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Spike Orchestra, The: Splintered Stories (Tzadik)

Director Sam Eastmond composed and arranged these works for the 15-piece big band Spike Orchestra, as he examines the power and magic of words through stories, splintered and fragmented through resonance and dissonance, merging influences, styles and instrumental colors over four expansive works yielding inspired moments in orchestration and soloing.

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product information:

UPC: 702397403128

Label: Tzadik
Catalog ID: CD-TZA-4031
Squidco Product Code: 29414

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded October 2019 by Marc Urselli at Livingston Studios, London, assistant engineer Marcus Locock.


Yazz Ahmed-trumpet, Flugelhorn

Harry Brown-trombone

Olly Chalk-piano

Josephine Davies-tenor saxophone, soprano Saxophone

Sam Eastmond-conductor

Moss Freed-guitar

Will Glaser-drums

George Hogg-trumpet, Flugelhorn

Noel Langley-trumpet, Flugelhorn

Jeff Miller-tuba, Sousaphone

Gemma Moore-baritone saxophone, bass clarinet

Damon Oliver-tenor saxophone, flute

Tim Smart-trombone

Mike Wilkins-alto saxophone, clarinet

Otto Willberg-double bass

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Artist Biographies:

"Yazz Ahmed is a British Bahraini trumpet and flugelhorn player.

Her music, through which she seeks to blur the lines between jazz, electronic sound design and the music of her mixed heritage, has been described as 'psychedelic Arabic jazz, intoxicating and compelling'.

In recent years she has lead her various ensembles in concerts around the UK and abroad, including in New York, Kuwait, Algiers, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, Tunis and Amsterdam, and at major festivals such as WOMAD, Molde Jazz, Pori Jazz and Love Supreme.

Yazz has also recorded and performed with Radiohead, Lee Scratch Perry, ABC, Swing Out Sister, Joan as Police Woman, Tarek Yamani, Amel Zen and has toured the world with art-rock band, These New Puritans.

In 2012, Yazz represented Bahrain in London's Cultural Olympiad, joining renowned musicians from the Arabian Gulf in collaboration with Transglobal Underground. This project, In Transit, was supported by the British Council and was performed in Dubai and London.

Yazz was awarded a jazz fellowship from Birmingham Jazzlines in 2014, who supported her during the course of a year in writing a major new suite, Alhaan al Siduri, premiered in October 2015 at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham. One year later the second performance marked Yazz's debut in her paternal homeland at the Bahrain International Music Festival.

In 2015, Yazz was commissioned by the Tomorrow's Warriors, with support from PRS Women Make Music, to write a suite inspired by courageous and influential women. Polyhymnia was premiered at the Purcell Room by a special all female ensemble at the WOW! Festival in March 2015.

During her year as an LSO Soundhub composer in 2016, Yazz explored writing music for her newly developed quarter-tone flugelhorn, which enables her to get closer to the spiritual nature of the 'blue notes' in Arabic music.

2017 saw the release of her second album, La Saboteuse, on Naim Records. The album caused quite a stir, gaining multiple rave reviews and making many 'best of 2017' lists around the world, including Jazz Album of the Year in The Wire magazine and achieving the number 18 spot in Bandcamp's top 100 albums (all genres).

In August 2018 Yazz released an EP of remixes from La Saboteuse, featuring collaborations with Hector Plimmer, DJ Khalab and Blacksea Não Maya which has brought her music to a new audience.

Earlier this year Yazz was commissioned, by the Ligeti Quartet, alongside seven other composers, to write music inspired by modern astronomy, each focusing on a different planet in the solar system. The Planets 2018, created especially for planetariums, features Yazz's composition Saturn and was performed around the UK during October 2018.

Yazz is currently working on completing the recording of her third album, Polyhymnia due for release in 2019."

-Yazz Ahmed Website (

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"Harry Brown is a Trombonist, Composer, Conductor, Arranger, Educator & Musical Director from London. He studied for a Master of Music degree at the Royal Academy of Music, London. His background stems from the church, nurtured at an early age by his mother who was the Choir director/Organist. Harry has excelled in a variety of musical spheres: Jazz, Early music, Reggae, Classical, Salsa, Soul, Pop and Chamber music as well as a composer, educator and scholar.His performance, studio and vast arranging credits include many international artists across the globe: Adele, The Jazz Warriors, McCoy Tyner, Tom Jones, Barry White, Roy Ayers, John Legend, Plan B, Jazz Jamaica, Jerry Dammers, Rudimental, Ken Boothe, Bunny Lee, Dennis Bovell, James Morrison, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and many more. In recognition of his significant contribution to the music industry Harry was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in May 2010."

