NEWS AND REVIEWS
FORQ turned up at Phase One to play a set of stonking jazz as Getintothis’ Lee Grimsditch reports while Getintothis’ Jonathan Butters chatted to the band about working in different cities, the future of jazz and more.
It never fails to amaze us what you can experience on a typical Wednesday night in Liverpool these days.
FORQ, an American jazz fusion band made up of Grammy award winners and a fella who played keyboards for Bowie, and was his musical director on Lazarus, just happen to be playing in Phase One on a mid-week hump day.
And you can go see them for about the price of a round. Not bad that is it?
For this to happen we have Parrjazz (Liverpool’s best-established jazz night and musical collective) to thank.
Tonight they’re hosting headliners FORQ and support band Sleeping Dragon – a local electronic/drum’n’Bass instrumental trio.
The opening of the venue is 30 minutes late due to technical difficulties during the soundcheck.
No great problem and gives the jazzers (is that even a term for jazz fans?) time to form a cordial and chatty, BoHo snake along Seel Street.
Eventually, we’re let through the doors into the cosy hub of Phase One.
The room is candle-lit, decked with fairy lights and Chesterfield sofas which serve to enhance our expectations that we’re about to experience an eclectic evening of thoughtful, beard scratching music.
It’s a late start and the crowd have already filled up all the available seats, leaving the rest of us to find suitable spots to lounge against – it is a jazz night.
It’s only when Sleeping Dragon start their first song that it’s apparent it’s not that type of gig – these boys have a real thump about them.
They move tightly through a short set that pits light synth passages up against galloping bass fuzz and hard, syncopated drum rhythms.
A particular highlight is Fire All Weapons, which begins slowly with atmospheric keys and percussive fills that build up into a heavy, metallic groove with hard, jagged synth stabs – and it’s all alarmingly danceable.
The headliners FORQ are greeted warmly.
They come with an impressive CV, and with it, high expectations.
After a friendly greeting from band leader, co-founder and former Bowie keys man, Henry Hey, they drop straight into their opening number.
It’s a lushly layered fusion of bluesy jazz with the kind of good-time vibe you would likely hear from the house orchestra coming back from an ad break on a late-night US talk show.
That’s no bad thing here, it sets an upbeat mood for the evening and proves to be a great example of FORQ’s skill at playing funky, fusion grooves in major keys without wading into syrupy or saccharine waters.
Never allowing the music to become muzak – Forq demonstrate themselves to be masters of building and releasing sonic tension, combing groove with moments of complexity before taking the music into new directions without a warning, yet it never jars or feels forced.
In fact, it would be difficult to review FORQ on the particular merits of individual songs as opposed to moments they create during the set that surprise and please the ear.
I think that’s what good jazz is about: these moments within the music.
Sure it can be difficult and the good stuff often demands from us the effort that some are not always in the habit of giving, particularly when it comes to music.
Tonight, the audience in Phase One was gifted many such moments as their appreciation was teased out by the band’s spontaneity, and ability to lead mesmerising creative wanderings back to the big, hummable musical motifs from their three albums, and a few new ones from an album coming this Autumn.
Tonight, FORQ’s performance leaves little doubt that they possess a playful, enjoyable synergy between the four musicians on stage.
The audience danced to the pulsing funk and whooped and applauded to show their appreciation during the braver musical moments.
And at the end of an enjoyable night, it was one jazz hat spotted, one skin-tight striped cartoon burglar top, and no turtle neck jumpers except for the one I had in my wardrobe and was too chicken shit to wear.
An audience assembled in the main exhibition space of the British Music Experience as Getintothis’ Jonathan Butters chatted with FORQ.
Running through the band we have Henry Hey on keyboards (David Bowie, Empire of the Sun, George Michael, Donny McCaslin), Chris McQueen on guitar (Snarky Puppy , Bokanté), Kevin Scott on bass (Wayne Krantz, Jimmy Herring, Donny McCaslin) and Jason “JT” Thomas on drums (Snarky Puppy, Roy Hargrove, D’Angelo, Marcus Millar).
