The Squid's Ear Magazine

Archer, Martin : Story Tellers (Discus)

Martin Archer introduces a new sextet based on Chicago's AACM approach to free improvisation, in a 2-CD set of 6 large works divided into 5 or 6 chapters each, presenting character themes, rhythm ideas, composed duets, and improvised instructions; superb!

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product information:

UPC: 5051078949321

Label: Discus
Catalog ID: 57CD
Squidco Product Code: 23374

Format: 2 CDs
Condition: New
Released: 2016
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Recorded at Chairworks, in Castleford, England on Septe,ber 19th and 20th, 2015 by David Watts, and at Discus Msuic, June 2016 by Martin Archer.


Martin Archer-alto, sopranino saxophone, baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, bass recorder, flute, shaker, chimes, loops, electronics

Mick Somerset-alto saxophone, bass, meditation, geisha flute,drone flutes, chalumeau clarinet, bass clarinets, shawm, shruti boxes, shaman drums, bells, rattles, gongs, trine, jews harp

Kim Macari Stone-Lonergan-trumpet

Corey Mwamba-vibraphone

Anton Hunter-guitar, electronics

Peter Fairclough-drums, percussion

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"First recording by a new sextet, and another release from Discus which follows through Martin's obsession with AACM innovations expressed via dynamic and creative composition twinned with top flight improvising.

A double CD of six long pieces, each thematically linked to make one long cycle which moves between completely notated and completely improvised passages, combinations of both elements, some electric Miles inspired grooves, and strange folk-like drums and drones.

The Story Tellers cycle is divided into six Books each containing five Chapters. Each Book begins with a version of the Story Tellers theme which is played by everyone. The second Chapter is drawn from a group of rhythm pieces. Each Story Teller has their own individual theme, performed as a solo third Chapter. These individual themes are also combined in different pairs with additional textural material and improvisation models to form more Chapters, heard fourth. Some Books end with a Shaman Drone; others have an individual coda as a fifth Chapter.

Most of the music here is heard exactly as played by the sextet in the studio with minimum post production edits and overdubs.."-Discus

"How a story begins can be the key to what follows. And so it is here. Peter Fairclough earns his place in the band inside the first three minutes. He answers the introductory fanfares with a lucid percussion conversation that beats a ringing authority upon the drum heads. They are literally twice upon a time; the tom-toms propelling the whole septet into a shuffling deep-funk of glorious proportions. The Corey Mwamba vibraphone set-up is jumping across the melée like a keyboard, while the Archer/Stone-Lonergan horns blow through the rich theme allowing an articulate, agile flute to skid across the groove, cleverly underpinned by guitar chords that sound like they were sampled from a James 'Blood' Ulmer session. (They weren't, but you know, that's how gravelly they come on. Hunter-does-good.)

There is well over two hours of music on this beautifully put together two-disc recording. Martin Archer is a stickler for detail, so much so this is not a session for the casual listener. Musically it is packed full of information and enquiry, it travels distance both in real time within the studio and in the post-production mixing and engineering. And the ear has to be tuned to the story telling if the listener hopes to make sense of the density of the detail. There is no voice, no text, yet the music contains its own narrative. I always imagined that Miles' Sketches Of Spain had a lyric. Like Mr Fairclough's drums, language is not always via the spoken word.

A glance at the make-up of the six musicians involved and the variety of instruments, juxtaposing the double reed shawm, vibraphone, big guitar and a continuum of saxophones and trumpet, makes for multiple colours. The ensemble contains a couple of 'now' names like the aforementioned vibes player, Corey Mwamba and guitarist Anton Hunter, alongside UK stalwart-drummer, Peter Fairclough from the Tippett and Westbrook bands. Then there is trumpeter Kim Macari Stone-Lonergan, fast getting herself a high profile around Manchester, and best-kept-secret Mick Somerset, who is a genuine genie when it comes to interpreting the Archer raison d'être. Structurally the music is divided into six books or characters - one for each musician and then subdivided again; each 'book' containing at least one short solo entry for a particular musician plus a 'band version' track of one of the characters and a version of the Story Tellers main theme. Each 'book' also includes a severe 're-mix' or a coda.

It may all appear rather confusing in print (or screen), but once you sit back with two hours to spare simply exercising the ears, Story Tellers comes into focus just as if you had switched the lights on. Ms Stone-Lonergan is a fine soloist and her horn hones a deep vein centre whenever the whole band gets it 'on'. Mr Somerset's flute collection is a prize gift. He is not in the least fey or romanticised, nor 'jazz' in the Rahsaan Roland Kirk sense, rather he is an ascetic, a sound-painter with a precise front-line presence which permeates both the 'written' and improv sections. His acappella solo on Disc A, track 13, The Wounded Healer, is a delight and the ingenuity displayed in the segue into track 14, The Barbarian, with its weird call-and-response with Archer is a brilliant thing. This in-turn ushers in a fabulous trumpet passage over inactive brushwork from Mr Fairclough. It is definitive 2015/16 contemporary jazz. I hope Martin Archer will be happy with such a description; I mean it as the highest of compliments. By the time they hit Disc A's track 15, Shaman Song, with the hand percussion pulsing the piece as if digging a path to a rocky salvation, you know this is a band who can work real time just as well as they do the studio.

