Binker and Moses ‘Alive in the East?’ LP/CD/DIG (Gearbox) 4/5

Captured live during a June 2017 recording at the thriving Total Refreshment Centre in north east London, this, the third duo album by saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd adding to the growing catalogue of UK (but mainly London-based) jazz releases from this young community of players and artists. Again, additional musicians are utilised including award-winning and legendary trumpeter Byron Wallen, supplementary drummer Yussef Dayes who is also one half of the now defunct Yussef Kamaal, UK veteran free jazz saxophonist Evan Parker and previous live collaborator and contributor to ‘Journey to the Mountain of Forever’, harpist Tori Handsley.

The set begins with ‘The Birth of Light’, which is essentially a drumming showcase by Moses and quite unusual for the start of an LP release to contain such a drum focused track as its first. ‘How Land Learnt To Be Still’ includes auxiliary saxophone lines from Evan Parker as well as additional harp voiceings by Tori Handsley for one of the most textured and longest of the set at just over 8 minutes in length. Definitely a personal favourite. The harp is also a prominent feature of third track ‘The River’s Tale’, with its shuffle dominated rhythms which again feature Evan Parker and trumpeter Byron Wallen within the first half for possibly the most accessible piece of ‘Alive In The East?’. ‘How Fire Was Made’ is a fiery uptempo jam with ostinato phrasing and additional freer saxophone elements combined with the loose but tight drumming of Moses and Yussef.

At 1’19”, ‘How Air Learnt To Move’ feels like a short transitional segment between compositions rather than a full-blown track or even an intro for the next track ‘Children of the Ultra Blacks’, itself a somewhat continuum of ‘The Valley of the Ultra Blacks’ from their previous album. This vigorous and dynamic piece is the funkiest of the album, although, this is by no means funk but it does possess a hip hop head nod quality. Byron’s trumpet sets the agenda before the saxophones intertwine especially towards the final few minutes, with the harp providing the musical backbone whilst the percussive drum parts become more frantic over its duration. The final section establishes a cacophony of sonics that is almost trance-like. ‘Mishkaku’s Tale’ is a more retrained affair, if that’s the correct term, and I particularly enjoyed the harp embellishments after the midpoint which are almost guitar like, but Binker and Moses would definitely miss Tori Handsley if absent. Other notable compositions include, dare I say it, the jazzy ‘Beyond The Edge’ and the atmospheric ‘The Death of Light’.

For those who have enjoyed previous Binker and Moses releases then this is a no brainer – and this is my favourite of the three albums. The offerings of the ‘guests’ cannot be understated, especially the work of Tori Handsley, a previous UK Vibe interviewee. I know Tori has her own band which has included Moses, but her improvisational work, phrasing and understanding of collaboration heavily contributes to the success of this recording. Clocking in at around 45 minutes in length and containing ten tracks, ‘Alive In The East?’ is at times unashamedly raw and energetic as anything you’ll hear this year. Some of the playing is blisteringly frantic and at other times much more subdued and poignant – thus, very much akin to the experience of a live show. Additionally, being part of the Gearbox community, the vinyl based record label, studio complex and post production facility will do them no harm, as the current interest in vinyl culture has simultaneously supported the advance in new jazz recordings within the UK.

The phrase ‘semi free jazz’ perfectly suits this project with Binker and Moses very much at the forefront of young jazz in London. Mosh pit jazz anyone?

Damian Wilkes