89CD - Article Xl - Live In Newcastle
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Article XI came together in 2014 when Anton was commissioned by the Manchester Jazz Festival to create a new set of music for large ensemble. This record continues the group's explorations into large ensemble collective composition, with two new pieces alongside re-imaginings of two pieces from their debut 2018 album. "Live in Newcastle" was recorded at the Bridge Hotel during a concert for Jazz North East, long-standing supporters of improvised music, and a night which bandleader Anton Hunter has had a long relationship with over the years, including one of the first live performances of Beck Hunters (his trio with brother Johnny Hunter and legendary saxophonist Mick Beck – see Discus 46CD ‘The Hunt Is On’ and 78CD ‘Has It Been Found?’). The concert was part of a 2017 double-bill tour with fellow large ensemble, Cath Roberts' Favourite Animals.
The bulk of the set is two new pieces. ‘Municrination’ was developed from an initial melodic idea of Anton’s which he brought to a trio rehearsal with Johnny Hunter and Graham South. They improvised their way through and around the fragments, recording the results as they went. Elements from this session were transcribed by Anton and went on to weave their way into the final piece, as part of Article XI’s on-going experiments in creating a large ensemble music that allows the individual voices to shine through.
The second new piece, ‘Always A Fox’, is named in honour of Leicester City’s surprising Premier League title win in 2016, with a knowing nod to all those who adopted them as the season progressed. Compositionally, Anton takes inspiration from Ken Vandermark’s modular approach. The piece is set up with 7 different sections, and the exact path navigated between them is altered for each performance, maintaining an uncertainty that keeps it fresh. Again, the material that makes up the finished piece has had contributions from band members, this time Tullis Rennie, Cath Roberts, Sam Andreae and Seth Bennett all recorded their own improvised responses to melodic ideas presented by Anton, out of these a collective identity for the piece arose, which is built on in performance every time.
The remaining two pieces are reimaginings of tracks from the group’s 2018 debut record. ‘Not The Kind Of Jazz You Like’ is named after a Stewart Lee joke and ‘I Dreamed I Spat Out A Bee’ is named for a dream that Anton’s partner had, which in turn inspired the fantastic artwork by trusted long-term collaborator Angela Guyton.
Having featured on several of Martin Archer’s projects (Story Tellers, Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis and the forthcoming fifth Julie Tippetts / Martin Archer album) as well as two Beck Hunters records, Anton is proud to be bringing Article XI into the fold at Discus Music.
Press quotes from the double bill tour:
“An absorbing and intriguing evening of uncompromising music making at the interface where the composed and the spontaneous conjoin to rewarding effect.” – The Jazz Mann, Birmingham
“A marvellous evening my only regret being that we only got to see one set of each band.” – Bebop Spoken Here, Newcastle
Visit Favourite Animals for more information.
Sam Andreae - alto saxophone
Oliver Dover - alto saxophone
Simon Prince - tenor saxophone & flute
Cath Roberts - baritone saxophone
Graham South - trumpet
Nick Walters - trumpet
Kieran McLeod - trombone
Tullis Rennie - trombone
Seth Bennett - double bass
Johnny Hunter - drums
Anton Hunter - guitar
Article XI is a project initiated by Anton Hunter in 2014 when he was commissioned by the Manchester Jazz Festival to create a set of works for a large ensemble. In 2018 they released their debut work on Efpi Records. Their latest recording is released by Discus music, which is no surprise as Hunter participated already on numerous releases for this label (Story Tellers, Ron Caines/Martin Archer Axis, Beck Hunter). The name of this ensemble refers to article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights defining the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, a freedom that is practised by this ensemble, as well freedom in another sense. Although their music starts from composed ingredients by Hunter, there is plenty of room for free improvisation what makes this one a collective undertaking. Hunter intends to give room to the specific characteristics and qualities of the musicians involved. Two titles ('Municrination’ and ‘Always A Fox’) are new ones and first recorded here. Article XI is another exponent of the lively Manchester-scene so well documented by Discus Music. In my perception, we are not on the forefront of new developments over here. But Manchester is fertile soil for a community of improvisers who practice their craft with enormous dedication and love. This live recording of 2017 is a perfect example of this. The open and inviting frames composed by Hunter provide an overall homogenous style, leading us through very introspective sections versus parts where they go full steam. There is room for solo improvisations as well as collective ones. Very free and open spaces are contrasted with more grooving sections. The performance is warm and enthusiastic with a modest presence by Hunter himself as a guitarist.- Dorf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY
Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights : Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests. Interesting in this Coronavirus (Covid -19) time that this right to assembly becomes a no no, and outright problem that carries fear in its pocket, to keep us from even thinking about close contact with even one other person, and surely not a crowd of people. But this is about music so away from the chaos and to some magnificent performance for your ears.