I can't allow myself not to mention Anton Hunter's contribution. The Sandy Brown Jazz website was early to arrive on the Hunter-case. Both of the Hunter brothers (Anton and his sibling, the drummer, Johnny Hunter) have associations with Martin Archer projects. The Guitar-Hunter is not your standard six-string picker. He's prone to feedback. I love it. He controls the electrics. He pushes it hard. But he also checks it. It can crash. Smash a space. Fry the air. Ride right across a straight rhythm. Drone it. Bury it in crackle as if the circuits have blown. The mercurial Disc B starts with a massive bout of electrics (I think some of it is additional post-production). The Guitar-Hunter is chronic, scratching the surface for two exquisitely tortured minutes before giving way to track 2, the magnificent Like It Was (the damned relative of Like It Is on Disc A). How music can heal its own fractures!! Like It Was pours saxophone, horns, vibes and drums onto the danger represented by the guitar showcase. By the end of Like It Was Anton Hunter is circling Martin Archer's baritone as if he were begging for a Blue Note.

The closest music I know to the Story Tellers soundtrack is a collaborative album Jah Wobble and Evan Parker made in the year 2000 called Passage To Hades. It also featured Clive Bell on Thai pi saw flute and Jean-Pierre Rasle on bagpipes and crumhorn. And there is something about the use of these 'non-conventional' instruments alongside reeds and drums which is both disconcerting yet ultimately empowering. On Story Tellers, by the time Kim Macari Stone-Lonergan hits her stride on the final trumpet coda, Roscoe's Blues, she has become indispensable. Her classic jazz instrument has had to negotiate its way through such a dense orchestra of colour that somehow it shines forth all the more having kept such exotic company as shawm and jews harp.

I originally picked up on Martin Archer in the previous Millennium when he was a member of the groundbreaking Hornweb Saxophone Quartet. Later, much later, he started working with Julie Tippetts, producing recordings such as Ghosts Of Gold, Fluvium, and the suspend-your-hearing-feel-the-temperature classic that few people know about, Serpentine (all available on the Discus label). There's a narrative that links Story Tellers to Mr Archer's other current project Engine Room Favourites. Both carry dedications to the venerable AACM collective from Chicago (Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell et al). Sheffield may seem a mighty distance from the Velvet Lounge, South Side Chicago; sometimes your closest neighbour is not in the immediate vicinity. I rate this new double-disc album highly. What's two hours? The time it takes to watch a movie; switch off your screens, make a cup of tea and put on the audio, your ears will thank you."-Steve Day, Sandy Brown Jazz

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
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Artist Biographies

"Martin Archer was born in Sheffield, England, in 1957. He started playing saxophone at age 15 and first got active on the Sheffield improvisational scene in 1973. In the early '80s, he recorded an LP with Bass Tone Trap, his first group. In 1983 he formed the saxophone quartet Hornweb, which, in ten years of existence, released three albums. It is during that time that Archer released his first solo album, Wild Pathway Favourites (1988) and founded the Discus label on which he since releases all his music.

In 1993, he disbanded Hornweb and turned to synthesizers and sequencers while shifting his activities from stage to studio. He developed a compositional approach in which he records improvisers soloing, then manipulates this raw material, combining it with electronics and structuring it into a whole new piece. This technique is illustrated on Wild Pathway Favourites, Ghost Lily Cascade (1996), and Pure Water Construction (with bassist Simon H. Fell, released in 1999). Later works such as Winter Pilgrim Arriving (2000) moved toward more constructed and less abstract pieces, even making room for melodies and rhythm tracks at times.

Apart from his solo work, Archer is also involved in Ask, a duo with guitarist John Jasnoch, and Transient v Resident, an ambient electronics project with Chris Bywater."-All Music, François Couture

"Martin Archer is a composer / improviser who is equally at home on stage or in the studio. His own distinctive saxophone playing is rooted in AACM jazz. Through his use of keyboards and electronics, and as a studio producer, he extends this interest into extended song form and leftfield rock music. He is also co-director of the uncategorisably avant choir Juxtavoices.

His principle music work is the Discus Music label, the imprint for his various releases, notably by the groups described below.

His current jazz based projects include Engine Room Favourites (current a 4 drummer, 14 piece big band), Story Tellers (6 piece group including shaman instruments alongside the conventional instruments), plus various ad hoc smaller groups. All of these are strongly aligned with AACM tradition and teaching.

