Reviews for Twelves: The Adding Machine
All About Jazz
April 3, 2012
Track review of "Shallow Brown"
The addition of guitarist Rob Updegraff to Twelves, the U.K. band that started as a trio in 2008, tenders a compact yet expandable group focusing largely centered on asymmetrical pulses, layered sound-sculpting, and toggling between the misty divisions of free jazz and free-bop. The guitarist and saxophonistMark Hanslip act as searchers perched atop oscillating currents, these being predominately designed with gradually climaxing theme constructions and effective use of space. Complete with transient mini-motifs, the bulk of the material is based on improvisation.
"Shallow Brown" is a piece configured with a stabbing pulse. With the front line's fractured bop choruses and Tim Giles' sweeping drums, the ensemble cleverly adjusts the current via reflective attributes and by shifting the pitch gradient up a few notches. They pick up steam as the soloists engage in call and response mechanisms, modeled with a conversational mindset amid various flurries consisting of Updegraff's animated voicings and Hanslip's ascending lines. Although some of these works yield an overly uniform slant that imparts an unwavering set of circumstances when viewed as a whole, this piece stands as a highpoint for a quartet that conveys a promising outlook.
Personnel: Mark Hanslip: tenor saxophone; Rob Updegraff: guitar; Riaan Vosloo: bass; Tim Giles: drums.http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=41763
7 April 2011
Close on the heels of his fine, free-jazz duo album with percussionist Javier Carmona, young saxophonist Mark Hanslip makes a powerful impact on the second album by British group Twelves (formerly Twelves Trio, but now including alt-rock guitarist Rob Updegraff). The group once sounded somewhere between late-50s Sonny Rollins and free-bassist William Parker's straighter threesomes. Now they suggest, among many things, Joe Lovano's encounters with John Scofield, with the odd Bill Frisellian detour. Staccato, metallic-chord themes alternate with Hanslip's soft countermelodies; guitar and sax themes evaporate into drifting improv. On the uptempo Kerfuffle, the best track on the set, Hanslip's signature mix of cool school melodic seamlessness and Wayne Shorterish hesitancy spins over abrasive guitar chords, Riaan Vosloo's solid bassline and Tim Giles's lateral snare patterns. Though Mr Zero could perhaps use an edit, the contrast between Updegraff's rugged guitar solo and Hanslip's patient tenor development grips attention. Twelves have a real this-is-what-we-do presence and casual virtuosity to match.
All About Jazz
In 2008, Twelves Trio released its debut album, the evocatively-titled Here Comes The Woodman With His Splintered Soul (1965 Records). The band has since added guitarist Rob Updegraff, dropped the Trio appellation, changed record labels, and released album number two, the more prosaically named The Adding Machine. The band's intention to explore, improvise and develop sonically remains strong on this release.
Twelves is one of a growing number of young British jazz groups characterized by technical ability and a willingness to transcend musical boundaries. Polar Bear, the Kit Downes Trio, Outhouse and The Golden Age Of Steam all readily spring to mind; as does Compassionate Dictatorship, a band that shares an identical instrumental lineup with Twelves, but uses it to deliver a punchier, more rock-oriented style of music. Members are often shared between these bands, with Twelves' drummer Tim Giles also in The Golden Age Of Steam, for example, while the musicians also collaborate in collectives such as Loop or F-Ire.
The band's sonic approach is a gentle one, characterized by subtle shifts in tempo, rhythm or instrumental emphasis. Tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip takes the greatest responsibility for lead lines, and has a soft-toned and, at time, surprisingly quiet style. The most intriguing tune on The Adding Machine is "Shallow Brown," a traditional folk song recorded by Sir Peter Pears and June Tabor, among others. After Riaan Vosloo's languid bass introduction, Hanslip plays the melody in a similarly laidback style, underpinned by Giles and Updegraff's soft and fluid percussion and guitar. The band is almost in folk-rock territory here, the arrangement reflecting Fairport Convention's seminal recording of "A Sailor's Life" on Unhalfbricking (Island, 1969).
The rest of the tunes are originals. Hanslip and Vosloo are the band's main writers, but the packaging gives no clue as to who wrote which tune, and Giles and Updegraaf could well be involved too. "Kerfuffle" kicks off with a fine bass and drum groove from Vosloo and Giles, echoed in the entrance of Hanslip and Updegraff that follows. It soon slides into a darker, more fractured, sound courtesy of Hanslip's tenor, even though Giles and Vosloo keep up a more persistent rhythm. The dark side of the Twelves sound is also present on "Eyeballing" and "Mr Zero," although "Party Girls" shows its more humorous side.
Twelves is undoubtedly a band full of talented players, taking inspiration from some unusual sources and turning it into some complex but subtly nuanced compositions. At present, the band's sound may not be sufficiently distinct to make its mark on an increasingly crowded scene, but The Adding Machine suggests that this is just a matter of time.
Track Listing: Many Splendoured Thing: Part 1; Part 2; Spiders; Kerfuffle; Shallow Brown; Party Girls; Eyeballing; Mr Zero.
Personnel: Mark Hanslip: tenor saxophone; Rob Updegraff: guitar; Riaan Vosloo: bass; Tim Giles: drums.