- by John Fordham (TheGuardian)
Manchester trumpeter Matthew Halsall's Gondwana Records has been documenting that city's vividly creative jazz scene – here he introduces GoGo Penguin, a young piano trio collecting a cult following in the region this year. The band cite Aphex Twin, Debussy and Massive Attack among their influences, but from a jazz angle EST, the Bad Plus, and maybe a little of the funky drive of Neil Cowley's trio play big roles. Pianist Chris Illingworth makes the EST connection explicit in the anthemic roll of the opening Seven Sons of Björn (written at the time of Esbjörn Svensson's premature death), a stirring theme in the manner of the Swedish superband, unfolded over Rob Turner's intense drumming.
Brief melodic motifs enriched by powerful countermelodic bass (from the excellent Grant Russell) suggest both Tord Gustavsen's music and drummer Turner's enthusiasm for Aphex Twin on the atmospheric Last Words. Turner's and Russell's relationship drives all the music and provides much of the variation – and Bad Plus fans will warm to the spacey chords and rattling drum fills of I Am That, the steadily darkening narrative of Akasthesia, and the irresistible hook and rock-finale swell of the exciting HF. It might be a little short on melody-improv or unexpected diversions from the prevailing hooks for some jazzers, but it's obvious why the Manchester clubs are jumping to this band.