Together, there’s something fascinating about Binker Golding and Moses Boyd. Their cross-sectional creativity launches them through spiritually-stimulating free jazz with several pit stops.
Together, there’s something fascinating about Binker Golding and Moses Boyd. Independently, their projects live in different spaces. Drummer Boyd, 26, surfs club-culture friendly cosmic electronica with his Exodus project. Saxophonist Golding, 31, who has already been playing the saxophone for 23 years, is developing his own solo project; live previews in London, which have included keys player Joe Armon-Jones and bassist Dan Casimir, have represented a desire for the smoother side of jazz. As a duo however, their cross-sectional creativity launches them through spiritually-stimulating free jazz with several pit stops.
Alive in the East? Is Binker and Moses’ first live album, released via wax-loving label Gearbox Records. This recording of a live show at the now closed Total Refreshment Centre—it continues as a recording studio whilst conversations are ongoing with Hackney council. Released a matter of days before the iconic venue’s forced closure, its significance as a live recording is elevated further, cataloguing an era that cannot be revisited.
For many of the musicians that make up London’s underground scenes, Total Refreshment Centre was, and is, considered home; an epicentre for creativity, inspiration and self-expression. What Alive in the East? captures is Binker and Moses in an uninhabited and unpressured space, especially given that the show was recorded with no intention of being released.
Improvisations between musicians who have never played together are exciting. But in a different sense, the chemistry between the two players of a duo, who are so diversely-inspired, has its own fire. Boyd glides between Caribbean calypso, luxurious jazz fills and snappy club rhythms, whilst Golding doesn’t wait for Boyd to set the intensity; ultimately aware of space and dynamics, he builds climatic phrases with room for Moses to dive into; “How Fire Was Made” is a perfect example. They are fearless in both challenging and elevating each other. Add to that the collaborators on the album, Evan Parker (saxophone), Byron Wallen (trumpet), Tori Handsley (harp) and Yussef Dayes (drums), and you have a dynamic of wise and young, gritty and polished, club culture and esteemed free jazz that can move in infinite directions.
“It’s become deeper I guess”, says Boyd, reflecting on how his approach to improvisation with Golding has evolved since they began playing together almost a decade ago. “I feel I’ve become more open to possibility and failure on the bandstand. I’ll take even more risks”. For Golding, it’s about adventuring home and away; “I find you think about it a lot less but attempt to surprise the other person more if you can. Sometimes you have nothing to pull out the bag that’s new, but the point is to keep trying. I suppose we’re like a musical married couple. The thing is we both have affairs and bring that drama back to our relationship. That’s what keeps it fresh”.
An echo to past albums
A few of the tracks, such as “Valley Of The Ultra Blacks”, will be familiar for fans of their proceeding album, Journey to the Mountain of Forever. For the most part however, the album isn’t a live version of their second release, but a companion to it. “The Death of Light” is an enchanting, medieval creation opened by Handsley. Meanwhile, “How Air Learnt To Move” is an engrossing saxophone solo; one that brings the sweat and anticipation in the room to yours ears. There are themes carried forward from “Journey… in water, fire, earth and land”. It’s a continuing exploration that reflects on primal energies, with no set parameter.
“We approached this very similarly to how we recorded Journey To The Mountain…” explains Boyd. “We had road marks or themes in which we wanted to arrive at. We weren’t trying repeat improvisations but instead reference the original themes we had but also leave it open enough to go anywhere on the night”.
Binker and Moses’ debut Dem Ones was dripping in London sub-cultures; grime, broken beat and modern Jazz sweats from its sleeve. Whilst the influences might be a little trickier to pick out in Alive in the East?, they’re still there to be recognised. To pick apart the tree and dig for its roots however would be an academic task. Alive in the East? isn’t about thinking and chin-stroking. It’s an album with six people bringing forward the best versions of themselves that they possibly can, whilst trying not to think at all. The way to honour it? Forget everything you’ve just read, drop expectations and dive in. Some live experiences are just beyond words.
Binker & Moses, Alive in the East (Gearbox Records, 2018)
September 12th, 2018 – The Jazz Café, London