The Impossible Gentlemen
VOTED MOST MEMORABLE GIG IN 2010 BY THREE OUT OF FIVE JOURNALISTS IN JAZZUK.
VOTED BEST GIG OF 2010 BY PETER BACON IN THE BIRMINGHAM POST AND AT THE JAZZ BREAKFAST
GUARDIAN 4 STARS **** "Jazz supergroups are volatile concoctions, bespoke teams of virtuosi often just getting in each other's way. But the Anglo-US quartet built from scratch this week around the untried partnership of pianist Gwilym Simcock and Salford Mike Walker, with Americans Steve Swallow on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums, fulfilled all its promise – and then some". read more
"Gwilym Simcock Dazzles With Ango-American Supergroup At Bergen Nattjazz Festival" read more
"Let’s hope it becomes more than a one-tour stand. The band is going on to play around Europe but if you are within driving distance of either Leicester (Embrace Arts Centre tonight) or London (Ronnie Scott’s tomorrow) – so, anywhere on the mainland, in other words – I’d urge you to get along. It’s the real deal". read more
"This should be the start of something big". read more
"From the opening notes, you can't help but think this bunch really has something on the ball. Then you pay a little more attention to the packaging and see that this is an international jazz super group with about a million years experience between them. That's why they can sound like anything from a 50s piano trio to a cutting edge progressive group---because that's where their various chops have been scattered along the way. Joyful playing with nothing standing between the music and the listener, this stuff is so cool it can turn anyone into a hipster in a flash. Check it out, these pros not only know the way, they laid the new cut road in the first place." read more
More info on the Impossible Gentlemen at http://www.impossiblegentlemen.com/
Heading South West South North in Vienna, 6th July 2010 - Ring Modulator blog
"Walker overlaid the sound with some fade-in textures before biting in hard with piercing overdriven string bends and feedback sustained harmonic headslices. Walker has a masterful ability to coax the guitar and amplifier to find the feedback sweetspot seemingly with ease."
Read the review.
Interview with Mike Walker about the 'Simcock Walker Swallow Nussbaum' tour and the Manchester Jazz Festival
Mike interviewed in Andalucia, Spain by Adrian Stevenson of the Manchester Jazz Festival, 22nd June 2010. Mike talks about composing for the recent Simcock Walker Swallow Nussbaum tour, the upcoming Manchester Jazz Festival, as well as his 2008 commision, 'Ropes'.
Mike Walker Interview 22nd June 2010 by adrianstevenson
Gwilym Simcock/Mike Walker - Ronnie Scott's, London. The Guardian, Thursday 27th May 2010
"... Walker's contribution to this ensemble was nothing short of sensational, through plenty of quiet but compellingly lyrical music, as well as some postbop gallops and a spectacular roaring blues."
Read the review on the Guardian website.
Reflections on the Simcock Walker Swallow Nussbaum gig at the CBSO Centre Last Night (22nd May) - Birmingham Jazz
" ... the highlight was hearing Mike Walker really playing at his peak and contributing so many pieces to the band’s material. Those who have known Mike’s playing for some years know that he is a world class player; it was great to hear him in a context that really matched this and brought out his full potential."
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Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum (CBSO Centre, May 22nd 2010 - LondonJazz Blog
"The new, stellar, quartet of Gwilym Simcock, piano, Mike Walker, guitar, Steve Swallow, bass ,and Adam Nussbaum, drums, has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.
Mike Walker 's playing, for those who don't know it, is one of the greatest joys of British jazz. To say he's in the league of a John Scofield or a Mick Goodrick may mean little. But in the live situation he can lead the listener literally anywhere. There's a capacity to play on the borders of silence, and yet with an astonishing range of colour. And to build from there, organically to full-on Hendrix. He never disappoints."
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03/11/08 Maurizio Comandini - All About Jazz
Madhouse and the Whole Thing There | Autoprodotto (2008)
English guitar player Mike Walker is one of the best exponents of its generation and deserves widely recognition. His skills are well known by the best arrangers and bigband leaders as George Russell & Mike Gibbs. Actually they uses Mike's guitar every time they can. Mike is around 40 and finally he has an album under his name. The album is really impressive and goes directly in my top ten of the year.
