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16 Nov

Piano trio GoGo Penguin consolidating new trends in jazz

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In US, the birthplace of jazz, new listeners are not engaging with jazz music as much as they did in the past and jazz album sales have been dropping - in 2014 they amounted to only 2% of all music album sales. After the turn of the century interest in jazz seemed to have waned, perhaps because many long-time enthusiasts have not engaged much with the advent of digital releases or with the newly emerging trends that cross the boundaries of different music genres.

Change is afoot though, especially in Europe, with the advent of new trends in jazz, amply illustrated by the success of the ECM label, the numerous jazz events taking place across the continent, and the springing up of exciting new groups that appeal to a wider, as well as to a younger, audience. On the last issue, the rapid advent of Manchester-based piano trio GoGo Penguin is a case in point.

The group has released two albums so far and have acquired a cult following for their music that claims influences from sources as diverse as Debussy, Tod Gustavsen and Massive Attack. With a sound reminiscent as much of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (EST) and the Bad Plus, as of Duke Ellington’s piano trio with Charles Mingus and Max Roach in “Money Jungle”, GoGo Penguin’s tunes are deeply rooted in jazz.

Their first album “Fanfares”, released by Godwana Records in November 2012, was followed by “v2.0” in March 2014 that was named a Mercury Prize Album of the Year.

Pianist Chris Illingworth’s accomplished playing is recognisably Svensson-like, with dramatic climaxes punctuated by melodic interludes. Drummer Rob Turner’s style is often rhythmically very intense, yet it also integrates well into melodic play, in a manner akin to that of the “melody drummers” of the past like Shelly Manne and Connie Kay. Grant Russell’s bass provides a powerful mixture of waves of melodic motifs and counter-melodic parts.

The piece Kamaloka from their latest album v2.0 is typical of their output, characterised by a lyrical melody accentuated by sharp drum beats and counter-melodic bass:

Murmuration (also from the album v2.0), that starts slow and builds up to an explosive crescendo, is characteristic of the intensity variations in the music of the group:

But GoGo Penguin is not averse to more mellow compositions, such as Unconditional (from the album Fanfares):

The trio will be playing at the Monte Carlo Jazz Festival at the end of November 2015, and then touring France, with 10 concerts scheduled across the country. Their live performances replicate well the trio’s studio sound, albeit with a notable exception in their recent concert at Koko in London, where the thumping bass of the venue’s night-clubby sound system did little justice to their crisp jazz tone.

Traditionalists may find GoGo Penguin’s music too diverse from the mainstream or short on the type of melodies that they are accustomed to, but none other than Blue Note Records has stamped their seal of approval on the group. Last April they signed a three-album deal with GoGo Penguin and the first album, Man Made Object, will be released by Blue Note on 5 February 2016. 

Jazz history is full of examples of scepticism over new trends: cool, bebop and free jazz have all been there, before being embraced by the mainstream of jazz enthusiasts. History may repeat itself for a while before some traditional tastes acclimatise to the new sound, but in the meantime GoGo Penguin is revitalising jazz and broadening its appeal to a wider audience, much like EST and similar groups did in the recent past.

Mihalis Yianneskis.

More about the Trio by Mihalis Yianneski : http://tvxs.gr/news/moysiki/piano-trio-gogo-penguin-i-tzaz-poy-goiteyei-ti-neolaia  


Last modified on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 08:54

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