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"Pinski Zoo deserve mega-stardom because it not only funked your socks off but foresaw future developments in jazz fusion"- The Guardian
"Pinski Zoo are still out there and still on cracking form. Organic, no-surrender, spiritually uplifting music, AfterImage is probably the best album the band has released to date" - AllAbout jazz.com 2006
"At full throttle there's no sound as full-blooded or viscerally powerful as Pinski Zoo's" - JazzUK 2006
"Pinski Zoo deliver with a compelling power unique in English Jazz" - The Wire
"Pinski Zoo themselves are highly original, almost uncategorizable" - The Independent
"...a wondrously original unit...Jan Kopinski's eerie sax, Kari Bingham's Hendrix-into-funk bass and keyboardist Steve Iliffe's astonishing post-Zawinulisms. Pinski Zoo are good enough to make you want to burn down the disco" - Hi-Fi News and Record Review
"...volatile mixture of freedom and funk" - New York Times
"Kopinski and Bingham are two of the most exciting and original talents in contemporary jazz " - Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz
PINSKI ZOO were voted Best Small Band at the British International Jazz Awards in Cannes 1991 and in 2011included in the Guardian and Observer's top 100 Jazz recordings in A History of Modern Music
...STEVE ILIFFE keys..........STEFAN KOPINSKI bass......JAN KOPINSKI saxes.........KARL BINGHAM bass..... PAT ILLINGWORTH drums...
PINSKI ZOO - LIVE
BIOGRAPHY A truly original contemporary jazz outfit from the UK. Almost impossible to categorize they swing from virtuosic jazz to gritty funk with freedom and movement, veering into leftfleld territory and returning with snappy anthem-like tunes. Unpredictable and exciting, they carved a unique style in the UK and won praise from critics at home and abroad. Their eclectic fusion of style foreshadowed the move towards mixing influences in much of today's modern music. With 8 albums and extensive touring in Europe, Poland and New York in the late 80's and 90's and a "Best British Band" at the British International Jazz Awards in '91 they are back after several years of individual projects.
After catching the attention of, firstly the rock press (NME), they released their first album on Jan and Steve’s label - Dug-Out Records - in 1980 – “Introduce Me to the Doctor”…Recognition in the Indie Charts and a distribution deal with Rough Trade Records led them to further recordings , “The City Can’t Have it Back”, “The Dizzy dance Record” (with famous dub producer Adrian Sherwood) “Speak” and a couple of singles. the drummer at that time was Tim Bullock and bassist Tim Nolan and brother Mick on Percussion.
The great Karl Bingham first appeared on "The City...." before adjourning to tour with US soul artists.
Jan set up a tour of Poland through relatives and friends in Krakow - despite the recent residue of martial law in Poland (1982) the jazz scene was alive and kicking along with a wirerd mixture of reggae and punk. Polish form of dub inspired agit prop.In the band Nick Doyne Ditmas took the role and appears on "Speak" there was also Aniruddha Das on percussion - founder member of Asian Dub Foundation,Their first gig Jazz Nad Odra led to the release of “Live in Warsaw” album released on Poljazz , and a regular touring schedule of Europe followed . Jan returned to Poland with a second tour and set up a working relationship with Wojtek Konikiewicz, Polish pianist and composer, who toured UK with Jan and PZ in 1987.The band was uncategorizable. They were called Free Funk Jazz / Punk Jazz / Outfunk jazz ,etc……
Jan felt an endorsement for PZ's style whilst supporting Ornette Coleman and Prime Time and his harmolodic form of jazz, with its scattershot harmonic-rhythm-melody .
Now managed and recording for Jazz Café Records (the original influential London venue set up by Jon Dabner) PINSKI ZOO became a dominant force in the jazz fused scene of the late 80’s & 90’s.They recorded 2 more CDs “Rare Breeds” and the highly acclaimed “East Rail East”, now with Karl Bingham regularly on bass.Steve Harris joined on kit and brought a fluid free-wheeling feel to the band's sound , with a driving heavy edge.