Henry, Jason (JT), Kevin and Chris were dragged away from the Led Zeppelin and Bowie displays, arranged on the stage and handed coffees and mics.
We passed on apologies from the advertised interviewer, The Farm’s Keith Mullin, who had a serious vocal condition requiring rest.
Visitors wandered around the displays and pop music from the past 50 years could be heard in the background, reminding us how important the UK and Liverpool have been in world musical culture.
FORQ was co-founded by Henry Hey and Snarky Puppy bassist Michael League.
Getintothis: Michael talks about you playing together in NYC and said of Henry “he’s kind of like my big brother in NYC, actually the guy who convinced me to move there and got me a steady gig which allowed me to afford it“ What was that gig? How did FORQ then evolve from it?
Henry: “We hung around the 55 Bar in NYC. Mike and I plus mutual friends would see and play with well-known jazz musicians like Chris Potter, Brian Lane.
I was in the band Rudder before Mike’s band Snarky Puppy had starting touring. We started playing together and it was so good, we put a band together. The NYC scene was similar then to what it is now.”
Getintothis: How did the current line up come about?
Henry: “JT has been the only drummer, ever.
We did one gig with Adam Rogers as the original guitarist, but he was too busy for touring. Mike suggested Chris McQueen and he immediately went off into deep end sonically, wow!
He’s an amazing collaborator, a mad scientist.
However, Mike was always very generous with everyone and never said no, so tended to take off more than he could handle.
I saw Kevin Scott playing and he was awesome. So, I subbed-out Mike’s roll on the bass for a trial period and it worked so he was replaced. Snarky had just won a Grammy so he was OK with it.
In the past 2 years FORQ really feels like a band, and we have new album and tour in October 2019. It goes further down the radical sonic direction. The new album is going to be called “Four”.
Chris: “Adam Rogers was a hero of mine and he invited me to join FORQ.
Although we are well-known in our own right, FORQ is definitely not an all-star jazz ensemble. We write with a real purpose.”
Getintothis: How do you write when you don’t live in the same parts of the US?
JT: “I’m in Dallas Texas, Chris in Austin Texas, Kevin in Atlanta, Henry in NYC.
The only time together is a rehearsal prior to a tour and during soundchecks – generally we have two days to get ready.
Everyone writes on their own at home and then shares with the band. We exchange voice messages on our iPhones and we always write thinking how the others will interpret it.
I generally think “how weird can we make this?” With this new record we had a week to work through the stuff – a real luxury!
Everyone writes loads. One thing I want to pass onto to all you guys, never empty your trash, there could be a gem in there!
We all, take a shared responsibility. This helps with four distinctive voices working as a band. We generate sketches, notes, clips, collages – all of the above. What pulls it together is our improvisation.”
Henry: “Here’s something we’ve learnt. If you are struggling to complete your new tunes, book a gig or a recording session, you’ll get it done. It’s normal to struggle. Hard deadlines and pressure are good for the creative process and deadlines stop the procrastination.”
Kevin: “Since I joined, I’m pretty much part of the writing team now.”
Getintothis: Your third album, Thrēq, is quite dancey – bass and drums driving the groove – are you fans of dance music?
Chris: “Yes, we’re all amazing dancers (laughs). Our tunes are built on a sonic groove, even in weird time signatures.”
Getintothis: Cowabunghole, from Thrēq, is like a fusion of Northern Soul and Acid Jazz. Are these influences?
Chris: ”I wrote it, but I see it as a Surf song.”
Getintothis: Do you see yourselves within the Jazz genre?
Kevin: “ No, wouldn’t class myself as a jazz musician, jazz is very serious, with a jazz vocabulary, I don’t speak jazz any more I’ve forgotten the vocab.”
Henry: “Jazz, is it a style, a sound, blues based, swing? We’re improvisational, yes – FORQ is closer to jazz than pop. But we’re not set like pop. We have depth, influences, and we change and grow.”
Getintothis: What are the upcoming plans for the band? Another album? More shows?
Henry: “New album.Simply called Four.
