For most, the term ‘Taxi Wars’ evokes memories of a subpar ITV documentary about the ruthless business practices of North London cabbies. For the rest of us it signifies a Belgian group whose new album ‘Fever’ just dropped. If we use a genre as a form of classification to the unknown, then Taxi Wars are definitely a Jazz band (to paraphrase the late Leonard Nimoy) “but not as we know it”.
As the accompanying press release is quoted as saying, “This is a jazz band with a deep knowledge of the music’s history, and a love for the driving jazz of the early sixties on the Impulse! label. The music of Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Charles Mingus – full of swing, pulse, and the urge to break out of the genre’s confinements.” It’s not surprising, especially given Mingus and Taxi Wars’ vocalist Tom Barman have collaborated previously, and I’m willing to bet that ideas have been shared to aid this project.
Saxophonist Robin Verheyen leads the musical trio of Nicolas Thys on bass and drummer Antoine Pierre and with tracks like ‘Trash Metal Ballad’ and ‘Honey, It’s the Blues’ you don’t need to read any further into this review to hear that I like them already. But this is just a fraction of the message, since vocals are handled by the aforementioned former dUES frontman Tom Barman. Barman’s vocals give an enthuastic punch that (combined with his haunting vocals) set this group far apart from their contemporaries. Should they actually have any!
Verheyen’s saxophone work is a central piece in this band, coming in as it does in tracks like ‘Aeroplane Song’ or ‘Controlled Demolition’ you get the feeling he’s the most overworked member of this band, and not that this is a bad thing, since the use of saxophone itself makes you feel a lot better about yourself, gives the music a sharp edge, an energy and sets you up for those all-important replays.
Jazz isn’t my comfort zone, which is ironic, considering it brings together a pallet (musically) of freedom of expression, something that Metal (which is my comfort zone) does very well. So I can see the connections. Tracks like ‘Soul Repair’ and the album’s title track serve to remind us that this is freedom of expression in the highest sense and you can’t achieve this type of artistic freedom when your genre is more limited, less experimental and crushingly unforgiving of new sounds and shapes.
This is the bands second release in less than two years, so as well as churning out a wealth of music and creative flair, they have gone out of their way to separate any preconceived notions that this is simply a rock star who has joined a jazz band. Their appreciation and love of their craft can be seen. I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about Taxi Wars in the future.
Although my musical tastes are considerably heavier than most, I have an appreciation for everyone, from Elton John to Megadeth. When I'm not reading through my old Kerrang Magazines and playing the latest Municipal Waste cassettes, I'll attempt to give you my perspective on the music to impact Newcastle and the North East. I hope you enjoy my opinions, but even if you don't, I'd still encourage you to read them!