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CD: Black Top - # One | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Black Top - # One

CD: Black Top - # One

A powerful, genre-defying debut album from the shape-shifting ensemble

Sharp-edged clarity and surging counterpoint: Black Top

Initiated in the latter part of 2011 by Jazz Warrior and multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist/sound sculptor Pat Thomas, I saw the shape-shifting ensemble Black Top play an incredible gig as a sextet at its spiritual home, Café Oto, as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival. It was my favourite performance of that year's edition, by a country mile.

The elements that so impressed that night - the mercurial interplay, the constant textural shifts, the brilliant musicianship and the playfulness with which the ensemble deconstructed and reassembled their chosen material - are all heard to powerful effect on this genre-defying debut album.

Recorded live as part of 'Jazz in the Round' at London's Cockpit Theatre in January 2012, the core duo are joined on the debut by special guest, saxophonist Steve Williamson (part of the sextet that blew the roof off Café Oto). And it's Williamson who kicks off album opener, "There Goes The Neighbourhood!", with a huge clarion call of melody that prompts increasingly impassioned interjections in piano and marimba. Gradually building up an intricately crafted web of motifs, the sharp-edged clarity of the playing and the surging counterpoint is completely gripping.

The 23-minute "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" is a remarkable, multilayered centrepiece which elicits a stunning performance from the trio, a vast patchwork of rhythmically highly-charged blocks which, at its climactic point, superimposes the hypnotic programmed beats with the teaming polyrhythms of the live instruments in a joyous dance.

The third and final slice of Black Top's artistry, "Archaic Nubian Stepdub", provides the clearest example of how the group adroitly constructs layers of clearly differentiated material - looped beats, samples, circular melodic riffs, repeating chordal blocks - and in their singular way transforms them into something exhilaratingly new.

Overleaf: Watch Black Top perform an excerpt from "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner"

'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?' is a remarkable, multilayered centrepiece which elicits a stunning performance from the trio

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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