FORQ are currently on a “jet-lag” tour but will also tour when the
album’s out in the fall. We’ll play the Jazz Café, London in October and
will be announcing some more dates.“
Chris: “Some other interesting things will come out along with the album!!!”
Getintothis: We are sat in the iconic Cunard Building, home of the Cunard liners (a British /American cruise company), Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth etc. Liverpool to New York was one of the main routes from the UK to the USA so it’s fitting that we are sat here today. The British Music Experience Museum charts the evolution of British Rock and Pop music from 1945 until now.
What elements of British rock and pop have been particularly influential to you all and what work have you done with British artists?
Henry : ”All the artists presented in the museum have been significant influences on us.
David Bowie (who I worked with on The Next Day and Lazarus the musical with Chris McQueen). I like the Spice Girls for their charm and attitude.
Getintothis: JT, what do you think of Ringo?
JT: “He’s great, I spent my career learning how to play like the greats, ready in case that was the sound I was required to provide.”
Kevin: “Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream. My grandmother was British, and she got me into the post big band stuff, pop singers from the 1950s, more than American bands, really, when I was growing up.”
Chris : ”Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Stones.”
Kevin: “I hung around London and spent a lot of time with Mumford and Sons!
Getintothis: Reading about your work there are references to writing and arranging on major film soundtracks, did you study film composition at college? How did you first break into this kind of work?
Henry: “My first career direction was about pursuing writing for pictures – film and TV. I had some great mentors who helped connect me with the industry and the process.
The music is to support the picture, not to stand-alone on its own.
However, I realised my future career would be solitary, sat in front of a computer screen. I loved the way the music is very specific to the edit but missed the collaborative nature of a band so moved on. I still play sessions for other composers.
Getintothis: Aside from playing with FORQ, Snarky Puppy and Bokante, you have designed and built the Guitar Note Atlas, an app for iPhone and iPad to help guitar and bass students learn the fretboard. Did you do this all independently or with the help of an IT expert? Can you talk us through how it works?
Chris : ”I started doing all myself as I felt it would really help people developing their guitar playing. It was originally online. I soon realised people were moving away from online stuff and wanted an app. So, I got it pretty much there and then got some great guys to finish it off.
JT: “I remember when I was a kid I made a kit out of a bunch of boxes, buckets, hubcaps, and whatever else I could find in my grandfather’s backyard. Man…that was a great kit! What was driving you to make a drum kit specifically? Not a guitar for example..
My father played drums so that was what I grew up with. I dug all this junk out from the garage and built it. It looked awesome, sounded horrible (laughs).”
Getintothis: You are renowned for playing different styles of music. When playing with D’Angelo would that require a completely different set up and approach than for Marcus Millar?
JT: “D’Angelo, I was not originally intended to be the drummer so when I arrived I was provided with a very different kit – 26” Bass Drum, 13” Snare, 18” Floor tom and two cymbals – nothing like my kit.
I’d never played that configuration before, ever. I decided to make it sound like a big ol’ 1970s kit – honour the groove.
How would a 70s drummer play it? D’Angelo said I sounded like an old man drumming – that was what I wanted.
Marcus was more normal, though my mindset had to change. You’re supporting him. Don’t interact with him. He’s a drummer in his head so don’t trip him up, you’ll be stepping on his toes. Stay with the groove. Steady time but not boring – let him do his thing. Easiest person ever to work with, almost too easy (laughs)!”
Getintothis: You host a long-standing Monday night jam session in Atlanta, how do you approach this and deal with the various personalities and experience levels of a jam crowd?
Kevin: “My jam ran for fourteen years, but it’s stopped for the while as I’m busy with other things. I went on a pilgrimage to NYC and it gave a boost and I wanted to do an all improvised jam. NYC is the place! I’ll probably restart it in NYC. Once I put on a 12 hour jam – 8pm to 8am – thirty bands, insane.
Getintothis: On April 1st 1919 the first American jazz band (The ODJB) arrived in Liverpool. Jazz music has come a long way since then, where do you see it going over the next 100 years?
Kevin : “Machines taking over – AI!”
