Polar Bear: Peepers (Leaf/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Polar Bear: Drunken Pharaoh
Polar Bear: Peepers (Leaf/Southbound)

This fiery UK jazz quintet helmed by acclaimed young drummer/composer Seb Rochford (interviewed here) has really caught the attention of the British jazz (and elsewhere) imagination: they were nominated for a Mercury Prize a few years ago; Rochford picks up awards; the various members work in other outside (and very interesting) projects; and they bring a 21st century/post-modern ethic to their music.

By that I mean they draw on an enormously wide range of influences and alongside the double tenor frontline of Pete Wareham and Mark Lockhead they have acoustic bass (Tom Herbert) and Leafcutter John on guitar and electronics.

That instrumental array allows them to explore dark Waitsean mods (the clanking Drunken Pharaoh here), brittle free playing (the mercifullly brief Scream), subtle atmospheric tone poems (A New Morning Will Come) and vigorous upbeat swinging material which owes a little to Monk and Ellington (Happy For You). The title track is bright pop tune which skitters off in a funky direction over Rochford's and John's stabbing undercurrent, and Hope Every Day Is A Happy New Year takes a left turn from Ornette Coleman's Virgin Beauty album.

The gently cinematic, seven minute The Love Didn't Go Anywhere is a standout for its creation of an engrossing mood of dark streets (the lonely sax, the backdrop of guitar chords and electronics) and the album closes with All Here, a hushed piece which runs like the music in the closing credits to a sad European movie. 

British jazz undergoes periodic surges -- the whole Loose Tubes/Andy Sheppard/Courtney Pine/Ronny Jordan period was the last high tide -- and right now with Polar Bear, Neil Cowley and others there seems to be another new and exciting era.

You could argue Polar Bear create jazz for people not much interested in "jazz" -- but they also make it for those who like their jazz with a bit of bite as much as with a dollop of history. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Kurt Shanks: Blood Line Heart (Plus1/Aeroplane)

Kurt Shanks: Blood Line Heart (Plus1/Aeroplane)

At a crucial point in the lovely Auckland-located ballad These Are The Days, the mood drops, hooking you with intimacy, and Kurt Shanks speak-sings, “No, I don't desire any sales pitch... > Read more

Kishi Bashi: Lighght (Inertia)

Kishi Bashi: Lighght (Inertia)

The debut album 151a two years ago by Seattle's songwriter/violinist Kaoru Ishibashi was an impressively upbeat-then-melancholy collection, equally confident in dance pop as melodrama. Here... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Buenos Aires, Argentina: A users' guide

Buenos Aires, Argentina: A users' guide

The bronze statue in the museum towers over us. It is twice life-size and the national hero has a hand on his heart, his eyes looking to the distance. At his feet are the faithful, young and... > Read more

The Cranberries: Even the faithful departed

The Cranberries: Even the faithful departed

At the time, flying from London to Tokyo to interview the Cranberries seemed like a good idea. It was May '96 and they would be coming to New Zealand for a show shortly afterwards. My job -- at... > Read more