Press and Reviews
Kings Place, London, May 2015
Kings Place, just off Kings Cross station, on York Way, a magnificent venue for art, conferences, eating and drinking and, most importantly, for jazz music on Saturday nights! At 8pm, we enter Hall 2 downstairs and take our seats. It is a spacious and well laid out hall.
The double bill that’s in store is a treat and a rather special one as showcased by the Birmingham based and incredible Stoney Lane Records label. The company was created by guitarist and co-founder of TG Collective, Sam Slater. Sam tells me briefly there will be far more extensive touring around the UK and Europe from early next year to support a new album release in the spring. There will be more gigs planned, especially in London perhaps at Ronnie Scott’s, I suggest? (I jump with joy at the thought! That would simply be awesome). Having started a label company of course was not the only plan Mr Slater had in mind; he is involved in other ventures, like working closely with the Town Hall & Symphony Hall Birmingham, to name one. TG Collective takes the stage first soon after 8pm with 7 musicians ready to amaze. The stage is filled with talent. The audience awaits.
“Release the Penguins” from TGC’s 2012 album opens the show and it is a joy to be sitting in a room whose acoustic is so perfect to re-emphasize and amplify the powerful sound of this band. TG Collective, with their signature eclectic sound full of gipsy jazz, flamenco influences and classical tones have strength and fluidity and if “Release the Penguins” is an excellent opener, then “Silhouette” is a mighty follower echoing the beautiful sounds of the Orient. On “Songe d’Autumne”, Luis Mather’s clarinet is refreshingly good, but then “Sutta” follows, being a track of the most fragility and power at the same time, written by Bryan Lester, TG Collective’s guru apart from being a guitarist, pianist, composer, arranger and trainer as well. He has written and co-written a few tracks on TGC’s “Release the Penguins”.
With “Absurdist Cartoon Variations #7” as composed by Jamie Fekete (TGC other wonderful guitarist), we enter the realm of originality and innovation. A couple more tracks follow, “Grasshopper” which the band have not performed live before and “Donuts” where there are only 4 players left on stage, a double bass, 2 guitars and a violin. Fabulous rendition. Mr Percy Pursglove on double bass has to be given special mention and not just because I am slightly bias towards the instrument in general, but because he IS amazing at his playing, a creator of special effects.
The band finishes with “Astounding Eyes of Rita” into an arrangement of Paco de Lucia’s “Zyryab”, Sam Slater on oud offers a great improvisation of oud composer and player Anouar Brahem’s eponymous album track of 2009 on ECM Records, the iconic German jazz label, the album recorded in 2009 in Italy. Note to the reader: Brahem’s album is astounding, a must listen (my favourite track being: “Waking State”). Another special mention is due to Joelle Barker on percussion. An incredible player.
We need to see and listen to TG Collective: their innovative sound, their skills together with their fabulous imaginative writing deserve the grandest praise.
More please! … Never has a show been so enticingly addictive.
The Sunday Times
December 2nd, 2012
TG Collective – Release The Penguins
“Jump to the last track, The Sheik of Araby and you’ll see that they can let their hair down. The flamenco-inspired TG Collective won plaudits as Trio Gitano. Their updated, expanded line-up, with the acoustic guitars of Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater balanced by flute, violin, double bass and discreet percussion, sounds more assured than ever. From gypsy swing to hustling, Chick Corea-ish improv, a re-working of Horace Silver’s Song For My Father and serene excursions into the baroque, the playlist always keeps you guessing. And the telepathy is always tuneful.
– Clive Davis
TG Collective – Release The Penguins
“Release The Penguins is performed with impeccable musicianship. It opens with the title track, reminiscent in atmosphere of Django’s Rhythm Futur, providing a steel-strung Gypsy jazz delight. Then suddenly we are in Spain with the second track, Silhouette. This features nylon-strung guitar played with masterly flamenco and classical guitar technique. The steel/nylon manouche/flamenco duality from the two guitarists, Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater, runs as a thread through the whole album.
There are a couple of stunning flute solos from Holly Jones, particularly on Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, but most of the music is composed, highly arranged, and draws on a multitude of influences. Louis Robinson plays violin and Percy Pursglove adds double bass to complete the core cast. In addition Percy also contributes trumpet, Tom Chapman and Joelle Barker provide cajon where required, and Laura Moody plays cello.
With two exceptions, the music is written by members of the collective, or their associates. The musicianship of the players provides some glorious sounds and textures. There is certainly some beautiful and emotional music on this album … the eclecticism sometimes feels like listening to a soundtrack without the pictures.
