Let’s have a quick test to start with: who is the odd one out between Johnny Mathis, Van Morrison, Laura Mvula and fresh out the blocks jazz duo Run Logan Run? The answer isn’t just that only one of those acts has been reviewed on A Closer Listen, but that Mathis, Morrison and Mvula feature on the recent release Now That’s What I Call Jazz, a title that is going to confuse a lot of people, principally because at least two-thirds of the music contained therein is not jazz. The third disc does pay lip service to jazz with the inclusion of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus but in comparison to what has gone before that will presumably leave listeners scratching their heads. It’s somewhat of a giveaway that iTunes list Now That’s What I Call Jazz under ‘Pop’.
So, an inaccurately titled compilation assembled by somebody with a tin ear to the genre – that is annoying but it’s a situation that has been made worse by the fact that they could have included some new artists. Jazz has never really gone away, but it has evolved over the years, tapping into the zeitgeist from time to time – and now is one of those moments, when jazz musicians are finding their music played on mainstream radio and not just confined to jazz shows, and appearing at festivals on the bigger stages. It’s been a gradual process but the likes of Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings and GoGo Penguin are the sort of artists who should be brightening up Now That’s What I Call Jazz. To that roll-call we could also include Run Logan Run (that’s right, they aren’t on there now).
With a name that could be inspired by three different movies – although given that their first EP had a track call “Logan’s Run” on it, I think we can narrow it down somewhat – you might be forgiven that Run Logan Run would sound cinematic; the old ‘unrealised soundtrack’, that sort of approach. Certainly the opening “The Ladder” has a late-night, noir-ish feel to it but overall, the duo have crafted a six track album that’s much more intense than impressionistic, even the quieter bits. As there is just the two of them, there’s a quite a lot of multi-tasking; the drums fill in the bass sounds where needed and Andrew Neil Hayes uses a few effect pedals to give the saxophone added echoes; there’s also a sampler providing added layers of ambience. There’s often a muscular power to the sax, and Dan Johnson has the willingness to step back from the kit in favour of more atmospheric cymbal work.
There have been a long line of sax / drum duos, and there’s no shortage of comparisons that we could draw but when everything clicks together, like the tight groove of “Post-Human” then it’s probably best to assess Run Logan Run alongside their peers rather than those who have gone before. The further into the album we get, the more the tracks spread out and develop beyond the initial riffs; Johnson and Hayes have developed the sixth sense that you hope to get with improvising musicians. It’s easy to imagine these pieces being expanded and honed night after night and it still feels like there are places to go, that these aren’t the final, absolute, finished article.
The Delicate Balance of Terror is a lot more approachable than the name suggests; it’s inventive, and accessible and has a lot of variety in its six tracks. It’s a real statement of intent and it’s likely that Run Logan Run have a lot more to offer, provided they make it past 30 years of age – fellas, better keep an eye on your life clocks. (Jeremy Bye)