Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Naked - Stone Upon Stone Festival, Nis, Serbia

Branislav Radojkovic - Bass
The balance between embracing tradition and striking out for a new promised land is one that occupies the thoughts of many bands. No more so than in Serbia where a new country and new music emerges from ruins and dreams. Forget romanticising these words as though they possessed the Technicolor of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, for we live now and listen now too.

Goran Milosevic - Drums
Belgrade foursome Naked gave us their own interpretation of this heady mix at the Symphony Orchestra Hall in Nis, Serbia for the opening night of the Stone Upon Stone festival (15/04/2015). The lynch pin is Branislav Radojkovic whose bass pumps deep into our veins, its viscosity is nearer to oil than blood but the passionate effects are just the same.

Each member of Naked strike you visually as individuals, representing a unique island race all of their own. You feel like Gulliver as you visit their worlds and instruments. Despite sitting at his drums Goran Milosevic mixes Jonathan Swift's giants with Dashiell Hammett's thin man, especially with fedora perched on his head. The third tune was his, ringing bells from Milosevic heralded an oncoming storm alongside the pied piper clarinet of  Ivan Teofilović. Despite a quickening tempo there was indeed a calm before the inevitable downpour, what followed was those huge pregnant drops of rain that bang on car bonnets and window pains with such resonance.

On our Chartreuse island lived a race of violinists and their king was Djordje Mijuskovic. His shovel hands played with such delicate touch and yet their breadth pulled us into his encompassing and suffocating warmth. His anthem was 'GreenBrown Eyes', unquestioningly a metaphor, for we never saw his pupils as they lay secreted under heavy lids. The tune's essence had a Charlie Chaplin gait, rounded and easy going. It had wandering feet and a generosity that our island monarch dished out to us, his devotees.

Djordje Mijuskovic - Violin
There was wildness to the archipelago we encountered next where the woodwind instruments roam. The Ben Gunn figure that greeted our Jim Hawkins' eyes weaved narratives with both saxophone and clarinet. Ivan Teofilović is the earthy pagan figure that plays with fire and dances his musical words in the flames.

It was our final island dweller that ruled the roost of all he surveyed, the heavy crush of Branislav Radojkovic's bass cut up the land that surrounded him. It gouged dark smears into the fertile melodies laid down by Mijuskovic, Teofilović and Milosevic. Through his playing and presence Radojkovic animated the black notes of music into an army of crawling beetles, such was their swarm that they were continually crushed underfoot, oozing their acrid and dark juices.

Ivan Teofilović - Clarinet
Do not be fooled into believing that Naked continually lurked under sooty and heavy skies for they were much more playful than that. Their sway and positive light emboldened the Stone Upon Stone audience and we felt we had just experienced an adventure with tales to tell. Not every pirate's chest had been opened in our minds but the promise of a cross on a treasure map kept us interested right up until the end.

If you would like to unearth Naked's latest album Nakedonia (NarRator Records) then it available HERE.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Frustrations - Stone Upon Stone Festival, Nis

Sultanic Jasmin - Drums
As the tickertape of another Eurovision Song Contest is slowly shovelled into the black bin liners of tastelessness Vienna awakens to the real bands and musicians that capture the spirit of this time. Austrian three piece Frustrations are one such band that sit on the cusp of this artistic expression. It was their honour to kick off the inaugural Stone Upon Stone festival in Nis, Serbia last month (15/04/2015).

Rogelio Agustin Pereyra - Piano
Frustrations set was a collection of curios, it was as though we wandered upon a cabinet of found objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum. Songs packed full of thematically arranged nuggets rather than adhering to genres. Steady earthy rhythms sat next to Latin breakdowns, carefree sounds next to tight high-paced throws of the dice.

The three men on stage were Sultanic Jasmin (Drums), Joachim Huber (Bass) and Rogelio Agustin Pereyra (Piano). More often than not compositions started with the driving and boyish piano of Pereyra on the left with an equally matched energy on drums to the right, leaving the bass as the central stump. There was much ado about pace and this cast the top knotted Huber as the rabbit in the headlights of his two full beamed companions.

