Speakers Corner Quartet – Can We Do This (Feat. Sampha)

Album: Further Out Than The Edge

Label : OTIH Records
© 2023 OTIH Records

Although this is their debut album, the group now known as Speakers Corner Quartet has been a staple of the South London jazz scene for many years, even selling out the Barbican in 2021, and the roster of formidable names featured on this debut is a testament to the group’s tremendous investment into the music community. Composed of Raven Bush (violin), Peter Bennie (bass), Kwake Bass (drums/percussion) and Biscuit (flute), this iteration of Speakers Corner Quartet has existed since 2011! On Further Out Than the Edge, they’ve enlisted the help of the who’s who of South London: Sampha, Tirzah, Leá Sen, Kae Tempest, Shabaka Hutchings and many more. Although there has always been much talk of the U.K./South London Jazz explosion, few groups have been able to blend the current staples in the scene with emerging talent like Speakers Corner Quartet.

From the tracklist and features, it is clear that this album is about community far more than it is about the Quartet itself. It’s been a slow and organic process over the years as the group focused on lifting up other artists (Tirzah, Kae Tempest, even the late MF Doom) rather than gaining from their own music. Bass has stated, “There’s never been a rush as we’re just happy being in a room together. Playing instruments is just an extension of that and I think that’s what the community is all about, it’s just another part of the conversation.”

Further Out Than the Edge slaloms between genres and influences as guests pop in and out throughout. Coby Sey lends his luscious vocals on the house-like opener “On Grounds”, and things get funky on the more jazzy “Acute Truth,” featuring a thumping bassline from Bennie and glorious experimental violin moments from Raven Bush before slinking into the sparse by comparison track “fix” featuring Tirzah’s fragile vocals. Perhaps the most commercial track on the album arrives at “Dreaded !” featuring Leá Sen, followed up by the soulful “Can We Do This Again?” but beyond that, this debut is satisfyingly hard to define. Kae Tempest’s spoken-word vitriol directed at the state of affairs in the U.K. over Bush’s hauntingly sweet violin, creates a jarring goosebumps-inducing juxtaposition on album standout “Geronimo Blues.”

Slaloming between soul, jazz, electronica and hip-hop, Speakers Corner Quartet have carved out a sublime space for themselves and the other artists they’ve boosted. It is clear that the Quartet are dedicated to each other, and most importantly, to the music, creating a harmonious celebration of the unique talents of each guest artist. Sampling and cutting up jam sessions to create an album can run the risk of an incohesive hodge-podge of influences and sounds, but not on Further Out Than the Edge. These multi-instrumentalists had the power of community to really glue this project together. Biscuit explains: “We’re all one living, breathing organism when it comes to playing. This is the refined, final and definitive version of this project.”

© Jessica Porter-Langson/Qobuz