Binker and Moses ‘Dem Ones’ (Gearbox) 3/5

binker-and-mosesTenor saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd have teamed up with Gearbox Records to produce “Dem Ones”, an uncompromising album of conversational jazz. The two musicians first met in the development program of Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors and have since gone on to perform together in Zara McFarlane’s band, whilst also playing in Boyd’s The Exodus. The pair obviously share a musical connection and understanding, this being very apparent throughout the recording. The premise for this album is a horn-drums duet, an unforgiving format that unquestionably has to rely largely on the chemistry between the two musicians. For the most part I feel this works really well, though I do question just how long a listener can be engaged in this setting, however good the music may be. If you’re in the right head space it can be incredibly rewarding, but the harsh reality is that if you’re not, it’s just not going to do it for you. For this listener the duo are at their best when playing with a rhythmic fluidity, such as we hear on the tracks “Black Ava Maria” and “Man Like GP”. Both of these tunes supply us with some incredible interplay, Golding and Boyd sizzling with invention, creating their own utopian universe along the way. Ideas bounce between the two so fast and furiously that the element of surprise is a pleasure to behold. The music has an ethereal flow to it, one that sees the duo traversing similar pathways and wavelengths before veering off in different directions, like a parallel universe where natural telepathy allows them to fire their notes into the air and watch them come together with an unseen unifying magnetic force. The duo transform themselves on “ESU” into a more thought provoking, lighter atmosphere. Esoteric in nature, the tune rises and falls with its repeating birdsong motif hovering playfully above an earthy, grounded solidity. The longest number of the session is “The Creeper”. This is a more involving piece, with time and space for the duo to explore and extrapolate sounds and nuances as they journey into their own inner space, almost casually building a bridge of light and dark, crossing each other’s paths, separating and re-focussing. “No Long Tings” is more showy, smoke and fire shooting out from both the drums and sax. A whirlwind of conjured sound spitting with venom. There are hints throughout this session of Sonny Rollins and Elvin Jones, or perhaps Coltrane and Rashied Ali. And overall this a very engaging album with some serious highs mixed with the occasional yawn of predictability. Full credit to Mark Ronson’s Zelig Studios in Kings Cross for bringing out a lovely warm, valve driven sound from the recording, giving that rare successful crossover of a retro yet modernistic sound in the same breath. And a serious big-up to Gearbox for helping shine new light on the British jazz scene whilst sticking to their audiophile guns.

Mike Gates