Archer has a long running duo with veteran vocalist Julie Tippetts. Each of their highly acclaimed CD releases deliberately explores song from a different perspective - the duo aims to be truly progressive, and takes in elements from jazz, rock, soul and pure abstraction.

Archer's main live performance vehicle is the trio Inclusion Principle with Herve Perez and Peter Fairclough. The group operates in a space between electronics, nu-jazz, contemporary electroacoustic music and free improvisation. In performance you will hear pure jazz skill, electronic beats and areas of texture and abstraction all seamlessly woven into a fascinating and constantly shifting tapestry of sound.

The sprawling Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere was formed by Archer as an improvising rock group with shades of Terry Riley, Magma, Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, very much in the progressive / krautrock tradition, and noted for its large scale string, horn and vocal arrangements.

Also in rock music, Archer is a member of the USA based heavier than plutonium prog / sludge / zeuhl group Combat Astronomy under the direction of Jamie Huggett.

Surprising, delighting and occasionally alarming audiences for a number of years now, Juxtavoices is a 30 piece choir for mainly untrained voices co directed by Archer with Alan Halsey which has racked up dozens of performances and issued three CDs.

This eclectic combination of sources and highly individual applications makes Archer a unique inhabitant of the school of English maverick composer / improvisers. "-Discus

-All Music, Discus Records (

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"Mick Somerset aka Michael Ronald Ward is signed as a writer to BMG Chrysalis Music. I also play all woodwinds and keyboards / percussion and vocals. He has written over 20 top twenty singles and contributed to many hit albums. He played piccolo on the number one hit "Everything Changes" by Take That which he also wrote, and he made two albums in the US with hit producer Don Was. He is also an improviser, performing on Selmer V1 saxes nino/s/a/t/b. King Super 20 tenor and King saxello . Uebel flute, Kuiper altoflute Kingma bassflute. Selmer bassclt/ Selmer Bb/ Patricola Eb."

-Theo Wanne, Discogs (

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"Since moving to Leeds in 2008 to study Jazz at Leeds College of Music, Kim Macari has been developing a reputation as a player, band leader and educator on the jazz scene across the UK.

She has played in numerous large ensembles including Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra, National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, John Warren's Voice of The North and the James Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, amongst others, and has had the chance to play alongside a number of highly respected jazz musicians including Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs, Henry Lowther, Dave Liebman, Jacqui Dankworth, Phil Robson, Christine Tobin and Arild Andersen.

Her own projects perform regularly at jazz venues throughout the UK. Her two year collaboration with Leah Gough-Cooper and their sextet LOCUS resulted in two well received UK Tours which included a number of high profile festival dates and an archive of live recordings.

Kim's work as a performer and as a band leader has garnered recognition in the press and has been she been twice nominated as Young Jazz Musician of the Year and also Big Band of the Year by Jazz Yorkshire. In 2013, Kim received an Emerging Excellence Award from Musicians Benevolent Fund (now Help Musicians UK). This funded an extended stay in New York, where she studied with Ingrid Jensen and Ralph Alessi and recorded at Tedesco Studios.

Kim's current creative focus is on quartet Family Band, a chordless quartet which draws inspiration on the music of late Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Jim Black amongst others. Family Band have been selected as one of 10 flagship ensembles in the North by Jazz North and are currently planning the release of their first full length album.

In addition to her work as a musician, Kim is also active in behind the scenes. She currently runs Apollo Jazz Network and is currently the director of the Orpheus Project, a large scale touring initiative which sees international jazz artists collaborate with UK musicians and tour throughout the North of England. Their featured artists have so far included Ingrid Jensen and Ellery Eskelin."

-Kim Macari Stone Website (

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"Born and based in Derby, Corey Mwamba's commitment to jazz and improvised music in Britain and Ireland drives all aspects of his work, whether through composition, playing, or promoting new music. Corey predominantly plays vibraphone; he also plays dulcimer and uses audio processing software. He is recognised as a highly creative improviser and composer working across a wide range of jazz and contemporary music. Mwamba's distinctive approach and tone is instantly recognisable in any context: a potent blend of pure sound, highly melodic phrases and ethereal textures; barely whispered chords and ear-piercing robotic screams. Corey won a PRSF/Jerwood Foundation Take Five artist development award in 2007; was short-listed for the Innovation category in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2008; and was nominated for "Rising Star on Vibraphone" in the 62nd, 63rd, and 64th DownBeat Annual Critics' Polls.

