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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

CD Review: Bonsai – Bonsai Club


Rory Ingham (trombone); Dominic Ingham (violin, vocals); Tony Comeau (piano, Fender Rhodes, synths); John Lee (bass, vocals, piano, synths); Jonny Mansfield (drums, vibraphone, percussion, synths)
(Review by Hugh C)

Bonsai* (formerly Jam Experiment) are a London based band formed in 2014.   Comeau, Lee, Mansfield and the Ingham brothers operate in a collective manner, with no designated leader.  The music on the CD is composed by Dominic Ingham, Joe Lee and Jonny Mansfield.  Bonsai Club offers just over 37 minutes of high octane music – so I’m not sure if it counts as a compact CD or and extended EP.  According to Rory Ingham “Bonsai Club is about the joy of returning to a place where you feel content; no matter how much it transforms, it always feels like home”.

The title track Bonsai Club introduces would-be members to what is to come – hold on tight and enjoy the ride!  Mansfield’s fast, repetitive drumming sets the pace on the majority of tracks and (in the words of the press release) “a plethora of synths” are employed throughout.  Vocals are to the fore, both written lyrics and vocalese.  The Crescent, a jaunty number, features Ingham’s trombone against a driving backbeat rhythm, interspersed slower synth-rich passages before vibraphone takes us out.  Tin mines in a more contemplative vein with lyrics by Mansfield.  Ingham’s violin and Comeau’s piano start BMJC in almost Ceilidh style, before the rhythm section kick in and take over the party, Ingham asserts his presence with fine bowing over the driving pulse towards the finale.

Quay features a melodic violin solo to start, joined by resonant trombone all over a steady beat and background chords, this develops into an almost funk-style with fine bass playing by Lee and an atmospheric contribution by Comeau on Fender Rhodes.  This is probably my favourite track of the album, but is slightly spoiled by a fade at the end – why do they do that (it’s not as if they’ve run out of time!)?  Back to business with Hop – The Hip Replacement, more lyrical bass playing by Lee, with instrumental contributions by both Ingham brothers on trombone and violin respectively (in compensation this has a false ending before the real ending a few bars later).  Itchy Knee brings you back to reality before the final Bonsai Reprise.

Bonsai Club is one of those genre-defying albums that is difficult to categorise – there are any or all of jazz, fusion, prog rock, hot-club style violin (you name it, it’s there, basically).  A very interesting listen, well put together and a fine exposition of musical talent.  The CD is released on the highly respected Ubuntu label (UBU0031) and is available now at only £10.

Bonsai Club are on tour – dates here.  They can also be heard on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Now (available for the next 21 days).
Hugh C

*From the Japanese bon (tree) and sai (planting)

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