Interview: Led Bib

Rob GarrattRiding on a wave of interest in 'punk-jazz', Led Bib blend sonic blasts of improvisation with hard-rocking rhythms, dodging definitions and sidestepping critics. ROB GARRATT spoke to drummer and band leader Mark Holab.Further listening: Led BibRob Garratt

Riding on a wave of interest in 'punk-jazz', Led Bib blend sonic blasts of improvisation with hard-rocking rhythms, dodging definitions and sidestepping critics. ROB GARRATT ditched his preconceptions and spoke to drummer and band leader Mark Holub.

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Taking their name from a protective garment used on patients during dental treatment, Led Bib are a refreshing breath of musical air. As much Led Zeppelin as Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, they play a chaotic, frantic blend of searing sax melodies and pounding rhythms.

Frequently paired-up with trailblazing experimental jazz stars Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and Get The Blessing, they have earned the dubious moniker 'punk-jazz'.

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Propelled by a heavy beat, harsh harmonies and jagged melodies, they jump from straight-up post-bop grooves to eerie minimalism, onto full-on ferocious freak-outs.

Made up of three Brits, one Israeli and one American, their fourth album Sensible Shoes hit the shelves earlier this month, with Norwich the first date on a whistle-stop promotion tour.

With a line-up of drums, bass, piano, and two alto saxophonists, all of the players are schooled in the rules of jazz, but certainly unafraid of breaking them.

t What can we expect to hear when the tour kicks off in Norwich?

It's our second time in Norwich so we know what to expect from you, but by the nature of the music there's a lot of improvisation so it's hard to say what will happen on the day. We're producing music that will we will only produce for that moment of time, as in all jazz and improvised music.

t Was your last gig here at the Arts Centre?

Yes. It was a couple of years back and it was really great. I'd never been to Norwich and I thought 'are these people going to like us?' but they were lovely and the crowd was great and I bought myself a new jumper at the market.

'We're really pleased they asked us to come back. The people of Norwich are pretty lucky to have an arts centre of that quality, it has allsorts of stuff on which is really great. It's hard for regional places outside of London to get more leftfield stuff, and if a place does it's because it's got a lot of funding but no one goes to the gigs. But Norwich has the balance right - they have good stuff on and people are going to it.

t You've been called 'punk-jazz' on more than one occasion. What do you think of that?

People always want to classify and say this is 'punk-jazz' or 'death-jazz' - I think people are stuck that we are playing jazzy stuff and improvising but we're doing it with a more groovy edgy sound which in some ways incorporates elements of groove and rock, and I wouldn't say punk music, but it's fun. It's a way journalists like to market it. It's a way to say this is a music with a lot of energy to it. It's misleading because jazz is always a music that has borrowed from other styles. If people want to call it punk-jazz that's fine as long as they want to go and see it.

t It's been applied to a whole 'scene' with people like Polar Bear and Get The Blessing, who have both played Norwich recently, what do you think of it?

I identify with those guys. I know those guys. I think we all tend to get lumped together when really all these bands are really quite different. If you went to a Polar Bear gig and liked it you might not like our gig. If you went to our gig and enjoyed it you might go to an Acoustic Ladyland gig and hate it. I'm happy to associated with these people and it's to do with a resurgence in the jazz scene that people are trying to do something different - it's good that people are becoming aware of what's around and not just playing jazz standards.

t As the principle composer are you the voice of Led Bib?

This is a different beast than other projects - Led Bib is about everybody in the band. We've been together five years which for a jazz band is a long time. I am writing the tunes but all the colours are a result of everybody. It's these five guys that are the sound, that's something that's special - it's not just my vision.

t Having two alto saxophonists is pretty unusual, was that planned?

When we first started for a week we had a trumpet player and an alto player. I just think having two of the same instrument is quite chaotic, but having the two makes the harsh harmonies really powerful. I have been lucky to find two saxophone players who play very differently but complement each other really well.

t How important was your traditional jazz education to what you're doing now?

Having an awareness of what else has happened and what has been done has been useful, it makes it so your head never gets too big. There's 1,000 people before you and a 1,000 people after you and hopefully somebody will remember you, and what you play will make a difference.

t A thousand people after you? Don't think jazz is dying?

There's a vitality about improvised music that you can't find anywhere else. It's a dismal time for music in general, the industry is changing so much people don't know what's going to happen next. Jazz isn't affected the way pop is, jazz CDs dropped out years ago anyway. There will always be people interested in hearing something new and exciting to them, it's just finding a way to reach these people. People are dying to hear something different; I am always amazed at people reception to us, when you can see on their face that they're seeing something they wouldn't normally have heard. Hopefully that will continue. I'm banking my livelihood on in.

t Led Bib play at Norwich Arts Centre on June 4.

Further listening: Led Bib