A reimagining of something old into something new is one thing, but a completely original re-invention is another..
One thing I’ve learned whilst talking to musicians is that, being a musician myself, it’s never easy to describe your own music.
Luckily, when speaking to Dave Manington, one of London’s staple jazz bassists and composers, I received an entire story backdrop behind his stunning new release, “Strike the Harp”. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece, building on an expert use of counterpoint and tension to a deeply nostalgic and wistful call of the past, in conversation with the present.
One of London’s most sought-after leading jazz musicians, Dave is known to be fantastically versatile. If you haven’t heard his music before, this track alone paints an almost panoramic picture of the types of musical conversations inherent in his lyrical expression. Joined by stellar contributions from Ivo Neame (saxes, clarinet, accordion, piano) and Jon Scott (drums), the track was mixed and mastered remotely at the home studio of Ivo Neame after Dave laid down the guitar parts. ” We’re all learning a lot of new skills during this pandemic” , says Dave.
So where did the name ” Strike the Harp” come from?
To prove my earlier point about the seamless blend from folk to jazz and everything in between, Dave happily explained his creative process behind this track. It started formulating whilst he was on tour with Yazz Ahmed. Dave cleverly shifted the chord shapes around and out of position after listening to the folk tune that inspired this composition, “Strike The Gay Harp“. If you think that the tune he ended up composing (you can hear it here ) sounds far removed from the original after a twisting melody and slower middle section, you’d be right. Genius!
Starting out with a fantastic intro of sax lines which (almost like the sax version of a Norma Winstone-inspired vocal), the theme to “Strike the Harp” is set. How Dave managed, along with Scott and Neame, to create a soundscape of tension and release in the first minute alone is astounding.
Sure enough, what followed was nothing short of a nod to the subtle yet overwhelming powerful harp- like-piano solo from Neame. It’s clear as day that these musicians have played together for some time. Whilst his influences may not be overtly apparent, I asked him if they perhaps did so out of habit.
He said: “I’m a big fan of Radiohead and other alternative pop/rock groups like Bjork, Joni Mitchell, etc, and this chord sequence has a dark melancholy quality to it and a strong sense of voice leading, which I think mainly comes from that area.”
That strong voice leading carries the piece from one section to the other, with the solos leaving perfectly timed breathing spaces. As aforementioned, it’s the perfect balance of that wonderfully melancholic line of counterpoint creating that much-needed cathartic release. Dave’s guitar entry made a particular impression on me: it came as not only as a stylistic shift but a deeply moving conversation between the piano solo and the saxophone that followed. I almost thought I was going to hear Jimmy Page and Thom Yorke add a few wails, and just like that, I was right back in an airtight rhythm session complete with clarinet, accordion and saxes.
The main theme was reintroduced soon after into a truly unique and mesmerising harmonization of the first section. I loved how it ended: the pairing of clarinet and sax was just beautiful, not to mention the masterful and creative drumming of Jon Scott.
I’m left with a feeling of a quiet stasis of the universe. I don’t know whether Dave was thinking this as he wrote “Strike The Harp”, but it painted a story of someone who, whilst walking to an intended destination, chose to take a different and more fulfilling direction.
Folks, if you’re a fan of jazz, folk and everything in between, do yourself a favour and head over to enjoy Dave Manington’s music.
You can purchase the track “Strike the Harp” on his Bandcamp page here; along with his other wonderful work, here.Strike the Harp by Dave Manington