Musicians, composers and long-time collaborators Sam Eastmond and Ben Greenslade-Stanton have worked together several times. Together with an all-star team of musicians they have created Pressure 75. The album features members of The Mighty Mocambos, The Spike Orchestra, The Snitch, The GetUp as well as special guests multi instrumentalists Shawn Lee and Jettricks. It is also the debut release for Sam and Ben’s own label East Green Records.
The opening track is The Slam Down which is mesmeric from the start with a driving funk rhythm which lasts the whole track. Horns and brass join partway through and the baritone sax can be heard underpinning the theme. A horn solo breaks through to introduce a second, over-arching theme which drives the tune to soaring heights. A fugue erupts briefly before a final return to the theme and finish.
The second track, Meltdown is introduced in orchestral style by the brass until the heavy bass enters to remind us that this is not symphonic music but heavy on the swing. Sax and bass work together, intercepted and interrupted by a dynamic and exorbitant trumpet solo, whilst always underneath is that wonderful bass riff set up and kept going by Holly Gray. This track has definite Latin references yet establishes a rhythm neither Latin nor European – somewhere in the middle.
Red Sea is set up with an Afric-Amer beat on the drums and you can be forgiven for thinking this is a Latino rumba-esque piece before the horns dispel that notion, although right the way through there is something of the South American Frevo rhythm lurking un the depths. It is tight and feels good, featuring some great sax and guitar work and the change in rhythms is interesting.
Kurzzig starts with a bass riff, the rhythm of which is picked up by the drums and then the horns swing in over the top with punctuated harmonies. Around the 1.26 mark comes a delightful trumpet solo over decidedly swinging chordal support from the others. Then, the trumpet positively soars skywards, filling the upper registers with fast little riffs, quicker than lightning triplets and then everything falls back to the original rhythm. Gorgeous track topped by a cheeky drum chuck and a giggle.
Plan of Attack is different, beginning with guitar, then bongos and then the horns dictate again. A change of pace sees the guitars coming in with a rock style interlude before the horns make it their own again.
Standing On The Shoulders of Giant Slayers is possibly the best track on the album. It keeps up a relentless push right way through with some heavy horns, great percussion and bass guitar, loads of variation and an exploration of the octaves, giving the listener a sense of being in a new world at times, the ingredients merging and blending to create a sound which is in many ways reflecting old style jazz on one line but a modern, Mexicano-jive feel.
Ajebutter is cool, calm and collected - not! It begins with almost gentle bass and percussion before the brasses set up a theme which the keyboard emulates. It is slow, a little worked and almost pedantic – until the trumpet solo and then, then something pretty special happens briefly. The sax then joins, the rhythm goes contrapuntal and we are in business again with a great piece of guitar and then sax after the 3.45 mark before the trumpet does that thing again and takes the piece where it maybe never sought to go in the first place – but it is more than happy to go there. It finishes with a well-grooved section from the keyboards.
Binturong is a carefully structured piece which builds from the start and quickly becomes a vehicle for just about everyone to ride. There is a lot in this piece and it takes a few listens but it is a delight.
Slam Down: JetTricks VS Pressure 75 is not so much a ‘versus’ track as the title implies but a ‘come play with me’ number. The musicians read and fed, feed and read, reflecting each other and passing the spotlight back and forth. It is a little heavy just on occasion but maybe that is what a track pitching JetTricks against the Pressure gang was always going to be. It is a full-on and interesting track with which to close the album.
Pressure 75 is one heck of an album. It has so much energy, drive and musicianship contained within it, it is impossible to single out any player but the composition and arrangement is another matter. Ben Greenslade-Stanton and Sam Eastmond have created something which is listenable from start to finish and something rather special. Greenslade-Stanton’s influences have obviously worked well with Eastmond.
Much of Eastmond’s music has an almost symphonic arrangement with the structure centring around the centre of the piece after a short, often quieter introduction, often leading to a trumpet or horn harmony-solo-harmony section so in one sense it is predictable but yet- and it is a big yet- he is developing a style and cadence which is swiftly becoming definitive. If I was not so cautious I would go as far as to say that in Eastmond (and I have heard him various combinations) there is something quite individual, just a touch maverick and something undefinable which he brings to the music in spades- a quirkiness and headstrong ‘Eastmondship’ if you like. It makes you listen because it is different to the many great and good others out there. It is almost getting to the stage where you can spot an Eastman arrangement- and that is something good. Coupled with the choice os musicians on this album, ‘Pressure 75’ is well worth a purchase and listening to time and again.
Track Listing: 1)The Slam Down 2)Meltdown 3) Red Sea (feat.Shawn Lee) 4) Kurzzug 5) Plan Of Attack 6)Standing On The Shoulders Of Giantslayers 7) Ajebutter 8) Binturong 9) Slam Down: JetTricks VS Pressure75
Ben Greenslade-Stanton: Trombones, Keyboards & Percussion & Additional Guitar.
Sam Eastmond: Trumpet
Jon Gillies: Tenor Sax
Matt McNaughton: Baritone Sax
Tom Williams: Guitar
Holley Gray: Bass
Dave Longman: Drum Kit
Mark Claydon: Congas & Bongos
Sven Benton: Mini Moog on #8, Wurli on #5 & Tambourine on #4
Shawn Lee: Electric 12-String Guitar & Melodica on #3
JetTricks: Additional Percussion, Keyboards, Guitar & Bass on #9
Label: East Green Records
Release Date: 25th March 2016
Producers: Ben Greenslade-Stanton & Sam Eastmond
Review: Sammy Stein