Dec 6 2015
With their latest album, the Greg Foat Group took a huge step up. Their debut Girl and Robot with Flowers was a plenty enjoyable mix of electro-acoustic space-jazz and throwback psychedelic jazz-blues, providing equal attention to both thick melodies and thicker grooves. But there were too many times when the music came out sounding thin, lacking some emphasis to the punch and some depth to the vision. Their sophomore release, the live performance album Live at the Playboy Club, London kept the same ingredients, but exuded a much stronger presence, and the album brought out elements of their sound that weren’t completely sussed out on their debut. And then there’s how a song like “Blue Melody” provided a strong hint on what was coming next.
What came next is The Dancers at the Edge of Time, and it represents a much fuller, more concrete expression of the sound that carried so much promise on their previous recordings. The most noticeable advancement? Even though their vision rings with a greater clarity and cohesion, the flow of ideas sounds looser, less fussy. Songs like the dreamy “Door Into Summer” and “Dancers Waltz” express the melody with the right dose of patience, and just lets it hang out there and linger for those few extra ticks of the clock to allow the notes to fully resonate before taking them in new directions with a series of lovely solos. This holds true even on a track like “Eye of Horus,” when the temperature spikes from all the heat, and, conversely, “Riff for Raff,” with its blues drawl and sing-song cadence.
But even more to the point of the band’s greater presence are tracks like “Hygiea” and “Love Theme,” which excel in how the combination of melodic fragments, a subtle rhythmic patter, and foggy harmonic fronts maintain a strong form and clear voice as they drift from first note to last.
How strong are the ties that bind this excellent recording together? Exhibit A is “Rocken End,” a song that has a bit of drone and melodic introversion to accompany what amounts to a very long track of nothing but the sound of ocean waves crashing against the shore… and it works remarkably well. So much of the music that preceded it, for all of its emotional punch and diverse influences, there was always an abiding serenity, and, really, the sound of waves crashing against the shore is simply another facet of this album’s potently tranquil personality. Exhibit B would be “The Hunt” and how it sits at the polar opposite of “Rocken End” with its furious saxophone solo and explosive rhythmic attack, yet sits plumb with it and every other track on this outstanding work.
One of the better things you’ll hear all year.
Your album personnel: Greg Foat (grand piano, church organ), Simon Keates (cello), Phil Achille (double bass, electric bass), Liam Danby (electric bass, glockenspiel), Simon Spanner (flute), Warren “Woz” Hampshire (guitar, glockenspiel, organ), Rob Mach (tenor & baritone saxes), Andy Hicks (viola), Bob Brace (vioiin) and guests: Charlie Harris (cabasa), Jamie Thorpe (cabasa, guitar), Trevor Walker (trumpet, flugelhorn), Dave Champion (guitar) and Ben Dabell (soundscaping).
Released on Jazzman Records.
Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Jazz from the London, UK scene.