From the first track, ‘Attack and Defense Pyramids’ with its thunderous bass line overlaid with subtle guitar chords, to the final, ‘Contraband’, with the closest thing the album has to a drum solo, Jim Bashford’s Construction debut is full of interest.
Bashford’s outfit deliver taut, precise, evocative structured music. The drummer’s compositions offer order meets free improvisation in a blend which is never jarring and at times quite beautiful. ‘Saam Pai Fut (Three Times Praying To Buddha)’ sees the gentle theme stated by clarinet and ghosted by guitar before the ensemble raise it up a gear. ‘Syeung Don Teen (Space Between The Eyes)’ has a free electronic feel with overtones that sound Tibetan singing bowl-like with lots of spacey levels and busy drums that never stray into an actual solo. ‘Abandon’ comes close to a Prog Rock feel, Hilmar Jensson’s guitar grandly states the theme over Tim Harries’ strident bass and the leader’s rock solid drums. ‘The Octave Doctors and the Crystal Machine’, the only non Bashford composition, has an opening theme that put me curiously in mind of Zawinul’s ‘In a Silent Way’ but taken on a very different journey. This one is a Tim Blake composition. Elsewhere ‘HELM’ introduces a free, abstract, sound-collage which evokes scurrying creatures with its breathy saxophone and the instruments keys used percussively over a shifting restless drum movement. ‘Skavsta’ offers us more lovely tenor saxophone work from Robin Fincker who is a strong presence throughout Centreline Theory.
The band’s name Construction harks back to both Jim Bashford’s pre-music working life as a construction worker and to the way that the band build upon the drummers compositions. A while ago when I sat in conversation with Bashford as part of my Stolen Moments feature which offers a portrait both photographic and written of a jazz related individual, I asked how he structured his musical life and adherence to a martial arts practice. When not gigging with musicians as diverse as Paul Dunmall and Katie Melhua he told me he practices his instrument sometimes up to eight hours a day. When I marvelled at his dedication he said, “when you’ve spent up to as many hours a day sitting on a mechanical earth mover practising drums is a pleasure”. Jim Bashford is a disciplined, focused musician with an informed life philosophy which permeates his attitude to his music.
I leave you with a quote from the album sleeve; “This music is based on Wing Chun terminology and theory and the endless beauty of any arts that never cease to amaze and give a better understanding of humanity and nature”.
Centreline Theory is a very impressive debut and I hope to hear how this music continues to develop in a live context.