After wowing us with last year’s All Is Yes, winner of the BBC Jazz Album Of The Year award, Bristol-based jazz rock quartet Get The Blessing return to our stereos with the impressive follow-up Bugs In Amber. Of course, they were simply The Blessing last year, but with that title proving far too popular a hasty name change has taken place.
Clive Deamer (drums) and Jim Barr (bass) are cool coves unlikely to be fazed by all the attention buzzing around the group. Deamer and Barr have already seen it all as with Mercury Prize-winning acts Portishead and Roni Size, which maybe had a bearing on the name change.
Joined once again by Jake McMurchie (saxophone) and Pete Judge (trumpet), the piano less quartet is part of the new breed of jazzers that is as likely to draw inspiration from rock and electronica as the expected jazz sources.
This is apparent from the outset as the opening Music Style Product thunders by in a riot of pounding drums, repetitive bass licks and squalling brass. Closer in spirit to funk than jazz, this is music without an inch of fat on its bones but with a punkish energy that is very modern.
Discipline is writ large in the Get The Blessing ethic, from the natty dress sense that the members bring to their live performances to the razor sharp playing on record. The only bum notes you will hear on Bugs In Amber are deliberate in-jokes, and the music is as tight as a classic Blue Note session.
It is the little touches that make Bugs In Amber so special. Second track The Word For Moonlight Is Moonlight rolls by on a rolling bass figure eerily reminiscent of prime-era Can, while McMurchie and Judge trade off against each other like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry.
The Can influence crops up again on The Unnameable, which threatens to break out into Yoo Doo Right at several moments, before McMurchie and Judge instigate a second section that devotes itself to the squall of free jazz improvisation.
The title track is the most discordant sounding piece of music on the album, on initial listens at least, but the craft behind the madness quickly reveals itself. Counter melodies rub up against each other, flitting into unison before diving off into the maelstrom. It’s all highly enjoyable are very effective.
By contrast, Tarp is the most mainstream sounding track on the album. A fiddly drum beat providing the rhythmic impetus for some dreamy trumpet figures, although the quartet can’t resist throwing in a free jazz blast in the middle section.
Elsewhere, the quartet shakes its feathers on the stomping Einstein Action Figure (a very droll, modern title) and reveal their genuine love of electronica on the eerie The Speed Of Dark.
One of the oddest tracks on the album is So It Goes, which starts off in light-hearted Dave Brubeck style before veering into real hard line Coleman territory. Curious but not entirely convincing.
It is left to the ecstatic jazz rockisms of Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes and the wistful nursery rhyme Trapdoor to bring this entertaining album to a close, the latter’s toy box sounds a perfect aural representation of the spirit of what has gone before.
Is this just modern jazz for modern jazzers? Hardly, as even the most diehard rock and dance fans will find plenty of interest on Bugs In Amber. Cool, stylish music for the modern generation, and heartily recommended.