Joachim Huber - Bass
It was a rollercoaster of a performance, rattling tram tracks that clattered under duress, it was the spinning wheels of Pereyra's piano that punched through. The stage was stolen by Sultanic Jasmin's Cheshire Cat grin that spread like the warming sun in the streets of Nis. A wet spring had at last found it's fresh heat and Frustrations cast it out into the audience at the Symphony Orchestra Hall. Jasmin's drums captured a genuine spirit of abandon that took root amongst us and Anywhere is the tune that released the genie in their bottle.

Frustrations released their self titled debut album on 4th April 2015.
Listen/Buy it on Bandcamp HERE.

See them at
Ethnofest (Vienna) - June 19th 2015
Bürgerhaus Glockenbachwerkstatt (Munich) - 27th June 2015
Kaleidoskop Festival (Tuzla) - 27th July 2015
Szene (Vienna) 19th September 2015


Monday, 25 May 2015

Stone Upon Stone Exhibition, Nis, Serbia

Lepa Brena Apartments and Alen Ilijic
Most festivals and gig write-ups require a back seat attitude to allow their readers the prefered perspective. On this occasion it is impossible as the Stone Upon Stone festival in Nis kicked off its 4 days of fare with an exhibition of sketches and artwork from these very pages. This new festival on the European music calendar was founded by musician Dejan Ilijic and poet Dalibor Popović, and proved  a great success in an age where fresh new music and ideas aren't necessarily embraced by the wider public.

Alen Ilijic
You'll excuse my first hand experiences and revelations amongst this post as this was my first time on Serbian soil and I was wide-eyed with wonder as I rolled up before the Lepa Brena apartments in Nis on the 15th April. It was a lucky break, for I had been thrust straight into the hands of composer Alen Ilijic and his wife, Art curator Milica. There was a chance to immediately slide straight into the remnants of Tito's communist legacy, fascinating to find social 'towerblock' housing flourishing as children played in the courtyards and sounds of the city drifted into the high-rise's open window.

Milica Ilijic
Not all is rosy in the garden and Serbia sits under a cloud, many of the people suffer due to corrupt hands and the legacies of the war as Yugoslavia broke apart. It is the perfect location for positive minds that are fertile with ideas and fuelled by injustices to create a new festival such as this. The people I encountered along the way were generous to a fault, embracing a stranger such as I and taking them to their hearts. Kebabs and Rakija were aplenty and in the Ilijic's hands English was continually spoken and a kind or informative word was never far away.

Mauk - Dragan Miokovic
Although I'll be writing about the acts I sketched and experienced  over the coming days the Stone Upon Stone festival started with our Art Exhibition (14/04/2015). Housed in the splendour of the Hush-Hush lounge bar in the centre of Nis, this is a popular hideaway from the throng of the main city streets. On the walls were paintings of Daria Khulesh, Andre Canniere, Oren Marshall, Seb Rochford, Mihaly Borbely, Jake McMurchie, Pete Judge, Michael Janisch, Tom Mason, Vincent Payan, Dejan Ilijic, Jacqui Dankworth, George Crowley, Peter Lee, Steve Pringle, Larry Bartley, Ferg Ireland, Jim Barr, Benet Mclean, Thea Wilsher, Melissa James and many more. All were sketched live on the London Jazz scene and include drawings of the band EYOT who were captured in my sketchbook when they played at the Jazz Café in March 2014.

Bojan Randjelovic
The tiller of Hush Hush is held by legendary bon viveur Mauk or Dragan Miokovic in the house formerly owned by Bata Anastasijevic, who remains one of the greats in Serbian jazz. Mauk keeps the welcome warm and wet with a plentiful supply of Rakija, the waspish plum brandy. It was the perfect place to meet people and I got the lowdown on the Serbian creative scene from artist Jovana Mitic.

Vladimir Djordjevi
After a few fortifying brandies I gave an interview to Vladimir Djordjevi and Bojan Randjelovic who were making a documentary about the Stone Upon Stone festival. Nis was a hive of creative minds when you looked close enough and is a place worth visiting if you're prepared to scratch the surface. Randjelovic is a case in point, not only is he handy with a tripod but is also a member of infamous Nis punk outfit Novembar.

