"SUPERMOOD is a superb album, and if you are into fusion or modern jazz, you ought to give it a spin!" - canthisevenbecalledmusic.com
" ...an exciting production, halfway between fusion and avant-garde' - Vittorio, www.musiczoom.it
"The music is ingenious and new, full of contemplation and drama, and above all it demands and thrives on improvisation." - Ken Cheetham, jazzviews.net
"... a record that lets us know a group that deserves international attention." - Vittorio, www.musiczoom.it
"These excellent musicians offer free jazz music combining melodic themes, electric guitar sounds worked with multiple effects and a certain melodic sense, fluid saxophone incisive or nostalgic, effective drumming subtle and balanced. Roz's music requires the commitment of her two partners, who demonstrate a real musical and creative know-how in the conceptual framework of the project, and she often suggests the lyrics of unseen songs." - orynx-improvandsounds.blogspot.com
"Harding blows melodic waves into bumbling staccato. 'Mega Bear' bounces, twinkles and clings to the bear sky and Harding sings with a bittersweet bear tongue until the others come in harmonic and buzzing, and the guitar sends longing sounds to the stars for this bear trot." - Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy
“Played this to my 8 y/o who saw Roz's band play at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. 'Shall we buy it?' 'definitely!' - he was right, we needed it. Brimming with imagination and energy, a wonderful spiky jazz record” - Steve Lawson
"What strikes first in these performances is the sound of the leader, along with that of the ensemble, her melodic strength, even in openly avant-garde pieces like Tangled, Pt. 2. Despite the apparent lack of a constant rhythmic bass, the three know how to keep their music compact and anchored to a virtual center of gravity." - Vittorio, www.musiczoom.it
"Embracing elements of jazz, rock and improv “Supermood” is an intense, uncompromising album that thrillingly explores the hinterland between composition and improvisation." - Ian Mann
"Most tracks present the only take, and multiple microphones were used to follow movement during recording, so as to give a greater sense of presence and immediacy. The music doesn’t need much help in this respect, though: If You Could alone covers plenty of musical and emotional territory in under 8 minutes, encompassing funk-rock, free jazz, menace and exultation in an organic continuum. The apprehensively elegiac “Waiting for Pea” is a particularly good example of the empathy between the band-members, Outram moving gracefully from legato lyricism to spiky interventions whilst Bashford is a pillar of propulsion and texture. Tangled unsurprisingly features heated, complicated free improvising before resolving into an exciting, bluesy conclusion. Mega Bear, though highly abstract at either end, seems to reference September Song. Harding deserves much wider recognition. This album should achieve that." - Barry Witherden, Jazz Journal
"Here is an album of thoroughly modern sounds, thoroughly rooted in jazz. The music is ingenious and new, full of contemplation and drama, and above all it demands and thrives on improvisation." - Ken Cheetham, Jazz Views
GLENN ASTARITA - REVIEW FOR ALL ABOUT JAZZ
“The trio covers several acres of musical terrain on this inspiring debut led by British saxophonist/educator, Roz Harding (Mike Westbrook's Uncommon Orchestra, Paul Dunmall). Indeed, it's one of those unanticipated surprises that at the very least, adds a nouveau light to the possibilities of what a hip, small ensemble rendezvous can generate.
Harding and guitarist Mike Outram are near flawless foils and masters of invention. With the latter's recoiling lines, effects and gritty jazz rock soloing and Harding's penchant for melody, the trio sheds no tears performing without a bassist. Here, Jim Bashford's pronounced bass drum hits often compensate in this light.
Cordial themes, dainty hooks and intricate unison runs combined with catchy sub-motifs pleasantly counterbalance the outside jazz maneuvers. Moreover, each piece flows like an act in a comprehensive theatrical production. This is partly due to the trio's signature style and mini-plots.
When necessary the band tightens up, yet also executes ethereal sound-shaping instances amid semi-free detours, heightened by the leader's popping and soaring lines and wavering extended notes. Meanwhile, Outram comps, emphasizes the pulse and uses distortion to amplify or create a series of edgy movements, framed on largely, medium-tempo rock beats and distortion-fed outbreaks.
"Waiting for Pea" is an edgy and climactic soul-stirring ballad, that upsurges and winds back down, yet "Mega Bear" casts an unusual vista meshed with Harding's creaky phrasings and Outram's harmonics sketched within a meditative theme, embedded with traces of anxiety. Nonetheless, they slowly raise the pitch with sizzling accents and a gait that is performed with a likeness to slow-moving footsteps. But the guitarist's grunge-like riffs and the leader's towering high notes add to the excitement.
