The Banger Factory: Warriors

Young British players solo effectively over compositions styled after the 1960s music of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and other hard boppers


What is a warrior? That was the question that Mark Kavuma and musicians set out to consider when they met in the studio soon after lockdown. Although holding many different interpretations, their starting point was to explore the word “warrior” in the context of the struggles and challenges faced by musicians during the pandemic.

The result is a euphonious set of six original tunes that evoke notions of chamber jazz whilst maintaining a sense of adventure and intensity throughout, each track evolving from the contributors’ insight, observations and interpretations of the significance of the album title.

The two-part Warriors suite that opens the set has a spiritual intensity to it, Theo Erskine’s tenor in stately, declamatory mode leading the band into a sprightly, piano-led conclusion before the upbeat, post-bop stylings of the second part take over. In contrast, Chomolungma (Tibetan for Mount Everest) honours a warrior of the natural world with a tentative respect that becomes increasingly intense as the enormity of nature is considered.

Two different warriors are considered in the gentle waltz that is Anansi’s Waltz – Anansi is a West African shape-shifter – and Zorro, a clever pun on composer Ruben Fox, as zorro is Spanish for fox, as well as being a masked Mexican vigilante. Fox wrote the piece in memory of his father, who was a warrior to him, and it is through-composed throughout, a stately and majestic tribute. The concluding Senzo – a Japanese word for forefathers – ends in ebullient style.

Although stripped down from the nine-strong ensemble that created their debut set, this new-look Banger Factory is a stronger outfit, the compositions more advanced, the voicings more involved. But the band is still as adventurous as ever, and as exuberant. Another strong release from a fine outfit.

Warriors Part 1; Warriors Part 2; Chomolungma; Anansi’s Waltz; Zorro; Senzo (43.35)
Mark Kavuma (t); Theo Erskine (ts); Ruben Fox (bcl); Deschanel Gordon (p); Conor Chaplin (b); Luca Caruso (d). London, around spring 2022.
Banger Factory Records BF004

P.S. (25 May 2023):
When I first reviewed this album in March, I had only a download to listen to on my computer. Listening now to the vinyl LP on my stereo is an altogether better audio experience, the sound quality far superior, the individual instruments more distinct, notably bass and piano. Throughout, the interplay between the musicians is more pronounced, the impact more authoritative than before. The album (BF004LP) repeats the order of the CD over the two sides of vinyl, three tracks a side, but with Chomolungma and Zorro changing places to balance out the playing times. Detailed sleeve notes on each track by recording engineer John Zaitz, complete a fine package.