Escape the Flames
This serves to both inform you about the London-based sax-drum duo of Binker and Moses as well as the label, Gearbox.
Binker and Moses
We have covered sax-drum duos on these pages before, specifically the London duo of Tony Irving & Massimo Magee with Vitriol and the Third Oraculum a year ago. The hottest sax duo in London, though, over the past three-four years is Binker and Moses – tenor saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd. Their live album Escape the Flames is their second as a duo and fourth collaboration. The album was issued in hand-numbered double vinyl limited to 500 copies this past December and is now available digitally. It will not be offered in CD format. Binker and Moses are among the frontrunners of London-based jazz musicians that are influenced by the music that surrounds them including grime, hip-hop, electronic and blog culture as well as, of course, jazz. Like their current counterparts, they’re connecting with a new, younger audience.
Escape the Flames is clearly in that tradition of Coltrane’s famous duos with drummer Rashied Ali, with his Interstellar Space being the prime example. Early Charles Lloyd factors in here as well. Those are some of your reference points for Binker and Moses. Think also of the London scene and bands like Sons of Kemet, JZ Replacement, Melt Yourself Down, Steam Down, and others. The acclaimed Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia are in a similar mode in some respects too. Boyd and Golding are also highly sought-after sidemen on the London scene, Boyd having been a main contributor to last month’s debut of harpist Tori Handsley’s with As We Stand. Golding can be found in a host of settings too, having appeared on classic jazz trumpeter Charles Tolliver’s 2019 Connect, as just one example.
Originally meeting through double bassist/educator Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors jazz development program, they have played together in various large and small format groups including recording and touring extensively as members of Zara McFarlane’s band. Dem Ones was their debut recording as a duo and has its roots in experiments between soundchecks and gigs while on the road with McFarlane. Over time these initial ideas and jams have become templates for improvisation, and with their echoes of late period Coltrane and Charles Lloyd, are as listenable and memorable as they are full of invention, passion, and jaw-dropping moments.
This six-selection recording is drawn from their Journey to the Mountain of Forever album launch at the iconic Total Refreshment Centre back in 2017 and represents a whole new interpretation of the studio album’s first disc (with the opening tune clocking in at a full 17 minutes of semi-free exploration.) The audience’s excitement, a sound-bed of whoops and yells, is heard intermittently throughout and just reminds us how much we miss live music in this pandemic. The album also follows the duo’s previous live album Alive In The East” which saw the duo playing alongside a number of the UK’s most prominent musicians both old and new – including guest appearances from Evan Parker, Byron Wallen, Tori Handsley and Yussef Dayes. This one also comes alongside the announcement of a re-pressing of Dem Ones. The release will be available on ltd. edition clear vinyl, initially for US customers only, from Gearbox Records in early February.
The vinyl-led London-based Gearbox Records has rapidly established itself as a leading indie label for jazz, funk, and more, recently surpassing fifty full-length releases and twelve years in operation. What started out as a focus on previously unreleased archival jazz recordings has now branched into contemporary jazz, funk, electronic music, folk, and more. This year, Gearbox opened a Japanese office, making it one of the first independent labels to do so and contributing to Gearbox’s ongoing evolution into a global label. This will see more international artist signings and limited regional pressings, in addition to Japanese distribution and the label’s own multi-territory direct fulfilment network which enable Gearbox to reach more fans than ever before. Founder and head producer Darrel Sheinman’s admiration and appreciation of Japanese culture led him to introduce monthly “kissaten”-styled listening sessions to the Gearbox studio, open to the public, which proved popular and have resulted in a monthly residency on London’s Soho Radio show.
Last year, Gearbox released the high-end Automatic MkII portable turntable. Improving on the original Gearbox Automatic design, the MkII model features an upgraded belt drive with aluminum pulley to ensure better speed stability and high-quality components, meaning the sound is astonishing for its price class. This you would expect from Gearbox of course, but it also does things no other turntable has ever done before. What also sets this turntable apart is the high-fidelity built-in valve phono stage, a first, which has been designed and tuned for moving magnet cartridges such as the pre-fitted Ortofon OM10. This means that one can plug the turntable straight into any line input and enjoy the warm and open acoustics, right from the box.
A Japanese pressing of Don Cherry’s EP ‘Cherry Jam’ album will be available in the US. According to the liner notes, “Our recording is taken from the original tape of a 1965 radio broadcast, programmed by Denmark’s national radio station. It was in this same year that Cherry would record his landmark Blue Note recording, Complete Communion. Other Japanese editions of fifteen top titles from the Gearbox catalog will be made available on LP and CD, each in limited quantities in the US, from early December. The first six titles, out now via direct channels, are as follows: 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and piano great Abdullah Ibrahim’s The Balance, Binker Golding’s Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers, Live at Ronnie Scott’s January 15, 1966 by Yusef Lateef, Theon Cross’ Fyah, Binker and Moses’ Journey to the Mountain of Forever, and the lost treasure Monk featuring the legendary Thelonious in his prime in a live concert from Copenhagen.
In addition, the Gearbox mastering and cutting studio in King’s Cross, London has distinguished itself as an all-analogue production facility, specializing in reel-to-reel mastering for vinyl cuts and digital masters. The studio also features vacuum tube tape machines for all formats and speeds, rare and hi-end mastering equalization and Audio Note monitoring amps. The studio also has direct-to-disc capabilities which result in a startlingly present quality, for example on Butcher Brown’s Camden Session. Gearbox Records has released albums by up-and-coming artists such as Thiago Nassif, Theon Cross, Binker & Moses, and Butcher Brown, as well as established masters like Abdullah Ibrahim and Charles Tolliver and archival albums from all-time greats likes Yusef Lateef, Buddy Rich, Nico, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, and Dexter Gordon.
More recently and under Darrel’s A&R leadership, Gearbox has been at the forefront of the UK contemporary jazz revival, having released music with acts such as Binker & Moses, Theon Cross, and Sarathy Korwar. As well as jazz, Gearbox has evolved organically into other genres and styles of music, from Brazilian no wave to ambient electronic to lo-fi soul, with a focus on quality being the deciding factor.
This writer has covered in other outlets Monk and Theon Cross’ Fyah as well as citing Tolliver’s Connect as one of last year’s top jazz releases. Suggest you soak in as much Binker and Moses as you can and then begin to explore these other titles. Gearbox may be your best new label discovery.
- Jim Hynes