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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

David Jackson and René Van Commenée - Keep Your Lane [Talking Elephant Records - 2024]

David Jackson is a prolific English saxophonist, flautist and composer, famous for being a member of Van Der Graaf Generator, he has also worked with dozens of other artists including Peter Gabriel, Keith Tippett, Osanna Peter Hammill, and David Cross to name a few. This album is a collaboration with long-time friend and collaborator, visual sound artist René Van Commenée from the Netherlands who specialises in creating music and visuals for art installations, theatre productions and film and TV. The pair have been friends for a very long time, with René creating album covers and occasionally filling In on drums for Jackson from time to time. This album is the pair’s second collaboration after the live album, Batteries Included which was recorded in 1992/93 and eventually released in 2003.

The first thing to note about the album is the cover’s similarity to the Coverdale/Page album from 1993. That is pretty much where that comparison ends as this is as far away from the trad rock sounds of Messrs Jimmy Page and David Coverdale as you can get, however, I felt it worthy of mention in the fear the cover may give the listener the wrong impression. Album opener, "Eternal Caravans" highlights Jackson’s love of freeform jazz style playing but also shows his ability to write strong melodies, however, everything is built on René’s mighty-sounding drums. He plays with a really heavy style, more akin to rock than jazz and subsequently gives the music its rocky edge. "Garden Shed" is up next, and is listed as an homage to the late great Clive Jones of Black Widow with whom the song was co-written. Jones was the multi-instrumentalist who gave Black Widow their jazzy edge and was a thoroughly lovely bloke who I was lucky enough to chat to from time to time before his death in 2014. The track is quite busy, whimsical and fun to listen to. "Bird’s Lament" is a track from Jazz/classical legend Moondog’s self-titled debut album that was released in 1969 and features a new arrangement that gives the track a wholly different vibe, still jazzy but with a modern feel. "Gateway" is initially a tender and atmospheric flute and synth-led piece that grows and develops as the song progresses into something wholly more fleshed out with a host of different instruments layered up to create a pleasant vibe. "Waving at Strangers" features composer Andrew Keeling on guitar and synth, the piece is based on a musical sketch by Keeling that he sent to Jackson before the latter and René would work it into a rather beautiful track by adding depth and melodies.

"Gridlockdown! is based around the track, Gridlock by Mr Averell from the album of the same name with the saxes and whistle taking on replicating the vocal lines and guitar solo to great effect. Hills of the North is an arrangement of a favourite hymn, written by Martin Shaw that David remembers from his childhood. "Get a Grip!" is an original composition that started life as a long improv piece by René for the culca, a Brazillian friction drum and ended up as a quite unique sounding piece that has echoes of jazz and classical music but doesn’t fit neatly into any category. It has a strong sense of melody but a very cool improvised tenor sax part over the top that just gives it an unusual feel. "Kosokudoro" is short and sweet and has a real Asian feel to it before we head onto Pinball Potter, which has a real eclectic feel to it, the title hinting at the possibility of it sounding something like a pinball machine, whilst the tracks almost industrial sounding percussion tracks are enhanced by René’s heavy rock drums and some lovely flute and sax by David. JackLanzCom Haiku is based around a song by Bernardo Lanzetti (Lanzhaiku), they took his structure and ideas and turned it into a great jazzy, flute and sax piece that works so well. "Pioneers Over C, 2023" is an update of the classic Van Der Graaf Generator song, which originally appeared on the H to He, Who Am the Only One album in 1970. Written by Jackson and Peter Hammill, the original is built on some lovely warm-sounding Hammond organ, however, this version is remarkable in that it eschews that Hammond sound and still remains an extraordinary piece of music. The playing is sublime and the track heads out on a wholly different journey to the original. The album closes with "Felona", originally by Le Orme and taken from their 1973 album, Felona é Sorona and rearranged from the original by David and René for this album. Interestingly, the track features a host of Indian instrumentation, however, it has a really classical European sound that’s full of pomp and joy. 

Overall, the album is a great listen. The musicians themselves are in fine form and the album just highlights what a special musician David Jackson really is, and just how important his saxophone and flute parts were for Van Der Graaf Generator’s sound. The arrangements are excellent and both musicians work so well together to create a cohesive and uniquely brilliant record. The album is filled with cameos from some of the world’s finest musicians, namely, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), John Ellis (The Stranglers and Peter Gabriel), Andrew Keely (Composer) and Dorie Jackson (Francis Dunnery) and the whole thing feels a little bit special. If you’re a fan of classic prog like Van Der Graaf Generator, or you like modern jazz with a rock backbone then this is definitely an album for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Darren Charles
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