Spike Orchestra

January 1, 2021

Splintered Stories
Tzadik 4031

Confirming the promise of his earlier work, London-based trumpeter Sam Eastmond’s Splintered Stories is four imaginative compositions which bend multiple sonic outpourings into coherent arrangements. The somewhat eccentric tunes conducted by Eastmond illuminate his preoccupation with contemporary Jewish life by uniting sometimes conflicting musical strands. He’s able to do so and avoid jarring transitions because of the collective interpretations of the 15 piece Spike Orchestra, his designated vehicle since 2014.

More collection than collage, the tracks evolve from a base of orchestrated Jazz section work, seeded with faux-so-called classical music references, as well as inferences from Latin, Klezmer, modal fusion and generations of Rock music. As the program flows, sequences are marked by the incursions of Gil Evans-like harmonized brass; Gabriel styled note-skyrocketing from one of three trumpeters; shtetl-shaped clarinet sighs from Mike Wilkins; distorted fuzz tones from guitarist Moss Freed; and chameleon-like keyboard dispositions from Olly Chalk that resemble Jerry Lee Lewis piano pumping and Hancock-Corea modal elaboration in alternate sequences.

The most fully realized of the tracks is “Here and Now” which manages to work many of these motifs into a coherent whole. Organized into sections, it moves from a concentrated group introduction into an Italian banda-like march before climaxing with a theme that encompasses a call-and-response horn vamp that could migrate to a Cop show soundtrack to near-Dixieland pitter patter involving clarinet slides and jaunty trumpet runs. Shifting to a leisurely interlude stacks plunger trombone blasts from Harry Brown or Tim Smart, harmonized with clarinet licks on top of and backed by carefully paced piano runs, kinetic guitar stabs and pulses from bassist Otto Willberg. In the final sequence, as brass expressions accelerate the addition of reed riffs spur fleet affiliated guitar frails to even greater heights.

These sorts of quick changes which can pump out diffuse horse whinnies from the brass in one sequence, have the entire group modulate with the precision of the New Testament Count Basie band elsewhere; and populate passages reflecting Diaspora longing is the strength of the Spike Orchestra. It’s also the strength of these fractured tales and what makes listening to this CD eventful.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. The Pink Shagpile Carpet Story aka The King of Spank 2. Matriarch Variations 3. Here and Now 4. Standing on the Shoulders of Giantslayers

Personnel: Yazz Ahmed, George Hogg, Noel Langley (trumpet, flugelhorn); Harry Brown, Tim Smart (trombone); Jeff Miller (tuba, sousaphone): Mike Wilkins (alto saxophone, clarinet): Josephine Davies (tenor, soprano saxophones); Damon Oliver (tenor saxophone flute); Gemma Moore (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet); Olly Chalk (piano); Moss Freed (guitar); Otto Willberg (bass); Will Glaser (drums); Sam Eastmond (conductor)