On 28th February listeners poured into the dusky warmth of The Jazz Café to share a moment of progressive musical intimacy with one of the UK’s hottest jazz bands: Flying Machines. As soon as the quartet opened their first set the conviviality of the room was infused with mystical lyricism — an evocation of unadulterated nature — and the urban grit of New York jazz, tied together and covered in a layer of scientific detachment.
Initiated by guitarist Alex Munk as a way to explore original composition, Flying Machines took inspiration from Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan and jazz-rock guitarist Wayne Krantz. These, however, remain mere hints in the band’s creation of a unique sound. A sound that combines wrenching melodies with upbeat improvisation and discordant harmonies, while incorporating modal and rhythmic variance and minimalist keyboard passages.
The name of the band was chosen as a tribute to Munk’s father, the airship engineer Roger Munk. During performance, the gentle, yet every-changing nature of air floated in and out of songs like Tracks, Bliss Out and Lighter than Air. Moon Dust, in its depiction of slow drifting in a state of weightlessness, was especially evocative and had the power to transport the audience to a whole different sphere. Other classical elements abounded too: Emotional Math Metal, loudly applauded by the audience, was a display of fiery virtuosic guitar-playing, and you could feel the viscous earth trudged through the rhythm section’s steady groove in a Long Walk Home.
Despite moments when otherwise compelling compositions faded into sonic déjà-vu, Flying Machines’s ability to mould and transform the character of their instruments, their down-to-earth stage presence and dedication to their craft were enough to engage seasoned jazz listeners and novices alike.