Saturday, June 1, 2024

GoGo Penguin's "From the North" & West Coast Tour: Jun 13 - 23

Following on GoGo Penguin's newest, an encapsulation of their performances "From the North: Live in Manchester", this month they embark on a US tour with dates on the west coast. Along the course of which stopping in at Seattle's Jazz Alley to present a sound which owes as much to the repetitive minimalism of John Adams and Philip Glass, as it does to techno, drum and bass, and big rock-oriented crescendos sourced from bands such as Japan's Mono and American indies like Explosions in the Sky. Chris Illingworth, Jon Scott, and Nick Blacka have been on an upward trajectory since their auspicious beginnings as Mercury Prize nominees and Gondwana Records artists. At the time sharing a label with such contemporaries as bandleader and label maven Matthew Halsall, and modern neo-jazz chamber ensembles like Portico Quartet. As GoGo Penguin they have since released a string of albums on the luminary Blue Note Records label and most recently for Sony's XXIM Records. The review of their fourth album in The Guardian gets to the core of their equation; "With drum kit, double bass and grand piano, Manchester trio GoGo Penguin look like an orthodox jazz trio, they’re even signed to the world’s most iconic jazz label. On their third album for Blue Note "A Humdrum Star", pianist Chris Illingworth lurches between spiky fugues, and Philip Glass-style minimalism, all the time powered by fluttering, junglist drums, slithering bass lines, and an increasing bank of Brian Eno-esque digital manipulations." Theirs is a sound that has cannily adapted this rush of electronic and indie rock music to a traditional acoustic lineup of piano, double bass and drums and produced a fusion that leans heavily into the quadrant of jazz. Other references can be heard in the ECM Records sound of Jon Scott's spare yet dynamic approach to the drums, and specifically in Chris Illingworth’s Esbjörn Svensson Trio influenced piano sound. The rhythm thrum of Nick Blacka's bass may be the most central jazz-focused of their characteristic sounds, but even he varies widely between laidback flow and breakneck pacing. As many of GoGo Penguin’s tracks shift between an inclination to speed up tempos, allow them to cool off, and then only return at even higher speeds. Yet their albums often shine the brightest as their least hurried, and it's these passages that define their strongest works like "V2.0", released on Gondwana. When they move into the rhapsodic territory that they share with the late Svensson’s trio, they are at their most compelling, building slow ascents back toward percussion and bass grooves that underpin the lightning flashes and small accents of Illingworth's piano. Photo credit: TJ Krebs