According to Raph Clarkson’s Dissolute Society ‘This is How We Grow’

October 7th, 2022, will see the release of This Is How We Grow, the new album from pioneering collective Dissolute Society, led by trombonist, improviser, composer and educator Raph Clarkson. Dissolute Society explores Raph Clarkson’s interests in contemporary improvisation, European jazz, 20th century classical music, poetry, spoken word, song, and soulful grooves. These varied elements are brought together through a highly personal and expressive narrative, exploring themes of family history, grief, friendship and hope.

Photography by Monika S. Jakubowska 
Graphic Design by Nadja von Massow / nad.works

On This Is How We Grow, Raph Clarkson teams up with Laura Jurd, Simon Roth and Fini Bearman – the album also features various special guests including Mark Lockheart and John Parricelli. All of these collaborators are well-established musicians in their own right and leading figures on the jazz scene, each adding their own inimitable enhancements to the project.

As well as the strong jazz credentials of the aforementioned group, the experimental nature of Dissolute Societies’ music includes numerous sounds and concepts that allow them to widen their scope to explore alternative genres. The prog-rock influenced guitar on the track ‘Please!’ and the classical/choral themes on the song ‘Ada Lovelace’ are just two examples of many different approaches to their art that exist across the album as a whole.

Having listened to This Is How We Grow more than once I can confirm that this is not a jazz album, in fact it is really does defy categorization and that is no bad thing. The opening number, ‘With The Power Of My Voice’, is musical theatre in style but with a touch of jazz towards the end. Every track features the vocals of children and that is where the musical theatre feel comes from. It is the instrumentation that gives each track its variety and the fact that these players are of such good quality (listen to Laura Jurd on track two for example) that the album as a whole hangs together so well.

‘Please’, as already mentioned, makes use of prog-rock guitar but also free jazz sounding horns, and punchy vocals that give the tune a sense of urgency and repressed energy. ‘If Only You Knew’ is a much gentler affair with nice vocals from Fini Bearman and sax from Mark Lockheart. ‘It’s A Love Song’ is bright, jaunty and has a great trombone sound from Raph Clarkson. ‘Sophie’ brings strings to the fore, which work very well with the trombone and piano lines that carry the melody.

‘Message To A Machine’ is a terrific blend of lead vocals, children’s choir, and instrumentation – particularly the wonderful sax line that weaves and soars its way through the length of the track. ‘Itself And One’ is, obviously, about prime numbers and who thought they could make for such a fun, energetic track. The album’s title track closes out the This Is How We Grow with its lyrics perfectly describing how children can grow-up when given the time, space, and encouragement to do so.

As a musical educator, Raph Clarkson is involved in diverse community and learning and participation projects, including extensive work with young people with additional needs and adverse childhood experiences. Speaking about the album Raph says:

My contention is that music making with young people / communities should be taken seriously as “mainstage” artistic work. This is one reason I’ve made this album, to bring together varied parts of my practice and show that young voices are to be taken deeply seriously in terms of what they express and what they teach us.

This Is How We Grow is a genuinely unique body of work that features children’s voices on every track, combined with the distinct compositional styles of Raph Clarkson and his collaborators in Dissolute Society. The result is a refreshingly original album infused with both energy and innocence, bound to fuel the imagination of young children, aspiring musicians and seasoned creatives alike.

Musicians: Fini Bearman – lead vocals; Raph Clarkson – trombone, vocals; Laura Jurd – trumpet; Mark Lockheart – soprano and tenor Saxophone (tracks 3, 4, 8, 9); Naomi Burrell – violin; Sophie Cameron – violin (track 4); Alison D’Souza – viola; Zosia Jagodzinska – cello; John Parricelli – electric and acoustic guitar (tracks 1-3, 6, 8-10); Sonny Johns – electric guitar (track 5);

Phil Merriman – piano, keys, synths (Prophet 5, Nord); Tom Cawley – piano (tracks 4 & 5); Arthur O’Hara – electric bass; Simon Roth – drums; Steve Baker – percussion; The Band, John Merriman, Alisa Clarkson – extra vocals (track 5)

Gillespie Primary School, London:

Years 3 to 6 tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 / Year 3 tracks 5,8

Camden New Voices: Track 2

Durston Court School, Dorset: Year 5 and 6 – Tracks 1, 7

Prospect House School, Putney: Year 5 – Tracks 1, 2, 6, 8.

Tracklist: 1. With The Power Of My Voice. 2. I Sing With The Earth. 3. Please. 4. If Only You Knew. 5. It’s A Love Song. 6. Sophie. 7. Ada Lovelace. 8. Message To A Machine. 9. Itself And One. 10. This Is How We Grow.

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