Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guitar Week: Troyka

This week JazzWrap will take a look at guitarists and guitar driven groups that have or will be making a difference in jazz.

Troyka (group, formed 2007)
Chris Montague (guitars)
Kit Downes (organ)
Joshua Blackmore (drums)

London based, Troyka have been making waves in the British jazz scene for the last three years. There self titled debut does deliver on the hype. This is a trio that is slightly different than many of recent crop in that their songs led by some crazy guitar work from Chris Montague. They also incorporate some lovely, psychedelic and funky organ interplay by Kit Downes (who is also making a name for himself as a solo artists). Joshua Blackmore's gritty and fernetic drumming keeps his fellow bandmates in line as they travel a familiar fusion path but create their own signpost along the way.

Upon first listen, especially the opening two tracks, "Tax Return" and "Clint" you might get the impression Troyka are heavily influenced by King Crimson. This would be very misleading. The trio have shades of prog, jazz and funky flirting throughout this recording. All of it results in bouillabaisse of rhythms that is hard to ignore. While they site Wayne Shorter, Aphex Twin, and Rage Against The Machine as influences, its hard not to notice the dedication to blues/world structures as on "Twelve" or "Noonian Soong" that are reminiscent of Mahavishnu. The aforementioned modern influences are there especially in the swirling organ work of Downes which fills this journey with some interesting aural/audio soundscapes. For fans of the Chicago band Tortoise, Troyka should definitely be an investment for you.

Troyka's closing moments encapsulate the band, with a nice piece of avant-funk entitled "Call" that certainly brings to mind the great Crimson circa Red, but breathes a life of its own with delirious watersheds of interplay between the three members. This is capitalized with the final but short number "Zeitgeist" which is indicative of band and the British jazz scene at the moment.

Troyka have made an album that is interesting on multiple levels and will appeal to jazz and alternative heads alike. It's funky, futuristic and layered with elements of avant garde that won't alienate any group of listeners. This is a brilliant and promising debut. Along with Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Portico Quartet, Outside and Neil Cowley Trio, the new British free jazz scene might start giving Norway, Finland and Sweden a serious challenge in the creative circles for leading jazz movement of the next few years. Great stuff and highly recommended.

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