An especially intimate mingling of free jazz, free expression, peaceful assembly, and brilliant skillset among eleven exceptional musicians, all in the name of the human rights stated clearly in Article 11 of the European Convention. Although recorded live at the Bridge Hotel, 2017, along with a double bill tour with Favorite Animals, this not to be missed official release on Discus Music in 2020, is available in 6 panel digipak with standout artwork by Angela Guyton. Nothing short of incredible.
The 2nd release by Article XI, led by Anton Hunter, who has perked up my ears for several years in various outfits, some simply stunning, all staying in a utmost inventive field. On this live performance, the arrangements have rare air, and a fresh dash of impulse, yet they are fully loaded as if each and every note were rehearsed for a year or more (well actually 2 of the works are reinvented from their debut album). There is nothing shapeless or jumbled here, just plentiful puzzles of progressive thinking big band with tease, twists and boiling over attainment. Article XI reach for something or some things, and find heights much further up in reality.
The compositions are either 'reimaginnings' of previous arrangements or improvised parts from the musicians in response to a framework already established. ‘Municrination’ (opening track) was in fact birthed from a melody chain by Anton that he presented to Johnny Hunter (his brother) and Graham South, where they improvised around the parts, and then in the end, Anton wrote their results into the final composition. This is the magic that happens with the ensemble and one of several ways the pieces of music get creation and life.
The stellar performers are: Sam Andreae - alto saxophone / Oliver Dover - alto saxophone / Simon Prince - tenor saxophone & flute / Cath Roberts - baritone saxophone / Graham South - trumpet / Nick Walters - trumpet / Kieran McLeod - trombone / Tullis Rennie - trombone / Seth Bennett - double bass / Johnny Hunter - drums / and Anton Hunter - guitar. For this writer/listener, this is like finding another wave of life changers like I did back in the early 70's with Tippetts, anything goes jazz rock, Soft Machine, Henry Cow, and a wide assortment of avant-garde ensembles from all over the globe. I have a second bloodrush with all these implacable, multi metrical, prize releases coming my way over the last decade.
Article XI have slight of hand at times, hop into trespass mode, get robust, lay back, find a new fountainhead, and retreat only momentarily, sidestep, and then create a new groove, all in a flawless exhibition of first class resolution. Think a live album won't have the same zip or drive? WRONG! If anything, this outfit has more presence and punch than anything they could have done in the studio. Folks this is alive and as poignant as one could dream of. An unforgettable live musical performance. MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. - Lee Henderson, BIG BEAUTIFUL NOISE
Encouragement, like a great many aspects of life, can come from many quarters, and it’s downright encouraging, not to say grounds for optimism, to hear a large ensemble going about some musical business with vigour and a sense of purpose not unlike that which marks the largely Dutch ICP Orchestra’s work, albeit without such potent measures of iconoclasm and disruptive humour.
It’s a band that sounds live too, in the sense that if there are routines stitched into the fabric of this programme, they’re very much engulfed by the whole, happening in the moment, which maybe why Municrination can cover a wide expanse of ground, including an episode of more than convincing free play, without toppling over into striving for effect.