This is different and interesting. And did I mention the impeccable musicianship?
– Jon Moore
Autumn 2012 – Musician’s Union magazine
TG Collective – Release The Penguins (featured review)
TG Collective serve up a jazzy feast on their debut album
“Gypsy jazz, flamenco and modern classical styles dance enticingly from the twin guitars of Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater, who in TG Collective are joined by double bassist and trumpeter Percy Pursglove, flautist Holly Jones, violinist Louis Robinson and percussionists Joelle Barker and Tom Chapman. This debut shows why the band have played live on the BBC, at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Pizza Express Soho and on London’s South Bank to acclaim.
Sparkling playing/arrangements and exquisite soloing are permanent features of the 10 tracks, from the title cut instrumental beginning via the lovely tones of Silhouette, the vigorous Escape From Girona and the final track, The Sheik of Araby. Release The Penguins is unique, adventurous and a true find.”
The Big Feastival 2012 Review – September 2012
“Food and music-lovers headed to Alex James’ farm last weekend for the second year of Jamie Oliver’s, ‘The Big Feastival’.
On the mainstage, Birmingham-based flamenco, gypsy and jazz-inspired musicians, the TG Collective started with a small crowd, but literally stopped people in their tracks and gained onlookers throughout with their amazing musicianship and intricate solos.” […]
– Rachael Hogg, Yahoo! OMG
Northern Sky Music magazine
Album Review – September 2012
“One would need a Large Hadron Collider to discover the single unknown something that makes TG Collective’s RELEASE THE PENGUINS the infectious little treasure that it is.
There is so much at play here – from the madcap title track that is as much Raymond Scott as it is Django Reinhardt to the flirtatious flamenco of Silhouette; from the intricate mystery of Sutta and Homage to the dramatic, somewhat filmic complexity of The Long Arm. The mix of gypsy-style guitar, flute, percussion, bass and the occasional trumpet creates, at once, a full yet attractively sparse sound that pulls you toward the music rather than bringing it to you.
Much more than your average gypsy jazz album, this record is a thoughtful tour of that surprisingly varied terrain. Often intoxicating in its musical curiosity and so exquisitely produced, RELEASE THE PENGUINS exemplifies the diversity and ambition that exists in contemporary British jazz.”
– Liam Wilkinson, Northern Sky
Live Review – Manchester Jazz Festival, July 2012
[…] “Then on Tuesday (17th July) what for me was a new musical delight, saw TG Collective in the Festival Pavilion give an outstanding performance. They are an accomplished group from the Midlands specialising in gypsy, flamenco, bolero-type music and they riveted a packed audience till the last encore. Two guitars (Jamie Fekete, Sam Slater) talking to one another, playing against one another, in the hypnotic rhythms of flamenco, improvisations around dance and jazz fusions, left the centre of Manchester spellbound. A final flourish from the violinist (Louis Robinson) during an encore that one did not want to end was a superb conclusion to a very impressive musical display of talent with flute (Holly Jones), double bass and trumpet (Percy Pursglove) and percussion (listed as Tom Chapman, Joelle Barker). I ‘popped in’ for thirty minutes, and stayed for an eternity that passed all too fleetingly, spellbound by the music.”
July 2012 ****
TG COLLECTIVE – RELEASE THE PENGUINS
Brummie Django-disciples branch out
“Flamenco, jazz and gypsy-swing mingle together in the world of the TG Collective, a guitar-led sextet from a British city with a thriving home-grown global music scene – Birmingham. The collective grew out of Trio Gitano, a successful acoustic guitar trio, and Release The Penguins is the first release for the bigger group, which also features violin, trumpet, flute and percussion.
Guitarists Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater are the driving force behind TGC and theirs appears to be a longstanding musical relationship. Not only do they play together with pinpoint precision but they share writing credits on some of the record’s finest tracks: the Django Reinhardt-inspired title-track, flamenco piece ‘Escape From Girona (Part II),’ and the JS Bach tribute ‘Homage’.
Most of TGC’s music is delivered with a fast pace and a light touch. The flute and violin tend to play in unison with the lead guitar but there is space for soloing too. Flautist Holly Jones delivers a couple of scorching improvisations, most notably on a sultry arrangement of jazz pianist Horace Silver’s ‘Song For My Father’. It’s not just individual contributions or tracks that make the album though. With its flamenco-dominated core leavened by the swinging outer numbers, there’s a pleasing overall shape to Release The Penguins. A rewarding listen all round.”