The stoned and sweetest voice that opens the album is singing an improbable "Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles and from the world of their "The Fool On The Hill" are probably coming the funny lunatics that are living in the Madhouse of the title. The music arrives immediately after and it take us by surprise with a sweet brasilian excursion where the voice and the strings are in the center of the scene, at first. After a couple of minutes Mike Walker quintet starts to emerge slowly and then it takes charges of the operations with a beautiful sax solo by Iain Dixon, who remind me of Stan Getz and some stuff by the first incarnation of Return to Forever, without losing sight of the originality of this proposal and its ability to be absolutely contemporary.
In this first track Mike Walker stays in the background, launching some sparkling signals with his electro-acustic guitar, like a cat who is slowly waking up.
But this is only a little trick, an elegant way to prepare us to a great entrance by Mike with his electric guitar on the second track, intitled "Owed to JC". The arrangement is really amazing and full of care. The theme remind me some Mike Gibbs composition. Iain Dixon's sax is again in the center of the scen at first, with a beautiful baritone sax solo. Then Mike Walker get loose and takes a solo full of burning energy since the first rough phrase. Truly abrasive sandpaper that leaves permanent signs and goes on and on to search for a sort of angular singability, without losing time for absurd speed contests on the fretboard.
His ability to interact with the orchestra is indeed fantastic and when listening to his solo one would like it will go on and on, without ending. John Ellis's electric piano is coming out here and there and give us an insight about the fact that these not so known musicians are actually really good musicians. The same applies when you listen to the very good rhythmic flexibility of drummer Myke Wilson and bassist Sylvan Richardson.
Everything is confirmed by the other tracks of the album and we can see how Mike Walker and his musicians are very good in moving with originality and good timing, jumping form jazz to rock, from fusion to blues without being caught drunk at the wheel. Mike Walker's solos are amazing, bad and distorted when needed, sweet and spicy when the heart is in the foreground. His way to phrase reminds me of Jimi Tunnell, a very good texan guitar player who seemd to be the new guitar hero when he was with Bob Belden and then disappeared from the scene and went back to the daily little things at home. This is exciting, modern, original and brave music, composed and arranged with great class. Trust me and you never regret.
Translation from Italian by Maurizio C
Read the review (in Italian)
18/08/2008 Roger Farbey - All About Jazz
Madhouse and the Whole Thing There | Hidden Idiom (2008)
The debut album by British guitarist Mike Walker is surprisingly short, around forty five minutes, which is actually a good thing considering it seems an almost mandatory requirement nowadays to cram a full eighty minutes worth of sound into every CD, all of which is not necessarily worth hearing. Quality rather than quantity is the keyword here. This, however, is a well-considered six track sortie, with an unusual opener, The Latin-edged “A Real Embrace,” evoking a very early Return to Forever, Antonio Carlos Jobim or even Hatfield and The North. Strangely, for a guitarist's first album under his own name, there is only a mere whiff of very subtle acoustic guitar heard on this track, with some relaxed Stan Getz-style sax soloing. Some unobtrusive strings are also thrown into the mix but never become cloying.
The lack of full-on guitar is compensated for on the second track, “Owed to J.C.,” a punning title dedicated to Mancunian poet John Cooper Clarke (Walker himself hails from Greater Manchester, in the UK). This is a real barnstormer with some astoundingly good blues guitar, reminiscent of Buddy Guy at his most ferocious. “In Two Minds” is another mover, and though short, it gives Walker the chance to really let rip on his less bluesy, more jazzy chops. That said, this is no relaxed Joe Pass meets George Benson convention, it's well and truly into Allan Holdsworth territory but mercifully minus the Synthaxe.
