Wonderfully irreverential, anarchic and wild “Punk Jazz”, the Bird Architects fizzed through the Bristol jazz scene in the 80’s, railing against the wicked witch of the west and all matters
unbalanced. Featured at many CND and Anti-Nazi league festivals and fundraisers as well as the occasional ‘proper gig’ (like the time they were mistakenly booked into the Royal Forest of Dean Jazz Club….the somewhat conservative and elderly audience found them to be “reminiscent of electric be-bop” :-)
Judge for yourself as we proudly present our latest videos (below). The first is a classic track from the CD GONE, “Burt Glares at Monty”
The second is another track from the album, “Furlongs Dash”
Prelude for MD from the CD ‘GONE”
A fast car, swift-as-ink, sprouts wings and soars across a very urban sunset. It draws a breath and sings the joys of speed and rails against an iron lady. Changing its shape, spinning on a sixpence. For 25 years the Bird Architects have built tunes and played with an electric edge. Always a surprise zappa-tight mutating, lurking somewhere sideways of bebop. No sign of compromise.
(Offical vid comp of Yo Bloop from ‘Hotel for the Birds’)
Yo Bloop ! from the CD ‘Hotel for the Birds – Live’
(Live at the Cube Cinema, Audience phone)
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Bird Architects Discography
“Gone” is the group’s return, after many years, to the studio and they have enthusiastically embraced all the opportunities this offered. All the pieces were recorded ‘live’ in the studio and subsequently mixed and remixed by Marco Anderson, creating something that is the essence of the group but also something completely new.
Hotel for the birds is a free download if GONE is purchased
“Tunes without moons and Junes…with an edge that stuck in the air …Zappa-tight riffs that mutate somewhere sideways of bebop”
Mick Green, review of the group’s live ‘Hotel for the Birds’ gig. Quarter Notes ‘04.
Bird Architects Biography
Formed in 1984, their’s was a brief, yet incendiary life which is fondly recalled and justly restored on their (mainly) live CD, Hotel for the Birds, released in 2004. Original members had a reunion live show in May 2004 at the Totnes Jazz Club and have been reanimated ever since. For Mick Green’s review of that “comeback” show go here Founder members Aaron Standon (originally saxes and flutes, now also guitar) and classical violinist Peter Evans (see also Wild Strings Quartet) found a ferocious rhythmic powerhaus in Mark “Buffalo” Turner (Bass guitar) and Marco Anderson (Drums and keyboards) to fuel their improvisations with sinuous Ornette Coleman-like themes.
Early shows left the rather staid bristol Jazz fraternity frayed at the edges and one bemused member of the Forest (of Dean) Jazz club likened the Bird’s sonic attack to “electric Be-Bop”. Now fully developed into the T.A.M.P. musical concept, the Bird’s style of improvised but structured wonderment is available now on their new live CD – Hotel for the Birds. Personnel: Aaron Standon: Alto Sax, Flute and Guitar Peter Evans: Violin Mark Turner: Bass Guitar Marco Anderson: Drums and Keyboards, wailing and monologues
Aaron Standon – Guitar and Alto Sax (South Devon)
In the 1980s Aaron played the alto and soprano saxophone in a number of Bristol based projects most notably the Bird Architects writing much of their material. In the past he has performed extensively as a solo saxophonist and has also performed with various improvisorsincluding Derek Bailey and Lol Coxhill. His collaboration with flautist John Eaves resulted in the album “Playing for Time”. He was also a member of Will Menter’s Community. He has toured Belgium and Holland both with Community and as part of an improvising trio and collaboration with dancers for a performance at Rotterdam’s free jazz festival. More recently Aaron has been a driving force behind the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’ project linking members of the groups; Zaum, Bird Architects and Limbic System in various combinations for some stunning live performances, one resulting in the forth coming ‘Overtaking Caravans I –IX’ live CD.