Chris: ”Feeling, playing with musicians, effects, music initiated by a person. This is different from machine generated music and will always find a way through technological innovations.“
Henry : “The changes in technology have impacted on popular music – you can deconstruct it and rebuild it.
The speed of technological change has picked up in 30 years. It has given us improved access to a lot of music, not necessarily great music.
Tech will become more integrated but there will still be a need for people to express themselves. This increases in times of struggle and I suspect we have more of this to come.“
Pedal steel cosmic jazz-funk doctor Roosevelt Collier serves up a dose of something special in Liverpool, Getintothis’ Peter Guy laps up his magical medicine.
First off, a confession. Up until a couple of months ago this writer had barely registered ParrJazz.
Sure we’d heard of it. It was something to do with Studio 2 on Parr Street and conjured up imagery of a dimly lit backroom bar, all stumpy side lamps on mahogany tables bathed in maroon as brass jutted out the smokey shadows. But had we experienced whatever it was first hand. Nope, we barely let it even register a reminder note in our subconscious. This was ‘jazz‘ – something other; something of a passing interest.
But here’s the thing. To a novice in the jazz world – our record collection consists of Miles Davis (A Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew, On The Corner), John Coltrane (A Love Supreme, Blue Train), Herbie Hancock (Headhunters), Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone best of’s and a handful of compilations – venturing out the comfort zone throws up question upon question – a risk of time; what and who to see and when?
This conundrum must also strike the average gig goer in Liverpool too – perhaps around the country – as jazz is a world you have to immerse yourself in. The mere label itself has connotations to the average listener which is perhaps daunting, if not off-putting entirely. So for ParrJazz to hold their regular evenings on a Tuesday and Sunday – the sell is an uphill struggle from the get go. What exactly are we getting into?
Well, tonight we took the plunge. Our debut ParrJazz experience. And if tonight’s anything to go by, perhaps we should all be jumping right in the deep end.
Yet, dipping into his debut album Exit Music was enough to sell tonight’s proceedings; a thick soup of rubbery grooves, high octane rhythmic nous and a heavy dose of good-time fun. Seriously, watch the title track and dare your body not to fall into it’s syncopated undulations.
By the time we venture into the new home of ParrJazz at Jacaranda Records Phase One (the team moved here last November) the stage is set – a tidy pedal steel is front and centre complete with ‘The Dr‘ emblazoned across it’s frame – and boy, was he about to serve us up some medicinal funk.
From the get-go, Collier winds up his wrists flicking off riffs like a pinball wizard as the front row gyrates in unison. The pace is swaggering as wave upon wave of loose mesmeric propulsions see the audience sway as one; an exuberant couple down the front begin Jackie Chan high-kicking in perfect synchronicity.
Rarely if ever during tonight’s proceedings do any of the players take the limelight unnecessarily; there’s few soloing or individual spotlight grabbing – and when, for example, drummer Armando Lopez takes an extended work out on the kit it’s precision musicality which simply adds to the whole experience rather than descending into stereotypical jazz showmanship.
We can’t help but be thrust back to the first time we saw Prince‘s New Power Generation in action – a supergroup of sorts each excelling in their craft yet forming a holy alliance and working as one – a divine cauldron of jazz-funk-soul and when ramping it up and placing guitar to the fore, the very definition of rock & roll power; on more than one occasion Collier twists his arms back and forth over the pedal steel flexing our heart-strings at one with his instrument.
Later he picks up his guitar and cradles a bottleneck slide emitting raw blues which careers around the venue as the audience emits whoops and howls of surprised delight.
By now there’s wild dancing as a throng of people have are both stage left and right dancing in the wings as bass player Rodrigo Zambrano stands nodding his head while remaining an understated yet assured presence at the back of the set.
As The Dr knocks back a couple of White Russians (take that Lebowski) from a small glass tumbler, there’s echoes of Fela Kuti, John Lee Hooker, Kamasi Washington, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra and even Beggars Banquet era Rolling Stones – a melting pot of rhythm and blues, jazz, cosmic funk and everything else in between.
Somewhere amid the swamp boogie Dr John‘s Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya is oozing into the mix.