– Tim Woodall
TG COLLECTIVE – RELEASE THE PENGUINS
“This follow-up to their 2005 album ‘Who Ate All The Tapas?’ sees the original Trio Gitano expanding into a collective that incorporates flute, fiddle, double bass, trumpet and percussion. Based around the two guitars of Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater (the other original band member, Sophie Johnson, left in 2006 to follow other musical pursuits), the broader textural palette makes for a very tasty gumbo indeed.
A fairly eclectic outfit from the start, TGC’s ever-widening crazy quilt of influences references flamenco in ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Escape from Girona’, jazz in a delightful two-part take on Horace Silver’s ‘Song For My Father’, a two-guitar ‘Homage’ to JS Bach’s magisterial ‘Chaconne in D Minor’, and a nod to Django Reinhardt in the album’s swinging title track and ‘The Sheik of Araby’. The group’s mentor, Bryan Lester, is still very much in the frame, contributing three pieces the pick of which is undoubtedly the unerringly lyrical ‘Sutta’.”
– Peter Quinn
The Birmingham Post / The Jazz Breakfast
15th June 2012 – thejazzbreakfast.com
CD REVIEW – TG COLLECTIVE
Release The Penguins (Own label)
“The Birmingham-based band that started as a gypsy jazz guitar trio has grown into a much more interesting affair, with the two central Spanish guitars of Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater now surrounded by the flute of Holly Jones, the violin of Louis Robinson, the bass (and sometimes trumpet) of Percy Pursglove, and the cajon and percussion of Tom Chapman and Joelle Barker, plus the added cello of Laura Moody at times.
The material is wide ranging, from the jokey Hot Club meets the Marx Bros style of the title track, through the classical with a beat Silhouette, to a thoughtful interpretation of Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, with the father possibly living in Andalucia.
Sutta heightens the flamenco atmosphere with some particularly entwined guitar work, while Homage takes Bach as its starting point, and that’s never a bad place to start.
The Long Arm is possibly the most musically adventurous piece, with a very delicate and gentle denouement.
There are strong contributions from the whole band, with Holly Jones turning in some very nice solos – on Song For My Father, especially – and the rhythm team hunkered down and tightly groovy, but the heart of TG remains the exceptional two-as-one guitar pair of Fekete and Slater.
The album ends as it had begun – on the sunnier side of this particular flamenco jazz street. Bassist Percy Pursglove switches to trumpet with Fekete and Slater in seriously jolly mood for The Sheik Of Araby.
All that’s missing is flamenco dancer Ana Garcia, who often appears with the band in performance.
For more about TG Collective – they gig a lot and all over the land – and to buy your copy of this ideal summer soundtrack from the TG Emporium, go to www.tgcollective.com
– Peter Bacon
The Book of Albion
Offical West Bromwich Albion FC Programme – WBA vs Arsenal, May 2012
THERE’S SOMETHING STIRRING IN STONEY LANE …
“In tribute to the glory days of the club – two FA Cup wins, three final defeats – the Stoney Lane Music label came into being. And upon that very label, on May 28th, the TG Collective set free their new CD, “Release The Penguins”, catalogue number SLM1888, obviously. It’s a deeply gorgeous collection of originals and new arrangements of standards which, if we had to put it in a category, we’d loosely call “jazz”. As if that weren’t reason enough to pre-order your copy from Amazon right now, we’ll tell you that the band features Sam Slater, former Albion ticket office alumni, so you;ll already be dab hands at giving him your money. But it now and catch the TG Collective at the Polish Club in Birmingham on May 25th.”
– Dave Bowler
Roots and Branches.com
RELEASE THE PENGUINS
“When Trio Gitano split following the departure of Sophie Johnson, fellow guitarists Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater founded TG COLLECTIVE, bringing in Percy Pursglove on double bass and trumpet, flautist Holly Jones, Louis Robinson on violin, and percussion/cajon players Tom Chapman and Joelle Barker. Not to forget flamenco dancer and choreographer Ana Garcia, though she doesn’t get much to do on self-released debut CD Release The Penguins which also features Laura Moody on cello.
Flamenco, Gypsy Jazz, Jazz and Classical provide the musical templates with Paco de Lucia and Django Reinhardt obvious influences, the latter notably so on the opening title track, alongside Bach whose Chaconne provides the inspiration for the twin guitar Homage.
A mix of self-penned and arrangements, band originals Silhouette and Escape From Girona showcase their flamenco passions, Song For My Father sees them take on Horace Silver, Sutta’s a fine intricate piece by TG Guru Bryan Lester who also wrote the guitar scampering On The Run and the avant jazz styled The Long Arm and Fekete’s Not A Waltz is a dramatic gypsy number.