Dragan Videnovic
There were many faces to sketch within the 4 days, 3 nights and 6 bands
but one who immediately made an impression was journalist Dragan Videnovic from Zona Plus TV. His English was impeccable especially since taking a brief sojourn in London with the BBC and during my interview on Zona Plus there was depth and knowledge on both the wider international scene and the burgeoning music scene right under his nose.

Dalibor Popović
Nis is a difficult place to launch a new festival, especially one that skirts on the fringes of jazz as the famous Nisville festival has flourished here since 1981. There is an appetite though amongst younger listeners for a new sound, one that is epitomised by the Stone Upon Stone festival. Now that the hard work has been done by Dejan Ilijic and Dalibor Popović we are ready for the years ahead. It will be a force for creativity with new acts pushing through and established bands willing to trial new music for audiences ready to fly by the seat of their pants.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Dan Redding - Bandeokee 2015

Max Luthert - Kiss to a rose
It is that time of year again, the highlight of the music calendar and still one of London's undiscovered gems. Glastonbury started on the day after Jimi Hendrix died while Bandeokee celebrates fellow guitarist Dan Redding who still hasn't quite managed to kick the bucket and reach the same Hall of Fame. In 2013 as a birthday present to himself he invited a fine crop of London's Jazz musicians and made them sing 80's power ballads in what was then called The Festival of Awfulness. Despite a change of name Bandeokee still tries to reach the lowest possible excellence in the music industry and humiliate its participants.

Paul Jordanous
Firstly as in every year I must add a few supporting comments to the review and sketches that follow. The musicians and press-ganged cast who stand in front of the microphone are much braver than I. They park their talent at the door of the Old Moot House in Kingston (11/04/2015) performing way out of their comfort zone and incidentally ours too. So what you read here is written with affection and respect with tongue firmly in cheek.

Dan Redding - Elvis
Dan Redding is a man of character, a leader, the sort of man you see on a poster (although possibly tacked to walls of a barber's shop). His lush wavy hair gives him the air of King Charles and our royal highness traditionally kicks off proceedings with the opening song of the evening. It was a manly performance of Elvis' 'Caught in a trap' and less of the Vegas years and more of the Hound Dog as Redding sported his spaniel perm with pride.

Bob McKay -
Minute by minute
The Statesman of the night sat calmly behind the piano, Bob McKay is the man many look up to on the Jazz circuit and not just because of his long legs. His seamless rendition of the Doobie Brothers 'Minute by minute' might have more to do the calming effects of the doobies in the air rather than any brotherly love from his fellow musicians.

Duncan Eagles
Bump N' Grind
Duncan Eagles as every young clubber on the dance floors of Pryzm, The Hippodrome and McCluskys knows can reel in young ladies with the smallest gyration of his hips. It is his boyish looks that lure many a moth to his flame and here at Bandeokee it was no different. Eagles' 'Bump N' Grind' (R Kelly) possessed such politeness that it reminded us of a Tiffin schoolboy propositioning his teacher at a school disco. Don't be mislead, for that is his power, under that veneer of respectability Duncan Eagles can let loose his grind like a rodeo star unleashing a lasso.

Helen Mayson
The pinnacle of the night came early as Helen Mayson proved the most beautiful and competent singer of the evening. This may indeed be the most dubious of compliments in light of the company she keeps. The spirit of Bandeokee dictates that Mayson is far too competent to achieve the highest accolade of Bandeokee, her performance neither humiliated nor embarrassed, in fact it was first class.

In this current age of enlightenment Bandeokee flies the flag for equal rights and it was heartening to see an all male version of 'Summer Nights' from hit musical Grease. I unfortunately didn't get a sketch of Andy or Vib and neither did I spot what colour of hanky was in their back pockets.

Piers Green
Little did we realise we were watching history in the making for here in 2015 we witnessed the return of the Castrati. Once the singing superstars of the 18 Century they dwindled into decline because of the barbaric act of castrating young men to preserve their child sized vocal cords rather than their testicles. There is no doubt that Piers Green owns cojones of manly proportions so it was with surprise that he hit the highest of notes during his performance of R Kelly's 'I believe I can fly'. Our resident heartthrob has been the 'nearly man' on previous years with both 'Careless Whisper' and 'Baker Street' earning him mentions in dispatches. It was the pick of the night because of its juxtaposition of deadpan delivery and high note bravado like a group of chipmunks singing a funeral march.

