Binker Golding and Moses Boyd have been friends for a few years. The drummer and saxophonist have played in a number of groups since their initial meeting, in their downtime on various tours they sketched out rough ideas that ended up becoming tracks on their debut album Dem Ones. Each track is held together by a ‘simple’ riff or pattern; they then improvised these riffs and patterns until they got to the gist of the track. Then they recorded some demos and uploaded them online. The good people at Gearbox Records heard this demo, liked what they heard and got them into a studio.
Dem Ones is a special album. Not only does it showcase the deftness of their playing but it also shows that in 2015 a stripped back and bare-boned jazz album can be the most exciting thing ever. In a world where effects and over-production rule supreme, it’s refreshing to hear two instruments playing together and creating, as Sun Ra used to say, “A joyful noise”. But Golding puts it better himself: “I’d say we started this ensemble for liberation. In my mind it’s a mild rebellion against jazz which is over composed with perhaps one or two too many instruments.”
John Coltrane and Rashied Ali’s presence can be felt throughout the whole album, in fact Interstellar Space is cited as a huge influence on these recordings. While Dem Ones verges on free jazz’s territory there is rigid structure to it. All the tracks have an element of tonality to them but there is also enough rhythm going on to drawn you in once you start playing it. At first you are lost in its darkened labyrinth but once you become accustomed to its signs and sounds, and stop going against it, you see the path and find your way out; much like a record stylus finds its way to the end of each side of a record.
What Binker and Moses have effectively done it show what jazz can be in 2015. Over recent years jazz has become bloated and safe; safe in the knowledge that it doesn’t really need to exert itself much to get it’s point across. Dem Ones looks set to shake this up. Show that jazz can be as vibrant and exciting now as it was when Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and John Coltrane were creating their best work, not just by pushing themselves to the limits, but all the limits of what jazz could be. If you only buy one album this year, make sure it’s Dem Ones!