Closing up with a Pursglove’s arrangement of the evergreen The Sheik Of Araby, it’s further ample evidence that world music is appropriately thriving in the city’s multicultural milieu.”
– Mike Davies
Radio To Go – Robin Valk
28th February 2012
URBAN FOLK QUARTET, TG COLLECTIVE. TWO GREAT BANDS. FOLK, JAZZ, LATIN, WORLD. YOUR CALL.
New CDs launching this and next month. Shared musicians and connections. Academic rigour, passion and skill.
New nujazzfolk albums abound in Birmingham this spring. They’re all different, but with common threads. The musicians all work with each other, for a start. Tracking who plays where is bewildering. It’s musical promiscuity of the highest order, and as always with promiscuous behaviour – let’s put this delicately – cross pollination will take place. I think I’ll stop exploring that analogy any further before I get into trouble.
Both bands here are as much into Jazz as they are Folk. The key is experimentation, adventure, and a lot of fun on the side. The danger is that we take this brave and appealing work for granted. Please, don’t ever do that. Savour it; appreciate it, support it if you like; but don’t take it for granted.
[…] Read the full article here
– Robin Valk
Time Out London
“…dazzling mix of flamenco, jazz, classical and swing, as heard on their new album ‘Release the Penguins’.”
The JazzMann.com – Ian Mann ****
Sunday at The Mostly Jazz Festival, Moseley Park, Birmingham, 04/07/2010
[…] The TG Collective grew out of the Birmingham based guitar trio Trio Gitano featuring Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater. The trio’s 2005 album “Who Ate All The Tapas?” was a surprise commercial success and since those days Fekete and Slater have expanded the group adding bass, percussion, flute and violin to form the extended TG Collective. The group’s influences include jazz (particularly the music of Django Reinhardt), flamenco and contemporary classical with the flamenco side of things becoming increasingly dominant. Some Of TG Collective’s performances are enhanced by the fiery flamenco footwork of dancer Ana Garcia.
For today’s performance Fekete and Slater returned to a trio format augmenting their guitars with the double bass, trumpet and cajon of Collective member Percy Pursglove, co- founder of the Harmonic Festival.
The trio produced an eclectic programme that ranged widely and drew on many of their collective influences. Thus Django’s “Minor Swing” and “Minor Blues” bookended J.S. Bach, Pursglove switched between trumpet and bass for Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” before moving on to cajon as the group expressed their flamenco leanings.
This was an enjoyable set, full of outstanding individual musicianship. A switch to the main stage with the full complement of the Collective should be in order for next year. […]
Read the full article/festival review here
The Birmingham Post
Mostly Jazz Festival – Sunday
– Fiona Handscomb
Day Two in the Mostly Jazz house(/park). If Day One was all about the jazz-funk and the blistering drummers, Day Two was all about the jazz-jazz and prodigious guitarists.
Starting with Birmingham’s own TG Collective Trio: an insanely talented 3-piece who seem to have double the sound than there are members. All the strumming and picking and rhythms of gypsy, contemporary, flamenco jazz with a beautiful Bach arrangement thrown in for good measure. […]
Read the full article/festival review here
On Trio Gitano’s Who Ate All The Tapas? (2005/6)…
The Times ****
The Sunday Times ****
The Metro *****
“Stylish, very stylish …”
“Bold, expressive playing that’s liberatingly inventive…”
“As refreshing as it is infectious…”
Earlier TGC Features (2006 – 2009) …
As always, the Cheltenham Festival takes a generous view of jazz, stretching all the way from rockabilly (Imelda May) to gospel (the Ruach choir) to salsa (the Alex Wilson Salsa Orchestra) to flamenco (the TG Collective).
There are genre-bending musicians like clarinettist Don Byron, who fuses funk, rhythm and blues and klezma, among many other things. There are big names, such as American trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas, who always brings a refreshing new take on a well-worn tradition (not always a jazz one).
Other acts include singer Madeleine Peyroux (below), bringing songs from her new album Bare Bones, and on the last night Nigel Kennedy with his impressive all-Polish quintet. Lea DeLaria, lesbian stand-up comic and gravel-voiced singer, will be lowering the tone while tugging hard on the heartstrings.
Just as enticing are the younger British bands. There’s the Mercury Award-winning Portico Quartet and, at the opposite pole to their gentle, musing tone, the fierce, punk-inspired energy of Get the Blessing.
