Get this crazy baby off my head!


Mike Walker

Mike Walker - Madhouse and the Whole Thing There - 2008 - Hidden Idiom

"Mike Walker is one of the most powerful jazz guitarists in Europe ... 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." - John Fordham, The Guardian May 23rd 2008

"... 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." - Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise Magazine July 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. ****/5 © John Fordham The Guardian, Friday 23 May 2008 © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/may/23/jazz.johnfordham2

Guitarist Mike Walker has recently been attracting the kind of acclaim that has long been his due. The end of year summaries at the close of 2010 saw many critics falling over themselves to praise Walker’s contribution to the Anglo- American super-group now known as The Impossible Gentlemen. Walker, pianist Gwilym Simcock, electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum toured the UK to great acclaim last summer with most of the compositions coming from the British half of the equation. The freshly named quartet are due to release an album on Basho Records later in 2011 and to tour the UK again in June. I reviewed the quartet’s Swansea show under the group name Simcock/Walker/Swallow/Nussbaum and it was there that Mike was kind enough to give me a copy of his 2008 album “Madness And The Whole Thing There” for review purposes. Apologies to Mike for not covering it before now but with Walker currently the subject of mass critical acclamation now seems like a good time to add to the chorus of approval. Walker has been a mainstay of the UK jazz scene for many years and a prolific sideman for saxophonist Julian Arguelles among many others. His retiring nature and his insistence on remaining in his native Manchester have perhaps prevented him becoming a favourite of the London cognoscenti-until now. “Madhouse” is Walker’s first album as a leader and it is a hugely ambitious work adding vocals, speech samples, strings and big band textures to the work of a core Mancunian quintet consisting of Walker (guitar), Iain Dixon (reeds), John Ellis (keyboards), Sylvan Richardson (electric bass) and Myke Wilson (drums). The playing by the quintet is exemplary throughout but the additional voices and instruments give the music an almost cinematic scope that is hugely impressive. Although the album derives it’s inspiration from what might seem a sombre source, Walker’s late mother’s struggles with schizophrenia (or bi-polar disorder as it is now more commonly referred to), much of the music is strangely celebratory. At times Walker draws inspiration from US guitar greats such as Pat Metheny and John Scofield but “Madhouse” has a distinctively British, even Northern, quality that is all it’s own. Personal problems and industry politics delayed the release of this album for many years with Walker feeling simultaneously relieved and vindicated when the album finally appeared after years in the planning. The album begins in celebratory fashion with the samba of “A Real Embrace”. Djamila Skoglund-Voss’ soaring wordless vocal is underscored by the immaculately arranged Madhouse Strings. There’s a wonderfully warm tenor sax solo from Iain Dixon and Chris Manis’ exotic percussion also helps to keep the pot bubbling. Walker’s delicate acoustic guitar is curiously understated. There are similarities here to the sound of the Pat Metheny Group and others have drawn parallels with Klaus Ogermann’s work for the CTI label in the 70’s. I usually cite CTI in a pejorative sense but I only have admiration for Walker’s work here. The luxuriousness of the sound and breadth of vision on this track recall Metheny at his best and Walker adds a touch of that aforementioned Northern melancholy to boot. The following “Owed To JC” is not the usual jazz musician’s homage to John Coltrane. Instead Walker honours his fellow Mancunian, the punk/street poet John Cooper Clarke. The album title comes from a Clarke poem and Walker returns the compliment with a Clarke style poem of his own which is reproduced on the CD packaging. It’s not bad. The tune itself is a nine minute tour de force of intelligent, articulate music which combines fusion elements with big band textures. Additional horns complement Dixon’s gruff but articulate baritone solo, Mark Hart narrates Walker’s poem, and the composer adds soaring Scofield style guitar that references jazz, blues and rock . Ellis, Richardson, Wilson and the horns add a splendidly propulsive, subtly funky backdrop which spurs soloists Dixon and Walker to great heights. Credited to “The Band” the punchy, powerful “In Two Minds” owes its genesis to a group improvisation. It’s a sturdy slice of jazz/rock fusion with Walker’s stratospheric guitar soaring above the powerhouse rhythms laid down by Ellis,Richardson and Wilson with the drummer in impressively pugnacious form. It may be brief and unashamedly retro but it’s also splendidly exciting and invigorating. The even shorter “Still Slippy Underfoot” comes as a complete contrast, a brief calming interlude featuring Dixon on clarinet and Alan Tokely on French horn floating above Paul Kilvington’s synthesised backwash. It’s a delectable little palette cleanser and I can’t actually detect Walker playing on it at all. That’s probably because he’s saving himself for the album’s centre piece, the twelve minute “I’ll Tell ‘im”. Sampled speech and choral vocals weave in and out of this punchy fusion epic that sees Walker, Ellis and Dixon exchanging ideas propelled by Wilson’s relentless rhythms. The comparative simplicity of the backing contrasts with the complexity of the ideas,colours and textures being conjured up by the front line soloists. The piece is climaxed by the searing intensity of Walker’s guitar. Its impressive stuff with Walker fully achieving all his objectives. After the intensity of “I’ll Tell ‘im” the final piece, “Dad Logic” closes the album on almost elegiac note. Walker welcomes back the additional horns of trumpeters Neil Yates and Paul Newton, alto saxophonist Andy Schofield and flautist Suzanne Higgins. Guest pianist Nikki Iles adds a flowing solo and there’s also a splendidly eloquent solo from Walker himself, his guitar soaring gracefully above a backdrop of wordless vocals. It ends a very good album on a suitably upbeat note and there’s a sense of Walker having reached some kind of closure. “Madhouse…” represents an excellent début album. Impressive in its scope and ambition it reveals Walker to be an imaginative composer as well as being one of Britain’s finest guitar players. Although the album is relatively short by modern day standards Walker doesn’t waste an idea and the record’s conciseness becomes a virtue. “Madhouse…” has a finished, almost conceptual feel, there’s the sense of a story being completed. Walker’s compositional skills will undoubtedly be heard again on the impending The Impossible Gentlemen album. He made a strong contribution of material to the group’s tour last year, none of it sourced from “Madhouse..”, and his new pieces should be well worth hearing on disc on what is sure to be one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2011. While we’re waiting for that “Madhouse…” is highly recommended. Reviewed by & © Ian Mann Wednesday, January 12, 2011 © 2012 The Jazz Mann http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/mike-walker-madhouse-and-the-whole-thing-there/

