Album review: Binker & Moses – Alive in the East? (Gearbox)

Binker & Moses – Alive in the East? (Gearbox)

Live and dangerous

Binker Golding the Moses Boyd are an unlikely musical partnership. When was the last time you saw a sax player and a drummer making an album on their own and totally nailing it. Binker and Moses did this three years ago and followed it up with a more ambitious project that involved other musicians to broaden their tonal palette. But those releases were an aperitif and entrée to the main course that is Alive in the East?, the question mark asking whether East London is quite east enough. This album brings the full intensity of Binker and Moses improvised sound to those of us who aren’t hip enough to have been at one of their London gigs, it was recorded in June 2017 at the Total Refreshment Centre in Hackney and captured to great effect by engineer Gareth Finnegan. The duo is joined by British free jazz legend Evan Parker on tenor and soprano sax, Byron Wallen on trumpet, former Yussef Kamaal drummer Yussef Dayes and Tori Handsley on harp. A bass free line up is also a rare thing in jazz circles, the harp goes quite low but it’s a very different sound and one that comes good on several of the ten continuous tracks on Alive in the East?

Things start as they mean to go on with a powerful drum solo from Moses that gives you some idea of how much energy is about to be unleashed, but it’s the blistering saxes of Binker and Parker that takes the energy up to eleven. At over eight minutes the second track can be challenging, How Land Learnt To Be is played with such intensity that you’ll need a pretty calm and capable system to enjoy it in full effect. For newcomers to jazz improv I’d recommend starting with the relatively structured The River’s Tale that follows, this whips the crowd up with a riff that clearly takes them higher into a trance like state that will nonetheless test the limits of a good sound system when played in anger. I really don’t think we have heard music of this intensity in the UK for many years if ever, with such gifted and young musicians applying themselves to the form it’s no wonder that the scene is taking off.

The second side of the vinyl starts with the powerful hook of Children of the Ultra Blacks where drums, harp and trumpet then sax start with a simpler arrangement then build it up with some phenomenal drum work. Mishkaku’s Tale features Handsley’s harp alone to great effect thanks in part to its novelty, when did you last hear a jazz harp solo? In many ways the harp comes into its own on this side, the tracks are mellower (a relative term!) which leaves a bit more room for its piano like vibe to stretch out.

Alive in the East? reveals the full power of Binker and Moses in their natural improvising state, the other musicians contribute plenty too and keep the aural picture wide and varied, Parker it seems is easily as feisty as any of the guys on the stage proving that age is no barrier to expression. The Gearbox vinyl is particularly fine and recommended to anyone with a decent turntable, but be warned this is not jazz for dinner time.

Jason Kennedy

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