Mammal Hands get the Thump Festival grooving

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The five-day Thump festival went with a bang at the prestigious Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho this March. Among the highlights were fast emerging band Mammal Hands who feature brothers Nick and Jordan Smart (piano and saxophone respectively) and drummer-percussionist Jesse Barrett. They came together through a shared interest in electronic, classical, world and jazz, and their three-year partnership has developed steadily with the release last year of their critically acclaimed debut album, Animalia, on Gondawana Records.

Given a rapturous welcome for what was their second London gig, the band is clearly building a name outside their native Manchester and the show a mixture of music from Animalia and some new material heard here for the first time. An immediate sense of a distant Himalayan influence was steered by Jordan who leads with floating solos on saxophone, which drift along in the opening bars of ‘Snow Bough’. The percussive rhythmic control of Barrett leads us into a bridge with Nick lightly tapping ascending arpeggios and a crescendo sustained by Jordan.

Ambient phrasing emerged in ‘Kandaiki’ alongside new tunes such as the seething ‘Story of the Paper Tiger’ contrasted with the faster beat of ‘Mansions of Million of Years’ and the rippling keys and disjointed sax of ‘Inuit Party’. Caught off guard with the unexpected demand for an encore; they returned to repeat the evening’s opening salvo. Driven by the rise and fall of the saxophone, the percussive throws on drums and the sustained lilting and melodic piano lines we got the measure of this musical and ambitiously determined band.


– Liv Fernandes