Anthropology Band: Scald – Live 2022

Sometimes freely improvising, sometimes funky, sometimes bluesy collective suggests cusp of 60/70s Miles in London and Newcastle concerts


Discus label boss Martin Archer leads the Anthropology Band on these live recordings, where the musicians tackle mainly original compositions with collective purpose. Electronics do come into the equation but never take over the proceedings, even if at times the other-worldly effects might be disconcerting to some ears.

There is a lot of music on these three CDs, the Newcastle gig acting as a forerunner for the Café Oto appearance four weeks later. A quick glance at the track listing shows a duplication of some tunes between the two locations but anybody comparing performances will note differences between them.

In the London performance we are treated to first and second sets where the band lay out their mixture of the written and unashamedly freely improvised. There are no breaks for us to take a breath. To open, the leader’s melodica graces Mauger Hay. That transforms into Give Me Back Some Truth, initially awash with electronica but taking a turn into something resembling an off-centre take on In A Silent Way.

Archer concentrates on saxello initially, dipping in and out of the action; his contributions are often buoyed up by electronic underpinning, a background also to be found behind Keeffe and Robinson. The trumpeter offers a thoroughly modern approach to her instrument while the vibes man creates a ringing presence with a touch of distortion.

The themes we encounter are drawn out over busy backgrounds with tempos often clearly laid out – for instance on both versions of Fire On 88th, the rhythm is best described as left-field funk. However, on the 20-minute plus The Candidates (longer than the Newcastle version), the freedom principle is totally alive and well, Archer’s saxello offering up plenty of squeals and bleats with a touch of Bechet-like tremolo around the edges. Tradition also rears its head on People Talking Blues, the spirit of the genre alive and well, albeit in a fragmented fashion; the guitar at its heart does nothing but aid the general bow to the past.

This sometimes intense and densely pitched music is clearly aimed at a certain type of audience but the open-minded should at least dip into this intriguing contemporary world.

CD1: (1) Mauger Hay; Give Me Back Some Truth; The Dancer And The Spark; Drum Introduction; Blade Juggler: Lazy Susan; The Candidates; Piano Introduction; African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant (66.00)
CD2: (1) Bass Introduction; People Talking Blues; Improvisation / Build / Burst / Soap; Fire On 88th (43.00)
CD3: (2) Drum Introduction; Blade Juggler; Lazy Susan; Mauger Hay; The Candidate; Fire On 88th; Piano Introduction; African Village / Bedford Stuyvesant (58.00)

(1) Collectively: Martin Archer (ts, slo, mel, elec); Charlotte Keeffe (t, flh); Pat Thomas (p, kyb, elec); Orphy Robinson (xylosynth); Chris Sharkey, Anton Hunter (g, elec); Dave Sturt (elb, elec); Adam Fairclough (d). Café Oto, London, 26 October 2022.
(2) as (1) but Newcastle Festival Of Jazz And Improvised Music, 29 September 2022.
Discus 155CD