-Jazz Steps UK (

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"Olly Chalk was born in Bury St. Edmunds and grew up in a quiet village in rural Suffolk. At 18, he received a scholarship to study Jazz Piano at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, graduating four years later with a First Class Honours. During these formative years, Olly developed his voice as a pianist and improviser studying the music of McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Kenny Kirkland. Today, his deeply emotive but informed pianism intertwine with his understanding of the subtle balance between structure and freedom. As a composer, he walks the high-wire between total freedom and detailed (often through-composed) writing, taking with him a 'blank canvas' approach to any and all musical situations.

Although Jazz is his first love, Olly maintains a chasm of influences, his focus ever-changing (he likes it that way). Recently, Sergei Prokofiev, Kate Bush, Tim Hecker, Gorguts and Toru Takemitsu have dominated his listening time. Generally, Olly strongly believes that this consciously varied approach to listening and discovery is at the heart of his approach to composition and improvised music. In January 2018, Olly received the Peter Whittingham Development Award through HMUK to assist with the costs of a tour and album recording. Featuring world-renowned New York saxophonist John O'Gallagher alongside the Olly Chalk Trio, 'Scathed Citizens' explores a vivid picture-book of themes: science fiction, mysticism, hope, anxiety and dystopia. Influenced by David Binney, Pablo Held and Einojuhani Rautaavara, this album (due for release in June 28th 2019) showcases daring, emotive compositions and explosive improvising.

Having recently moved to South-East London, Olly is now undertaking an MMus degree in Jazz Piano at Trinity Laban; his teachers include Kit Downes, Bruno Heinen and Liam Noble. He is looking forward to having the time to practice, write and study again. Despite his short time in London, Olly is beginning to establish himself in the capital. Having recently played at King's Place, London Jazz Festival and Kansas Smitty's, Olly is looking forward to continuing to make as much music as possible."

-Olly Chalk Website (

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"Josephine Davies is a solo artist at the forefront of the UK contemporary music scene, pushing the boundaries of jazz with her current main artistic project Satori - a sax/bass/drums trio with an emphasis on extended and collaborative improvisation. It is a project that combines her seeking of freedom of expression with her interest in Japanese philosophy and lifestyle.

Originally from the Shetland Islands and now based in London, UK, Josephine's writing and playing continues to be infused with a Nordic quality, notably in her use of traditional folk music elements, and her haunting tone reminiscent of the late great tenorist Bobby Wellins.

As a saxophonist she is known for her melodic focus, versatility and unique style which has been described as "consistently inventive" (Jazzwise Magazine), "strong and authoritative" (The JazzMann) and "gifted and imaginative" (All About Jazz).

Deeply influenced by the American composer Maria Schneider, Josephine has been resident composer and tenor player for the London Jazz Orchestra since 2011 and is now embarking on a big band project of her own.

In 2016 Josephine was privileged to be a featured soloist on veteran saxophonist and composer Pete Hurt's jazz orchestra recording A New Start, which was released to wide acclaim and came second in the British Jazz Awards Best New Album."

-Josephine Davies Website (

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"Sam Eastmond is a composer, arranger, bandleader, trumpet player and producer creating music incorporating a variety of genres including jazz, klezmer, cartoon, rock, surf, world, jewish and Downtown influences and composed and improvised sections into music that he identifies as avant-garde or Radical Jewish Culture.

He co-founded and leads the Spike Orchestra, a large ensemble who have recorded three studio albums since 2014, their debut Ghetto (Spike Records) and two collaborations with New York legend John Zorn as part of his Masada Book on Tzadik Label, Cerberus: The Spike Orchestra Play Masada Book Two and Binah from the forthcoming Masada Book Three series.

Other current projects include TORU a free improvisation group releasing an album a month, and Gulgoleth, a quartet comprised of the Spike Orchestra rhythm section playing a new Book of music composed for this outrageous group of players, album being recorded this year."

-Sam Eastmond Website (

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"Moss Freed is a composer, guitarist and improviser. He studied music at the University of Edinburgh and Berklee College of Music (Boston), before completing a masters in composition at Goldsmiths College. He has received scholarships from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the Bucher/Fraser Trust and the Berklee World Scholarship Tour. Moss has composed for Aisha Orazbayeva, Joseph Houston, Joshua Hyde, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, DriftEnsemble, Via Nova and several of his own projects, with broadcasts including BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM and BBC 6Music, and TV credits including BBC 1's The One Show.