Joel Prime
Max Luthert earned the respect of his fellow musicians with the complex 'Kiss to a rose' originally by Seal. Usually the rose between the two thorns of fellow Partikel members Duncan Eagles and Eric Ford it was refreshing to see the languid bassman blossom in the limelight.

David Horden - Perfect Day
There is always one performer who takes you by surprise because of their theatre craft and David Horden was the man. The Sylvia Young training never leaves you and the murmur in the crowd was that Horden was a child star of Milky Bar Kid fame. These rumours remain unconfirmed but his performance of Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' was strong and tough, we all suspected there was something stronger than milk in his glass.

Matthew Cox -
Not Unusual
Matthew Cox got the second set off to a swinging start with Tom Jones' 'Not Unusual'. Credit must go to the night's supporting band of Paul Jordanous (Keys), Holley Gray (Bass), Ross Ewart (guitar) and Joel Prime (drums) who sprinkled glitterdust on proceedings as though we listened in Las Vegas rather than the corner of Albert and London roads.

Sam Leak - My Way
That Vegas style still lingered in the air as Sam Leak took to the stage, the man that has been the hot favourite for the Bandeokee laurels every year since its conception. Leak resplendent in dinner jacket and with glass of whiskey in hand looked every inch the Rat Pack star. With hair brushed forward he even had a Napoleonic air such was his regal demeanour. Class is permanent, form is temporary, he always does it His Way, with panache.

Eric Guy is Tina Turner
The only man I have ever witnessed who could channel his inner Turner sang 'Simply the best'. Yes it was more JMW Turner than the Tina variety but still there was an authenticity and crowd pleasing edge that propelled Eric Guy into the higher echelons of Bandeokee. His inner woman ran rampant with such estrogen fuelled zeal that he also adopted the persona of Conchita Wurst too, although with slightly broader shoulders.

George Bone
Summer of 69
Two performers passed me by while refilling my glass but I was back in the saddle for George Bone's 'Summer of '69' which he shot from the hip like an ejaculating cowboy. Bone is your man in a gunfight such as this, never underestimate his denim demeanour.

Jonathan Lewis
is Billy Ocean
Expectations were high for last years hero Jonathan Lewis but he couldn't quite live up to his winning performance of 'Delilah'. 'When the going gets tough' was far too effete for a man of his alpha male status.

Holley Gray
Holley Gray proved he is the Beckham to Helen Mayson's Posh Spice, for they are the golden couple of Bandeokee. It was the high pitch of Beckham's voice which Gray emulated rather than the pitch of turf dreams.

The much maligned Leo Appleyard has at last found his oeuvre, his grunge groan of Nickleback's 'How you remind me' luckily didn't bring back the memory of past years but may thrust him to fame as the Cobain of Suburbia.

Leo Appleyard
We were treated to a grand finale with Paul Jordanous' 'Never gonna give you up'  followed by Jon Bird's heartfelt version of Harry Nilsson's 'Without You'. Bird gets better with age like a good wine but he may just need a few more years to reach the full maturity of a Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1945 rather than his Chateau Vimto of previous years. 2015 was a fine vintage and Piers Green proved that hitting the high notes may be the start of a new career as a eunuch as well as Bandeokee champion.

Jon Bird is Harry Nilsson

Ross Ewart

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Lost Art - The Slaughtered Lamb

Gordo Francis - The Lost Art
Neither lost nor found Greg Hooper and Gordo Francis are somewhere in between. We love a story of the barrow boy who wins a talent show or a housewife destined for operatic glory but often these are tricks that successfully play on our heart strings rather than please the ear. It is true that Bicester duo The Lost Art are a relatively new act to ride the live music circuit but they are no strangers to their instruments nor their craft. Both Hooper and Francis play acoustic guitar, are classically trained, the former is head of music at Bruern Abbey School in Chesterton and the latter is a music tutor at Marlborough School in Woodstock. They are proud to let their music do the talking and for you to make the discovery for yourself.

