Text and reviews for Engine Room Favourites





Martin Archer - Sopranino, alto, baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, bass recorder
Mick Beck - Tenor saxophone, bassoon
Graham Clark - Violin
Laura Cole - Piano and Fender piano
Corey Mwamba - Vibraphone
Seth Bennett - Double bass
Peter Fairclough - Drums and percussion
Johnny Hunter - Drums and percussion
Walt Shaw - Percussion
Steve Dinsdale - Percussion 



A band of band leaders, comprising some of the most creative new voices on the scene plus some maverick veterans. You decide who is which. A front line which is as sophisticated as it is rough edged. Complex interplay from piano and vibes flanking them from either side of the stage. And a rhythm powerhouse of four percussionists, collectively able to move from the most delicate and unexpected little instrument textures through to a barely containable percussive storm.


The band aesthetic remains true to Archer's earliest experience in creative music, as a follower of the AACM school of music pioneered by Art Ensemble of Chicago, Leo Smith, and Anthony Braxton. This is a style which has never been really followed up by European musicians, nevertheless it remains the model for Archer's contributions to jazz based music. Archer has said "the appeal of this style to me is that it remains considered, spacious and open, without sacrificing any of the improvisational heat and energy which places its exponent players firmly in the avantgarde tradition. And crucially, it never disconnects from its own past, in particular the blues, no matter how abstract it gets. It's that very mix of pure abstraction with the directness and energy of the sound that I continue to find so compelling in this music.".


Engine Room Favourites are not postmodernists, not retro stylists, but instead keep their eyes and ears firmly on a forward path jazz might have taken in the next period, but never quite did.




Here, Archer's bountiful resourcefulness once again shines radiantly within a large ensemble format.....This release is yet another example of his far-reaching proclivities and fertile imaginative powers. - Glenn Astarita, ALL ABOUT JAZZ 


Vital, engaging stuff - Marcus O'Dair, JAZZWISE


Engine Room Favourites - at the Bridge Hotel Newcastle 

It sounds like a recipe for chaos. A 10-piece band (four of them drummers) drawn from the ranks of the Northern improv scene, and including such free spirits as Mick Beck, Corey Mwamba and Walt Shaw . . . isn’t that a template for complete cacophony? Exhilarating, perhaps, but cacophony nonetheless.


Yet under the leadership of Martin Archer this came together as a beautifully structured edifice, within which any number of freely evolving details threw up surprises at every turn. The first piece was typical (if you can use such a term for such freewheeling music): described by Martin as “a medley of everything we have ever played”, it achieved the remarkable feat of sounding tightly organised yet completely spontaneous – a tribute to the way the leader cajoled and conducted the band throughout, while still finding time to contribute some outstanding playing of his own. In fact everybody was at the top of their game, seemingly enthused by the joyous spirit of the occasion. At the end of the evening, the buzz of excitement amongst audience and musicians alike was palpable. Two months later I’m still buzzing!" - PAUL BREAM, PROMOTER


Engine Room Favourites - at The Lescar Sheffield

Just a brilliant gig from Martin Archer's Engine Room Favourites tonight , a full house for free jazz & a few minds blown! - JEZ MATTHEWS, PROMOTER


BACKGROUND (Martin Archer interviewed by Jonny Drury)

 I never really quite understood why the music, which for convenience we may call jazz, ever stopped moving in a straight time line. I mean, if you listen to the earliest available recordings, move forward via New Orleans, Swing, Bebop, Hard Bop, Modal, Time-no-changes, Free Jazz, and on into the music made by the AACM school in the 1970s and 1980s, then it seems obvious to me that you're hearing a continuum in which each new generation added to the discoveries of the previous one. The music didn't get "better" or "more sophisticated", it's all good (or at least it can be), but it certainly did develop.


So maybe it's just impossible to develop the music any further and still call it jazz. That seems to be what happened as the music took a sidestep in the 1980s. Free jazz increasingly became a free improvised music which was ever less reliant on jazz feel and technique. Other jazz players moved into more rock influenced structures. Maybe it was natural this had to happen - certainly a very similar thing happened to pop music in the same period.