”Still Slippy Underfoot” is a short and quiet bridging track a thousand miles away from the previous one, and which again offers little overt guitar work, relying on clarinet to supply a pastoral melody. Then by dint of juxtaposition, a couple of sampled voices surreally introduce “I'll Tell 'im,” which begins with Walker's stinging guitar playing the head. Some fine reed soloing from Iain Dixon takes up the majority of the track, but when Walker finally gets to solo his fuzz guitar simply bursts forth with pent-up energy and imagination.
The final track, “Dad Logic,” has Walker flexing his musical muscles yet again with some fine electric guitar work. No repetition, no clichés, just sheer brilliance and the whole madhouse thing beautifully composed and arranged. A damn fine guitarist and a damn fine album.
See the review.
18/07/2008 Alan Brownlee - Manchester Evening News
Mike Walker - Madhouse And The Whole Thing There (Hidden Idiom)
The very beautiful Still Slippy Underfoot demonstrates that composition is as important as the improvisation.
He doesn't disappoint with funky workouts like In Two Minds and I'll Tell Him - the funk is Walker's great single contribution to Manchester jazz - where his fretwork overwhelms with its slashing power.
Walker's lyricism is ferocious - and vice versa. By contrast, Dad Logic is subtle and sophisticated and emulates the slinky perfection of Aja-era Steely Dan.
Don't wait so long time next time, Mike.
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Madhouse and the Whole Thing There album review - London Evening Standard, Saturday 5th July 2008
Northern guitar heavyweight Mike Walker, overlooked by arts-funding bodies but never by musicians, makes a stunning debut here as leader. As always his solos are brilliant but so too is his writing. A collage of original verse, nutty voiceovers and hip fringe-jazz elements (Sergio Mendes, BB King, Steely Dan) blends into one ecstatic, deep-grooving whole. A True Embrace is a sexy samba for female voices and Iain Dixon's tenor sax. Dad Logic and I'll Tell 'im are absorbing jazz-rock modes, and an elegant brass miniature is incongruously called Still Slippy Underfoot. A Mancunian masterpiece.
See the review.
'Mad For It' - Jazzwise Feature July 2008
See the full feature.
Madhouse and the Whole Thing There album review - Jazzwise Magazine July 2008
For such an accomplished musician as guitarist Mike Walker, with a CV replete with names form the very top echelons of the music that include George Russell, Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland, Arild Anderson, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and Mark-Anthony Turnage, it is astonishing to realise that ‘Madhouse & the Whole Thing There’, is in fact, his debut album. Suffice to say it’s gestation was long and fraught, but seldom can there have been a more impressive debut in British Jazz than this. Walker has an imagination of enormous sweep but also the skill and taste to realise his vision. From the opening ‘A Real Embrace’ a Brazilian samba with echoes of CTI and Claus Ogerman, to the freely improvised trio romp ‘In Two Minds’ to the album’s centrepiece ‘I’ll Tell’im’, which succeeds in cramming much detail into small spaces, this is an album to hunt down right away. ****
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Madhouse and the Whole Thing There album review - The Guardian Friday May 23rd 2008
Mike Walker is one of the most powerful jazz guitarists in Europe, but a surreal intelligence, extra-musical talents and a teaching career have kept him from the stardom his skills could have brought him - and still might. Walker is 46 and has never left his native north-west England. This is his first album under his own name but, far from sounding like an insular personal journey, this debut is a soaringly confident piece of idiosyncratic contemporary fusion, with brief borrowings from what sound like radio monologues and pub singalongs dropped into the thick-textured, backbeat-smacking grooves. Walker doesn't dominate, but has put the narrative shape of the venture first, as well as the changing colours and grooves of a taut group (at times a little unwavering in its drum patterns) augmented by all manner of guest specialists. Saxist/clarinettist Iain Dixon is magnificent throughout - Stan Getzian on the Latin opener and as ghostly as Benny Maupin's Bitches Brew bass clarinet on I'll Tell 'Em. Walker delivers a slashing, free-electric guitar tour de force on In Two Minds, and Nikki Iles's piano drifts tantalisingly in and out of the jazzier Dad's Logic.
Read the review on the Guardian website.