Madhouse & The Whole Thing There
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Mike Walker was initially influenced by his father's piano playing, his mother's singing, and his brother's guitar playing. Mike went on to discover a passion for the great jazz guitarists' Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Larry Coryell, Tal Farlow and others. After many months of hard practice (woodshedding), Mike entered the Manchester music scene into which he has become the leading light. Mike s CV is impressive, including playing and recording with Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs, Nikki Iles, Julian Arguelles, Steve Swallow, Peter Erskine, John Taylor, Tommy Smith, Niels Lan Doky, Jason Rebello, Dave Holland, John Taylor, Tal Farlow, Bob Moses, Arild Anderson, and Palle Mikkelborg, as well as some fine vocalists including Mica Paris, Norma Winstone, and Jacqui Dankworth with whom Mike regularly tours. During the last decade Mike has also visited the States, and most of Europe, as George Russell's guitarist, recording with him on several occasions and as a member of the Creative jazz Orchestra, Mike has played with Vince Mendoza, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, and Mark-Anthony Turnage. However it is with the release of his own debut album called 'Madhouse and the Whole Thing There' that will finally give people the chance to really hear Mike Walker, the composer, the arranger, the producer, the visionary and of course The guitarist. The album features Iain Dixon on saxes and woodwind, Mikey Wilson on drums, Sylvan Richardson jr on bass and John Ellis on keys, musicians with which Mike has a long association and understanding. Add in percussion, strings, French horn, piano, brass section and vocals and you have the most assured and impressive debut album by a British musician in a long time. Mike continues to work on new projects. He has written new material for another album which will feature musicians from England and United States. He has nearly finished his book 'The Comprehensive Fretboard System'. He is establishing a publishing business with long time friend and musician Iain Dixon, and continues to perform on a regular basis. He lives in Rossendale with his two children.
Mike Walker is one of the most powerful jazz guitarists in Europe, but a surreal intelligence, extra-musical talents and a teaching career have kept him from the stardom his skills could have brought him - and still might. Walker is 46 and has never left his native north-west England. This is his first album under his own name but, far from sounding like an insular personal journey, this debut is a soaringly confident piece of idiosyncratic contemporary fusion, with brief borrowings from what sound like radio monologues and pub singalongs dropped into the thick-textured, backbeat-smacking grooves. Walker doesn't dominate, but has put the narrative shape of the venture first, as well as the changing colours and grooves of a taut group (at times a little unwavering in its drum patterns) augmented by all manner of guest specialists. Saxist/clarinettist Iain Dixon is magnificent throughout - Stan Getzian on the Latin opener and as ghostly as Benny Maupin's Bitches Brew bass clarinet on I'll Tell 'Em. Walker delivers a slashing, free-electric guitar tour de force on In Two Minds, and Nikki Iles's piano drifts tantalisingly in and out of the jazzier Dad's Logic. --John Fordham, Guardian May23 2008
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Mike Walker has a formidable talent on guitar and a growing maturity as a composer. He has been around for a while now and gained a lot of experience with established players in the jazz and classical fields and like any good musician is open and honest enough to admit he can always learn more.
The 6 songs featured on the album are a varying bunch with lots of different musical influences thrown into the mix. Despite this, the tracks integrate well and the album has a whole organic feel to it.
Mike has developed a tone and style of playing which is identifiable and there are definite influences and inspirations to be heard both in the guitar styles he utilises and the compositions - with some humour thrown in for good measure in places. There are definite inspirations drawn from John Mclaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Larry Carlton, Gabor Szabo, early blues Clapton/Robben Ford. These are not mere imitations though - but a nod in their direction.
Well worth a listen. One looks forward to another album in the future.
Now, though, it's time to put the record straight and the public can finally get to hear what all the fuss has been about.
This is an incredibly confident piece of work and speaks volumes about the full range of Mike's talents from start to finish. It showcases not only his prodigious guitar technique, but also a finely judged compositional style, which draws on many of his formative influences and unselfishly allows plenty of space for others, coaxing magnificent performances and solos from the many musicians gathered here.
The compositions range from the Brazilian flavours of opener "A Real Embrace", featuring string section, vocal chorus, nylon strung guitar and a sublime, feathery tenor sax solo courtesy of co-producer Iain Dixon, to the frantic,fractured guitar of the wholly improvised "In Two Minds". "I'll Tell 'im" is a particular highlight, the theme of schizophrenia explored by doubling many of the instruments, bass clarinet and guitar carrying on a chattering, twisted "conversation", all the while a relentless groove driving the track forwards. Beautifully recorded and texturally deep, many subtle details within the tracks reveal themselves only on repeated listens.
In my opinion, this album is destined to be a modern jazz classic. Awesome.