GoGo Penguin – v2.0 ★★★★

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Chris Illingworth (p), Nick Blacka (b) and Rob Turner (d). Rec. 2013

Manchester’s GoGo Penguin prove, among other things, what a rhythmic gift the drum ’n’ bass dance scene, which began in the 1990s, has been to British jazz’s forward-thinking wing. Their follow-up to 2012’s Fanfares maintains that album’s flare for anthemic riffs and skittering grooves, and with new double-bassist Nick Blacka and more generous studio time, pushes the acoustic piano trio format further into the future. ‘One Percent’ (suggesting the politically resistant undercurrent somewhere deep in these grooves) sees Turner’s drums threaten to bust free of the tune. But the trio’s schooling in bop, break-beats and classical forms lets them easily contain this chaotic element within the music’s elastic yet unbroken shape. ‘To Drown In You’ shows their gift for studio dynamics. One moment Blacka’s bass is being mournfully, traditionally bowed, then the volume leaps forward with an echoing boom. Each instrument then unpredictably, momentarily shifts up in the mix. This effects-aided, organic reboot of the solo principle sums up GoGo Penguin’s approach. Classical melancholy, dance-floor thrills and jazz’s free, intuitive thinking are all on generous display here.

Nick Hasted

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