Foundry 616, December 17
One moment the wave-like, arpeggiated piano melodies are the stuff of dreams – or ambient minimalism, for the more pragmatic. The next moment the rhythm-section gate-crashes the reverie so violently that what’s being played seems not just a different piece, but a different idiom. As with much current music of interest, pianist/composer Taylor Davis’s approach to composition defies pigeonholing. More unusually, it also makes you smile.
Few greater joys exist than hearing something that surprises the hell out of you, like music did when you were 16. Brekky Boy does that. What Davis, bassist Rob Hamilton and drummer Liam Hogan have contrived is not without precedent, of course: the Bad Plus, Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Phronesis and Nik Bartsch’s Ronin are all precursors, if not necessarily influences. Immediately setting this band far apart, however, is that improvisation is not the main event.
Instead Brekky Boy deals in knotted rhythms: bubbling, off-kilter grooves, displaced beats and superimposed time-signatures are all in play, with the rhythms usually in more constant flux than the melodic content. Sometimes dauntingly complex, the pieces were performed without a scrap of sheet-music in sight, and without ever ceasing to be immensely playful. A big game, then – for very sophisticated musicians. Yet because of the absence of soloing, this sophistication was not constantly clamouring for attention. The exception was the drumming: Hogan had considerable improvisational leeway against Davis and Hamilton’s rhythmic knots, and brought a nonchalant virtuosity to bear, not to impress, but to energise the music and heighten the game.
Beyond Taylor’s compositions the choice of material was almost anarchically varied. It ranged from a radically reimagined We Wish You a Merry Christmas (which segued into Good King Wenceslas, with the band breezing over newly-devised rhythmic tripwires as though Xmas came every month) to Radiohead, Lou Reed and my first encounter with a Justin Bieber song at a nominally “jazz” gig. Yet it, like everything else, came out sounding uniquely like Brekky Boy, and that’s no mean feat.