On Board the Solar Barque

Impressive jazz suite from veteran player Ron Caines with Martin Archer Axis.

Port Of Saints (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 128CD) has been a labour-intensive construction and editing job from compositions by Caines and what seems to have been some marathon recording sessions, arranged into three related suites on the album. There are musical themes stated and restated throughout this musical travelogue, which takes in locations such as ‘Petite Afrique’ and ‘Oceanania’ with detours into Ancient Egypt, a mythological maze, and the paintings of Franz Kline and Philip Guston. Archer did all the arrangements and production for this ambitious work, besides playing saxophones, organ, and Rhodes electric piano, and the Axis group comprises familiar names from the Discus roster such as Gus Garside, Chris Sharkey, Corey Mwamba, and Johnny Hunter. The spotlight also falls (occasionally) on guest trumpeter Byron Wallen, violinist Graham Clark, and Ben Higham on tuba.

The use of electronics has been extensive; both guitar and vibraphones have been subjected to live electronic treatments, plus there’s the soundscaping work of Herve Perez – who also provided post-production tweaks. These soundscapes are subtle, but act as ante-rooms or bridges between the various imaginary spaces which freely flow from the imagination of Ron Caines. The saxophones of Caines remain the centre of musical attention, but it’s admirable the way this ensemble and their contributions have been seamlessly integrated into this elaborate tapestry of music, providing subtle counterpoints and layers to what is already very busy and lively music. There is much content to reward the inquisitive listener; at times you can feel two or more opposing currents, pulling in different directions like the tides or buffets of wind.

Small wonder that Archer and Co proudly regard this record as “an electroacoustic suite” and not just another jazz album, and although Teo Macero is not explicitly name-checked, one would like to think Port Of Saints has been constructed in the same spirit of Macero’s unique way of “painting” on the recording tape. From 1st March 2022.