Greg Hooper
They re-release their debut album in 6 weeks with a UK Tour and we caught a glimpse of what to expect at The Slaughtered Lamb (09/04/2015). Equals is the opener to the self titled album and also on this night, it is a light line, a taught straightness is its pull. Like a thick sailor's rope you can see the smaller twines, thin and light amongst a girth that is as wide as your arm.

The Passenger is a joy of broken lyrics, stop-start footsteps and galloping breezes. It has a freshness to rival the days when you could poke your head out of the train window, playing Russian roulette with tunnels and oncoming locomotives. It snakes like the twelve carriage variety too and through its windows we catch glimpses of other people's lives as we slip past undetected.

Tim Hooper
Between Gordo Francis and Greg Hooper sat Tim Hooper on box percussion but it was the guitarists' interplay that dominated the short set. Francis is the everyman in the duo, his strength is much more obvious while Hooper excels in an emotive bite. Kicking The Habit was the flex of muscle from The Lost Art. It suited the blood red glow from the Slaughtered Lamb's famous neon pentagram. It is a song worth getting your axe stuck in to, an anthem for chopping wood until the breath is loose in your chest.


The Lost Art launch their debut album with a UK tour.

4th July - Sheffield - Oakfest
16th July - Manchester - Bierkeller
20th July - Leeds - Gaslight Club
22nd July - Liverpool - Zanzibar
25th July - Charlbury - Riverside Festival
26th July - Sheffield - Tramlines Festival, The Bath Hotel
28th July - Bristol - Canteen
29th July - London – Dublin Castle
31st July - Witney - Cogges Farm
23rd August - Tunbridge Wells Forum

Friday, 15 May 2015

Dissecting Room - King's College London

Dr Adebayo 'Bayo' Alade and cadaver
It is an experience that changes the way you think about your own body and those pressed tight against us as we go about our daily lives. Last month (10/04/2015) I was given the opportunity alongside poet Kevin Acott to enter the inner sanctum of King's College Dissecting Room. The days before were full of visions of unimaginable deaths that spawned in the mind, for this was my first encounter with a dead human body.

Professor Harold Ellis CBE
We were welcomed by doctors Adam Wahba and Alistair Hunter into the large steely Dissecting Room. The light came from fluorescent tubes and frosted windows as we put on our white lab coats and the demonstrators their green. There were obvious signs of death of course with body parts suspended in clear liquid jars and sealed square boxes.

Dr Alistair Hunter
Luckily it wasn't hard for the eyes to be distracted as Head of Anatomy, Dr Hunter, gathered the 60 first year students in front of him. I was relieved that he started his demonstration on what looked like a papery model of a torso. It was an amazing piece of workmanship with layer after complex layer unravelling as we delved deep into the intestine's domain. The model was a chestnut brown and Dr Hunter's gloved hands pulled it gently into pieces as he looked out into the faces of his young charges. So adapt and familiar was he that you couldn't help but think of those legendary soldiers who could deconstruct and rebuild a piece of military hardware whilst completely blindfold.

The students were going to be guided by their demonstrators as they delved deep into their specimen's gut. Dr Hunter reeled off a fluid list of places they would meet on their journey, as if the students would be venturing down a meandering country road. Places like Spleen, Anal Canal and Plicae Circulares were interrupted with views of arcades which were described again and again by Dr Hunter and the other demonstrators as beautiful and wonderful. In fact often these words were doubled up and it was easy to be enthused by these beautiful beautiful descriptions.

The Dissecting Room was peppered throughout by stainless steel sarcophagus shaped boxes with long handles down their sides. We of course knew what lay inside but just before we opened them up there was a moment of realisation. The model Dr Hunter had so expertly handled was no demonstrators toy, this was part of someone's body and had been preserved by such an expert's hand as to transform it beyond what I imagined flesh could be.

Cadaver feet

There wasn't anything to fear when the first of the cadavers or specimens were revealed despite the anxiety a restless night had inflicted upon us newcomers. First the layer of stainless steel was swung open like a beetle preparing for flight, underneath was a layer of clear plastic and blue cloth that ultimately revealed bodies that had leached their colour. Silvery tags hung on fingers, toes and heads presumably to keep the cadavers together if limbs were separated from their neighbours.

