The Independent on Sunday – June 10th 2012
Album: Gavin Barras Quintet, Day of Reckoning (ASC)
The first jazz response to last summer’s riots, inspired by bassist Barras’s experience travelling back from a gig at Ronnie Scott’s to his home in Manchester, where he watched TV news with the sound down as he composed the material for this album.
It’s a quintet, with Ed Jones on tenor, Corey Mwamba on vibes, Steve Plews on piano and Dave Walsh on drums and the overall mood is swinging but edgy, with Jones wailing mightily.
Know Your Sideman: Gavin Barras
May 23, 2012
Know Your Sideman, a new Bird is the Worm series that focuses on musicians who consistently appear in the fine print of excellent albums.
Bassist Gavin Barras has been making a name for himself on the UK jazz scene, but unless you live there you might not have heard of him.
After studying both classical and jazz during his time at the University of Manchester, Barras now records and performs with many of the top jazz artists in the UK scene, as well as working on his own projects. He is currently a member of the European Union Quartet, Dan Whieldon Trio, Jadid Ensemble, Sarah Ellen Hughes Band, 6Pac Jazz Sextet, Nat Birchall Band, Matthew Halsall Band, Unfurl and Steve Plews Trio.
And if you’re a fan of modern jazz, there’s a good chance that he’s represented in your music library.
And, in a nice development…
Barras will finally be releasing an album with his own name in the large print. The Gavin Barras Quintet will be releasing Day of Reckoning in May 2012. Rounding out the quintet is Ed Jones (tenor sax), Steve Plews (piano), Corey Mwamba (vibes), and Dave Walsh (drums). It’ll be released on the ASC Records label. I have an album review forthcoming, but in summary, this recording has many of the rhythmic and melodic attributes of a modern jazz composition (a la tendency to rock instead of swing and melodies that venture off in exciting directions without looking back), yet there is a strong hint of classic late-sixties Blue Note albums, which often had a center-of-gravity forged in swing, even as they moved out to edges of free-jazz performance. Here’s an album track, titled “Billy Harper”…
The album has been getting played pretty frequently on my stereo since it first arrived. In fact, it’s kinda been one of those albums that gets me backlogged on all the other reviews I should be writing, which is kinda frustrating for me, but typically is a pretty good indication that an album rates high on the quality index.
In the lead-up to the album release, I had a few questions for him:
Bird Is The Worm: Was the experience of recording an album any different as the bandleader than it was, say, as a sideman on a Birchall or Halsall album, or as part of an equal collaborator on EU4? Was there something about it you really enjoyed? Something that made you want to pull your hair out?
Gavin Barras: It was really simple. No messing around in the studio – a lot of first takes. I was organized regarding getting charts to people before the session. Then on the session I made decisions on soloists etc. and I had the final say.
All the musicians I booked for the date knew the vibe and what I was going for. It was the best experience. And everyone played great!!!!
BITW: What kind of projects would you like to be working on in the near future? Down the road?
GB: I’m playing today with a really great oud player from Palestine. I would like to work with him and others to create some music directly inspired by Ahmed Abdul-Malik. [Malik] played bass for Thelonious Monk, but also played oud. He released a few albums mixing jazz and Arabic elements. Check out the record East Meets West.
BITW: Regarding your local jazz scene… What aspect of it do you most enjoy? What about it symbolizes its identity
GB: The local Jazz scene revolves around a couple of venues. It is a friendly atmosphere with everyone doing there own thing- an aspect I really enjoy. The standard isn’t world class- it isn’t New York! There are some very good players though and lots of diversity. There are fewer people playing standards which is okay, although I think its really important to have a good standard rep. together- to know tunes. The scene is small, everyone knows everyone else; that’s cool.
BITW: Do you have a favorite local venue you enjoy performing at? A favorite road venue? Do you have a favorite local venue you love seeing jazz performed at?
GB: Matt and Phreds jazz club in Manchester has been going for 13 years and has at various times been a really happening place, so that would be a favorite, I suppose. Ronnie Scott’s in London is obviously a favorite venue away from Manchester in the UK – great sound/audience etc. I’m only playing there a couple of times a year. In Manchester the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) is great for seeing touring bands. Over the years I’ve seen some great gigs there – Brad Mehldau Trio, Branford Marsalis Quartet, Joe Lovano, etc.
BITW: Do you have any other creative outlets or does jazz take it all out of you?
GB: It’s not creative but I’m really into fitness- going to the gym etc. Jazz is my life, though.
BITW: The jazz album you’re currently addicted to? The non-jazz album you’re currently addicted to?
GB: John Coltrane The Stardust Sessions. The Beatles The White Album.
BITW: Anything else to add?
GB: As a bassist I’m really busy playing lots of different styles of music (not just Jazz), and I travel quite a bit all over Europe playing and meeting others from different countries. It’s a really great position to be in. I’m not sure I will do many ‘solo’ albums- certainly not one a year or anything. I just wanted to document a period in time and playing right now and hope that others enjoy it!!
Day of Reckoning by the Gavin Barras Quintet will be released June 11, 2012 on ASC Records.
6pac always looking to push boundaries….while bassist Gavin Barras anchors with big, well-rounded phrases
Manchester Evening News
The forthright bass of Gavin Barras heralds the start of the albums title track Akhenaten
Amazon.com review of Akhenaten by Nat Birchall
“….the spacial rhythm section Adam Fairhall piano, Gavin Barras bass and Gaz Hughes drums hint at the influence of Bill Evans, where the space between the notes almost mean as much as the notes themselves
“..Matthew Halsall: “I’ve been here before”….Gavin Barras on bass gave life to the tune’s slow pulse
..Trio Whackabas, (Dan Whieldon, piano; Gavin Barras, bass; Jonas Backman, drums), bring both freedom and cohesion to the trio format
Humphrey Littleton Best of Jazz BBC Radio 2
“…“Samatha”, meaning “calm” is the centre piece of the album and exhibits suitably Zen like qualities. There’s a sparseness to the sound with Barras’ low register purr
Ian Mann review of On the Go by Matthew Halsall