Peter Evans – Violin. (Bristol)
Since his initial classical violin training he has played in a variety of formats including free improvisation, street bands, contemporary and afro jazz fusion, klezmer, country and eastern, orchestral and chamber music. Pete’s violin style is completely unique drawing on an awesome technique and an individual approach to improvisation.
Recent appearances have been in the hi life/jazz combination of Mixed Fruit and with the mbira and string group Zango, as well as numerous orchestral performances around the South West.
The coming season will include appearances with Bird Architects, New Bristol Sinfonia, and Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra.
Marco Anderson -Drums, keyboards and soundscapes. (Bristol)
Marco is a drummer, guitarist and keyboard player with an extremely varied background in music and in particular jazz.His very long list of accomplishments, collaborations and groups includes; being the drummer for seminal Sheffield band The Extras, Scream & Dance which appeared at Peter Gabriels first WOMAD festival, Graffi Jazz (with Cameroonian Guitarist Asaah Papa), the Bullitt Big Band and Will Mentor’s Overflow, He has played with Eduardo & Antonio (Forcione) and was percussionist in Viv Stanshall’s opera “Stinkfoot”. He has also playedwith Dai Pritchard (ex-Loose Tubes), Dennis Rollins (Courteney Pine), Andy Sheppard, John Paricelli, and with Indian singer Najma Akthar. More recent project include the power fusion group Present Tense featuring Paul Dunmall and John Serry. Marco is a fantastically powerful drummer, who manages to combine a stunning technical ability with real passion; the drive and rhythmic complexity that is a part of the Bird Architects’ hallmark. Marco was also part of the Conspiracy ‘Overtaking Caravans’ CD.
Mark Turner -Buffalo bass. (Leicester)
Mark has spent most of his bass playing career in Bristol where he played and recorded with a number of well known and highly regarded local bands including Rhythm and Noise, The Insurgents, Fission Brothers, the amazing singer Jo Swan and of course The Bird Architects.
After six years living and playing in Spain he is now back with the recently re-formed Bird Architects. Reviewers at various times have described his sound and style as “robust”, “driving”, and “buffalo bludgeoning”. He lists amonghis many bass playing influences Robbie Shakespeare, Percy Jones, Jah Wobble and Flea. Mark provides much of the kick and funk within the band, he has a subtle sense of harmony (often playing chords on his bass) combined with enough thrust to make strong men weep!
Bird Architects Reviews
REVIEW OF ‘THE PHANTOM POWER AWAKENS By Steve Day for Sandy Brown Jazz
The opening track is Happy Birthday Bill, written to celebrate Bill Frisell’s 50th birthday. I am sure the Brilliant-Bill, a standout alt-jazz guitarist with a bluegrass heart, would be chuffed to receive this greeting on such an auspicious day, though the music sounds closer to Bill Laswell, the great funk/dub-jazz bassist and producer. No matter, whichever Bill gets this birthday gift, he’s going to be a winner. Happy Birthday Bill does not play about. It slams your ears to the ceiling and they stay there. Bass and drums batter a fast 4/4, the bassline, a wriggly eel encircling the sax/violin riff, does not go away. There is fierce content in this performance, which the Architects compress into a massive blast: a bigbeat that feels eternal, a huge strong dynamic, silk smooth soloing that is both ‘out’ and ‘in’ with one central natty riff that propels everything forward. Mr Standon is a formidable guitar player yet here he chooses to dedicate a tune to another guitarist by leading the action on alto saxophone. It’s the kind of quirky juxtaposition I like; and the alto sax feels explosive.
This album stacks up as one extended power driven epic experiment. The band passes through wholly improvised sections, like the cathartic Impending And Unexpected, to tightly composed cliff hangers such as (I know why people go to) Switzerland. Then you come up against a thin sliver of something called Structural Damage which is less than a minute long. And in that brief passing is contained delicate violin transformed into electronic noise, feedback, boom-bass, scattered percussion. It is debris smeared into sound; a spoiling of processed anarchy so harsh it frays its own state of play. But because these guys are Architects they then recycle the content into the introduction to Furlongs Dash, a key composition.
