Beardyman Dream Team Sessions

Beardyman’s new Dream Team Sessions kicked off at The Jazz Cafe in London, billed as ‘you make up the track titles, Beardyman and his very special guests make the album’. Part of his ‘album in an hour’ project, the first night featured guitarist Gary Lucas from Captain Beefheart, Andy Gangadeen from The Bays/Massive Attack/Chase & Status on drums and percussion, and solo bass player Steve Lawson, whom we’ve interviewed before. Rolo McGinty from The Woodentops, reviews.

Beardyman Dream Team - by SJ Willerton

Beardyman - Dream Team Sessions Jazz Cafe 20th April

Beardyman has come a long way from banging things in the kitchen on film, he’s still cooking though. This time it’s a stew. He threw together a quartet of high quality experimental musicians reflecting a wide range of time periods in music, and like a good chef occasionally stirred the ingredients in the pot at the right time.

Tonight’s quartet met and played for the first time at soundcheck. This show was part of a residency at Jazz Cafe and to my mind the word jazz and its real meaning is perfect for the Beardyman idea. Improvisation. So, each musician was tooled up for any twist in the story with loop apps and completely modern analogue and digital effects both iPad style and lashings of units to complement old school musical skill.

Masters of music and surprises

Four masters of pulling music out of nowhere for two hours. It was impossible to move in there on a Monday evening. It took me a while to see that there were four players up there. Beardyman, on the Beardyman, Steve Lawson on the Bass area, Andy Gangadeen on the Drums and Percussion, Gary Lucas on Electric Guitar.

As they are all so tactile there were few moments of silence, usually a quick bit of infectious Beardyman chit chat, his easy going connection with the crowd always maintained, so hard in an improvising music frame of mind, which is much more an introverted thing, so Beardyman was switching. I could see him at times forcing himself to respect the crowd while still feeling the effect of the last completely surprising piece of music from nowhere.

Beardyman - by The Cruddler

Dream Team - Gary Lucas, Steve Lawson, Andy Gangadeen

Gary Lucas and his selection of analogue goodies added Americana to the more UK style attitude. This really worked. You have the hip hop, the drum and bass influenced beats and colour bass. Each player had solo moments and Gary took us to a world of fast finger picking and American folklore. All that Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley in his fingers. In the moments where the music was feeling where to go next, Gary contributed with his effects to the ambience that would help to trigger the next tangible groove they could all jump on, when it showed itself. The growl of electric guitar added power to the funky electronic sequences So the ‘Throwing in some Gary Lucas’ experiment worked really well.

Steve Lawson sat watching the others in his cocoon of basses and tech, watching, feeling the telepathy and to my mind gave a demonstration of what perfect notes are. I couldn’t see his fingers, just his head really but even in the bass trap at the back of that venue the bass sounded luxury carpet cosy, even and warm. His bass could quickly become sonic science fiction on his system, jumping up octaves so he could construct his own rosy metallic sequences. Some astounding slap bass happened at one point. It was funny watching just his still head and hearing high speed machine gun funky bass. Another great choice of quick minded improvising musician.

Which leaves Andy Gangadeen from The Bays and much more. Andy is a special musician. His timing is impeccable, his bag of fills is stuffed full of juicy and he knows just when to roar and when to hold right back and not invade with drumming. Like all the more musical drummers he quickly hears something in the music to pick out so he is fused with whatever is going on melodically as well as running the actual beat. All aspiring drummers should watch and learn from this cat. No kidding. His kit is mainly drums for tonight, some pads with alternative drum sounds are in use but his role in the night is, drums. The best you can get.

Beardyman Dream Team - by Jim Seconde

The force is strong with Beardyman

Beardyman has a studio around him. A Mac attack! He is on the fly and on the edge of his intelligence. It’s electrifying to watch him in a suspended state of wow! for two hours. He too is playing live, setting up live sequences and adjusting to what the other three guys are doing as well as leading the way. The force is strong with Beardyman, it was all a risk in front of a lot of people! It could fall apart or get publicly vague and lost, yet he launched himself into moments like human beatbox duelling with the best drummer in the country, singing over unknown music and baking up a crowd to scream and shout, making it a show. Except no one knew what to play or what the show is going to be. Improvisation can leave broken moments as the next peaks are not yet found but tonight, there were none.

Beardyman does not waste a microphone. He fills it with an appealing passionate singing voice, super tight percussive sounds and basically, good brain. The whole thing is effortlessly and tastefully clever. I believe all the shows in this residency are recorded. The following night will be another mix of players. So there it is. A human, technological, free flowing thing that happened just once and worth every pound of the ticket price. Modern, cliche free, expert impro in a famous jazz club of note. Bravo!