The trio lowers the temperature on "For the Moon," paced by Bashford's sensitive use of brushes. Although, the band raises a little hell during "Yesterday I Was On Time," which is a piece that starts with calming sax and guitar parts, leading to bopping funk groove, odd-metered choruses and feisty soloing escapades. Harding and associates practice what they preach as they execute the game plan via a positive or super mood that underscores their winning formula.” - Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz
IAN MANN REVIEW
“Roz Harding is a Devon based alto saxophonist and composer. Born in Bristol but raised in Devon she studied music at Exeter College before choosing to specialise in jazz, graduating with BA Hons from the Jazz Course at Middlesex University where she studied with saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Rob Townsend plus other leading jazz luminaries such as Stuart Hall, Eddie Parker, Nikki Iles, Pete Churchill and Chris Batchelor.
Harding is probably best known for her playing in various ensembles led by husband and wife the Westbrooks, such as Mike’s Uncommon Orchestra and Kate’s Granite Band. She is also a regular member of that eclectic and unclassifiable outfit Billie Bottle and the Multiple, plus its various offshoots. Harding has also played as a sidewoman with an impressive list of leading musicians that reads like a ‘who’s who’ of British jazz.
Harding has also been a leader of her own groups, including the now defunct units Sketch and WAVE. Her latest project is SUPERMOOD, a trio founded in 2013 featuring guitarist Mike Outram and the Birmingham based drummer Jim Bashford. Supermood is also an audio-visual project with the trio’s live performances enhanced by 1960s style light shows.
In the meantime we have Supermood’s début album to enjoy, a ‘live in the studio’ recording documented over the course of three days in February 2016 under the guidance of studio owner, engineer and producer Josiah Manning. Multiple microphones were set up to allow the musicians to move around, thus bringing something of that visual element to the audio recording. The album is available on both vinyl and CD with the vinyl version divided into “Breathe In” and “Breathe Out” sides while Harding describes the CD as being “a non-stop narrative of life inside the Supermood”.
All the pieces are credited to Harding but the album commences with “Breath Intro”, one and a half minutes of music that sounds as if it may have been entirely improvised. It begins almost subliminally with the breathy sound of the leader’s sax but Outram’s scratchy, then grungy guitar and the rustling, then pummelling of Bashford’s drums soon muddy the waters with Harding quickly adjusting the style of her playing accordingly. It’s an uncompromising start that throws down the gauntlet for much of what is to follow.
That said Harding is more than capable of writing a catchy melodic motif or hook, as typified by the opening of the following “If You Could”. But this quickly dissipates as the trio once more steer a course into deeper, more obviously improvised waters. Sax and guitar lines intertwine as the trio float gently for a while, but this reverie is soon interrupted by a barrage of riffage that ends almost as suddenly as it arrives. The opening hook then returns, acting as the trigger for another bout of gnarly, knotty improvising from which Harding’s sax emerges to deliver a powerful, incisive solo with Outram’s muscular, rock influenced guitar the perfect foil. The trio are capable of covering a lot of ground in the course of a single composition, varying their angle of attack with seamless changes of mood and dynamics.
“Waiting For Pea” begins as a ballad, with the gentle keening of Harding’s alto sax accompanied by Outram’s tasteful guitar FX and, eventually, Bashford’s atmospheric cymbal shimmers. Momentum builds via the solos of Harding and Outram, both of which are fluent and wildly imaginative, yet still with the music remaining broadly in the ballad format. There’s a more coherent and conventional feel to this piece, but there is still plenty to engage the listener.
“Tangled Part 1” is a studio created melange of the trio’s speaking voices (shades of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”) that acts as a precursor to the twelve minute epic that is “Tangled Part 2”. This develops from an opening riffy dialogue between Harding’s alto and Bashford’s drums, with Outram’s ringing guitar soon coming on board. Harding’s long melody lines are supported by Outram’s inventive comping, but the pair are soon going head to head, exchanging lines thrillingly in an ongoing dialogue featuring Harding’s bellicose sax blasting and Outram’s high octane guitar, all this supported by the constantly unfolding ferment of Bashford’s drums. Eventually the energy dissipates with a more impressionistic passage mid tune featuring the sound of Outram’s unaccompanied guitar. The pace picks up again with the odd meter riffing of the closing section as Harding undertakes something approaching a conventional solo, her playing hard edged and visceral. There’s something of the primal power of Led Bib or Acoustic Ladyland about this trio when they build up a head of steam. Eventually Harding and the trio reel things back in again, but even when they’re winding down there’s still an edgy quality about the music.