Furlongs Dash is a Peter Evans tune that I first heard played in 2005 and has been on all the band’s recordings ever since. For me, this is the crux of the architecture on offer here; it has literally been refined detail by detail over decades. Furlongs Dash always was a tricky task, a tricky ask. The version on The Phantom Power Awakens is introduced by a sophisticated guitar part rather than their usual violin. The quartet is a stripped down orchestra and we are left listening to a ‘difficult’ composition re-composed to an autographed improvisation. The Bird Architects’ music has needed time and to their credit, that is what these four guys have invested in.
Click here for the band playing Furlongs Dash.
The final track, Shift Key, is an abstracted slice of jazz/metal which has all the hallmarks of Frank Zappa’s legacy. An album like The Phantom Power Awakens should not only shake up the phantom but everyone else as well. In 2016 I don’t know whether that is possible, the whole world seems polarised between sleepwalking and a terrible disturbance. Wherever the ‘Phantom’ may come from, our reality is turbulent tremor. We pause for music and listen, despite those who would have us close down our ears to creativity. So, how come The Bird Architects have arrived at their particular bend in the road?
The band has been operating with this exact same line-up since the mid 1980’s, though there was something like a ten year gap. Since 2004 they have played regularly together yet only played a handful of gigs. They bizarrely turned up on the Isle of Wight supporting Hawkwind at their annual HawkFest and got a great reception, then disappeared. They played the improvisers holy grail, the Vortex in London, spooked the audience into shocked exhilaration and were gone. In 2008 they released an album called Gone on Slam Records. The title was/is fact – they play loud and leave quietly. All the time they are regularly rehearsing, literally underground, only to resurface, present a new portfolio and disappear again. They have two outstanding soloists in Standon and Evans, plus the Anderson/Turner drum’n’bass configuration which yields weight and a finesse of energy.
Aaron Standon is (in my view) one of the top five alto saxophone players in the UK. On The Phantom Power Awakens his saxophone turns Switzerland into sonic sorcery yet overall his sax is not on display as much as his guitar playing. It is not in dispute, he is undoubtedly an extraordinary guitar player – put your ears to Shift Key and it is blatantly obvious you are not listening to a saxophone player for whom the guitar is a ‘second instrument’. Sometimes one instrument gets more prominence than another. Then of course there is, Peter Evans, truly an electric violin player. We are not merely talking about an amplified violin. You can find other contexts to hear him play the acoustic instrument, but it is as an electric player that he transforms beyond his peers. To hear his 5 string cut-out solid bodied violin spring the trap on theHappy Birthday Bill riff is to aurally witness the real meaning of fusion.
If your music can be hung under the banner of ‘jazz-rock’ and you are coming to this band for the first time it will be a genuine treat because they are the personification of deep power-jazz. Here are seven tracks recorded on a digital two track, literally basement tapes from Bristol bursting with exuberance. Even if that is not quite your bag, you still might want to give them a listen. Exhilarate your senses. For those people who are already aware of the Architects, this new recording is not only Bill Frisell’s birthday present, but yours too. Enjoy.
Mike Hodges review of Hotel for the Birds
Aaron Standing (as / gtr); Peter Evans (vln) ;Mark Turner ( Buffalo Bs); Marco Anderson (ds / kbds/ soundscapes)
Rec May 2004 Remixed Dec 2004
Briefly active on the Bristol Jazz scene of the mid 80’s, Bird Architects reconvened some twenty years on to record these ‘Direct to Digital’ sides at the South-West’s answer to the Village Vanguard, the Royal Seven Stars Hotel, Totnes in 2004. Having said that, the Band’s website appears to contradict the CD sleeve by stating that the Album’s contents were ‘Culled from live recordings in the 80’s, their only studio session and more recent live work’. Either way, spare applause is just audible after every track, and the dynamic range of the recorded music appears pretty uniform, although the actual recorded sound seemed slightly distant and the drums sounded a little hollowed out.
