In spite of their dodgy rhyming epithet, Porpoise Corpus are yet another exciting new Brit jazz band happy to punch above their youthful weight. Thanks to the excessive musical abilities of their leader, pianist/bassist/ composer Dave O’Brien, they won the Peter Whittingham Award. Now they’re using the £4,000 prize money to take over the (mostly shut down) POTP for two nights to showcase new, off-kilter jazz-inspired music. With PC’s music lurching between Jarrettish piano interludes and funky schlock-horror jazz-rock, it’s the perfect amorphous soundtrack for these spots accompanied by intense stop-motion visuals from Dandelion And Burdock. Opening night support comes from the artsy, angsty post-rock of guitarist Nick Gill’s The Monroe Transfer, plus intriguing audio/video artists The Brains and Hunch Band. Known for their subversive mainstream works – using samples of kitchen utensils to recreate ‘The Omen’ theme for ITV’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ for example – sound designers Chris Branch and Tom Haines are the very definition of this emergent boundary-blurring music/art movement. Saturday will feature a reduced Heritage Orchestra, appearing as a 12-piece brass-led ‘band’, who’ll play their superb filmic funk. There’s also the second PC set and their own drummer Guy Wood’s frenetic beat-laden solo project Hubcap. 3D glasses are optional.
“Porpoise Corpus, a group led by award winning pianist Dave O’Brien (pictured), launched its debut eponymously titled CD for the F-IRE label this week and performed at London’s Vortex club in Dalston last night.
While the first set last night saw the maturity and post M-Base influenced facility of guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff expressing itself with confident lines and a curling attack, the band itself blends a cryptic sense of funk with a freshness, indicative of the confidence of the new breed of bands on the London scene.”
“AMBITIOUS and adventurous jazz of dazzling variety, the fare ranges from buoyant fusion (The Seventh Trip), to haunting loveliness (Neverending). Predicted Consequence crosses Mahavishnu Orchestra with Death Metal and is over in a minute.
The strengths lie in the writing – all the tunes are by pianist Dave O’Brien, a mercurial melodist – and the top-class musicianship.
The elegant, impassioned saxophone of Tom Challenger announces a star in the making, while Spencer Brown and Guy Wood make a marvellously funky and fiery rhythm team.”
“They have a daffy name and all look incredibly young, but Porpoise Corpus make seriously good music. Their debut album contains many impressive moments and last night they sounded even better. A sextet with two saxes, guitar, piano, bass and drums, they played stylish, fast-moving, episodic originals that held the interest as securely as the ever-changing scenery from a train window.
Thrash-rock passages by drummer Guy Wood and bassist Spencer Brown gave way to interweaving sax lines or gentle, semi-classical solo-piano meandering but every change of pace was linked by strong logic. Some ingenious melodic twists, especially for the saxes, also flickered with rare jazz elegance.
Pianist-composer Dave O’Brien, who did the arranging, can take a bow. Beneath his overgrown Beatle haircut ticks a jazz brain of unusual vision and originality. British writing of such intelligence and whimsical, anything-is-possible spirit has not been heard since the young Django Bates was first unleashed.
Frameworks as fine as these called for superior soloists. Jonathan Bratoeff, extracting a remarkably warm, round tone from his solid-body guitar, lyrical altoist Tom Ward and fluent tenorist Tom Challenger all played brilliantly. O’Brien kept a lower profile, but his understated explorations were no less fascinating. Keep an eye on him.””
“This eponymous debut album from the sextet Porpoise Corpus (their name comes from the fictional body of literature produced by the cetaceans in the Illuminatus! trilogy) perfectly captures their immediately appealing sound: leader/keyboard player Dave O’Brien’s compositions unaffectedly draw as much on fusion and occasional bursts of heavy, abrasive rock as on the relatively straightforward jazz head-and-exposition approach, his keyboards and Spencer Brown’s bass moving easily between acoustic and electric instruments.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Bratoeff (guitar) flickers and swoons through the more lyrical numbers and struts confidently through the up-tempo fare; saxophonists Tom Challenger (tenor) and Tom Ward (alto) play themes in harmony in a manner that sometimes recalls the 1980s London-based band B Shops for the Poor as well as contributing attractively blustering but thoughtful solos; and Guy Wood pushes the whole thing along with a superb display of robustly propulsive drumming.
The band’s material (all by O’Brien) is basically divided between the softly noodling lyricism of ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ or ‘Silence is Gold and Diamonds’ and the tricksier garrulity of fusion, sparked either by comparatively simple riffs or more dramatic, complex heads, but whichever mode they’re operating in, Porpoise Corpus display all the imaginative vibrancy and commitment that makes them such a compulsively listenable live act. Recommended.”
“Moving easily and unaffectedly between the sort of hypnotically sinuous extended improvisations pioneered by the likes of Steve Coleman and the more structured, declamatory ‘head’-sparked music of fusion, Porpoise Corpus have opened up a rich seam in adopting this powerful yet adaptable approach, and with soloists of the calibre of Bratoeff, Ward and Challenger, they handsomely reward sustained attention of the sort given to them on this occasion by a gratifying large and enthusiastic crowd.”