Mwamba's main group is the critically acclaimed Yana with Dave Kane (bass) and Joshua Blackmore (drums). This group exemplifies a core ideal of creating an "open, living music"; listening and responding spontaneously as a unit to make music that has love, language and a groove. Their first studio release don't overthink it was hailed as "engaging and evocative" (All About Jazz) and described as "the sound of three minds working together in a utopian zone, way beyond the individual ego - and producing something quite beautiful in the process" (Jazzwise). Dave and Corey are also in an improvising sextet called The Spirit Farm, formed out of research by pianist Adam Fairhall. Mwamba and Fairhall also form a trio with drummer Johnny Hunter called Backyard Chassis.

He is a member of the Anglo-French quartet Sonsale with bassist Andy Champion, drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and cellist Valentin Ceccaldi. Corey also works with Andy in an improvising trio with saxophonist Ntshuks Bonga. He plays in duos with saxophonist Rachel Musson; pianist Robert Mitchell; percussionists Martin Pyne and Walt Shaw; and the multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson. [...]

Mwamba was granted an AHRC studentship for a Master of Research degree in Music at Keele University, for which he was awarded a distinction in 2014. Through this research, he developed new dark art, which is a notational and theoretical music system that takes early European medieval music practice as a starting point to create modern music. He is currently undertaking doctoral research in Jazz Studies at Birmingham City University on a Midlands3Cities/AHRC studentship."

-Corey Mwamba Website (

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"Anton Hunter is a composer and improviser living in Manchester. He leads his own trio, who have found airtime on Radio 3 and he can be found playing in a variety of settings with varying levels of improvisation, with musicians such as Mick Beck, Sam Andreae, Simon Prince, Rodrigo Constanzo, Cath Roberts, Phil Marks, David Birchall, Keith Jafrate and many more.

He was commissioned by the Manchester Jazz Festival to create an hour-long suite of music for the 2014 festival. His "Article 11″ project is an 11-piece ensemble and features improvisation at it's core, aiming to draw the personalities of the musicians into the final outcome. Also ongoing is a set of saxophone quartet music, a duo with baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts called Ripsaw Catfish, Cath's quintet 'Sloth Racket, the trio 'Beck Hunters'. He is perhaps still better known for his work as guitarist in the Beats & Pieces Big Band, a group he is a founder member of and who continue to defy the odds simply by gigging as a 14 piece jazz ensemble in the UK and Europe.

Improvisation is at the core of everything he does and in 2007 he formed free-improvisation organisation The Noise Upstairs. Initially a meeting place and jam session for improvisers, it is still going strong almost a decade later, and has grown to include occasional workshops on a range of subjects and a small record label.

In 2014 he was a "Sound and Music New Voice" - more information on which is here.

He teaches guitar and improvisation in schools and privately, visit the contact page if you are interested in lessons, or to book a workshop or similar."

-Anton Hunter Website (

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"Since graduating from the City of Leeds College of Music with Distinction in Drums and Percussion, Peter Fairclough has performed and/or recorded with Keith Tippett, Paul Dunmall, Ute Lemper, Huw Warren, Peter Whyman, Steve Berry, John Harle, Kenny Davern, Peter King, The Matrix Ensemble, The Bournemouth Sinfonietta, The Mike Westbrook Orchestra and The Theatre Royal Company (York).

He has 5 CDs to his own credit:

IMAGO (Jazzprint JPVP132)CD - with Keith Tippett), Wild Silk (ASC CD8 - with Keith Tippett), Permission (ASC CD18) and Shepherd Wheel (ASC CD1). The most recent release is Momentarily with Hayley Youell, Fred T Baker & Dave Bainbridge.

In 1995 he was awarded the Peter Whittingham Award and he has toured extensively abroad, appearing at many top jazz festivals.

Peter teaches Drum Kit at The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and Leeds College of Music."

-Jazz CDs (

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Track Listing:


1. Story Tellers #1 2:22

2. Like It Is 7:00

3. The River Follower 1:33

4. The Casuist 8:13

5. Shaman Song #1 8:01

6. Story Tellers #2 4:00

7. Go Heavy 5:05

8. The Barbarian 3:42

9. Dedication Coda - Muhal's Way 7:55

10. Story Tellers #3 3:01

11. Like It Is 2:14

12. The Wounded Healer 3:10

13. The Barbarian 2:18

14. Shaman Song #2 7:32

15. Track 15 9:51


1. Story Tellers #4 2:08

2. Like It Was 5:34

3. The Casuist 3:49

4. The River Follower 6:05

5. Dedication Coda 5:48

6. StoryTellers #5 4:52

7. Like It Will Be 8:08

8. The Wayfarer's Bastard 1:55

9. The Rain Maker 7:51

10. Shaman Song #4 10:20

11. Story Tellers #6 4:16

12. Time Twist 3:53

13. The Wounded Healer 5:00

14. The Rain Maker 3:35

15. The Casuist 3:34

16. Dedication Coda 2:22

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Sextet Recordings
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