Moss founded and runs Let Spin ('an electrifying live band whose grooves could wake the dead' Guardian) and Moss Project ('nothing short of breathtaking' All About Jazz), also performing as a guitarist with Counter's Creek, Arun Ghosh, and the Spike Orchestra, whose albums of John Zorn's music have been released on Tzadik. Performances include HCMF, the Barbican Centre, the Southbank Centre, Ronnie Scott's, Pizza Express Soho, and various European festivals.

Moss works as a teacher, examiner and workshop leader, and presents his research regularly. He is currently researching composition at the Universities of Hull and Huddersfield as a NECAH PhD scholar and lives in London."

-Moss Freed Website (

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"Will Glaser is a Nottingham born Drummer and Percussionist. An emerging talent on the British Jazz scene Will has had the pleasure of working with British Jazz luminaries such as Dame Cleo Lane, The London Jazz Orchestra, Ian Shaw and Julian Joseph.

He is a member of Tom Mcreddie's Inkine, The Ben Cox Band and leads his own trio, 40 Ton Parachute, with saxophonist Sam Rapley and guitarist Nick Costly-White. With a broad range of influences Will can be seen performing regularly in various contexts throughout the capital."

-Ben Cox Band (

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"After moving to London in 2005, George Hogg has quickly become a highly in demand lead and jazz trumpet player.

Since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music, he's performed throughout the UK and worldwide with many established artists and ensembles, such as Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Gloria Estefan, Tito Puente Junior, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, the Stan Sulzmann Big Band and the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra, and is also a member of the Ronnie Scott's Blues Explosion.

He's also recorded for numerous artists, including Little Mix, Olly Murs and Ella Eyre, been featured on TV soundtracks for Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge and plays regularly in theatres throughout London's West End.

As well as this, he teaches trumpet at the Purcell School in Watford, one of the UKs leading music schools."

-George Hogg Website (

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"Noel Langley has been at the forefront of the British Music scene for nearly thirty years, enjoying a multi-faceted career as a performer, educator, composer, arranger, producer and bandleader.

Renowned for his ability to cross artistic boundaries, Noel has performed and recorded with many of the world's finest symphony orchestras, big bands and recording artists. He also appears on many film and television sound tracks and has played in over sixty West End productions.

Following in the family tradition, Noel began playing cornet in his local Salvation Army brass band at the age of four. During his school years, his love of music grew to occupy more and more of his time, until it became clear that this would be his chosen path in life.

Identified as an exceptional talent by Leonard Bernstein, whilst completing his studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1986, he quickly went on to establish himself in the profession. Today he is has been described as one of the finest cross-over trumpet players in Europe, equally at home in the recording studio, on the concert platform, as a jazz soloist or leading a horn section for major rock bands.

He has led the trumpet section of every major British big band of the last 20 years including those fronted by Sir John Dankworth, Stan Tracey, Tim Garland, Guy Barker, Julian Joseph and Gwilym Simcock. Noel has also toured with international jazz stars, including Harry Connick Junior, Hermeto Pascoal, Andrew Hill, Billy Cobham and Georgie Fame."

-Noel Langley Website (

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"Jeff Miller was born among the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music in Tuba from the Mannes College of Music, Manhattan. Jeff's tutors have included David Fedderly of the Julliard School, David Taylor, NYC bass trombonist extraordinaire, and tuba virtuoso Roger Bobo.

An active freelancer, Jeff has trialed on tuba and cimbasso with Scottish Opera, has played in the West End and touring productions of Chicago, and has performed with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His amplified tuba has been heard playing funk bass lines throughout the UK and Europe, and his bass trombone can be heard in several London-based big bands, usually from many miles away. Happily domesticated, Jeff lives with his wife Ellie (a professional violinist) and children Oscar and Alice.

His hobbies include theoretical physics and artificial intelligence studies. Jeff owns 5 tubas and is a keen supporter of Young's Brewery."

-The Prince Regent's Band (

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"Gemma Moore studied Jazz saxophone at Trinity College of Music and since graduating she has become one of the most in-demand Baritone Saxophonists on the scene working regularly with the BBC Big Band, Ronnie Scotts Jazz Orchestra, Bad Ass Brass, Guy Barker Big Band and the Colin Towns Mask Orchestra."

-EM Jazz (

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"Known for his "authoritative" tenor sound and "exciting, well-crafted" solos, Damon is a saxophonist whose professional life has taken him around the world, working with the likes of BBC Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra as well as recording with renowned artists like Mark Lettieri, Issac Gracie and the Spike Orchestra.

