Review: Phil Robson - Impish


Album Cover - Impish
 Artist: Phil Robson
 Album: Impish
 Date of Release: 2002
 Label: Babel
 Cat. No.: BDV2235
 Country of Release: UK
 Genre/s: Jazz

 Sub-Genre/s: Post-Bop, World, Contemporary
 Type: Studio
   Time: 59:23
   Date of Review: 2004/04/28
   Web Site:  

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Feelin' Impish?

Released on The Babel Label in 2002, Phil Robson's Impish is like a breath of fresh air among the numerous, more often than not extremely variable, UK jazz releases. Roughly half the tracks are trios featuring Phil Robson himself on guitar and saz (a popular Middle Eastern long-necked lute family member), Dave Whitford on bass, and drum genius Asaf Sirkis, best known as the engine of the rhythm section of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble as well as of course the leader of his own trio, Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise. The other half of the tracks additionally feature John Taylor on piano. The album features seven Robson originals plus a Wayne Shorter classic and a Christine Tobin composition.

Phil Robson proves himself an excellent guitarist on Impish, with solid technique and a very individual style, and excellent improvisational skills. Also particularly noteworthy is drummer Asaf Sirkis who more than ably and amply demonstrates why he is undoubtedly the most exciting and gifted jazz percussionist of his generation and since Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. Whether at the traps or playing frame drum, Sirkis excels with an inventive sound palette that is simply breathtaking while exhibiting the perfect degree of restraint in his superbly judged backing, and sparkling brilliantly in his solos. Throughout Phil Robson's Impish, the ensemble playing is tight and empathic, while Robson carries the trios extremely well. Post-bop with leanings towards jazz fusion and the odd nod to lounge and Middle Eastern, the music is eminently listenable and often surprises.

The opener, Lapdog, kicks the album off with a lively pace and a hint of swing in a more rather than less straightahead original. Eminently memorable riffs and lively improvs keep this piece beautifully accessible. The contemplative Wayne Shorter classic Iris is given a sensitive and original treatment. Wandy's Place (For Hector) continues in a somewhat reflective mood that turns more and more celebratory and lively, with sensitive keywork from John Taylor. Inspired by Robson's visit to Soweto in 1998, it succeeds in reflecting both the tragic events of South Africa's past as well as its great vibrancy and exuberance. Originally written for Phil Robson's Octet plus Indian percussion as part of a commission from Derby Jazz, Gone Fishing delights with its distinct Indian and Middle Eastern overtones. The instrumentation is pure joy, with Robson switching deftly from the Middle Eastern saz to guitar while Asaf Sirkis' sensitive frame drum provides the perfect rhythmic setting for the first, mainly joyful, part of this exciting piece. For the shorter, meditative second part, the instrumentation stays with guitar while switching the percussion to the conventional trap set, with Sirkis giving a fine example of his superb brushwork. Reptilian, dedicated "For Miles", again sees Taylor's ivories supplementing the trio to great effect with well judged harmonies to Phil Robson's high-energy improvs as well as lively soloing. The title track, Impish, again with Taylor's sensitive piano, is exactly that - impish. Dave Whitford's bass is given ample scope too here. Chomping is a more subtle trio, with a solid bass and Asaf Sirkis' drums given plenty of scope. John Taylor's piano returns once more for the Christine Tobin composition You Draw The Line, a delightful simple piece given a sensitive rendition with excellent soloing all round. The album closes with another trio, the up-beat, up-tempo Bug Eyes, which features a truly exhilarating drum solo by Sirkis. A short, segued, un-listed, un-named "bonus track" follows.

Britain is doubtlessly blessed with an uncommon number of highly gifted young (or younger) jazz guitarists. Equally undoubtedly, I would consider Phil Robson to number among these, and I expect we'll hear a lot more yet from this young man. Phil Robson's album Impish certainly is an excellent and enjoyable listen with plenty of promise for the future.

© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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Track List:

1. Lapdog (Phil Robson) - 6:18
2. Iris (Wayne Shorter) - 3:49
3. Wandy's Place (For Hector) (Phil Robson) - 8:22
4. Gone Fishing (Phil Robson) - 8:36
5. Reptilian (Phil Robson) - 5:33
6. Impish (Phil Robson) - 5:03
7. Chomping (Phil Robson) - 4:48
8. You Draw The Line (Christine Tobin) - 8:13
9. Bug Eyes (Phil Robson) - 6:11
+ Bonus Track (untitled)

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Phil Robson - guitar, saz
Dave Whitford - double bass
Asaf Sirkis - drums
John Taylor - piano (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8)


Purchasing Info:

Impish can be purchased:
From most better CD stores

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