Bonsai, a young UK-based quintet formerly known as Jam Experiment, feature original compositions credited to the band as a whole on this, their second album. There are no reed instruments or guitars in the line-up, which immediately distinguishes the band from many of its contemporaries in the jazz field.
Trombonist Rory Ingham and violinist Dominic Ingham take on most of the frontline duties, but the rhythm section players – Toby Comeau on keyboards and synthesiser, Joe Lee on bass, piano and synthesiser and Jonny Mansfield on drums, percussion, vibes and synthesiser – are equally capable of taking a lead (Mansfield’s vibes solo on The Crescent being a notable example).
Another of Bonsai’s unusual features is the presence of two lyricists – Dominic Ingham and Mansfield – and two vocalists – Dominic Ingham and Lee. Despite these possible combinations, only four tracks feature lyrics (others include wordless vocalising) and they never threaten to overwhelm the instrumentalists. There are a mere three verses on Bonsai Club, with an additional verse on Bonsai Reprise, one verse on Tin, while Quay gets a solitary, repeated, line buried deep in the mix.
Stylistically, the band ranges from the uptempo prog-jazz of BMJC or Hop-The Hip Replacement to the graceful beauty of Quay (featuring lovely trombone and violin) and the slow and languid groove of my favourite number, Tin. Across the eight tracks Bonsai display plenty of musical talent and inventiveness, although the predominance of the synth on some tracks can detract from the acoustic instruments that are so central to the emotional connections of this music – maybe the presence of three synth players in a quintet has something to do with it. An enjoyable recording in its own right, Bonsai Club also bodes well for the future of this band.
Bonsai Club; The Crescent; Tin; BMJC; Quay; Hop-The Hip Replacement; Itchy Knee; Bonsai Reprise (37.26)
Rory Ingham (tb); Dominic Ingham (vn, v); Toby Comeau (p, Fender Rhodes, syn); Joe Lee (b, v, p, syn); Jonny Mansfield (d, pc, vib, syn). Llandrindod Wells, July 2018.
Ubuntu Music UBU0031