Binker & Moses ~ Feeding The Machine

If you think of jazz music’s evolution, you may think of locations – from its birth in New Orleans to the development of bebop New York, from the ‘cool’ of west coast jazz to the colder climes of Scandinavian jazz. In these places, communities have sprung up, musicians have collaborated and joined each others’ projects – a vital cross-fertilisation of ideas that enables development and allows a relatively small group of people to be prolific. Although jazz has never really gone away, it is currently enjoying a moment in the spotlight – and in particular, London’s scene is proving particularly fertile.

This did not happen by accident. Over 30 years ago, the Tomorrow’s Warriors project was created, a London-based organisation that provides a platform for jazz musicians wanting to learn and develop. Alumni from the project include Nubya Garcia (who had an entire Proms concert dedicated to her work last year), Yazz Ahmed, Shabaka Hutchings (a member of Sons Of Kemet and The Coming Is Coming), and many others. Binker Golding and Moses Boyd also came through the Tomorrow’s Warriors project; of the two, Boyd has the higher profile. His solo album Dark Matter was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize 2020, and he’s presented on BBC 6 Music and 1Xtra. They formed Binker & Moses in 2014; Feeding The Machine is the third studio album as a duo – although they rarely operate purely as a two-piece.

Feeding The Machine was recorded over three days in March 2021, the duo’s improvisations manipulated by Max Luthert, who is usually a double bass player. In this instance, he was tasked to ‘distort the hell out of the sound in some places and create a landscape in others’, as Binker Golding puts it. The sessions were recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios and engineered and mixed by Hugh Padgham, who won a Grammy for his work on Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required. These are not credits we would expect on a free jazz session; an indication of how Binker & Moses’ star has risen recently. One key benefit is that the recording sounds fantastic – it’s like sitting in the same room watching the ideas pour out from the musicians, one after another.

We get a sense of how the trio work in the opening bars of “Asynchronous Intervals,” as Luthert loops and distorts Golding’s saxophone into a repeating pattern that provides a base for Golding to play over. Boyd provides a sympathetic percussive backing; he’s laid back when he needs to be, then flying around the toms as the track builds to a crescendo. His real showcase is on “Feed Infinite,” when he expands from a pattern of busy rimshots to a frantic beat, backed by Luthert’s bleeps and bloops. This is not extravagant, showboating drumming – even in his most free moments, Boyd is very much the engine room, keeping the beat ticking over. Golding shines on the closing “Because Because,” his soprano sax introduced over an ambient bed, finding a melody before building into an evolving loop of echoing saxophones. It sounds bewildering but is blissful. The satisfied ‘Yup’ spoken at the close is the perfect way to end.

The improvisational saxophone/drums partnership has quite the history in jazz, from John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space (with Rashied Ali) through the Han Bennink & Evan Parker pairing and the Paul Flaherty / Chris Corsano duo. Some of these pairings have been rather inaccessible to the casual listener. By contrast, Feeding The Machine is about as welcoming as an improvised jazz album can be; Golding’s saxophone breathes fire at times, but Boyd provides an anchor that holds on to even the most out-there playing. If you enjoyed Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders’ mighty Promises last year, then Feeding The Machine is the next step along the road to enlightenment. (Jeremy Bye)

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