Friday first stop: kick off your weekend with TG Collective
by David Baldwin
Finding the right place to wind down after a hard week’s work can be tricky on a Friday, what with most bars gearing up for the more pre-weekend festivities.
Luckily, Symphony Hall is offering a safe haven today with the smooth gipsy jazz of the TG Collective. The fact that the group had to initially reschedule this date because they would be playing in Barcelona tells you all you need to know about their talents; Sam Slater and Jamie Fekete’s duelling guitars never miss a beat, and the added bonus of flamenco dancer Ana Garcia should give this gig the perfect visual dimension.
– Fri, Symphony Hall, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, 5.30pm, free. Tel: 0121 780 3333. www.tgcollective.com
The TG Collective
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Cornhill Walk, Bury St Edmunds (Bury St Edmunds Festival)
Although it was cold and wet in Bury last night, those who saw the TG Collective were whipped away to sunnier shores.
You could almost smell the tapas and feel the warm breeze on your face.
Originally a trio, Trio Gitano now has two acoustic guitarists – Sam Slater and Jamie Fekete – who have brought three other musicians with them.
It began with an acoustic Spanish piece played with fiery expression and brightened by Holly Jones’ flute. All underpinned by Percy Purseglove on double bass. Then the players invited Louis Robinson to add his violin to the mix.
The young musicians had loads of connection with one another, playing with verve and energy. It was particularly nice to hear the two guitars with no accompaniment for Take 5.
And Blues and Jazz, these guys played it all, with great aplomb.
On Friday the now expanded Trio Gitano, who go by the name of the TG Collective, bring some nu-Django jazz to the foyer bar in Symphony Hall.
At the heart of the band are acoustic guitarists Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater, but the addition of a moving personnel which can include Percy Purseglove on bass and trumpet and Ray Butcher on trumpet as well as strings and flute, give the band a lot more scope and have broadened their jazz influences considerably.
These Rush Hour Blues sessions are one of the great success stories of Birmingham’s burgeoning jazz scene over the past few years.
It’s now vital to get there a bit before 5.30pm if you want a seat, which is as good an excuse as I can think of to slope out of work early.
* If you have any news or views you’d like to share, email me at email@example.com. The blog is at www.thejazzbreakfast.blogspot.com.
Midweek wakes up to youthful talent
Jazz Diary with Peter Bacon Feb 19 2007
Forget the weekend – that’s for quiet times. Week nights are when you need to be out and about this week, with a cracking three-in-a-row from Birmingham Jazz, all featuring young bands.
First up is the TG Collective, Trio Gitano with a new and expanded line-up. With TG regulars Sam Slater and Jamie Fekete on guitars are Percy Pursglove and Ray Butcher on trumpets, Holly Jones on flute and Louis Robinson on violin. And there’s a bit more jazz about the sound and music now, so I’m told.
The TG Collective is at the Jam House in St Paul’s Square from 9.30pm tomorrow, and entry is free.
On Wednesday it’s the turn of saxophonist Ed Johnston and a new project called A Heart’s Tale. Ed leads a quartet of Hans Koller on piano, Ryan Trebilcock on bass and Doug Hough on drums, with Black Voices singer Genevieve Sylva and multi-wind player Jan Hendrickse joining as special guests.
Johnston is a formidable and highly original tenor player familiar from many West midlands bands, Conservatoire bands, Walsall Jazz Orchestra and more recently Sugar Beats. This project – a Birmingham Jazz commission – lets him showcase his compositional skills with a piece inspired by Sufism and gospel music as well as jazz.
The Stratford Music Festival again had a wide range of genres, including a fair smattering of jazz, and Sunday’s appearance by the Trio Gitano Collective at the White Swan almost encapsulated that range on it’s own.
As the name suggests, there are normally three of them, all acoustic guitarists, but one has had to stop playing on doctor’s orders, leaving Jamie Fekete and Sam Slater to soldier on. Their response to this adversity was, it turns out, an inspired one: they roped in some of their friends from the young musical talent available on the Birmingham network, did some new arrangements, and rebranded themselves as the TG Collective.
This was their live debut in this form, and it worked brilliantly. Stylistically, they cover a lot of ground, demonstrating equal skill in all styles. They started with a Paco de Lucia flamenco piece, played with real passion and rhythmic drive as well as quite astounding technique. At first they were augmented by Percy Pursglove on double bass and Holly Jones on flute, then the latter was replaced by Louis Robinson’s violin for an early Django Reinhardt number, a slow blues that changed abruptly into a fast swing tempo. There was a further addition to the sound palette when trumpeter Ray Butcher took the stand for a Latin-infected version of Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, then it was back to basics as Sam and Jamie closed the set with an an-adorned duet.
