CD Reviews: Southbound + Jack Davies’ Flea Circus (V&V Music)

Posted on April 24, 2012 by

At the end of this month trumpeter Jack Davies will be releasing three new albums on the V&V Music label. This includes work from his quartet Southbound, a small acoustic group (with accordion!) called Flea Circus, and also a release for his Big Band.

Despite being released on the same date, each album is pretty unique due to the range of instrumentation. Below is a bit more about the releases for Southbound and Flea Circus.


Southbound is an angular, experimental outfit featuring Jack Davies on trumpet, Rob Cope on tenor saxophone, Tom Taylor on piano and Jon Ormston on drums. The album provides a showcase for improvisation, which at times seems minimalist and leaning towards the classical genre, and then jumps back towards jazz.

This quartet has no bass, but this doesn’t mean that their range is limited, as the drums and piano and even tenor sax fill the lower end of the spectrum when needed. In a way this allows the instruments to continually weave between each other, giving more of a sense of flux.

Their eponymous CD records a tight band that clearly enjoy playing off each other and are extremely technically proficient. The essence of the music is perhaps more suited to a live performance, but the recording documents their playing really nicely, allowing access to the tiniest incidental sections.

Jack Davies’ Flea Circus

Flea Circus is Jack’s latest small group project. The band comprises again of Jack (on trumpet) and Rob Cope (this time on clarinet and bass clarinet), joined by Aidan Shepherd on accordion and James Opstad on bass.

The opening to this album is pretty folky, with the accordion and bass driving the rhythm. The trumpet and clarinet appear over this with jagged harmonies that work as an excellent contrast to the pulsing accordion. This is comparatively a laid back album, with a melodic drive, but still allowing space for the band’s improvisation.

Inspired by various influences, Flea Circus claim direction from the French musical genre previous unbeknownst to me called Bal-Musette. This style, adopted early on by accordionists, is most obvious on the ‘three miniatures’, three tracks in the middle of the album, in particular ‘III. Lamp Post’ which gives air to a dialogue between the trumpet and sax, and in my mind evokes images of a darkened café bar somewhere a hundred years ago.

All three eponymous albums are released on 30th April and Jack will be appearing in London on the following dates for album launches:

27 April 2012 – Southbound / Flea Circus (ALBUM LAUNCH) – The Forge,Camden
23 June 2012 – The Jack Davies Big Band (ALBUM LAUNCH) – King’s Place, London

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