Wanderlust by Mike Adcock | CD Review

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Mike Adcock is an experienced musician, a player of the accordion and piano. Though a lot of his work has included improvised material he is not exclusively improvisational. He says, “A lot of my recordings have been free improv and earlier I recorded ‘Accord’ on Richard Sanderson’s Linear Obsessional label with a range of players”. His past releases include those with Accordions Go Crazy (‘The Art of Paper Folding’, ‘Zombie Dancer’ and ‘Overboard’) on the Trikont label. He also released ‘Reduced’ on the Orchestra Pit label with Sylvia Hallett on violin, saw, bicycle wheel, lentils, FX pedals and voice. This was well received by All About Jazz. Mike has released several CDs on the influential 33Jazz record label including ‘Highway 17’ as part of the Cadillac Kings,  ‘Moment of Discovery’ and ‘Lost For Words – The Last Dance Orchestra’ as well as several other CDs for that label. He has also issued some solo cassettes ‘ The Blue Door’, ‘Off The Cough’ and ‘Nostallegy’ of piano compositions and improvisation and guested providing musical interludes for events such as the cultural centre Meantime’s ‘Cultural Interrogation’ event. Past collaborations include the Roof Slate Ensemble, Natchez and The Flying Down Trio. He has worked with numerous musicians and gigs regularly.

Wanderlust features eight of Mike’s compositions and an arrangement of a Norwegian folk tune, explored through group improvisation. Mike has brought together the band, also called Wanderlust and comprising Beth Porter (Eliza Carthy , Newton Faulkner, The Proclaimers, Petula Clarke ) on cello, Chris Cundy (Guillemots, Fyfe Danger­eld, Timber Timbre, Cold Specks, Devon Sproule) on soprano and tenor saxes, bass and contrabass clarinets, Paul Arthurs (Edd Donovan) on drums and Graeme Owen (Thee Ones) on double bass, with cameo appearances on tin whistle by Steve Rowley and Clive Bell (Jah Wobble and known as a player of Japanese bamboo flutes, the shakuhachi).

‘Out of The Shadows’ opens the CD with repeated piano chords before layers are added from the other instruments. This builds into a multi-layered progression centred firmly around the opening chord keys with some interesting minor clashes interspersed to add depth and make you prick your ears up. This is a gentle, easy number with rolling rhythms and intriguing solo work from Chris Cundy on soprano sax. The supportive cello line underneath some of the top piano work is lovely. ‘From The Man’ begins with a rolling, blues-influenced piano introduction, followed by  an extension of the theme worked between sax and piano. A gorgeous, sit back and relax number with a return time and again to the familiar theme. Partway through there is a gorgeous solo from Chris Cundy on tenor sax which rises and falls in exquisite riffs and rolls interspersed with almost perfectly placed trills and rivulets of sounds from the piano and some great bowed cello which lifts its head above the musical dialogue in just the right places. Beautiful.

‘Impols’ is opened by piano with an offset 4/4 beat and is intriguing right the way through with everyone adding their little bit of magic to the mix. Slightly reggae with the rhythms and use of the open-ended bars, it is engaging and the changes in the rhythms maintain interest. I found myself smiling for no particular reason in this number as the bass clarinet shoe-horns its way in with some lovely deep voices underpinning an eclectic mix of sounds and rhythm and the resonance of the percussion of drums and bass holds the structure together impressively while the piano of Mike Adcock riffles away at the top in the second part. Simple, yet at the same time complex in its textures and weavings, this is a great track to really listen to.  ‘Wanderlust’ is an ensemble piece over which the piano creates a palette of musical pictures, each time diversifying the hues and tones.  The clarity and change of emphasis and stress is sublime in places and somnulescent in others, but in a good way. A stress-busting track if ever there was one. The familiar theme works its way, reminiscent of another tune but not easily pinpointed. No matter, the band works it up, out and creates a little piece of heaven.

‘Nokkendans’ feels very Nordik, deep and dark with the piano leading the way followed by the rest of the band and is a sobering interlude. Again, the atmosphere is re-enforced by the intuitive strings from Beth Porter and steadfast bass of Graeme Owen.  The contrabass clarinet adds deep, sensuous, clandestine imagery to the tapestry of sound and is in beautiful contrast to the piano work over the top whilst the plucked cello reflects the theme from the piano in the final bars as the music fades.

‘Oslo Jive’ is slow calypso, if there can be such a thing, over which the whistles and piano work until the theme establishes and the number develops. The constant return to the original beat imposes structure and thematic constitution to this simply arranged but well developed piece. ‘Southern Hymn, Rainbow Twist’ follows and this immediately states it is a different kind of composition. A piano solo to begin, it is reminiscent of practice sessions, scale progressions leading to themed developments but at the same time it is original and interesting with a swingy, Joplin-esque section into which the rest of the instruments are invited- and they take the theme and play, creating cheeky noisome developments, especially when the soprano sax enters. This piece builds and becomes slowly something else – from a hymn to a dance, from solo to ensemble – clever and lovely.

‘Another Way’ closes the album and begins with a rollicking bass and piano-led riff with percussion underneath before the sax comes in creating a sound redolent of big band structured tunes (but with far fewer musicians). This fun element is emphasised by the use of double sax and a rocking solo from the piano over the top of that ceaseless driving rhythm. The piano here is lively and the speed astounding. Offset by a free, loose-reeded immense solo from Chris Cundy’s tenor, this is possibly the best track of the album, (though it has to be said, the choice is hard). Cundy is magnificent on this track and more than ably buoyed by the rest of the band. The theme returns, still that driving bass underneath which pins it all together. This is a superb finish to the CD.

What is great about this CD is it is so listenable and yet there are moments when the attention is grabbed and intensified by a particular interlude or solo – and there are many in the CD. This makes it not only worthy of a listen but also imparts a sense of care, understanding of the listener, not to mention clever arranging. This is entertainment. There are delicate little sections where the music is light and intricately woven countered by sections, which blow your socks off.  Naturally piano-led by Mike Adcock but also generous in the space given to the other instruments, this is one of those recordings where each listen brings a little more; a bit extra and another discovery, especially in the final track which is musical mastery.


Mike Adcock – piano

Chris Cundy – soprano sax, tenor sax, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet

Beth Porter – cello

Graeme Owen – double bass

Paul Arthurs – drums

Steve Rowley – tin whistle

Clive Bell – tin whistle

Label: Paper Label (distributed by Cadiz)

Press and radio inqs @mikeadcock.com



The cover photographs were taken by Mike’s daughter, Hanna Adcock, in Kyrgyzstan



Paper Label Records

Release date: 13th Jan 2017

PLRCD009 (CD) / PLRDL009 (Download)

Distributed by Cadiz Music

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Last modified: July 15, 2018