Finally getting to take their fourth album Captured Spirits on the road, hypnotic jazz trio Mammal Hands are performing at The Stoller Hall on 28 September.
Signed to Manchester’s Gondwana Records – also home to GoGo Penguin and Portico Quartet – Mammal Hands are not your average jazz trio. They draw from a melting pot of influences, from electronica to contemporary classical, North Indian to folk, stirring these styles up to create one that’s decidedly their own.
Starting life in Norfolk as an electronica duo made up of brothers Jordan Smart (saxophone) and Nick Smart (piano), Mammal Hands came into their own with the arrival of drummer/percussionist Jesse Barrett, whose twelve years studying with tabla maestro Sirishkumar Manji gave him a different take on what the project could be.
The trio’s first album, Animalia (2014), fused North Indian rhythms with minimalist piano loops and wistful soprano sax melodies – a sound praised by critics for its inventiveness and finesse, fresh out of the box. For all of its ingenuity, though, this was music that hit the heart first and the head second, characterised by a majestic nostalgia that just locks you in, emotionally.
The band built on this sound over the course of the next two records, the music more aching now, the arrangements more considered, the playing more sensitive. Of Shadow Work (2017) we said “This record feels like a sanctuary. Its ebbs and flows take you on a richly emotional, cathartic journey which, come the closing track, you are reluctant to complete”.
The same is true of Mammal Hands’ latest effort, Captured Spirits, in which they push their unique line-up to the outer limits of its possibilities. Favouring the creation of a powerful group dynamic over individual solos, each player weaves filigree patterns onto a shared tapestry, forever empathetic to each other’s handiwork.
Nick smart’s minimalist piano loops are as intoxicating as ever, as are his brother’s sax melodies, which soar resplendently through the emotion-drenched landscape. Jesse Barrett’s forever-in-flux drums and percussion, meanwhile, propel the action onwards, warding off the self-indulgence that can sometimes creep into this kind of music.
It’s another jewel in the trio’s crown, and one that’ll no doubt shine brightly on stage. We look forward to welcoming them back to their adopted hometown, where support will come from Manchester’s own Caoilfhionn Rose. Her latest record Truly skirts the boundaries between folk, ambient and jazz, and will set the scene nicely for Mammal Hands.