“Mega Bear”, is almost as lengthy, emerging from a free jazz intro featuring Harding’s slap tongue and multiphonic techniques. Outram’s scratchy guitar and the rumblings and scrapings of Bashford’s drums and percussion are added to the foghorn like wail of the leader’s sax as a melody of sorts emerges. Nevertheless the overall mood remains dark and menacing, only changing mid tune with the introduction of a softer edged alto sound allied to a brief wordless vocal and a more languid guitar sound. But the trio are soon ratcheting up the tension once more as Outram’s soaring, clangorous guitar imbues the piece with a genuinely anthemic quality. Finally we come full circle with a free improv style outro.
Outram’s turbo charged riffing introduces “You Breathed In A Storm” which also features the guitarist deploying his FX as a kind of sound-scaping tool. Harding’s sax again wails demoniacally as Bashford attacks his kit with relish. The leader’s catchy sax hook ushers in a more conventional riff based, jazz rock passage that hits like a punch to the gut. It’s brutal and relentless but hugely invigorating, culminating in a suitably thunderous Bashford drum solo. Finally the trio coalesce once more for a high octane finish with sinister sounding voices briefly intoning the tune title.
The lovely “For The Moon” represents one of the trio’s more reflective moments, with Harding revealing a genuine gift for melody as her gently probing alto is teamed with Outram’s Frisell like guitar and Bashford’s subtle but imaginative brush work.
“Breath Outro” is thirty seconds of free improvisation that mirrors the album opener and leads to “Yesterday I Was On Time” which commences with a gentle dialogue between Harding and Outram. However it’s not long before the pair are upping the energy levels once more with some taut riffing, fiery guitar / sax interplay and kinetic, hard driving drumming. Then there’s a slide into a harsh, wilful dissonance, this interspersed with more riff based passages. The mood remains frighteningly intense almost throughout, but, having peaked in ferocity the piece ends as it began with a calming dialogue between Harding and Outram, this time accompanied by Bashford’s cymbal shimmers.
“Fifty-Two Fifty” ensures that sparks continue to fly until the end with the jagged, staccato riffing of the intro leading to a powerful Harding solo underpinned by Outram’s guitar drive and Bashford’s sturdy drumming. The energy and attack continues throughout on a piece that I suspect probably acts as a climactic closer at the trio’s live shows.
“Supermood” isn’t a particularly easy album to write about, Harding’s pieces twist and turn in a manner that ensures that several different musical territories are routinely explored during the course of a single tune. But I did enjoy it; Harding’s music inhabits a space that I like, the hinterland between through composition and spontaneous improvisation. There’s usually a hook or a riff to hang your hat on, but plenty of room for the musicians to express themselves within the loose confines of the framework.
The interplay between Harding and the supremely inventive Outram is superb throughout. I’ve heard the guitarist before in several different contexts but he’s rarely been given as much freedom to shape the music as he does here and he seems to relish the opportunity. His playing is brilliant throughout. Indeed his partnership with Harding reminds me at times of that between alto saxophonist Tim Berne and guitarist Marc Ducret in Berne’s Big Satan and Science Friction projects. Harding doesn’t cite Berne as an influence although she does mention Art Pepper and Jackie McLean. There’s certainly something of McLean’s acerbic dryness in her tone, this allied to an attack reminiscent of Berne and Ornette Coleman.
Bashford is another musician I have seen and heard many times before, but again rarely in such a free-wheeling context as this. He, too rises to the challenge and is excellent throughout, inventive and technically accomplished, hard driving at times but capable of sympathy and subtlety if required. Together with Outram he ensures that the absence of a bassist is never noticed.
Embracing elements of jazz, rock and improv “Supermood” is an intense, uncompromising album that will only suit so many ears. It certainly appealed to mine, and on that basis I’m happy to recommend it, but realise that it won’t be for everybody.
My thanks to Roz Harding for sending me a copy of this album for review. She wasn’t part of the Westbrook band that visited The Edge in Much Wenlock in May 2010, having joined shortly after, thus she represents an exciting new discovery for me. She’s part of a line of adventurous female saxophonists that includes Ingrid Laubrock, Dee Byrne, Cath Roberts, Trish Clowes, Rachel Musson and others.
On the evidence of the “Supermood” album I’d certainly be keen to see the trio play live, especially with that light show!" - Ian Mann, thejazzmann.com