While there’s little of the cunning about Always A Fox, an enduring impression is of a band that knows its worth without having to grandstand about it. Freedom, in the sense of nothing predetermined, is embraced wholeheartedly, and without the borderline primal screaming which has with the passing of time and the documentation of records become something of a by-product of large free and near-free ensembles.
The initial hints of fractured pastoralism in Not The Kind Of Jazz You Like highlight how light and shade and the demands they make can be successfully evoked as long as a band retains its individual identities at the same time as it reads off the same page, so to speak.
So regardless of what state the jazz industry is in, whatever the hell that is / was, the object lesson that it’s not always the most visible names who produce the most substantial music applies in abundance to this release, and thus encourages this still curious yet often wearied and dismissive jazz hack to keep on looking, and to keep the ears open. – Nic Jones, JAZZ JOURNAL
I have been present at several live album recordings, perhaps the most notable was 40 years ago to the month that I was at Ronnie Scott's for Mole Jazz’s inaugural release, Blues for the Fisherman featuring the Art Pepper Quartet. A truly memorable evening that I still look back on with fondness to this day with the added bonus of being able to listen to the album knowing that somewhere I am featured within.
It was a great pleasure to receive the latest CD from Anton Hunter’s Article XI band Live in Newcastle. This album was recorded at The Bridge Hotel in December 2017 as part of a double bill with Cath Roberts’s Favourite Animals band. I remember giving the evening a very positive review on BSH.
The very first thing you get to hear on the recording is JNE’s Wesley Stephenson introducing the band. A double bass solo from Seth Bennett then kicks off the opening number, Municriation, before the horns join up. A fairly thoughtful passage ensues with everybody in the team getting a go. Finally, things really ramp up delivering a rip roaring rollicking driving tour de force.
Always A Fox is a tribute to Leicester City’s Premiership success in 2016 it seems to mirror the mighty Fox’s miracle season – scratchy and searching at first, it builds up to a triumphant strident blast as the title is secured before basking out in the reflected glory of their amazing feat. I look forward to the sequel, Forever a Magpie, to celebrate the Toon’s Premiership win in 2021.
Not The Kind of Jazz You Like could be dedicated to BSH supremo Lance but for me, it was just the kind of jazz I like – featuring a great baritone solo form Cath Roberts and then developing with a real swinging contemporary big band type of sound. Given that this was a live recording I was taken with how amazingly tight the 11 strong ensemble comes across.
The album concludes with the uplifting I Dreamed I Spat Out a Bee. As the evening came to a close I’m sure that I could hear myself clapping and cheering among the sizeable crowd. A great memento of a fine evening the CD cover has great artwork from Angela Guyton and on the inside cover there is even a photograph from BSH ace photographer Ken Drew. I am sure that even for those not lucky enough to be present on that December evening this CD would still provide a highly enjoyable listen. - Steve H, BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.” Reproduced in the liner notes here, and no doubt intended as a statement of left-wing political solidarity, these freedoms seem painfully out of reach right now for those of us languishing in lockdown: wallowing in a lonesome heartache that’s made all the more acute when contrasted with this rambunctious recording of an enthusiastically attended 2017 live show by the gregarious 11-piece ensemble founded and led by Manchester-based guitarist Anton Hunter. Which isn’t to say that the four longish pieces here aren’t still a lot of fun. It’s clear that Hunter and his squad – including brother Johnny Hunter on drums, bassist Seth Bennett, and saxophonists Sam Andreae and Cath Roberts (all of whom also play in Sloth Racket) – are entirely committed to exploring the various different routes to reconciling spontaneity and form suggested in Hunter’s compositions.