Perhaps most impressive (to our ears anyway) of Collier‘s collective is Jason Matthews flexing a bank of Rhodes keyboards – as he builds layer upon layer of smoldering textures all the while grinning ear to ear as his bandleader trades all manner of guitar licks.
Yet such is the humility of Collier he leaves the stage midway through to let his band (who themselves perform as Electric Kif) jam one out while he stands amid the crowd all the while filming the delirium on his phone.
Despite round trips from Tunisia to London’s Ronnie Scott‘s and bereft of sleep, the energy is cranked up a notch further when Liverpool blues singer Connie Lush joins the quartet on stage for an improvisational work out of Hoochie Coochie Man. It’s a breathtaking performance exuding full-blown passion and throat-rattling blues.
There’s time for a rapturous encore as a clearly delighted Roosevelt Collier promises he’ll be back later this summer before blistering through one final jam which segues into the Jackson Five‘s Can You Feel It.
It’s a masterclass in musicianship from start to finish and as Collier (a refilled White Russian in hand) and his band leave the stage for a final time it’s evident we’ve all witnessed something special.
The bar has been set for gig of the year, and on an otherwise lazy Sunday, it’s just what the doctor ordered. You’d be wise to get acquainted to Roosevelt Collier and the world of ParrJazz.
With world music supergroup Bokanté in the midst of a European tour Getintothis’ Kevin Barrett caught them when they stoped off at Jacaranda Records Phase One.
The last time we had the pleasure of Michael League playing to a Liverpool audience was way back in 2014 where he brought Snarky Puppy to the Kazimier. It’s been far too long, with the Kazimier no longer there, making way for apartments, he returns to the city’s fastest rising venue, Jacaranda Records Phase One.
Having traded his customary bass in for a baritone guitar he’s joined by latest band Bokanté. The eight-piece ensemble has released two albums to date and is made up of accomplished musicians in their own right from all corners of the world. Joining League, providing lead vocals is Malika Tirolien, a Guadeloupe born, Montreal based singer, Jordan Peters and Snarky Puppy’s Bob Lanzetti on guitar, Jay White on guest bass, percussion legend Jamey Haddad, pedal steel guitar maestro Roosevelt Collier, and percussionists, Sweden’s André Ferrari, and Japan’s Keita Ogawa make up the rest of the group.
Getting proceedings underway with Bòd Lanmè Pa Lwen from the bands latest album White Heat, a funk-fest kicks in around a minute into the set. A quick scan around the room and there isn’t a single person either not swaying or nodding their head to the groove. There’s an infectious vibrancy to Bokanté’s sound, and the decent turn out is making the most of this chilly Sunday night.
League takes to the mic for introductions, a mention that this date was a late addition to the tour which will see the band play 11 shows in 11 days. An impressive feat, and even more so as the night develops given the energy they put in the performance.
O La from the band’s debut, 2017’s Strange Circles is next, a storytelling intro leading to a stunning vocal range from Tirolien, this is followed by Roudesann and Fanm, which she dedicates to all the women in here tonight. With the lyrics delivered in Creole and French, the translation is lost on this monolinguist, but the passion in her voice is astounding to witness.
It’s during Famn we see a wonderful rhythmic chemistry between the vocals and Collier’s playing, the collision of the musicianship is mesmerising. Throughout the set Tirolien’s voice complements each member of the band as they each take a turn for an instrumental solo. There’s an undeniable respect between each member that’s visible during these moments, master musicians with an admiration for each other’s work, and a love of what they do resonates throughout the performance.
The full set is a musical journey, from desert sands to the vibrant streets of West Africa, to straight up soulful jazz, this is an exhibition of sound, played by some of the very best out there.
Other highlights include; Jou Ké Ouvè, a powerful track about acceptance of other people’s culture, the political protest song Don’t Do It, a direct jab at the awful choices currently being made by reigning governments, with a special mention to Donald Trump. And the penultimate track of the night Nou Tout Sé Yonn.
Héritier brings the night to a close, an encore of elegance and beauty, with a vocal reach to stun everyone in the room before the ride home.
