Released: 5th May, 2009
Label: Tru Thoughts
Imagine if you started with one of the UK’s most celebrated and bankable jazz saxophonists and frontline musical innovators, and he wrote all the music, which he then fed to a hungry young producer, who happened to be the Cornish rave scene’s most wanted – from way back when raves were raves – (surely the saxophonist’s sonic nemesis, on paper at least); and then, once he got the sound all nice and filthy, like nothing you’d heard before – especially not from a consummate jazz veteran – the guitarist from one of the UK’s most famous and acclaimed bands came along and added his own Midas touch.
If you did all that, crossed your fingers and hoped for a huge bestowal of je ne sais quoi, you would be on your way to creating your very own Stonephace, whose self titled debut features some of the best live musicians around, including main man, veteran jazz dissident Larry Stabbins on sax, Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley and bassist Jim Barr, with a guest turn from Dizzy Gillespie collaborator Guy Barker on trumpet. The dirty hip hop/breaks production aesthetic comes care of your Cornish sonic alchemist Krzysztof Oktalski, binding together electronica, jazz pedigree, indie credentials, and a big swoosh of psychedelia in a Madlib-esque genre brawl.
Larry Stabbins, co-founder of the enormously influential band Working Week, reached number 23 in the UK album charts with their 1985 debut ‘Working Nights’ and went on to enjoy worldwide success over the next decade, gracing the pages of NME, Melody Maker, The Wire et al, and inspiring a jaded generation to get up and dance. As a deeply involved, longtime supporter of the anti-apartheid movement, other highlights of Stabbins’ illustrious career include performing to over 250,000 people at the anti racism festival, Touche Pas à Mon Pote in Paris, 1985; and more recently in 2008, even Amy Winehouse singing all over his sax solo could not temper the euphoric experience of playing in Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert. He also joined Robert Wyatt onstage for Last Will and Testament: The Robert Wyatt Story in 2004.
Initially the baby of Stabbins and Oktalski, ‘Stonephace’ came together over a lengthy period in the wilds of Cornwall. Adrian Utley, who had collaborated with Stabbins before, on hearing the music announced his enthusiasm to play on it, and fitted the sessions around the recording of Portishead’s ‘Third’. Playing almost everything first take – notably his stunning solo on “White Queen Psychology” – Utley’s input added another level of noise and vitality, and a link between the weirdy electronics and jazz sensibility. From the New York club-land gogo glitz of the opener, “Wedgehead Gets Lucky”, to the fuzzy organ riffage, heavy-ass hip hop drums and general craziness of the epic final installment – via spacey 7/4 time signatures and 15 second bursts of drum ‘n’ bass semantics – ‘Stonephace’ creates a unique universe and invites you to come and visit. The Stonephace live show features Stabbins on sax, Utley on guitar, local Cornish hero Helm DeVegas on keys and Oktalski with the down and dirty drums on vinyl and laptop, all bathed in visuals from VJ Stella Marina.