Wednesday 2 October 2019

Resolution 88: "21st Century Headhunters" [Interview]

'Revolutions' is the third album from UK jazz-funk quartet, Resolution 88, who release their new project on new label home, Légère Recordings.

Comprised of Tom O'Grady on keyboards, Ric Elsworth on drums, Alex Hitchcock on saxophone and Tiago Coimbra on electric bass, expectations for the new project will undoubtedly be high following the immense praise the band's sophomore album, 'Afterglow', received when released in 2016.

Released via Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick's Splash Music record label, and with mixing duties by Dan 'JD73' Goldman and mastering by the revered Bob Power, the band's jazz-funk fusion proved to be a real breakout project for the collective.  While 'Afterglow' deftly demonstrated Resolution 88's unrivalled skill when walking the tightrope of these two genres - and still confidently introducing subtle twinges of electronica and broken beat into the pot - 'Revolutions' again sees the quartet raising the stakes.  Far from resting on their laurels, the end-result is arguably even more dynamic, boasting an even more encompassing sound than its predecessor: the spaced-out nature of 'Matrix' is a real treat, as are tracks 'Out of Sync', 'Runout Groove' and 'Warped Memories', and then there's the inclusion of 'Dig Deep' which sees US trumpeter Marcus Tenney (of Butcher Brown) put down the trumpet to indulge in his rap alter-ego, marking him as the first guest vocalist to appear on a Resolution 88 record.

I'll apologise here as it's become almost passé to continually note the wave of rising young talent within the UK's jazz scene but it's something that brings a lot of pride to people like myself - young UK artists making jazz accessible to young UK fans.  I still pinch myself.  But within those discussions, Resolution 88's efforts deserve as much praise as any other act - theirs is a forward-thinking and progressive take on the genre beaming with an inimitable and infectious personality.

Blue-in-Green:RADIO is proud to have secured time with Resolution 88 bandleader Tom O'Grady to discuss their new project...

Congratulations on the release of 'Revolutions': you must be thrilled with how the album is being received thus far?
Thank you - yes, we’re very pleased with how it’s been received so far. We really tried to do something different with this album but obviously the last thing we want to do is alienate our existing fans. It’s been great to receive complimentary messages from fans as we’ve posted copies out - catching up with fans and exchanging news is actually one of the most enjoyable things about releasing a new album.

How does this album differ to the group's last two projects?
Whilst we’re very proud of our first two albums, we also wanted to try something different with this record. First of all, we wanted to explore different song structures - we didn’t want it to be a traditional jazz format of head-solo-head. We wanted it to be more of a journey with twists and turns that kept it exciting. We also wanted to record to tape and to put the album on vinyl - this is something we’ve always wanted to do but this was the first time where it was financially viable for us. Ever since I heard Herbie Hancock’s ‘Sun Touch’ (on his Manchild album) I’ve really wanted to compose songs with similar orchestral flourishes - for ‘Revolutions’ we overdubbed live strings, trumpet, flugel horn - and I even played a bit of trombone! Finally, it’s the first album where we’ve had special guests or vocals!

How did Resolution 88 come to sign with Legere Recordings?
I’ve know Helmut (at Légère) for quite a few years now, because of my work with Myles Sanko. I’ve played with Myles Sanko since the very beginning of his solo project and since he signed with Légère for his second album ‘Forever Dreaming’, we’ve often met Helmut at gigs in London and Germany. It’s a very well-run label with many other bands that I’m a fan of (Young Gun, Silver Fox, for instance!) - and they specialise in music on vinyl, which was perfect for us with this new album. It felt like a very good match when Helmut and I first discussed working together and I know that he understands our music, which is obviously the most important thing to start with.

Can you tell us a little about what went into the making of the 'Revolutions’?
I composed the songs, creating demos in Logic - everything from drum beats, fills, bass lines, melodies to keys parts. We then learned the songs and rehearsed them together, before recording them at Rimshot Studios in Kent (a fantastic studio). The album was recorded over several sessions (3 or 4 songs at a time). Once we’d got the live takes done, I edited them and overdubbed all the keyboard parts that I couldn’t cover during the band take. I arranged string and brass parts over those takes and then we had a studio session at Press Play in Bermondsey with the strings and brass. After that, we delivered everything to Rob Mullarkey (bass player for Jacob Collier) who then did a fantastic job of mixing the music - and then we mastered the music (to tape) and cut the lacquer with Caspar Sutton-Jones at Gearbox Records.

What led to the decision to include outside collaborators like Marcus Tenney?
Ever since I started this band as an instrumental group, I’ve constantly fielded suggestions that we work with a vocalist. I always listen to this advice but I never wanted to do it unless we were unanimous as a band that it was the right guest for the right song at the right time. I composed ‘Dig Deep’ as a sparse, hip-hop track - and when we rehearsed it we felt there was definitely something about it but that it would be great with a focal point, whether it was a singer or a rapper. We spent a while thinking about who we could ask, before suddenly realising that Marcus was definitely the man for the job - it was just a question of whether he was up for it. I contacted him and it turned out that he’d just been thinking about the experience of digging for records and listening to music on vinyl - that was exactly what I wanted him to write about. We love what he did - hopefully there’s room for further collaborations in the future. For those people reading this interview who don’t recognise his name - go check out Marcus Tenney, his solo projects as ‘tennishu’ and his band ‘Butcher Brown’!

Which song from the Resolution 88 catalogue would you play to win over a prospective new fan?
That’s a really tough one! As far as I’m concerned, the tracks I’m proudest of are the ones that sound closest to how I imagined them when I first composed them. I’m actually really proud of the whole of ‘Revolutions’, the new album - it’s definitely a step up for us. ‘Pitching Up’, ‘Sample Hunter’ and ‘Runout Groove’ are probably highlights - and then from our back catalogue, I’m very happy with ‘Phantom of the Oberheim’, ‘Caughtus Interrupts’ and ‘Broken Beat’.

Who would be a dream guest to either record or perform with?
Good question! I suppose an obvious answer would be - Herbie Hancock! That’s perhaps not even about him guesting on a recording or a gig - it’s more the time that it would buy with him so we could hang out and chat!

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