The second set was if anything more diverse, starting with dramatic flamenco flourishes and a two trumpet fanfare (Percy is one of those annoyingly gifted people who are not content with being very good at just one thing). This eventually resolved itself into a long medley based around Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, better known to jazz fans as the main track on the classic Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain. The complex arrangement and the skill of its execution made it hard to believe that this wasn’t a well-established band with a fixed personnel. Another standout was a genre-shifting run through Dave Brubeck’s famous Take Five. By this point they’d been joined by yet another talented young player, Chris Morgan on tenor sax, and at the end all seven were involved.
A standing ovation and loud demands for an encore produced their final masterstroke – a medley of Ennio Morricone spaghetti-western themes that was by turns stirring and tongue-in-cheek.
The Stratford Music Festival seems to get better every year, and it’s wide-ranging policy is admirable. Over the fortnight there are numerous concerts on offer in a variety of styles, many of them featuring prestigious names, but I doubt if many (or even any) of them will exceed this in terms of sheer enjoyment.
Earlier Trio Gitano features (2005 – 2006) …
April 10, 2006
Clive Davis, Live! on the Park, SW1
How best to honour the memory of that Gypsy legend Django Reinhardt? The most common response — and it’s a perfectly valid one — is to produce facsimiles of the Hot Club de France. Reinhardt’s ghost also walks the earth in the shape of the virtuoso Biréli Lagrène, while the success of the annual Midlands festival L’Esprit Manouche proves that the spirit of Gypsy swing burns as brightly as ever.
The young members of Trio Gitano take a more formal approach, yet one that produces equally interesting results. Strictly speaking, this is not a jazz group at all, and Django represents just one part of the repertoire. Jamie Fekete, Sophie Johnson and Sam Slater still have one foot firmly planted in the classical tradition.
Their debut album, one of my favourites of last year, patched together a bewildering but thoroughly engaging mix of styles, from flamenco to Dave Brubeck and the intricate Baio de Gude, a dazzling piece by the Brazilian Paolo Bellinati. I’ve long considered myself allergic to cover versions of that Classic FM warhorse, the Adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez, yet the Trio’s Miles-ish treatment — graced by the trumpeter Bryan Corbett — won me over in the end.
What sets the group apart is that, although the emphasis is on precise ensemble work, personality still shines through. Johnson’s poise and reserve make an intriguing foil to her more freewheeling partners. Together, they were perfectly suited to the task of giving “Djangology” an intelligent but full-blooded makeover.
If one or two of the other more traditional items — such as the opening Saeta — had a slightly generic quality to them, the new arrangement of Horace Silver’s Song for My Father was wonderfully elastic, the funky pulse handled with enormous delicacy, helped along by some unobtrusive flamenco figures. At the close of the set the players plunged headlong into Paco de Lucia’s Entre Dos Aguas. Stylish, very stylish.
SONGLINES – Jan/Feb 2006 edition
Who Ate All The Tapas? ****
Good music by the plateful
The three guitarists of Trio Gitano (Jamie Fekete, Sophie Johnson and Sam Slater) have probably spent more time in Birmingham’s Bullring than anyone you’d find in Spain. But that doesn’t stop their debut from oozing with cool Gypsy jazz. They met as members of the Birmingham School’s Guitar Ensemble, started touring as a trio in 2001 and finished recording this album in October 2004. It’s a hugely impressive collection that draws from flamenco, Latin and Gypsy jazz.
The album launches straight in with the ‘Latin Swing’, by musical director Bryan Lester. It’s a piece that clearly sets out this group’s strengths: bold, expressive playing that’s liberatingly inventive. And that’s an important quality when you’re young players treading some well worn ground. There’s Django Reinhardt’s ‘Minor Blues’ and the ‘Adagio’ from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, which features the beautifully melancholic flugelhorn of Bryan Corbett. And even that old crowd-pleasing chestnut ‘Take 5’ manages to burst out of its shell tasting surprisingly fresh.
But, for my money, Bryan Lester’s own material is the reason to keep coming back to this CD, with both ‘Spanish Cinema’ and the four tracks that comprise ‘Heroes’, being real standouts. If you want the flavour of Spain and you love the guitar, then this is the musical equivalent of tucking into a plate of pan-fried chorizo.