“Municrination” is based around a gleaming, brass-heavy theme, powered by Johnny Hunter’s mercurial drums: a crackling, loose-limbed funkiness full of seething snare rolls that seems to sit somewhere between a march and a groove. When the theme collapses under the weight of its own horns, the group dissolves to silence before entering an interval of pointillist dabs – the conceptual offspring of John Stevens’ Click Piece exercises – eventually finding its way back to the big thematic reprise. You can kind of see what’s coming, but it’s still an enjoyable ride. “Always A Fox”, the other new piece on the album, is purportedly inspired by Ken Vandermark’s modular approach and navigates seven separate sections – but you’d be hard pushed to pinpoint what’s happening, except that an extended interlude of smears and whinnies finally gives way to another meaty, rockish coda. “Not The Kind Of Jazz You Like” and “I Dreamed I Spat Out A Bee” are both re-imaginings of tracks from Article XI’s 2018 debut, both tackled with similar brio, the former providing an opportunity for the understated Hunter to vamp some filthily smudged chording. - Daniel Spicer, THE WIRE
Guitarist Anton Hunter’s eleven-strong ensemble is captured in a performance which shows impressive interweaving of compositions and group improvisation, wonderful varieties of texture and a shrewd eye on when to hold back and when to open the throttle.
Hunter created Article XI in 2014 when he was commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival to create new music for a large ensemble, with their eponymous debut album released in 2018. The name is taken from Article XI of the European Convention of Human Rights, the right to freedom of assembly and association with others, including forming and joining trade unions. This new release lets us eavesdrop on a live show from December 2017 at Newcastle’s Bridge Hotel, when the band was sharing the bill (and not a small number of musicians) with Cath Roberts’ Favourite Animals group.
The opening two tracks are new compositions. Municrination opens the show with bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter easing into a loping figure which brings in horns in a building melodic section. The music flows impressively; there are clearly written ideas being deployed as well as a good deal of freedom for the players. It’s a great credit to Anton Hunter that the join is never totally clear; sometimes it’s mostly written and then a moment later the extent of the improvising grows and floods around the band, like a pendulum moving back and forth. There’s an impressive trumpet solo from Nick Walters with the band gelling to provide some punchy backing, before the mood loosens again with ensemble blowing from brass and reeds; trombonist Kieran McLeod, seemingly on everyone’s list at the moment, is well to the fore.
Always A Fox is a nod to Leicester City football club’s Premier League triumph of 2016 and in particular to those whose allegiance grew (perhaps from nothing) as the season progressed. This piece takes a modular approach with seven sections which change order every time the work is performed, keeping it particularly fresh for the musicians. The compositional process had group members including trombonist Tullis Rennie and saxophonist Sam Andreae improvising responses to Anton Hunter’s melodic ideas, which were then used in constructing the overall work. Whatever, it makes for an engaging 11 minutes, with similar ebbing and flowing of improvisation and scored material where massive ensemble sections give way to gentler improvised passages. Simon Prince’s flute is a key voice here.
The other two tracks are from the debut album, although this being an improvising band they are not exact replicas. Not The Kind Of Jazz You Like, named after a Stewart Lee joke, features some particularly impressive baritone sax multiphonics from Cath Roberts and another belting trombone passage from Kieran McLeod. I Dreamed I Spat Out A Bee, a vivid title if ever there was one, builds into a fast and furious climax, and it’s only at this stage we realise the degree of restraint that the group has been using for so much of the preceding music. It’s all too easy to slide into full-of-sound-and-fury, signifying-nothing mode with large-group improvising, and Anton Hunter does a great job at marshalling his resources and deploying them with precision.
This is another impressive output from this group of young musicians who seem to be exploring all kinds of collaborations and methods. The music bears repeated listening very well, with the continuous flexing of musical muscle giving plenty of interest and variety. The sound recording is top quality (not always the case in upstairs pub room settings) and it’s well worth getting the physical CD for the excellent cover art by Angela Guyton. Another very interesting output from the never-knowingly-under-committed Discus Music. - Mark McKergow, LONDON JAZZ NEWS