Skip to main content
A Magazine for

The Manchester edition of Now Then is no longer publishing content. Visit the Sheffield edition.

Roller Trio

The rate at which the city of Leeds produces top-class jazz musicians is astonishing and actually a little suspicious. I know Leeds College of Music is one of the best in the country, attracting promising young talents from across the country, but even so - did they build it on top of a portal to another dimension, at the brink of which a daily satantic blood ritual is performed to prevent the monster of freeform jazz from breaking free and shattering people's tiny minds with modal improvisational insanity? Like so many mysteries of the universe, we can never know. But I have my suspicions.

Roller Trio are a relatively new band, having only been playing together for about 18 months, but this self-titled debut record does not betray that fact. Recorded for the London-based F-IRE Collective, it is a very strong opening statement for any band, let alone one made up of three musicians still in their early 20s and fresh out of college, as condescending as that statement might sound.

The trio is made up of drums, guitar and saxophone; not the most conventional of setups, but one that works so well that at times I forgot there was no bass guitar. The zenith of the album is probably 'The Nail That Stands Up', a track that carries the kind of bombastic melody that seems so familiar on first listen. The fact that it was written in two hours is a testament to how important improvisation is to this band's song writing, but the microscopic variations show just how long they have spent perfecting each note.

Another fantastic offering is 'A Dark Place To Think', which opens as a whisper but builds and builds into an expansive, melodic cloud of noise that brings to mind Sheffield's own King Capisce. A more tender moment comes in the form of 'R-O-R', with its finger-picked guitar lines and major key resolution.

There are points when this record begins to meander a little too much, particularly from the perspective of the guitar work, which is impressive but sometimes ventures into the territory of muscle memory over brains. That said, Roller Trio is an album full of interesting ideas that are realised with restraint and conviction, never fully making the leap from jazz to rock, but instead inhabiting its own little space in between.