Dr Andrew Davies
As the first dissection started under the direction of Dr Andrew Davies is was clear that the students had an unusual relationship with their specimen. There was an enormous respect for what this person (and their families) had given them, the opportunity to learn and to prepare themselves mentally for some of the challenges ahead. There was a disconnection too, not least because the flesh looked neither pink, plump nor bloody, in fact it had a waxy coating like a beige leather sofa that had been wiped down with an oily rag.

Dr James Bates
Our brains' ability to compartmentalise and rationalise were compromised on many occasions not least when Dr Davies used twine to tie parts of the body together. This simple procedure kept our lines of sight clear but also reminded us of how a butcher might truss his wares. The smell was not unpleasant but underneath it all was a base layer of meatiness that caused rumbles of distress for some of our stomachs.

Nearly all the faces were covered with a white cloth which depersonalised our cadavers. It was hard to let our imaginations run riot for there was nothing to base our narratives on, no clothes, no name, nothing. Still the bodies gave us the stories of their lives through the way they had died and the surgical procedures that had punctuated their living days. The heads had been relieved of their brains and the open cavity that remained felt as if it were a wafer cornet awaiting it's scoop of strawberry ice cream.  The head of Dr Adebayo 'Bayo' Alade's cadaver had been lifted up on wooden blocks and there was a suggestion of the mechanic as he and his students lifted the bonnet of the chest.

Dr Adam Wahba
The knowledge that was contained both within the specimens and the heads of our Doctors flowed out effortless and in depth as I wandered throughout the room.  Despite Dr Adam Wahba holding court with humility and modesty you could see the adoration of his students and I too felt a sense of awe and magnetism around the all the doctors. It was their calmness and uncomplicated logic of how a body works, how it ails and how it ultimately stops that give them this iconic halo. There is nothing that Professor Harold Ellis CBE hasn't experienced is his long and varied career in medicine, for here is a man who qualified as a doctor in the same month the National Health Service began.

This was not purely an experience of mechanics like listening to a Haynes Manual for a mini cooper being narrated by a well educated reader. I found one face that was uncovered and it rocked the knees a little, it was the small stubble of sooty hairs like scythed or burnt straw poking from a pale field that suddenly felt very personal.

What was unexpected was the moment when you caught sight of a specimen's hands and sometimes their feet. They looked liked they belonged to sleeping men or women, and that they would spring to life at any moment. It seems as if there is nothing more black and white than being dead or alive, but the brain still plays tricks with the firmest of perceptions. There is no hint of gore nor horror in the dissecting rooms for neither breeds in a space possessed with such overwhelming respect for the dead. The doubts of the mind did breed in the days after our visit though, even in the following hours as we took the train ride home. In between the seats hung commuters' hands in the deep spaces where empty coffee cups lay. Dissecting and making sense of the living world was going to be a challenge in the weeks, months and quite possibly years to come.


Friday, 8 May 2015

Indi and The Vegas - Fair Fight

Indi Forde - Indi and The Vegas
Indi and The Vegas at the Slaughtered Lamb (09/04/2015) gave us a short set that was as easy as a game of throw and fetch. There is a simplicity to frontman Indi Forde's songs that remembers a 1980's desire to get things done without procrastination. Despite the small talk of nostalgic decades there is more modernity and than retro pastiche in this Bedfordshire trio.  'Fair Fight' from their first EP cuts a meaty slice in the hands of Joe the drummer, the right snapping a brush while the bare handed left smacked the box beneath him.

Joe - drums
The dark pit of the venue didn't suit the fizzing trio who retain an optimism that lifts you onto the balls of your feet. Forde formed the band in 2009 alongside friends Joe (drums) and Matt (bass), it is his Jacksonesque bounce that makes you think of the outdoors and a happiness that comes not from nature but from being in the company of others. It is those easy friendships that develop over a blistering summer, forged on the coals of a burning asphalt court and revolving around games that start with balls and rules but end with girls and daydreams.