WE'RE ON THE MOVE!! AND LOOKING FORWARD TO SETTLING INTO OUR NEW VINYL LOVING HOME: JACARANDA RECORDS PHASE !
Great Feature in Culture Liverpool about Parrjazz !
“I don’t like Jazz, but I liked that!” How many times have we heard that?
About ParRjazz Ltd
Liverpool’s Parrjazz was started by musicians in the optimistic atmosphere created by Liverpool Capital of Culture, 2008, and for over 10 years they have promoted top international players: Snarky Puppy/FORQ/Gogo Penguin/Alan Barnes/Dennis Rollins and loads more.
Parrjazz has introduced and supported new players as well as developing venues: Studio2/On Air/Ma Boyles/Frederiks. Parrjazz, led by musicians, is non-profit and supports new talent, from the LIPA guys to those making the move from rock, pop and soul to walking on the Jazz-side!
Several gigs every night of the week make Jazz, in all its forms, a booming part of Liverpool’s music scene. Tuesday’s Parrjazz delivers a storming jam session in Studio2 Parr Street with jazz touring players – they’ve had Japanese martial arts rockers and American proggers playing with students and Liverpool schmoozers.
The menu is wide. Angular free-jazz, early roots, ragtime, classic swing, the coolest cool cats, jazz-rock fusion, prog, funk and trippy youngsters working their way out of the trancey psych soup.
What’s been happening this year?
Summer to autumn in Liverpool has seen spectacular artists. June was kicked off into a dark gothic castle by Liverpool’s own Blind Monk Trio cascading Black Sabbath/Stranglers/Coltrane at Ma Boyle’s Alehouse and Eatery; the local vicar sat outside, cigar and a single malt.
The rest of June in Studio2 was a blast. San Francisco’s Paul McCandless with Charged Particles, closing off with a packed house for USA’s finest Prog/Fusion outfit, FORQ, touring their latest record Thrēq. FORQ’s storming acid-jazz rocker Cowabunghole created a jazz mosh pit!
July gave us The California Jazz Conservatory showcasing west coast talent. Nashville’s Suzahn Fiering gave us a master class in songwriting. As August broke, Barry’s Boptet smashed out the best of Be Bop – Herdsmen to Miles Davis. Sax legend Dean Masser carried on the theme. September, had Guitar/Hammond/Drums combo Tobie Carpenter Organ Trio, touring their debut EP Dead Pan Party.
What does the future hold in store?
October is a jazz-feast. Leading UK Jazz talents Brigitte Beraha’s Babelfish on the 2nd, UNMISSABLE Bristopian jazz-trippers Get The Blessing on the 11th (Tickets from See Tickets/Skiddle), Robert Mitchell’s Epiphany 3 on 16th, guitarist Stuart McCallum on 23rd, with the insane Baked A La Ska Halloween Special on the 30th.
November will feature two sax heavyweights – Benn Clatworthy and Greg Abate………… nice!
GET INTO THIS feature us for our June move to Studio 2
With big news comes a big party, Getintothis’ Matthew Wood has the low down on ParrJazz’s move back to Parr Street.
Following a successful stint at Hope Street’s unique bar, Frederiks, Liverpool’s best-established jazz night ParrJazz makes a return to Parr Street’s Studio 2, reigniting an old flame for new beginnings.
To welcome the return, Studio 2 will be hosting a monster launch party with special musical guests, all vinyl-spinning DJ’s and free scran and booze to those in attendance.
Through the years, ParrJazz has consistently hosted world-renowned jazz talent free of charge every Tuesday. Past guests include Snarky Puppy, Benn Clatworthy and Victor Brox who is known to have jammed with Jimi Hendrix in his time, plus a royal host of upcoming youngsters and local veterans.
The launch party will continue in equally commendable fashion on June 5 and will feature saxophonist Chris Rand, a major figure in the world of jazz and blues having toured and recorded with the likes of Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, acclaimed session-soloist Elliott Randall and members of Ian Dury & The Blockheads.
Entrance to the event is free.