Members of three of the most creative bands on the new young Brit-Jazz scene have come together to form Dice Factory (pictured left), who step up to the mark and release their debut album later this month. Launched last night with a gig at the Vortex in Dalston, the band was formed in 2009 but has taken time to emerge on London’s febrile and fast mutating jazz scene.
A quartet, it features relative newcomer George Fogel on piano, Empirical’s Tom Farmer on double bass, Tom Challenger, best known for his work with Outhouse and Ma on tenor saxophone, and Jon Scott of MOBO-winning band Kairos 4tet on drums.
Playing material mainly from Dice Factory’s eponymous debut album (released on Babel records on 17 September), the Vortex was full to brimming with many in the house simply curious to catch a glimpse of a band oft talked about yet rarely seen live.
Formed out of musical and personal friendships dating back to their increasingly distant student days at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Fogel was the revelation of the night with a highly original sound that began and ended with contrasting Chopin-esque vignettes delivered with a superb touch and interpretative thinking, which dramatically contrasted to his frequently vaulting intervallic leaps and angular harmonies.
On the band’s original material composed either by Fogel, Challenger or Farmer, which includes the catchy dance-like ‘Saribund’, they display one of their main influences in pianist Vijay Iyer with Scott banging together powerful rhythms reminiscent of the trio’s drummer Marcus Gilmore. Elsewhere the picture is more complex, and Challenger’s gutsy playing is slightly evocative of a young Iain Ballamy in rhapsodic mood on the slower numbers, although the band also knows how to pile on the power. And in spite of its complexities, the message of the music gets through with Farmer’s intricate pulses shifting and pulling at the shape of the tunes.
Speaking earlier after the soundcheck, George Fogel told Jazzwise: “chaos can reign” with this band, which takes its name from Luke Rhinehart’s cult novel The Dice Man; taking their cue from the book where “God becomes the dice.” Thus Dice Factory is about making decisions utilising this chaos and Fogel’s idea of “letting things go” certainly applied as the group reached a crunching climax towards the end of the first set. Farmer introduced the Star Trek-referencing ‘T.N.G’, “the next generation” while mere mention of the funny sounding ‘Heyu Nantucket’ drew laughs from the mainly youthful audience, craning to catch a glimpse of Fogel’s hands leaping along the keys of the Steinway while beginning to shake in their seats to Scott’s broken beats.
In a year at times short of genuinely distinctive bands at the creative end of the London jazz scene, this latecomer makes the wait all the more worth while. Nobody’s going to go home humming any of their tunes perhaps, it’s not that kind of band, but this particular Factory has a production line all of its own and one that we’re going to be hearing more of next year when they return to gig.
– Stephen Graham