The Jonathan Silk Big Band is an 18-piece ensemble dedicated to performing original compositions written for the band by the leader himself. Exploring intense grooves in contrast with delicately orchestrated ballads, the band consists of a highly versatile selection of some of Birmingham and London’s finest improvisers on the current UK Jazz scene.
With the release of their second album, Fragment on Stoney Lane Records, the ensemble is augmented with a graceful 13-piece string orchestra, expanding the palette of this already dynamic ensemble, echoing the inspirational sounds of the Metropole Orchestra whilst maintaining high integrity with the fundamental root of the big band groove.
The album’s intense title track, Fragment, is Jonathan’s exploration into varied rhythmic cycles and the development of groove-based, hard-hitting material overlapping the many layers of the band, set against frantic improvisation.
There are strong US influences on Jonathan’s writing, notably Brooklyn-based drummer Jim Black and saxophonist David Binney, to mentors and celebrated composers Maria Schneider and Vince Mendoza, with whom Jonathan studied over the past three years in Los Angeles and New York. He also cites his Birmingham teachers – Tony Levin and Jeff Williams – as formative in shaping his writing style.
Fragment is Jonathan’s second album – and first for Stoney Lane – following his debut self-release Uncouth in 2013. Fragment features an original artwork and painting commission by artist David Stanley.
“An exciting collection of melodious, joyful and youthful new music created by a fine young musician Jonathan Silk. I’m sure we will hear plenty more from him in the coming years. Very reassuring hearing ‘the music’ in such good hands.” – Stan Sulzmann
In contrast, First Light captures that twilight hour, whether from an early morning start or a very late finish. The 13-piece string orchestra in tandem with Percy Pursglove on flugelhorn explores a winter night spent with whiskey and friends, awaiting the snow reports at 6 am. The second part of the suite, the reflective Last Light, is written around late-night wanderings, in particular a small Scottish island harbour, the knocking boats, and quiet waves, ending on a note of restfulness and hope.
Barefeet was written following Jonathan’s time in South Africa, inspired by the endless walking to reach the summit of the Drakensberg Mountains, and one of the world’s highest waterfalls, the Tugela Falls. Taking similar inspiration, Buchaille pays homage to the first great mountain when you turn the corner into the once-volcanic mountain region of Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands. ‘Buchaille Etive Mor’ was the first Munro (mountain over 3000ft) Jonathan climbed with his dad, friend, and his late father – the mountain is a beautiful part of the landscape but holds a hidden more adventurous side to tackle once you climb.