Photo © James Drew Turner 2016
Following in the tradition of such renegade composers as Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus, Igor Stravinsky and Harrison Bertwhistle, Dave Morecroft seeks a spot in the musical firmament that is decidedly left of center. And as keyboardist and principal composer for the edgy London-based avant-funk-jazz quintet WorldService Project, he is striking a blow upside the head of musical complacency. On 'For King & Country', the group’s RareNoise debut and third release overall (after 'Relentless' in 2010 and 'Fire In A Pet Shop' in 2013), the powerhouse aggregation cuts across stylistic boundaries with impunity and a decided ‘punk-jazz’ attitude. As Morecroft explains,
“Punk-jazz for me is more a reflection of rebellion. Maybe it’s jazz but it’s played with an 'f-you' to the establishment/systems that dictate what jazz is supposed to mean or be.”
He further describes the do-or-die presence that the band adopts onstage:
“WorldService Project is a very intense, high-energy live show. We throw ourselves into it and hope to come out alive at the other end. And if you're not bleeding by the end of it, you haven't tried hard enough.”
That killer instinct is conveyed from track to track on For King & Country (the title itself is a kind of ironic nod to the band’s British ancestry). From the prog-rockish tumult of the opener “Flick the Beanstalk” to the moody closer “Requiem for a Worm” WorldService Project carries a pronounced crunch while injecting daring improvisations and myriad punk-jazz expressions into the mix. Joining Morecroft on this follow-up to 2013’s Fire In A Pet Shop are tenor sax burner Tim Ower, trombonist Raphael Clarkson, bassist Arthur O’Hara and drummer Harry Pope.
Says Morecroft of this audacious WSP outing:
“I wanted For King & Country to be an EPIC listen, that from moment to moment it could rage intensely, pull at heartstrings, flip in double somersaults around the room or sardonically sneer at the establishment. It is an incredibly personal record for me (much more than any other) with true heartbreak, anger, loss, disillusionment, ecstasy and piss-taking a-plenty! But at its heart (I hope), purity of gesture, intensity and sincerity.”
The slamming odd-metered piece “Fuming Duck,” for instance, is indeed an listen. Underscored by O’Hara’s fuzz bass lines melding with Clarkson’s electric trombone for an uncommonly heavy bottom end, it hits as hard as King Crimson’s “Red” while suggesting something far jazzier. Pope’s monstrous drum solo over the band ostinato at the end of this raging piece is an adrenalized highlight. Likewise, “Murano Faro” slowly builds from something dreamy and distant to a throbbing crescendo with Clarkson’s trombone wailing over the top in half-time. “Son of Haugesund” is a blast of intensity to match anything on Led Zeppelin III while the frantic, tempo-shifting “Go Down Ho’Ses” carries the zany energy of a ska band conducted by Frank Zappa. Ower’s passionate sax solos on this unhinged number and on the dramatic “Chamonix” are both exceptional. And on “Mr. Giggles,” at once humorous and scary, Morecroft unveils the cartoonish vocals of the title character (a sinister clown alter ego that he introduced on Fire In A Pet Shop) against a clamorous undercurrent. The closer, “Requiem for a Worm,” opens on a restful, introspective note with Ower blowing breathy tones against a gentle backdrop. Midway through, the mood shifts as the piece gradually builds to a slamming, fuzz-laden crescendo of epic proportions.
Dave Morecroft - keyboard / vocals
Tim Ower - saxophone
Raphael Clarkson - trombone, vocals
Arthur O'Hara - bass
Harry Pope - drums
For King & Country