Bird Architects comprise the now Devon based Aaron Standing on Guitar and Alto Sax; Bristol resident Violinist Peter Evans who is more frequently heard in Classical Ensembles these days; Drummer / Keyboardist Marco Anderson who, from his Bristol base has gone on to play with some of the more impressive names in UK Jazz, including most recently the improvising Saxophonist, Paul Dunmall, and the now Midlands based Buffalo Bassist, Mark Turner.
As for the music, well don’t come to this expecting a head / solos / head approach, or any trading of 4’s or 8’s, or even on the majority of the recording anything remotely resembling a straightforward linear narrative. The nearest you’ll get to any of the above is on a title such as ‘Folk Devils’, where we hear an Alto /Violin theme statement, with Bass and Drums busy but generally in a supportive role, an Alto solo and then a repeat of the opening theme to close the track out. Elsewhere, it’s a much more fractured, cut and paste approach that the Bird Architects bring to their music. And, it has to be said, it does make for an intriguing, if at times unsettling, listening experience. Each track is so packed with incident it would be aratherfutile (and very lengthy!) task to dutifully record every passing sonic scene, but all four players emerge from the collective sound at different times to demonstrate their instrumental capabilities. Aaron Standing’s Alto roars along distinctively, for example, on ‘Feel the Wealth’, and gels well (in a sort of jostly, approximate way) with Evans’ Violin throughout. Standon actually switched to the Guitar as his preferred instrument during the 90’s, but returned to it for the reformed Bird Architects. In a curious way, I was reminded of Bruce Turner’s way with phrasing in some of his solos. His Guitar tends to take on a mostly rockier aesthetic, and his solo on ‘Honorary Degrees’ is a real belter, on a tune that sounded at times like transposition of ‘It aint necessarily so’ as performed by a chorus of mice. He also rocks to great effect on the epic ‘Ideas for Modern Living Suite’.
Peter Evans’ Violin is also heard to good advantage on the former, and his formidable technique is deployed effectively throughout the CD. Buffalo Bassist Turner gets a bludgeoning sound from his instrument, which frequently seems so deep as to be almost burrowing into the ground, while Marco Anderson gets a truly thunderous drum sound in the opening ‘C Thing’, while on ‘Yo Bloop !’ and ‘ Being on Edge’ in particular, he gives it plenty welly and emerges as a key player in prodding and directing the Band’s eclectic and zig-zagging repertoire. His electronic ‘soundscapes’ also adorn ‘C Thing’, ‘Yo Bloop !’, and the Intro to the 16 minute long final track. In themselves, for instance on ‘C Thing’,they evoke, perhaps, windswept places, but I was more intrigued by the combined acoustic / electric pleasures that the band managed to conjure up, such as the subterranean Klangers on ‘Yo Bloop !’and the frenzied seagulls on ‘C Thing’.
The Band Architects clearly play a music well outside the Jazz mainstream, although the players, demonstrably, couldn’t have produced this music without, on most of their parts, a Jazz background with the history, sensibility and improvisational ability that goes with that. For certain, there are bits of PrimeTime Ornette here as well Steve Coleman’s M Base influence. Equally, The writer Steve Day in his sleeve note states, ‘The Bird Architects are not rock and roll but they could not exist without it’. He goes on to cite Frank Zappa’s guitar experiments with violinist Sugarcane Harris as a possible aural route into the Band’s sound. For all these shapers, the Bird Architects emerge as a remarkably unique collective and this recording, whatever its provenance, is an always eventful listen.
