Human is the world-class quartet assembled by Irish-born drummer and composer Stephen Davis. For this exciting new project, he’s joined by three of the most creative young artists on the UK left-field jazz and Improv scene: Alexander Hawkins on piano, Alex Bonney on trumpet and Dylan Bates on violin.
The quartet is notable for its unusual instrumentation. Davis comments ‘It was important to me to work without a bass as I wanted to highlight some of the sonorities from the drums and piano that can get lost with a bass.’
With no bassist occupying the low-end, the music on the debut album, Being Human, feels like a crisp, tottering house of cards, ready to tumble at any time but held up by its own irrefutable sense of natural logic.
In style and spirit, the music on Being Human is inspired by – and pays tribute to – the early masters of free jazz. But you’ll find no museum pieces here. This is vibrant, brash and lively free music, viewed from a fresh, 21st century perspective. It’s a challenge this stellar band is more than capable of meeting.
On the title track – a turbulent group improvisation – Alexander Hawkins’ thumping, declamatory chords offer a nod to the dogged explorations of Cecil Taylor, while Dylan Bates’s swooning stridulations recall the sound of the iconic Albert Ayler group circa 1966 featuring Dutch violinist Michel Samson.
Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Frozen Goat’ and ‘Vinilla Life’ show how adept the quartet is at weaving in and out of the moment, sliding from Davis’ composed motifs to joyful, free-form abandon in the blink of an eye.
It’s the kind of preternatural interplay and instantaneous musical communication you’d expect from four musicians of this caliber. More than that, it’s a ready-made modern classic of avant-jazz.