Mike has been an integral part of the UK jazz scene for many years now and this guy should really be known as more than an "underground guitar hero" in the Manchester area of England. Although he has been at the core of the Manchester jazz scene for over 20 years and has performed with many great artists including Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne and John Taylor, he is highly regarded within musicians' circles as one of the best, yet least well-known guitarists. Mike's "Impossible Gentlemen" CD was voted best jazz album of 2011 in Mojo Magazine and should be heard by anybody remotely interested in great jazz guitar. There is a lot going on in the mix on this jazz/fusion album. The first track, "A Real Embrace" is a subtle Latin tinged tune with just a hint of acoustic guitar. Mike's formidable guitar playing comes more to the fore in the following 5 tracks. The musicianship throughout this album is fantastic and Mike and his backing musicians play some brilliant jazz, blues, rock and funk. This album gets better with every listen and is HR by A.O.O.F.C. Read the AAJ review of this album @ http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=30328 Read more about Mike Walker @ http://www.mike-walker.co.uk/biography/ Buy Stevie Williams' great "Lo-Fi" album featuring Mike on guitar and support real music in 2012 [Tracks @ 192-320 Kbps: File size = 66.3 Mb]


1 A Real Embrace 9:30
2 Owed to JC 9:49
3 In Two Minds 3:25
4 Still Slippy Underfoot 1:43
5 I\'ll Tell \'im 12:02
6 Dad Logic 9:09

All tracks composed by Mike Walker


Mike Walker: electric guitar, acoustic guitar; Iain Dixon: tenor sax, baritone sax, clarinets; Myke Wilson: drums; John Ellis: electric piano, organ; Sylvan Richardson: bass guitar; Djamila Skoglund-Voss: vocals; Kirsty Almeida: vocals; Laura Hassell: vocals; Georgina Bromilow: vocals; Evette Walker: vocals; Paul Bentley: vocals; Caju: vocals; Mike Walker: vocals; Jack Walker: vocals; Nikki Iles: piano (6); Paul Kilvington : Synthesizer (1, 4, 6); Les 'Cizerace' Chisnall: piano (6) Alan Tokely: french horn ( 1, 4, 5); Suzanne Higgins: flute (6); John Helliwell: melodica (1); Chris Manis: conga, pandeiro, percussion (1, 3, 6); Caju - percussion (1); En Hudson - harp (1); Mark Heart: spoken voice (2); Paul Newton: trumpet (2, 6); Neil Yates: trumpet (2, 6); Andy Schofield: alto sax (2, 6); Madhouse Strings (1)