Reviewed by Mike Hodges
Pulsar review of Gone
The British progressive jazzers The Bird Architects should be given an award for creative song titles alone. Tune names like “Martha’s Claw,” “Burt Glares at Monty” and “Virtual Dentistry” represent the type of twisted thinking and fun I really look for in musicians. The Bird Architects’ latest album is much more than just a collection of clever song monikers though. Gone is not easy listening music. Even the most accessible pieces are fiery fusion or esoteric journeys. The intricate and swinging opening cut, “Under the Influence,” is one of the best fusion numbers I have heard in quite some time. It could stand toe to toe with any Mahavishnu tune. Certain aspects of the piece are also reminiscent of Jan Hammer’s The First Seven Days era. Electric violinist Peter Evans and saxophonist Aaron Standon are locked-in and they are not going to let go. There is a jazz freeness in this tune, and more so on others, in-between the ingratiating lines that Mahavishnu, Hammer or even Weather Report would never quite approach. “Mumbai Blue” is another highlight on which Messrs. Evans and Standon and drummer Marco Anderson and bassist Mark Turner lead us on a psychic hike through the trails of the Carnatic musical mind. The intensity level is cranked to 11 for most of this trip. You may be taken aback by some of the misdirection and daringness heard on Gone. But if you like adventurous music that isn’t laid out like some brown gravy on a plate for you to sop up – you should find plenty of tasty morsels to chew on. –Walter Kolosky
Cuts: Under the Influence; Furlongs Dash; Martha’s Claw; Burt Glares at Monty; Prelude for MD; Cultural Snow; Virtual Dentistry; Mumbai Blue; That Phantom Power
Personnel: Marco Anderson –drums, percussion, keyboards; Peter Evans –electric violin; Aaron Standon –alto saxophone, electric guitar; Mark Turner –Buffalo Bass
Mick Green review
I liked the poster. Them then and now. Young in the days of the mad Thatcher, having hair and the hair triggers of youth. I remembered their names from the Bristol Improvisers, when Bristol was a beacon for experimental and free jazz. The bands were loud and strong firing off rounds of notes like angry bandits or very sane assassins given the targets of the day. Letting freedom ring. And now, twenty years later, from spread out lives and years, they form again, eroded by the glacier of time, but is it only on the surface? Thatcher lives on in Blair. Does another Surtsey Island wait to emerge from beneath the waves, when tide and time are right. Would it be tonight?
A jazz jigsaw. The TJC put out the pieces. The band, the old Totnes ballroom where people have gathered for generations, from Victorian music hall featuring exotic Ethiopian dancers to wartime knees-ups beneath speckled lights, a just big enough stage, some seats and a bar, an audience, and it just may happen.
That’s why we go, to find out, is it here tonight? The Sound of Surprise, as one jazz critic once described it. Are we going to be taken Dorothy like for a wild ride on a weird Kansas wind? Or will all be sweet, neat and reet, a walk through friendly streets with some well-known friends? Okay though that may be, do we not travel to expand our senses? Or only to confirm what it says on the ticket? Jazz should be able to caress and console but should it not also have a clenched fist?
So the Architects came with their blueprint and built for us, a sonic edifice of some proportions. A quartet of bass, drums, violin and alto sax doubling guitar and from the first piece it was obvious that the wind was blowing. Tunes without moons and Junes were spat out from the saxophone, with an edge that stuck in the air, originals by the band, Coleman like self-balancing melodies that twist and turn away from the obvious. It might be twenty years but they still cut the mustard. High string pylons of notes held by the violin became Zappa-tight riffs that mutated somewhere sideways of bebop and were then trodden underfoot by the bass and the tectonic plate shifting drums. Solos were bitten off the collective structures, then chewed up by sax and violin, to be lifted up and dissected anew into angular splinters to be reassembled later.
This band is well rehearsed and it shows. The saxophone changes into guitar and plays an icy line of melody using a scale from somewhere east of Suez. A muezzin call from the violin heralds a new tune, another place to start a journey from, where are they going to take us now? Bourbon Street, Beirut, Berlin? I cannot predict, surprise, they do.
Artie Shaw once said that jazz was born in a whisky barrel, grew up on reefers and died on heroin. Not true, a lot of it then became a consumer product of the nostalgia industry.
Thankfully there are musicians around who want to sing their own songs and tell us of the world as they see it now. The Architects could have rebuilt a Kansas City bar, but chose to take us up the yellow brick road instead. Those of us there, certainly enjoyed the trip.