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How do they do that?

From left to right: Joshua Blackmore (drums), Chris Montague (guitar), Kit Downes (organ)

From left to right: Joshua Blackmore (drums), Chris Montague (guitar), Kit Downes (organ)

The current British jazz scene is packed full of excellent groups and musicians – Troyka are one such trio making a stir with their angular, mind-boggling free jazz sounds.

Like most music of its kind, it takes a good few listens to digest, comprehend and remember what it is that you just listened to. By the fourth listen, you are rewarded with a complete picture of some serious songwriting talent. Having all studied music and clearly being virtuosos in their field, there are no boundaries in terms of structure, time signatures, rhythms or instrumental difficulty. The songs represent this, moving in a flash from funky grooves to sparsely notated, ambient sections via a free jazz passage that comes at you from nowhere. The song Cajoch is taken from their self titled 2009 album and epitomises what Troyka are about: try counting the time signature from 0.16 until 0.32; the boppy organ groove at 1.04; the excellent drum work from 1.47 to 2.00; the seamless switch back to the main melody.

The first album is full of fantastic ideas similar to the above. Call is another highlight, with its half-time intro before shifting gears, as is Twelve, Bear and the crushingly heavy slide guitar of Clint.

Moxxy was released in the summer of last year, and sees the trio focusing on the more melodic side of their songwriting. While the first record centred around darker, free jazz pandemonium, the second album offers brighter tones and a much more refined sound. Dropsy, Islands and the groove laden Zebra are particular highlights.

The opening track from Moxxy, Rarebit, is captured here live from Kings Place last year. From a musician’s perspective, it is stunning to see the command and ease each man has with their instrument, especially drummer Joshua Blackmore. Starting properly from 0.16, the tight switch into the song’s main motif at 0.52 with a casual ‘Hey!’ is followed by a shift of tempo at 1.28 and 1.39. The music goes into an all out jam from there until reaching a catchy 7/8 riff at 3.06, which riffs heavily at 3.25.

Troyka are an exciting band, and whilst they have snippets of influences, they hold a unique place on the current scene. I, for one, am very eager to see them live. Their intricate textures might only appeal to a certain sort of crowd, but the impressiveness of their musicianship and distinctive songwriting means that there should be something for everyone.


About Samuel McKerrell

String plucker who finds it hard to be satisfied with how much music he can listen to at any one time.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Album purchased this week no. 2 – Sensible Shoes | Have you heard?

  2. Pingback: Writer’s block | Have you heard?

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