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GO GO PENGUIN – EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK (2023) Is it Jazz?

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Manchester group GO GO PENGUIN’s first album Fanfares came out on trumpeter par excellence Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana label. Next came v2.0 (2014) then a deal with Blue Note for Man Made Object (2016) for A Humdrum Star (2018) and Go Go Penguin (2020) – also a remix GGP/RPMX (2021). They are now on the XXIM label distributed by Sony. A 5 track EP was also released in 2021 Between Two Waves.


Check out the interview with the group on http://www.stereogum.com entitled “Are Go Go Penguin Jazz?” The gist of it is they seem to consider themselves (or at least their label does) an electronic/ neo-classical project with “jazz in there” and not a jazz group per se. I must say I would have to disagree with this. Jazz is a house with many mansions and jazz also crosses over into many different areas, and there are many kinds of jazz. (This actually does come up in the interview). The thought that the group is “not fulfilling what people expect from a jazz band anymore” also surprises me. Just listen to the energetic bass, inventive drumming and the extravagance of the piano on ‘We May Not Stay’ – there is certainly virtuosity to add to the keen sense of melody- and, speaking of melodies, the earworm that is ‘Saturnine’.


It is difficult to come up with something new as a piano-led jazz trio, and it is to Go Go Penguin’s credit that they do not fall back on covers (although this would not necessarily be a downside to me as jazz is resplendent with covers of ‘jazz classics’ - Ted Gioa has even written a whole book about it). Another drawback of the trio is that there isn’t another lead instrument to trade solos with, but Go Go Penguin overcome this with, if I may be so bold, their ‘sonic architecture’ broadening their appeal to include the biggest category on Discogs (electronic) and hopefully turning people onto jazz in its wider sense. This ‘sonic architecture’ (on the drums) is particularly evident on ‘Soon Comes Night’ – it provides variation rather than repetition. ‘Parasite’ is another delightful piece: the agility of the bassist and drummer depicting fast movement and conjuring up some dreadful creature or another: the rippling piano arpeggios add to the effect. And, in answer to the question: ‘Are Go Go Penguin Jazz?’ - of course they are, and darned good at it!

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