Mike Walker (born 12 July 1962), is a jazz guitar player from Salford, England. Walker has played and recorded with George Russell, Peter Erskine, Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and performed with Dave Holland, Tal Farlow, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell and many others. Mike Walker was initially influenced by his father's piano playing, his mother's singing, and his brother's guitar playing. Mike went on to discover a passion for the great jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Larry Coryell, Tal Farlow and others. After many months of hard practice (woodshedding), Mike entered the Manchester music scene with River People, a fusion band comprising Mike playing a Gibson ES-335 guitar; Paul Allen on fretless bass; Tim Franks on drums, and Paul 'Bob Session' Kilvington on keyboards. Mike's playing drew the attention of Alan Butler, a vibraphone player of considerable repute, who in the 1980s had a long running residency at the Malt Shovels, a well-known 'jazz' pub in Altrincham. Mike joined Alan's quartet in the mid-80's, where he needed to rapidly grasp the new vocabulary of bebop oriented standards, and more contemporary jazz compositions. During the five to six years that Mike was a member of Alan's quartet, he had begun to travel further afield playing gigs with Mike Gibbs and Kenny Wheeler. While Mike was with the Mike Gibbs band he was called upon to deputise for an absent John Scofield, during which he was heard by Kenny, who asked him to play with his big band. Mike also formed a fusion band with pianist and composer Roy Powell about this time called Some Other Country with bassist Gary Culshaw, and drummer Steve Gilbert. Mike and Gary had previously played together and had strong feeling for each other's playing. Some Other Country soon established itself as one of the North's favourite fusion bands. Mike's musical collaborations continued to expand during the late 80s and early 90s. One such was with Nikki and Richard Iles who had formed a band called Emanon, which provided a vehicle for the compositional and arranging skills of Nikki and Richard, and fertile ground for Mike's brand of inspirational playing. Nikki and Mike would subsequently enlist Gary Culshaw, and drummer Steve Brown, to form the Mike Walker Quartet. Also at this time Mike was playing in the Sylvan Richardson band, where he met his long-time collaborator and friend, the sax player Iain Dixon. Mike, Iain, Sylvan, and drummer Mikey Wilson would later form the band which came to be known as Brazil Nuts. Whilst in Zurich with the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Mike met Julian Arguelles and subsequently joined his quartet. He also recorded several CDs with him, one of which featured on bass, Steve Swallow, with whom Mike would record again on the Mike Gibbs album 'By The Way'. The players were Peter Erskine, John Taylor, Kenny, Mike, and Django Bates. In the early 90's Mike toured extensively in various bands led by Tommy Smith, including a quartet with Mick Hutton on bass, and the Canadian, Ian Froman, on drums. Occasionally Tommy added Niels Lan Doky or Jason Rebello on piano. One of Tommy's quartets featured the Scottish drummer Tom Bancroft, an association that would lead to Mike, Tom, and Tom's sax playing brother Phil, working together at the Glasgow Jazz summer school. After many years Phil asked Mike to join his newly formed band which has been touring steadily since, together with Thomas Strønen, the Norwegian drummer, and bass player Steve Watts who replaced Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus. During the last decade Mike has also visited the United States, and most of Europe, as George Russell's guitarist, recording with him on several occasions. Also, as a member the Creative jazz Orchestra, Mike has played with Vince Mendoza, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Other musicians that Mike has played and recorded with over the last 20 years include Dave Holland, John Taylor, Tal Farlow, Bob Moses, Arild Anderson, and Palle Mikkelborg, as well as some fine vocalists including Mica Paris, Norma Winstone, and Jacqui Dankworth with whom Mike regularly tours. In May 2008, Mike released his debut album 'Madhouse and the Whole Thing There' to critical acclaim. It features the members of Brazil Nuts, plus strings, French horn, piano, brass section and vocals etc. Also, in 2008, Mike was commissioned to write a some music for Manchester Jazz Festival. He wrote a Suite called 'Ropes' which featured a 22 piece Orchestra and Jazz quintet, with Adam Nussbaum on drums. The Suite was performed at the RNCM in Manchester to a packed theatre and received a standing ovation. Walker has written for his Sextet which features Les Chisnall, Malc Edmonstone, Pat Illingworth, Iain Dixon and Steve Watts. The Sextet tours frequently throughout the UK. He is a member of 'The Printmakers' a band set up by Nikki Iles and Norma Winstone and also featuring Mark Lockheart, Steve Watts, and James Maddren. Walker also works with Steve Swallow, Gwilym Simcock and Adam Nussbaum in a band called 'The Impossible Gentlemen'. He runs a Guitar summer School in Andalucia, Spain, usually mid June, for 2 weeks. He also runs The Music Place Summer School in Altrincham with Iain Dixon and is a tutor for the National Youth Jazz Collective. He lives in Rossendale with his two children.

1 comment:

A.O.O.F.C said...


p/w if needed is aoofc