Dave’s Manington’s Riff Raff is a dynamic ensemble of young musicians that features vocalist Brigitte Beraha (Kenny Wheeler, London Jazz Orchestra), pianist Ivo Neame (Phronesis, Marius Neset), saxophonist Tomas Challenger (Foufolah/Red Snapper), guitarist Rob Updegraff (Alani, Beth Rowley/Zigaboo Modeliste) and drummer Tim Giles (Iain Ballamy/Art Farmer).
Challenger Deep, Riff Raff’s latest album, is the follow up to their 2013 debut Hullabaloo and features nine of Manington’s original compositions. “This is my third album as a leader,” Manington explains, “and I feel it’s the ultimate expression of my music. Shaped and led by my compositions, but with plenty of freedom to explore, the band now plays so well as a unit after over five years together that we can push each other to the limits of our energy and creative powers.”
The starting point for the music is collective improvisation but compositionally it draws on as wide a range of styles as possible – folk, electronic music and contemporary classical influences are added to the mix with complex jazz harmonies and rhythms. The music has been developed through countless gigs and rehearsals giving Riff Raff a genuinely unified sound. “Most important to me is to create a strongly unified band sound and all the members of the group are long-term collaborators – indeed Rob, Tim and I were at school together so have been a rhythm section for over 20 years, and the creative rapport we have together is at the heart of the band,” Manington continues. “Between them they have a rich and diverse textural palette, high energy and powerful, always empathetic never overwhelming, they are musicians of exceptional quality.”
Four of the compositions on the album feature lyrics from Brigitte Beraha and on other tracks she sings wordless vocals, often harmonizing with the sax line to great effect. “I first collaborated with Brigitte in 2008 for a Loop Collective Festival and she has been a member of the group and a trusted co-writer ever since, contributing beautiful lyrics to many of my compositions.”
The music is sophisticated and full of virtuoso playing, sometimes freely improvised with an exciting element of risk, but the song forms, melodic nature and great ensemble playing of the group make it highly accessible.