– Matt Swaine
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Young guns: Trio Gitano bring a new energy to the guitar tradition
JAZZ – The young and promising Trio Gitano delve into the guitar world with a dazzling dynamic
We have the far-sighted music policy of the Birmingham Education Department to thank for Trio Gitano. The three 23-year old guitarists – Sam Slater, Sophie Johnson and Jamie Fekete – met as youngsters in the Birmingham Schools’ Guitar Ensemble. ‘It gives you a chance to perform’, says Slater. ‘As opposed to the school hall, you’re playing in decent venues and, more importantly, you’re playing with other musicians. It’s one of the things that Birmingham does well.’
They bring a sashaying energy to the guitar tradition on their debut album, ‘Who Ate All The Tapas?’, occupying the ground where jazz, gipsy jazz, Spanish, Latin and flamenco meet. The dynamics are impressive, ranging from delicate cascades to roaring whorls of sound. Dazzling runs and glisses are propelled by belting chords, as the trio adapt Paul Desmond’s Take Five for strings and reclaim Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar. The album also contains striking originals by Gitano mentor and composer Bryan Lester.
The only thing more beautiful than the sound of one guitar is the sound of two guitars. But three? ‘In terms of precedents, the immediate ones are Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin,’ says Fekete. ‘Django Reinhardt also played with three guitars at once,’ reminds Johnson.
The obvious danger is becoming mired in a tangle of strings, but the three guitars mostly avoid getting in each other’s way. ‘We can chop a piece down if it starts to get too busy,’ says Slater. ‘We all move around parts,’ Fekete adds. ‘In some pieces there are two or even three solo lines, in others there are chords, bass, melody, counter-melodies. We all share and change who is playing lead.’
The surprise is that these young guns play as if none had heard a note of rock’n’roll. ‘It’s just what you play on a nylon string guitar,’ says Slater apologetically. ‘We’ve all got our individual traits and styles and tastes in music. Sophie is a big bluegrass fan, I’m into jazz and Jamie is passionate about flamenco. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also go to indie gigs. A bit of all sorts.’
– Mike Butler
JAZZWISE – October 2005 / Issue #91
Taste For Tapas
Just who are Trio Gitano, a new eclectic guitar trio, who have appeared from out of nowhere on the festival circuit? Peter Quinn does some detective work …
Click on the two images below to read the full ‘Taking Off’ article featured in the October ’05 edition of Jazzwise magazine.
THE METRO – 12th September 2005
Trio Gitano – Who Ate All The Tapas? *****
Three young, classically trained Birmingham guitarists are the scoffers of Who Ate All The Tapas? and Trio Gitano certainly seems to have ingested sizeable quantities of Latino tradition, with a few side orders of Romany, jazz and flamenco. Their sound is clear, delicate and – when appropriate – witty. They’ve clearly shared a musical table for more than four years and they’re well-served by composer-arranger Bryan Lester, whose Latin Swing is as fine an opening number as I’ve heard.
But Trio Gitano are also brave enough to take on the greats: Django Reinhardt’s Minor Blues gets a sultry, light-fingered treatment that would have made the master anything but blue.
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JAZZWISE – August 2005 / Issue #89
Trio Gitano – Who Ate All The Tapas?
Birds Recording Company BIRDSCS1001 ***
Sam Slater, Sophie Johnson, Jamie Fekete (g), Bryan Corbett (t)
This debut album from a young, London-based guitar trio, currently making waves on the concert circuit, is a commendable affair indeed. Sam Slater, Jamie Fekete and Sophie Johnson first met as members of the Birmingham School’s Guitar Ensemble, and a combination of musical versatility, above average talent and sheer hard graft has won them a loyal army of followers.
Their wide-ranging sets offer a combo of flamenco, gypsy and latin jazz – a bit of Django Reinhardt, Paco de Lucia and Al di Meola here, a few originals there – while emphasising each member’s respective strengths (think dextrous runs around frets, clean and classical techniques, dark and moody stylings). Musical director Bryan Lester (a ubiquitous presence here) should take credit for nurturing the burgeoning career of an outfit whose heroes include Paganini and Berlioz and genres including drum’n’bass and bluegrass, and whose playing should have older, more established guitarists quaking in their boots. – Jane Cornwell
Bright future ahead for guitar trio
Birmingham Post Aug 16 2005
Terry Grimley checks on the progress of Birmingham guitar combo Trio Gitano, who have a debut CD and a high-profile slot at next month’s ArtsFest…
When I met up with Trio Gitano at the Custard Factory last week they had literally just got back from playing at the Lewes Guitar Festival the previous day.
A gruelling return journey via the M25 hadn’t managed to take the gloss off an invigorating performance.
