Refer to one thing as being “too alike” something else and that’s not always viewed upon as the optimal observation. Imitation might be the biggest form of flattery in some circles but unless a cover band is the matter at hand, most musicians don’t look to be lumped in one to one with another individual or group. Fortunately for Cardiff, England based 2alike, the modern jazz group’s name is about the only thing it has in common with the premise of being “excessively similar.”
Matt Pearse (Alto Saxophone)
Luke Adams (Electric Guitar)
Max Wright (Drums)
Videographer Edie Morris really went to town with the philosophy of “less is more” for this video about a month back when the band decided to film a music video at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for the track, “In Conversation” – lead song on 2alike’s debut EP, 201 (independent, 2017). The thing is, despite “less in more” being a well established and familiar line of thinking where creative arts are concerned, it’s a line nearly impossible to master walking across; one that’s perpetually easier said than done. The focus on just the instruments and the movement of parts (whether fingers, sticks, or keys) makes the video feel like a super intimate live session of impressively high quality. Sure, the gentlemen can be seen from moment to moment but Morris and the band didn’t decide to just place the camera on the three of them at a cliché upward, rotate the camera angle and call it a day. Its up close and personal and thought minimal in action and without narrative, one can’t help but want to comb through frames looking to see the kind of hand position Adams might be using or the cymbals on Wright’s kit. Morris managed to gather charm through little sequences without crazy effects. (Note: Video is set to play with sound muted by default.)
The mood of the piece instantly lifts away from any such heavy musical comparative nuances once Pearse’s sax jumps in with its own minimal melodic pattern. Moving upward and with a definitively major scale tonality in mind, “In Conversation” carries forth at a light jaunting pace, all underscored by the sprightly cymbal taps and rhythmic splashes supplied by Wright’s dexterous drumming. The intermittent bursts of melisma-style sprints by Pearse and Adams give the song that improvisational attitude that is practically inherent to modern jazz and its stylistic fusion peers. The foundational rhythm, which steers the main rudder of how the three move forward as a unit changes in an overall sense, pretty notably at times and creates an almost sectional effect. (Around two minutes in, the consistently nimble patterns shift to a downbeat heavy, swinging, and almost reggae-like motif.)
“In Conversation” is pleasantly approachable for a jazz fusion composition. It’s melodically and rhythmically lively enough to fit well as the soundtrack to a bustling dinner party but dynamically tempered enough to work well as an earlier morning music listen with breakfast or maybe a casual jog. In fairness to exploring the whole sonic picture of 2alike’s introduction, the absence of a bass player can’t be itself absent from the dialogue. Adams does a good job of filling in the music with flurries of guitar but its tonal range is only so wide and in those moments where the guitar quiets down to no interchanging feature role by Wright or Pearse, a bass solo would be not only welcomed but at its most noticeable, feels sorely desired. That’s not to say that 2alike aren’t making the best music they can. One might equate the situation to saying you’ve made chocolate chip biscuits but didn’t have any chips. The biscuit itself might still taste fantastic but the chips’ being there would make them feel more balanced and complete. Nonetheless, remembering that this is merely one track on the band’s very first EP, 2alike have a mountain of room on which to grow and meld together even more as bandmates. Once that glue really starts to form and take hold, whatever comes out of the studio after that will likely be an equally gripping piece of work capable of capturing the attention of jazz, rock, folk, and more fans, alike.
201 is available now on Bandcamp.
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