Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Têtes de Pois
1 February 2019
Tight Lines Records
Album Rating 4 / 5
Live Potential 4.5 / 5
Solo Performances 4 / 5
Diversity in Songs 3.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Cut to the Chase, Rushmore
Leeds seven-piece band Têtes de Pois’ latest EP Framework is an outstanding release that confirms their status at the forefront of the latest jazz scene in Leeds; the four songs have rapturous grooves that move easily from calm and composed sections to crisp solos, with plenty of riffs to bop along to.
Having formed in 2016 after meeting at Leeds College of Music, the group’s previous releases include The E Pea and AstroTurf Wars in 2017, with videos of their tracks ‘3am’ and ‘Tortoise Shell’ showing their exemplary and methodical approach to creating impressive songs that utilise afrobeat, hip hop and soul influences. They received the 2017 Development Grant from Help Musicians UK to support their music, enabling them to perform at the Manchester Jazz Festival, Love Supreme, and World Island as well as at many local venues in Leeds where they have supported the likes of saxophonist Soweto Kinch and London’s Ezra Collective.
The first track ‘Left Foot Forward’ instantly gives the impression of the kind of lively atmosphere they generate live, with Joshua Ketch’s (Garde Dog, The Golden Age of TV, Dulahli) percussion starting the bouncy rhythm before the enthralling sax phrase enters from Harry Fowler (GROWtrio) on tenor and Jasmine Whalley (Jasmine) on alto. The melodic bridge from George MacDonald (Jasmine, Skwid Ink) on piano allows a wonderful build-up of momentum that is nudged louder and louder by George Hall’s (Jasmine, Skwid Ink) drums before returning to the main groove again.
‘Cut to the Chase’ was released last April and is certainly the most energetic tune on this record, with Ben Haskins’ (Jasmine, Ben Haskins Quartet) guitar and Owen Burns’ (Jasmine, Garde Dog, GROWtrio) bass intertwining gorgeously at the start before the saxes, accompanied by Jack Davis (Mansion of Snakes, KOG and the Zongo Brigade) on the flugelhorn, erupting into a splendid pattern that hypnotically soars into another equally explosive riff. The breakdown offers the opportunity for a tastefully refined guitar solo by Haskins that reverbs along with MacDonald’s keys, and the next one is matched by Davis’ flugelhorn solo that increases the tension sublimely.
The peaceful ‘Sparks Fly’ is a soulful number that introduces singer Alice Kim (New Position). The band work perfectly in sync with the vocals demonstrating they can perform not just as instrumentalists, as Kim offers a delicateness to the tight, poignant rhythm. The final track, ‘Rushmore’, starts with a warping, bending guitar pattern that continues the chilledness of the previous track. With the addition of Rob Mitchell (Abstract Orchestra, The Haggis Horns) on alto saxophone, the saxes sooth over the rhythm section before Burns introduces a filthy, fluid bass line strengthened by MacDonald’s piano. The following sax solo yet again moves meticulously in a direction that drives the rest of the band louder in dynamics, and this structure repeats with a final guitar solo over some melancholic sax riffs that trickle out.
Têtes de Pois display a real assuredness in their performance on this EP as they exhibit a natural confidence in mixing vigorous, fiery tunes with relaxed, mellow songs. Being a part of the Tight Lines label that does fabulous work promoting the jazz scene in Leeds, they have a solid backing of local support that hopefully will transfer into more national recognition of their talent as they are on an equal footing with their London contemporaries in terms of calibre and ability, yet they don’t receive as much acclaim. However, Framework does an excellent job of demonstrating their quality, and with spots at Shambala and Green Man festivals in the summer they will hopefully receive the wider recognition they deserve.
Harry Fowler - Tenor Saxophone; Jasmine Whalley - Alto Saxophone; Ben Haskins – Guitar; George MacDonald – Piano / Keys / Rhodes; Owen Burns – Bass; George Hall – Drums; Joshua Ketch – Percussion; Jack Davis – Flugelhorn (Track 2); Alice Kim – Vocals (Track 3); Rob Mitchell - Alto Saxophone (Track 4).