“We played there last year. It’s a lovely little town and the festival has a great atmosphere. Everyone is guitar mad. We had seven or eight hundred people there yesterday watching us,” said Sam Slater.
Including, apparently, a group of ten year-olds at the front who amused the Gitanos by jumping up and down and shouting “louder!”
Gigs like this are the cherries on the cake for the youthful combo – all its members are 23 – which has evolved over a decade out of the Birmingham Schools Guitar Ensemble. The bread-and-butter is provided by the weddings and corporate engagements which help to make the group a going concern alongside the members’ part-time jobs.
Sam Slater, Jamie Fekete and Sophie Johnson first met when they joined the ensemble in their early teens (Sophie was 12). The ensemble is still going strong but while its former director Bryan Lester has handed it on, he retains the role of artistic director, general mentor and resident composer with Trio Gitano.
“Bryan’s stuff is unique to us, so we know no-one else in the world is going to be doing it,” says Sophie. “He’s a published composer, and he writes a lot of exam pieces. All the rehearsals are at his house, and it’s good to have someone whose judgement you would trust. We’re all playing, so Bryan has a more objective opinion, and he knows our individual styles.
“One of the things that makes up the trio is that we all came to it from a slightly different angle, with different personalities and strengths. Bryan is very good at writing things and saying ‘Jamie can do this very well’, or ‘Sam can do this very well’.”
“When we first started we were playing a lot of stuff the ensemble played because we knew it,” says Jamie. “Now we’re geting a lot more into gypsy jazz. There’s a lot of flamenco in there, but we all have different techniques.”
“Although we’ve had basically the same training we have different interests,” says Sophie. “Because we can all read music we can do it that way, but it’s not as satisfying.”
Many teenage musical projects fall apart when members head off for university, but Trio Gitano overcame this pitfall by the simple expedient of all going to Birmingham University. However, they deny that this was a deliberate strategy.
“There was a time when I was going to go to Manchester, so it was really only a semi-conscious decision,” says Jamie.
“It’s not like we said you’re not allowed to go to Manchester,” adds Sophie.
Jamie and Sophie both studied English and philosophy and Sam history, and Sam says the fact they weren’t music students took pressure off them.
“What’s nice about the group is that it’s evolved quite naturally, and when it happened we realised it hadn’t really happened like that for anyone else,” Sophie points out.
“Even by the time we got to university we knew the way to get better was just to keep performing. There wasn’t a lot a music course could offer us as a group. Plus we had the usual whole parental pressure – so now we’ve all got degrees they can all stop complaining!”
Since they graduated last year the trio’s career has shifted into another gear. After playing around small venues at ArtsFest for several years they graduated to the main stage last year, in a sequence with Soweto Kinch and the CBSO which will be repeated on the Sunday night this year.
Last month they opened Moseley’s L’Esprit Manouche festival, where they were already hawking advanced copies of their debut CD, which is officially released on August 22 on fledgling Birmingham label The Birds.
Featuring four original Bryan Lester compositions, including the four-movement Heroes suite, plus arrangements of the familiar Concierto de Aranjuez adagio, Django Reinhardt’s Minor Blues and Paul Desmond’sTake 5, the album reflects the fluid continuum of classical, jazz and gypsy styles the trio has evolved.
“It’s a first album. We recorded it a year ago and it’s more a measure of what we had done up to then,” says Sam.
Jamie sees it primarily as a useful tool which will enable the group to get better gigs: “So that we’re playing at places music lovers go to, rather than weddings in Dudley.”
“I hope it’s going to open doors for us,” Sophie agrees. “It seems unless you have a product it’s very difficult to get gigs. We were being badgered about when we were going to get a record out. Every gig we do now we’re managing to shift quite a few, and people want to come and talk about us.”
The album is being distributed by Proper Music and should be in record shops across the country by the end of the month. It has already been getting airplay on Radio 2.
“It should help us to build a national profile,” says Sam. ” Hopefully in the New Year we can get a tour together, and by this time next year we’ll be doing decent European gigs. It does appeal to different audiences. We can go and play at a jazz club, or equally L’Esprit Manouche.”
“We want to play Glastonbury in 2007- there isn’t one next year – and I want to get on Woman’s Hour,” says Sophie. “No, I’ve never met another female guitarist who is just a guitarist rather than a singer. My favourite comment is ‘Oh, you’re quite good for a girl!’.”
* Trio Gitano’s debut CD Who Ate All the Tapas? , released on The Birds label on August 22, is available now online at guitartrio.com/cd.htm. They play ArtsFest in Centenary Square on Sep 11. Further information at www.triogitano.com
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