I’ve always considered percussionists – the ones who are as at home with tuned or rhythm instruments – as the epitome of cool. The hipper cousin to the comparatively staid pianist. Percussionists can conjure up all manner of wizardry, bedazzle you with their technique. There’s more on display too – we can see the mechanics of sound project in a way that is hidden on the piano. Percussionists are cool. That’s all there is to say.
Joby Burgess consistently makes full use of this perception I articulate. At Peckham CLF a few years back and at Two Moors Festival last year, he surrounds himself with a great many contraptions, some recognisable others not, to create sound worlds that raise or lower the heart rate. In live performance he combines this with a low-key schoolboy charm that makes the sounds he creates all the more incredible. It’s a technique that hooks you in.
Percussionists Songbook carries across this instinct for entertainment into a commercially minded playlist of good vibe tracks that reward curiosity with aural treats. The sleeve notes draw on Joby’s love of pop. The genre is evident in some of the tracks – Yazz Ahmed’s Throw Your Pumpkin is good example, so too Gabriel Prokofiev’s Dr Calvin Remembered. Take Me Home uses echoes of an 80s pop melody, to build an uplifting mid-tempo anthem begging for a montage, jangly bells spilling over the edges.
Joby Burgess achieves something very special in A Percussionists Songbook, combining 20th century musical ideas, each unmistakably of their time, into a composite sound that sounds fresh. And like all well produced albums it’s one you’ll want to listen to from beginning to end.