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Daniel Bennett, Timothy Banks, Britt Melewski - The Mystery At Clown Castle

Daniel Bennett Group
If ignorance is bliss then this state of unawareness is also a blessing not a curse for any music listener. Not only does it herald the spirit of adventure but that moment when a new page is turned and discovery is but seconds away. The Mystery At Clown Castle  (Manhattan Daylight Media) provides music, art and lyrical bloodhounds the chance to sniff out a trio of such delights. Daniel Bennett Group are the music creators, while the feast for our eyes is provided by Timothy Banks and poetic dexterity comes courtesy of Britt Melewski.

Live at the Theatre -
Daniel Bennett group
Timothy Banks is an artist best known for his ability to create beautifully quirky illustrations of monsters and strange birds, with that added ingredient of humour thrown in. His work has been recognized by Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, Spectrum 21, 3×3 Magazine, Creative Quarterly, PLAY! Illustration and Showcase 100.  He has illustrated dozens of children’s books, and is the staff illustrator for Paste Magazine. Banks lives and works from his studio in Charleston, SC, USA.  Although he is no Gerald Durrell his menagerie does stretch to two daughters, one crazy pug and the alligators that swim by his house.

Timothy Banks
courtesy of
Timothy Banks has created five Daniel Bennett Group album covers and invariably that includes animals with a twist of the fantastical. Banks was once again the first choice for Daniel Bennett who fronts the group, "I tell Tim about the concept, and he crafts his imagery based on the vibe that I am going for. Timothy always listens to the album as he creates the CD design, perfectly blending music ideas with visual storytelling."

Here on the The Mystery At Clown Castle  he takes a supportive role working around the band and adding the intrigue through dripping line drawings. The quality of penmanship is loose and free creating a sense of levity, it speaks of a more carefree time when murders were the mysteries that nestled in Agatha Christie books and the public's imagination was caught by the light and movement of artists Raoul Dufy and Marc Chagall. Not all is japes and high jinx as every clown will tell you, for what does lurk behind the greasepaint and where did all this red fluid originate.

 Britt Melewski
 courtesy of
Brooklyn-based poet Britt Melewski contributed two poems to The Mystery At Clown Castle album. The poems are "Minor Leaguer" and "Morning". Melewski has been performing with the Daniel Bennett Group for many years and frequently sits in at their monthly performance residency at Tomi Jazz ( in midtown Manhattan. He is one of the busiest poets and organizers in New York City which is unsurprising with a portfolio of work that is funny, creative and emotive yet retaining that accessibility to those who listen.

Daniel Bennett explains, "You will notice that we auto-tuned his voices on Minor Leaguer. My producer, MP Kuo, wanted to give Britt a robotic sound as he read the poem. On "Morning" you can hear Britt and myself screaming (literally) the poem over the pre-recorded band track. I always like to find interesting ways to convey poetry!"

A Nation of Bears -
Daniel Bennett Group
Minor Leaguer satisfyingly punches the holes into the sieve of our sanity, the fluid coherent thoughts leak out and the rocky residue clashes together once rattled. It is discord and a counterpoint to a huge swathe of  The Mystery At Clown Castle album. There is a stilted brevity that contrasts with the more playful Morning that is consumed with a full gob. There are no lonely morsels here and it worth gobbling up, worth shoving into your consciousness like you were a happy pig with a nose in the trough.

Inside The Outside Interlude featuring guest pianist Jason Yeager adds the mystery to proceedings. Before us stretches a flight of stairs toward an unknown location, each dusty brown rise holds a secret and our minds whirr with the unease of closed doors. It is without doubt an album which pulls the vista as wide as its panoramic intentions, so do not go all furtive just yet as the playfulness of Daniel Bennett (Alto Saxophone/Flute/Piccolo/Oboe/Clarinet/Piano), Nat Janoff (Electric Guitar), Eddy Khaimovich (Electric & Acoustic Bass), Matthew Feick (Drums) is pronounced throughout. Flow is the height of that light touch. It casts a northern light which dances like an Aurora on the mind, it has a glow and effervescence that talks of fables rather than circus performers. Do not be mistaken that the clown of the album's title is the kind who dresses up, but is the figure that lurks in all of us.