It seems to me that the jazz greats — the truly great ones, like Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, et al. — have elements to their sound that are there to confound for the listener's own betterment. And it seems the more you train your ear in the direction of these passages, the more you begin to understand. Tenor saxophonist Binker Golding colors within his own set of lines, allowing harmony to emanate from within the listener's head.
As half of the British duo Binker and Moses, Golding blows hot and fresh with economic bursts and fluttering flurries that fly in the face of his stripped down outing with drummer Moses Boyd. Boyd holds down the time meticulously, be it abstract or enticing forays into rock 'n' roll, while at the same time exploring other avenues as if to give a hint or preview of what's next.
Fortunately Binker and Moses don't crowd the runway and leave room for each other. It's not that the tunes are reduced, so much as the twosome makes each note or beat of each passage count. They keep the excitation to an acceptable minimum, and let fly when appropriate only to return to a thoughtful restraint. And this is so cool.
CITY shot some questions over the Atlantic to Golding, and he fired right back. An edited transcript follows.
CITY: You've been described as being both cutting edge and retro. In your opinion, which is it?
Binker Golding: In all honesty I really don't think it's either. We don't aim to be either of those things, but to a degree, I can see how someone might see us one way or another depending on what they're used to. One thing I can say is we really make a conscious effort not to be retro. I see the whole retro thing as make-believe; a fantasy presentation of jazz. The music may be absolutely serious, but the peripheral is still fantasy. I can't stand that. I think musicians who practice that need to see a psychiatrist. Don't kiss a corpse.
Cutting edge? Our value system, what we take pride in, is different to many different genres and individuals, but saying that, we haven't yet done anything that wasn't done in "The Rite of Spring," which is 104 years old, so I don't think we're cutting edge, we're just trying to do a good job with what we've got. If it happens to be cutting edge, great.
Is this what you were looking for, or is it what happened?
What I'm looking for is a 6 bedroom house, a Maserati, and a good dry cleaner. I haven't found one of those yet. So no, it's definitely what happened. But what's happened is still great. My greatest achievements are people enjoying the music I create. You never know who's listening, and to that person that's going through something absolutely unbearable — cancer, a sick or terminally ill child, the loss of their partner, job, or something else — if I can bring happiness to that person's life, I honestly think that's greater than the house and the Maserati; no bullshit. I suppose what's happened is really what we were looking for. We were and are looking to communicate and bring happiness to those interested. From the responses we get after the live shows, I'd say it at least appears to be coming true.
How did this duo get started?
It was initially because of down-time we had on the road with other bands. We filled in that time with practicing in this format. There was also another time the two of us were booked to do a performance with a bass player, but his bass broke on the gig and we had to carry on as a duo. We slowly started to realize the format could work as a result. Had that bass never broke there may have been no Binker and Moses.
What are you doing that no one else has tried?
Musically speaking, I'm not aware of another sax and drums duo that have incorporated rock music into their sound as blatantly as us and without using any electronics or amplification, but I could be wrong, maybe there're 10 more out there. I think our second album, "Journey to the Mountain of Forever," is perhaps at the least a vaguely new push in regards to its art direction in the world of jazz, but I don't think that qualifies. It's hard enough to play well, let alone do something new on top of that.
How would you describe your music?
If I'm to be articulate: Black American Music, Black American Classical Music, Black American Folk Music, via London. Any of the above work for me. Even though there are many other influences in there, it's coming strongly out of that tradition. I'd also describe it as honest and bullshit free.
What obstacles do you encounter when composing?
For this particular group, the hardest part of writing for me is spelling out a melody on the saxophone whilst giving some kind of idea of the harmony — which isn't there — at the same time. It's a particular way of writing which I don't really use for any other area I work in to the same extent. Some of the compositions adhere to this more than others. I started doing it more heavily on the second album. Ultimately I learnt it from playing Bach cello suites and violin partitas on saxophone in my youth. If you play them enough, you start to see how he gets a melody, countermelody, and bass all into one single voice. It's to do with how the voice leaps around and the single-line-part-writing makes logical sense within itself.
How do you maintain your freedom while playing so precisely?
Practice, practice, practice. You work on playing precisely until it's easier for your body to play accurately than it is in-accurately. Precision is simply all about technique. If you acquire a lot of technique you'll eventually be truly free.
How is your new album different from your previous work?
Conceptually it's a lot more thorough and well thought out than "Dem Ones" was. Ultimately it's completely different to that album in a number of ways: the collaborations on disk two, the compositional style of disk one, the artwork, the titles. But underneath it all we're still us. We were looking for continuity between this record and the first. It's also an improv heavy album as the first was. We still don't really care what the rest of the world is doing musically. We're just doing our own thing with no expectation of what may happen and that's the backbone to our thought process and musical outlook. If you like it, that means we made it for you.
Binker and Moses will perform on Friday, June 30, at Chris Church, 141 East Avenue. 6:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Tickets are $30, or you can use your Club Pass. binkergolding.com.