Category Archives: GoGo Penguin Contemporary Set of The Year 2014

Occasionally, opinionated people come out with ill-formed assertions. They say: ‘Jazz is dead’, or ‘There’s nothing new to hear’. The party line on this is that they are not trying hard enough. They might be too scared or blinkered but one way or another they need to do a bit of work and, at the very least test their opinion against the market. That’s what I did this year, after listening to an excellent recent set from 2012 by RipRap, and I’m delighted to present our first album of the year, from a truncated crop of eight new sets.

These are the new recordings I wrote about. Each of them was issued in 2014 for the first time and all were recorded, either this year or in 2013. You can visit my review by clicking on the red titles.

Robin McKelle- Heart Of Memphis. March 2014. The only vocal set in this list- but what a wonderful soul voice she has. She has been concentrating on the French market in 2014 and I hope we will get to see her in London again sometime soon.

Polar Bear- In Each And Every One. May 2014. Electronica infused jazz. A brave set, justifiably on the Mercury Awards list.

Marc Ribot Trio Live At Village Vanguard. June 2014. This trio led by guitar virtuoso Ribot go intense and free on a set featuring Coltrane and Albert Ayler tunes, but with a couple of ballads as respite.

Dylan Howe- Subterranean, New Designs On Bowie’s Berlin. July 2014. A labour of love brought to us via Kickstarter crowdfunding. Bowie’s instrumentals sound wonderful in this context. An unrushed, wonderfully executed set featuring some excellent musicianship and arrangements.

Blacktop- #One. August 2014. Disappointing Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas project featuring Steve Williamson on sax. Hopefully there’s better to come from this source next year.

Pharaoh Sanders- Spiral Mercury. October 2014 (1). More of an ensemble piece than an album dominated by Pharoah but it brought a taste of a hot night in Lisbon and is worth seeking out if you like this great saxophonist.

GoGo Penguin- V2.0 October 2014 (2). A light piano led set which was also on the Mercury shortlist but was slighter and less adventurous than Polar Bear.

Neil Cowley Trio- Touch And Flee. November 2014. Enjoyable piano trio- a good listen from a band to watch, with even better things expected.

And the first Contemporary Set Of The Year 2014 is…


…Dylan Howe- Subterranean.

If I could only grab two others from a burning room they would be-
Marc Ribot Trio Live At Village Vanguard
Polar Bear- In Each And Every One

I’m delighted with this crop of releases from artists, many of whom were new to me at the start of 2014.

Before Christmas 2014, I will be looking back over the older sets that I’ve brought to you this year in an on the shoulders of giants / dead Jazzer’s shoes posting. I’ll also be reflecting on the handful of gigs that I’ve attended- not such a bad list, come to think of it! In the meantime, why not use the comments section to tell us about your new album of the year, especially if it is one of the many that I’ve overlooked.


V2.0: GoGo Penguin

GoGo Peguin V2.0 cover
New jazz from bands named after denizens of the frozen zones are well represented at this year’s Mercury Awards. We took a look at Polar Bear’s In Each And Every One here. Now it is time to consider GoGo Penguins‘s V2.0. Although the CD has been on and off my system for the last month its time to get a posting in here before the Mercury results are announced on 30 October, thus avoiding potential accusations of jumping onto the bandwagon.

Murmeration opens and sets a tone for the set. I’m no piano player but a deceptively simple sounding tune takes on a degree of gravitas. The overall feel is solemn, yet uplifting also and I’m sure, like many of the tracks, this will find a place in the collections of film-makers who are in need of an atmospheric musical soundtrack for their work.

Garden Dog Barbecue is more uptempo with drum and bass hitting a faster rhythm.

Kamaloka delivers a lighter tune that shimmers and sparkles over a relentless pulse phrase on the drums. Fort is another light airy tune before One Pegrcent offers an air of mystery and could conjure an image of a perilous and relentless path ahead.

Home starts with a tabla accompaniment and introduces more delightful piano. The Letter is a mood piece starting with solo piano before the band come in to create an overall feel that could sit well alongside Dylan Howe’s take on Bowie’s Berlin instrumentals (here).

To Drown In You begins with an electronic pitch and some busy, scurrying drums, before the track grows to offer up an evocative soundtrack to wherever a flight of the imagination may take you. Shock And Awe starts ponderously as the drums seem to mimic the ticking of a clock, as it turns out the title does not really represent the content as there are no unpleasant surprises or jaw dropping moments on this particular track.

Hopopono closes V2.0 and thanks to the wonder of YouTube you can take a look and have a listen from this very page.

To watch and listen touch or click on the arrow

The video shows exactly what pianist Chris Illingworth is doing and whilst it looks relatively simple, the repetition builds into na very pleasant, soothing and mellifluous piece that is a great representation of GoGo Penguin’s work on this album.

GoGo Penguin are Manchester based and a couple of them look like lads that you could easily bump into at the football. Whilst V2.0 stands no chance of making onto my desert island shortlist of albums, it is a fine enjoyable effort that is not too difficult to listen to and can act as superior background music. It’s not Keith Jarrett at his best and in full flow and others have referenced the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (an outfit I’m not familiar with yet), but I delighted to have heard this set and added it to my collection. I’m glad that they are under consideration for the 2014 Mercury Award.

The band etc: Chris Illingworth (piano); Nick Blacka (bass); Rob Turner (drums). Released 2014. Recorded: Giant Wafer, March and April 2013 and 80 Hertz August 2013. Exec Producer: Matthew Halsall. Produced: Joseph Reiser & Brendan Williams. Artwork and Design: David Halsall. Issued as Gondwana Records GONDCD 009.


Of Polar Bears and Penguins: 2014 Mercury Prize Albums Of The Year


Polar Bear’s In Each And Every One which we took a look at here back in May is one of three jazz albums named amongst the 12 ‘Albums Of The Year’ and nominated for the 2014 Mercury Prize.

Creatures from the glacial regions have certainly not been frozen out in 2014, as a second jazz set on the shortlist is V2.0 by GoGo Penguin. I don’t know much about them yet but the following comment invites a listen and I will report back here at

Their second album v2.0 “pushes the acoustic piano trio format further into the future” (Jazzwise Magazine).

Sounds interesting, but I shudder on imagining what the London Jazz Collector posse may think of a piano trio supplemented by electronica.

Nick Mulvey’s Next Mind completes a strong jazz representation (although this album is more of of a singer/songwriter outing).

The overall Mercury Prize Winner will be announced on 30 October 2014.