Doubling on clarinet and flute, Damon's versatile musicianship skills have also seen him record for a variety of TV, film and video game soundtracks alongside a busy schedule performing in many of London's most highly esteemed venues such as Ronnie Scott's, The Vortex Jazz Club and the Spice of Life, soho.

As a student, Damon had the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the world's leading artists and musicians after successfully auditioning to study classical music at the Royal College of Music in 2012 and subsequently earning his place to study jazz at the Royal Academy of Music for his postgraduate studies in 2017. Learning from a vast array of professors and world-class musicians, Damon gleaned the knowledge and understanding to effortlessly assert himself in a variety of musical situations, whether that be performing as a side man in jazz clubs around the UK or on stage at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC's Last Night of the Proms (2019)

Damon also leads a variety of his own ensembles, actively championing new music for his band 'rhinoceros' and his original jazz project 'centris' which reimagines traditional jazz for the 21st century. He also runs a project dedicated to playing the music of Dexter Gordon, one of his musical heroes."

-Damon Oliver Website (

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"Timothy Smart is aBritish trombonist. A.o. member of the "Afro Horns" = Jamie M. Harris (saxophones & flute), Tim Smart (trombone) and Ben Searle (trumpet). Also member of group "Afro Elements"."

-Discogs (

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Mike Wilkins is a UK saxophonist known for the Spike Orchestra and the McInroi Wilkins Quartet.

-Squidco 9/22/2021

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Otto Willberg is a professional double bass and bass guitarist, with considerable experience playing both jazz, classical and popular music. He has toured Europe and the US with different groups, and has a strong passion for sharing his skills and knowledge of music. He has worked with Alex Ward, Andrew Cheetham, Colin Webster, Andrew Lisle, Toshimaru Nakamura, Sam Andreae, Ashley Paul, Hannah Marshall, Dirk Serries, Ianncu Dumitrescu, &c. &c.

-Squidco 9/22/2021

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track listing:

1. The Pink Shagpile Carpet Story aka The King of Spank

2. Matriarch Variations

3. Here and Now

4. Standing on the Shoulders of Giantslayers
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Splintered Stories is the brilliant new CD by Sam Eastmond of the Spike Orchestra, whose sparkling arrangements of Masada compositions were a highlight of both The Book of Angels and Zorn's Book Beri'ah. Filled with startling instrumental colors, fiery solos, driving rhythms and moody harmonies, the music is brilliantly performed by this tight 15-piece big band and lovingly mixed by Marc Urselli. Cutting edge big band music for the 21st century by one of the most powerful ensembles working today!"-Tzadik

"Anyone who has been reading our reviews over the last ten years knows that we've been lauding the re-emergence of the "avant-garde big band" - a loose category that includes works from Darcy James Argue, Brian Krock, Anna Webber, Nathan Hubbard, Lauren Elizabeth Baba, Dan Weiss, and many others. Here we have another prime example, with Sam Eastmond leading his Spike Orchestra through a set of four pieces that explore musical spaces in multiple dimensions - instrumentation, textures, dynamics, and style.

I first heard Spike Orchestra as contributors to John Zorn's recent Masada efforts, and certainly appreciated the group's take on his compositions. But in Splintered Stories, we have an opportunity to point out where Eastmond is both similar and different. Not unlike Zorn, Eastmond merges and blends styles, from free jazz to swing, rock to klezmer. This takes the form of heavy chording, marches, open-ended blowouts, as well as numerous powerful and distinct melodies that often overlap with one another. But Eastmond's writing tends to tell stories and feature logical progressions that vary from Zorn's approach.

Assisting Eastmond is an army of performers with emphasis on walls of horn and reed-based instruments, as well as electric guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Case in point, Matriarch Variations includes a baritone sax solo over horn and reed explorations that are both jagged and playful. Then the rhythm section cuts in to support a multiphonic set of soloing backed by wandering rhythms and themes. The piece finishes up with a classically-oriented and percussive piano solo before returning to one of its main motifs.

Hear & Now plays around with the Peter Gunn theme and variations thereof. Indeed, repeated listenings of Splintered Stories turns up a few other familiar-sounding breaks, though none that I could easily identify. Nonetheless, these repeated listenings will be rewarding. There is a plethora of activity on this album that takes time to unpack. Well done."-Mike, AMN Reviews

Get additional information at AMN Reviews
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Large Ensembles
New in Improvised Music
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