27–28 August 2016
Black Top, the duo of multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas, is a shape-shifting unit dedicated to exploring the intersection between live instruments and lo-fi technology. Their virtuoso, freely improvised performances combine twisted loops, samples and dub-effects, which draw on their Afro-Caribbean roots, with a spontaneity and daring rooted in experimental free-jazz.
Each in the series is moulded by the contributions of a unique guest collaborator and for this very special two-day residency Robinson and Thomas will be joined by the incredible pairing of Hamid Drake (drums/percussion) and William Parker (double bass). In 1995 the Village Voice called William Parker “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time.” As band leader, composer, author & instrumentalist Parker is among the most influential artists in Jazz. One of the world's most widely respected drummers, Hamid Drake was born in Louisiana in 1955 & grew up in Chicago playing jazz, reggae & world musics.
Drake and Parker will form a quartet with Robinson and Thomas for the Saturday before expanding out to a sextet with the addition of vocalist Cleveland Watkiss and harmonica player Philip Achille on the Sunday.
Orphy Robinson is one of the major figures of the jazz scene - he has released records on Blue Note and played with Don Cherry, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Courtney Pine, Jazz Warriors and Andy Shepherd.
He has composed for Film and TV- including “In answer to your question” for the Balanescu String Quartet and “ 42 Shades of Black” for Phoenix Dance Theatre,which was performed at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Currently leads the groups CODEFIVE- NUBIAN VIBES - he also plays in the groups BRUISE and CLEAR FRAME
"As the saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter once famously remarked in a 1992 interview with Mel Martin, “The word ‘jazz’ means to me no category”. You would similarly search in vain for a pigeon hole in which to place Black Top #5. An evening of surpassing invention and ambition, there might be a more creative, more engaging and more inspiring gig at this year’s London Jazz Festival. But I somehow doubt it." - The Arts Desk
Pat Thomas studied classical piano from aged 8 and started playing Jazz from the age of 16. He has since gone on to develop an utterly unique style - embracing improvisation, jazz and new music. He has played with Derek Bailey in Company Week (1990/91) and in the trio AND (with Noble) – with Tony Oxley’s Quartet and Celebration Orchestra and in Duo with Lol Coxhill.
"Sartorially shabby as Thomas may be, and on first impression even rather stolid, he has a somewhat imperious charisma that’s immediately amplified when he starts to play. Unlike other pianists whose virtuosity seems to be racing ahead of their thought processes Thomas always seems supremely in command of his gift, and his playing, no matter how free and ready to tangle with abstraction, always carries a charge of authoritative exactitude." - The Jazzmann
William Parker is an improviser, and composer. He plays the bass, shakuhachi, double reeds, tuba, donson ngoni and gembri. He entered the music scene in 1971, and quickly became a sought after bass player in the New York music scene. He has played with many musicians from the avant-garde such as, Bill Dixon, Sunny Murray, Charles Tyler, Alan Silva, Frank Wright, Rashid Ali, Donald Ayler, Sonny Simmons, Jeanne Lee, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons, Milford Graves and with traditionalists like Walter Bishop, Sr. and Maxine Sullivan.
"William Parker, the former Cecil Taylor sideman, exhibits a fearlessness, double-bass virtuosity and tough lyricism that perhaps makes him the closest bassist/composer equivalent to the late Charles Mingus." John Fordham, The Guardian
William’s early collaborations with the dancer and choreographer Patricia Nicholson created a large repertoire of composed music for ensembles ranging from solo works to big band projects. Parker played in the Cecil Taylor Unit from 1980 through 1991. He has also performed with musicians from the AACM such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Ernest Dawkins, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.
In addition to his work with artists in the United Stated, William Parker has developed a strong relationship with musicians in the European Improvised Music scene such as Peter Kowald, Peter Brotzmann, Han Bennink, Tony Oxley, Derek Bailey, John Tchicai and Louis Moholo.
Hamid Drake is an American jazz drummer and percussionist. He lives in Chicago, IL but spends a great deal of time touring worldwide. By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in jazz and avant improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free-jazz improvisers. Drake also has performed world music; by the late 70s, he was a member of Foday Musa Suso’s Mandingo Griot Society and has played reggae throughout his career.
Drake has worked with trumpeter Don Cherry, pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonists Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Archie Shepp and David Murray and bassists Reggie Workman and William Parker (in a large number of lineups).
"[Drake's] mastery of pulse drumming, textural sculpting, hand drum techniques, reggae, funk and garage punk makes him one of the most articulate and linguistically advanced musicians on the circuit… Cecil Taylor once claimed that each man is his own academy. If that's the case, Drake is surely one of the mystery schools." - David Keenan, The WIRE