’s solo sax episode taking the piece somewhere else entirely.
“The Nail That Stands Up” epitomises the group’s compositional approach, written in just two hours and with an arresting (if naggingly familiar) hook. Electronically enhanced (particularly Wynter’s guitar) it alternates strong hooks and riffs with more impressionistic episodes in another excellent demonstration of rock energy and jazz technique allied to a spirit of electronic experimentation. Almost certainly another favourite live staple I’d say.
“The Zone” begins with a gently brushed groove and is positively breezy with Mainwaring stretching out on joyous r’n’b style sax above Wynter’s supportive chord patterns and Reddin-Williams’ increasingly groove. Later the tune takes a darker turn with heavier guitars and grooves as Wynter steps into the spotlight with a clangorous guitar solo. There’s also a drum feature for Reddin-Williams as the earlier mood of optimism eventually returns. Like many of the best composers and songwriters Roller Trio reveal that they’re not afraid to visit differing emotional states within the course of a single tune.
“A Dark Place To Think” reflects it’s title with emotive sax brooding enhanced by dark edged guitar. The “echoey sadness” mentioned in the press release mutates into something else mid tune as the group ramp up the tension and head for the stratosphere on a bank of wailing sax and increasingly heavy guitar. Like its predecessor the piece has a strong narrative arc and eventually comes full circle to end as reflectively as it began.
The jerky energy of “The Interrupters” with its vocalised sax inflections perhaps comes closest to trio VD’s approach with Reddin-Williams approximating something of the manic energy of Chris Bussey.
“Where’s My Whip” (interesting title) is a playful closer with Mainwaring’s sax honking above Wynter’s circling guitar patterns and Reddin-Williams’ increasingly busy grooves. The piece goes through several distinct sections before an engagingly energetic finale.
Reviewed by Ian Mann