Norwich new jazz pioneers Mammal Hands return to city on latest tour

Mammal Hands who met while busking in Norwich but are now one of the most talked about new UK jazz b

Mammal Hands who met while busking in Norwich but are now one of the most talked about new UK jazz bands. Picture: Simon Hunt - Credit: Simon Hunt

The trio met whilst busking in Norwich but are now one of the most acclaimed new jazz bands in the UK.

Mammal Hands are a trio of like-minded musicians from Norwich: Nick Smart keyboards, Jesse Barrett drums and percussion, and Jordan Smart saxophones

Drawing on influences from Steve Reich to Bonobo and Pharoah Sanders to Cinematic Orchestra, alongside elements of North Indian and African music, they produce their own beautiful, inimitable music – at times wistful and melancholic and others raucous and catchy.

They evoke a range of moods, from delicate and subtle to explosive and frantic, blending thoughtful compositions with spontaneity and interplay.

Almost a new on from their excellent second album, Floa, they are back at Norwich Arts Centre on March 17, with a set that will also include favourites from their debut album Animalia.


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The band first met in 2012 while busking in Norwich. They gelled quickly, drawn to each other's open approach to music making. The brothers Nick and Jordan were already playing together as an electronica duo but with drummer Jesse joining the band they developed a distinctive sound drawing on their love of electronic, contemporary classical, world and jazz music.

Drummer Jesse's knowledge and understanding of Indian classical music brings a unique/distinctive approach to the rhythmic framework of the band's tunes.

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His disciplined study with tabla maestro Sirishkumar has allowed him to develop the ability to explore intricate and complex rhythmic patterns and the freedom to explore time signatures and rhythmic patterns less commonly heard in the western world.

Jordan brings a love of DJ culture as well as the influence of Pharoah Sanders to his playing whilst pianist Nick brings a knowledge of classical jazz harmonies but also a deep interest in the minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Steve Reich.

The band has been compared to both Portico Quartet and GoGo Penguin for the way in which they navigate the choppy waters between contemporary dance music and jazz.

On the road the band have been wooing audiences on the contemporary jazz and electronica scenes, from the Norwich Arts Centre to Mostly Jazz Birmingham, King's Place London, Band On The Wall Manchester and most recently Love Supreme Glynde.

Indeed it was at Mostly Jazz that the band were heard by Gondwana Records recording artists GoGo Penguin's bassist Nick Blacka, who liking the band's unique sound brought them to the attention of label boss Matthew Halsall, who immediately signed them to the label and produced their latest album, which features string players from The Gondwana Orchestra.

Floa (an old Norse word that means to deluge or to flow) is the sound of a more confident, experienced band: one that has grown together naturally through touring and gigging and through mammoth writing and rehearsal sessions.

The album ranges from the evocative Quiet Fire, built around minimal, cyclical patterns and explosive choruses to the folky tracks Hillum and Eyes That Saw The Mountain.

It does a remarkable thing in reflecting the band's personality and looks set to establish them as one of the most exciting new bands around.

They are supported on this latest visit by Tom Moore's Automatic Trio

• Mammal Hands, Norwich Arts Centre, March 17, 8pm, £14 on the door, 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

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