So what's different now? Well, it seems like many of the current jazz generation have rejected the regressive model of the 1980s and 1990s, and have started playing whatever the heck they want, and some of it is very good. So it was time to pick up the ruler, put one end at 1989 and the other at 2019, and draw a straight line, and then follow it.

If Engine Room Favourites is lucky, and works hard, we might just draw that line a little further forward into the future.




 Martin Archer
Following an early career with 1980s jazz punk pell mellers Bass Tone Trap, followed by the fondly remembered and widely gigged Hornweb Sax Quartet, Martin disappeared into the recording studio for 15 years in 1994, from where he produced a series of highly acclaimed albums for his own Discus imprint. In recent years, as well as forging a three album creative partnership with veteran vocalist Julie Tippetts, Martin currently works with avant rock groups Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere and Combat Astronomy, 40 voice experimental music choir Juxtavoices, minimalist improv to nu-jazz laptop duo Inclusion Principle, and most recently Engine Room Favourites, in which Martin revisits his AACM roots.


Mick Beck
Accomplished soloist to big band leader, Beck combines intensity, humour, and musicality to bridge pure improvisation and free jazz. His bassoonery is unique, tenor playing powerful, whistles inputs striking. His solo CD, Life Echoes is one of the deepest explorations of all his instruments. Mick was recently featured in Jonny Drury's biog film "Rather Different".


Graham Clark
Graham has been improvising on the violin since the mid-seventies, and has played with all kinds of extraordinary musicians, including Graham Massey, Andy Sheppard, Keith Tippett, Daevid Allen, Gong, Ravi, Jah Wobble, Mark Feldman, Lamb, Elbow, Stephen Fretwell, Stephen Grew, and Jean Claude Vannier. Now, it is Martin Archer's turn.


Laura Cole
Pianist/composer Laura Cole began playing the piano at the age of seven. Laura later joined the Sheffield Jazz Workshops, going on to do a BA in Jazz at Middlesex University, for which she obtained a First. Laura is the bandleader for contemporary jazz/folk sextet Metamorphic and also runs an improvising big band with bassist Seth Bennett.


Corey Mwamba
I work using sound, both on my own and with other creative people. I try to express the many aspects of life, both real and imaginary, to anyone who will listen


Seth Bennett
Seth Bennett is a Double Bassist, Improviser and Composer based in Bradford. He is active on the Northern Improvisation scene, as well as touring nationally and internationally. Regular bands include 7 Hertz, Nut Club, The Mary Hampton Cotillion and Mick Beck's Tunes Ahoy. He is also co-leader of the Bennett-Cole Orchestra.


Peter Fairclough
Peter Whittingham Award winner, Peter Fairclough, has played and/or recorded with Keith Tippett, Mike Westbrook, Ute Lemper, John Harle, The Bournemouth Sinfonietta, The Matrix Ensemble, Peter King and many others. He has 5 CD releases of his own; Shepherd Wheel, Wild Silk, Imago (both with Keith Tippett), Permission and Momentarily.


Johnny Hunter
Johnny comes from a background of both Avant-Garde and more mainstream Jazz. He plays a wide range of music round the North of England, from Dub/Reggae to Free Improvisation via Sanders/Coltrane inspired Modal Jazz. Johnny is also composer and band-leader for the Reggae group, 'Skamel', and his "chord-less" quartet." - johnnyhuntermusic.com


Walt Shaw
Walt Shaw is a percussionist immersed in free improvisation, experimental music and collaborations with other disciplines, contemporary dance and live art. He has performed throughout the UK, and in France, Germany, Hungary and Bosnia. He plays with SCHH, Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, Birmingham Improvisers Orchestra, Mwamba / Shaw duo, and Mahood. 



Steve Dinsdale

Following a colourful apprenticeship on the London indie circuit, Steve Dinsdale has played Keyboards and Drums in UK space rock outfit Radio Massacre International for the best part of 20 years. He has contributed to over 30 albums in this band's name. He is also a founding member of Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere alongside Martin Archer.