28th January 2015: BIG NEWS: Phil Donkin to release ‘The Gate’ March 9 2015 worldwide featuring Ben Wendel, Glenn Zaleski and Jochen Reuckert + Launch tour + promo video + full track

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“To my ears, Phil Donkin does it all, he propels The Gate relentlessly/effortlessly with his melodic, interactive, driving basswork (Macon Groove is evidence enough). Not to mention the fine writing, his keen ear for detail and an eye fixed on the big picture, and larger vistas just ahead.”
– Drew Gress, (internationally renowned bassist)

The Gate (click here) is the debut album from Phil Donkin, one of the preeminent bassists of his generation in jazz and improvisation-based music. Originally from the UK, he established himself in London and subsequently made the move to New York City where he lived for a number of years. Currently based out of Germany he maintains a hectic international touring schedule and has performed with many of world’s marquee artists including Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Abercrombie, Kenny Wheeler, Julian Arguelles, Evan Parker, Nils Wogram, Marc Copland, Bill Stewart, Ralph Peterson, Nasheet Waits, Edward Simon, Kevin Hays and others.

Featuring Grammy-award nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel, drummer Jochen Rückert and pianist Glenn Zaleski, The Gate is a debut of depth and maturity with ten original compositions and two covers (Thelonius Monk and Dmitri Shostakovich). With plenty of wit and intelligence the pieces are navigated expertly by the four members, displaying a myriad of textures and emotions.

Phil explains: “I wanted to create a program of music that anyone can enjoy, but doesn’t dumb down to a notion that non-jazz audiences need to be condescended to. I think good music regardless of genre communicates on a human level, and the dividing forces that have been created artificially by the music press and industry now dictates how people are allowed to enjoy and receive music. I think that notion is wrong and I want my music to defy it.”

The Gate doesn’t hold back; it both challenges and engages the listener. Pieces like ‘Matriarch’, ‘The Lost Shoe’ and the title track show a somewhat subdued and melancholic subtextual nature, pulling at the listener’s heart-strings but somehow with a fiery visceral energy that creates a juxtaposition of emotions. ‘La Jurona’ and ‘Introspection’ display some of the rhythmic subtleties for which Donkin is known, displaying the bass player’s uncanny ability to glide effortlessly through forms and time changes with poise, elegance and muscularity. Complemented by Rückert the rhythm section excel throughout, playing off each other astutely; one hears the depth of listening, sharing responsibility to drive the band while taking turns in directing the music and supporting the others as risks are taken, of which there are plenty.

Donkin explains “This music is in no way safe. We’re all taking risks and supporting each other at the same time. For me, that has always been the most exciting thing to listen to and to play, because it’s human. I don’t want an album which has been perfectly edited and so therefore shows no sign of weakness. That is boring and doesn’t show anything of the soul of the music. I need there to be both empathy and bravery for me to enjoy it. This obviously requires intense listening, and I think unfortunately that doesn’t happen enough in jazz now. What I hear a lot of is virtuosos who have become a self-sufficient tower of strength, who somehow aren’t responsive to their musical environment. Of course we all want to be as good as we can be, but when playing with others we are vulnerable because we don’t know what’s going to happen. To overcome that problem we must trust, and have faith that amazing things can happen if we let go and listen. One would hope that through years of playing and practicing, our hands know what to do, so listen and let the heart take over.”

There’s a healthy amount of swing on this record as well. ‘Macon Groove,’ named after the street in Brooklyn where Donkin lived, displays his ability to play an extremely nimble melody resonant of Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano. Other pieces like ‘Butterfingers’, ‘One for Johnny,’ and ‘Yesterday At My House’ are quirky tunes which invite creativity from the entire band, something they do with aplomb throughout the record. With The Gate Donkin not only showcases his virtuosity as a bassist, but arrives as a notable composer of breadth and originality.

Listen to a full length track from the album:


Check out the upcoming tour from Phil and band and for direct links to venues and tickets visit our EVENTS page

Phil Donkin Nov14 Poster copy