'MA.' comprises of fourmusicians (Tom Challenger – Tenor Saxophone; Ross Stanley - Organ and Keyboards; Dave Smith – Percussion; Matt Calvert - Electronics), seeking to combine their ability as improvisers and performers to produce a sound that belies the size and instrumentation of the group. At times fearsome and at times tranquil, each four draw on their own musical experiences and travels to create a palette which includes folksy melodicism, bustling drones, bluesy walkabouts, and the grittiest of grooves.
After being active for around 18 months, the band successfully released their debut album, ‘JYKETIE’. Recorded in one day in a back room at the infamous (and now sadly defunct) Red Rose in Finsbury Park, the album is testament to the blistering highs and earthy lows the band regularly achieves whilst in performance. The album was released at the vortex and has received glowing reviews.
They recently collaborated with Drummer/Sound Manipulator/Producer Steve Arguelles in February 2009, and completed a series of successful gigs culminating in a performance at the Vortex as part of the Loop Festival.
From summer 2009 onwards they are now joined by ‘Three Trapped Tigers’ multi-instrumentalist Matt Calvert on Sampling duties.
'Fearsome and tranquil' might seem, on the face of it, a somewhat self-contradictory description of a band sound, but it turned out to be spot on for MA (Tuesday, 13), a trio comprised of tenor player Tom Challenger, keyboardist Ross Stanley and powerhouse drummer Dave Smith. Slowly building tension into pieces that begin as almost dreamy meditations, MA appear to rely heavily on the musical rapport between Challenger (a skilful, thoughtful sculptor of his saxophone sound) and the rambunctious Smith, but Stanley is the mortar that holds the structure together, an under sung but crucial role in an arresting band performance that clearly delighted the crowd.
Chris Parker ‘07
You've got some crazy faux baroque psychedelic roundabout melodies going on! I was in a trance!!!
Chris Wheeler ‘07
(review for their debut album – ‘JYKETIE’) Ma are a trio with an approach not dissimilar to that of Fraud or Outhouse: they spin no-holds-barred improvisations from relatively simple motifs (‘Puppet Woman’, for instance, resembles a brief snatch of ‘April in Paris’), mixing elements from Milesian fusion, free and more straightahead jazz into a seething brew of sound in which texture is at least as important as rhythm or a groove.
Driven by the snappy, clattery drumming of Dave Smith and fleshed out by the various keyboard sounds (organ, electric piano etc.) of Ross Stanley, tenor player Tom Challenger’s themes are not only simple enough to accommodate full-on improvisation in which his saxophone screams and wails as well as operating more conventionally, exploring their various rhythmic and melodic possibilities, but also sufficiently complex to reward repeated listenings, and overall, this is a fine, powerful debut from a fiercely interactive band.
Chris Parker ‘08
Ma, whose name conflates matriarchal reference with the instinctive cries of Aries, welded electronica, drum and bass and hard- bop. A discordant electronic soak from their own guest artist on laptop, Steve Arguelles, contextualised the pulsating up-beat minimalist drum and bass groove from drummer, Dave Smith. Abstract avant-bop figures from tenor saxophonist, Tom Challenger were echoed by Arguelles as reference points for melodic developments.
Joseph Kassman-Tod ‘09
Jazzwise Review for ‘JYKETIE’ by Selwyn Harris:
Young tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger’s debut for his band Ma is also the first on a new quick turnover label run by the Loop Collective specialising in short, limited edition runs. He’s already demonstrated he’s a purposeful improviser of melodic invention and mature restraint beyond his years in pianist Dave O’Briens band Porpoise Corpus as well as his working quartet, and MA, a bass-less trio featuring Outhouse’s drummer Dave Smith and Ross Stanley on old-skool Fender Keys and Organ. The Intoxicating introductory track brings to mind to mind the spacey impressionism of ‘In a Silent Way’ before a clattering Dave Smith drum solo leads to the enchanting ‘Puppet Woman’ that can perhaps be described as sounding like the standard ‘April in Paris’ with a stutter. Challenger likes to play close attention to slowly evolving sound textures in his writing as well as melody. While there’s some affinity, as there is with a number of Loop bands, to Steve Coleman and Tim Berne’s hypnotic riffing, Challenger’s pure sax tone, melody-led approach and spatial awareness to composition resemble that of ex-Lounge Lizards saxophonist Micheal Blake with a hint of 80’s Brit saxophonists including Iain Ballamy or Julian Arguelles. A very promising future lies ahead