Benn Clatworthy’s System 6: Tales From The Backyard

The London-born, LA-resident wood-winder offers a slick, fast and dexterous take on hard bop, edging at times into free

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Multi-woodwind man Clatworthy leads two bands – one either side of the Atlantic. There’s his UK quartet when he’s in this country and then System 6, his acoustic sextet when he’s at home in Los Angeles. The title of Tales From The Backyard arose after months of socially distanced rehearsals in Clatworthy’s backyard during the restrictions of 2020. When he finally decided that they’d nailed it, the album was recorded in a single day in March 2021.

Seven of the album’s tracks are composed by Clatworthy with the eighth being penned by his trombonist, Joey Sellers. The band’s signature hard-bop delivery extends into free jazz in some of the numbers.

The opening track, The Vegan, has Clatworthy soloing skilfully on soprano sax. He’s a vegan himself. The Studio refers to that of his father from where Clatworthy was watching the sunrise on the day of his funeral when the composition came to him. With something of a salsa beat it’s not a sad tune and has relatively animated trombone and piano solos with intricate drums and percussion. The bright and catchy Calypso Trisha sees Clatworthy on flute and great ensemble playing from the band. It recalls his next-door neighbour, Aunt Patty, in London where he was brought up as a child. Clatworthy turns to bass clarinet on Ballad For George Floyd. It’s an appropriately mournful piece with discordant passages conveying rage and indignation at the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death.

Sellers’ contribution, The Mystic Feminine Charms of Caesura Chonchalita (she’s a character in a short story who likes being lathered in butter) is a complex work with quicksilver soloing from all. This One’s For Celia, first heard on The Pursuit by Clatworthy’s UK outfit, is a ballad with him soloing poignantly on flute. The song was written for his mother-in-law. In contrast, the foot-tapping WAFM is urgent with intricate interplay and pulsating bass and percussion. Clatworthy hasn’t explained the background to this but the assumption is that its title might be urban slang. The highly energetic closing number, The Skipper Meets the Pharoah, has breakneck solos from each of the band. Its title refers to jazz bassist Henry Franklin (aka Skipper) and of course Pharoah Sanders.

Much of the playing in this album is slick, fast and dexterous. If you listen in one go you might want to rest and recuperate in a darkened room for a while.

Discography
The Vegan; The Studio; Calypso Trisha; Ballad For George Floyd; The Mystic Feminine Charms Of Caesura Chonchalita; This Ones For Celia; WAFM; The Skipper Meets The Pharoah (53.26)
Clatworthy (ts, ss, bcl, f); Ron Stout (t); Joey Sellers (tb); Bryan Velasco (p); David Reynoso (b); Tyler Kreutel (d); Yayo Morales (pc). Pasadena, 9 March 2021.
Skipper Productions SP1038