In 1991 at the Cannes Midem Festival PINSKI ZOO was voted “Best Band “ at the British International Jazz Awards.
Further European tours followed, a stint at New York’s Knitting Factory and a British Council tour of Poland.and a CD in 1994 on Slam Records –“ De-Icer” - live tracks from Europe and New York.
Pinski Zoo continued to play in the late 90's and early 2000 but focussed on a diversity of projects between themselves rather than record. Jan released "Ghost Music" with Steve Iliffe and son Stefan brought into the mix, then later his music to silent film "Earth", whilst Steve Harris became more involved with his own outfit free improvising outfit Za-um. AFTER IMAGE is PZ's 2cd album featuring tracks from UK tours between 2003 -2005. The sound is the closest to the live sets - turn it up loud to feel the band in full flight. Jan and Steve Harris worked together with Zone K and Polish musicians,and recently before Steve's untimely death they played as a duet in a soundscape performance in Poole, which they had long promised themselves.
Pinski Zoo's rhythm section featuring the mighty twin basses are working with renewed vigour, with a new line up featuring the beautifully fleet and groovesome playing of Patrick Illingworth on drums, heard to great effect on their 2007 UK tour
Rare Breeds - Jazz-Cafe Records
Live in Warsaw -Poljazz Records
Speak - Dug Out Records
The City can't Have it Back - Dug Out Records
The Dizzy Dance Record - Dug Out Records
Introduce me to the Doctor - Dug Out Records
Slam CD 266 147m:24secs (2 discs)
B B C M U S I C M A G A Z I N E -A U G U S T 2 0 0 6- Barry Witherden
PINSKI ZOO:exciting, danceable and darkly atmospheric.
With its members involved in extracurricular projects, Pinski Zoo hasn’t released an album since the stunning De-Icer, captured live in 1993. After Image, drawn from concerts across England between 2002 and 2005, has been worth the wait.
The classic quartet has for some while been augmented by Kopinski junior on additional bass. He and Bingham constitute a sharp, well-focused unit, threading lines of clarity and strength through the band’s crowded, swirling, polytonal canvas.
PZ is still uncategorisable (I’d plump for post-punk-funk-harmolodicism if pressed), still uniquely exciting, danceable and darkly atmospheric, still powers irresistible pulses without stooping to tediously inflexible beats, still conjures nebulous, magical, mysterious soundscapes from forbidding ranks of hardware, still enchants with tender melodies plucked from the rowdiest melee. Less ferocious than of yore, perhaps, but there’s a much-extended palette. Harris is nimble and texture-savvy, Iliffe a master of colour, Jan Kopinski’s saxes as gorgeous and passionate as ever.
www.allabout jazz.com - August 2006 - Chris May
Pinski Zoo burst onto the British delinquent-jazz scene in the early '80s, around the same time as Neneh Cherry's Rip Rig & Panic.
Rip Rig & Panic sweetened their avant garde jazz content with vocals, guitars, songs with hooks, and some savvy rock and roll image building. Pinski Zoo, by contrast, made no concessions to the broader marketplace...or to anything at all. They served up a raw, unfiltered mix of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler-inspired tenor saxophone improvisations and rough-sex funk. And they peeled the socks clean off your feet.
This two-disc live set celebrates the band's uncompromising 25 years at the sweaty coalface of deep-seam free funk. The nucleus of the original quartet—saxophonist Jan Kopinski and keyboardist Steve Iliffe—still leads the assault. Bassist Karl Bingham joined in '85 and drummer Steve Harris in '87. So even today's core quartet has been together for very nearly twenty years. Kopinski's son Stefan joined on second bass in the late '90s.
The album was recorded across eight different venues in Britain during tours in '02, '03 and '05. There's both new material and re-arrangements of old favourites. Every tune, of course, is a band original, with Kopinski and Iliffe doing most of the writing.
The performances are as thrilling and unpredictable as any on the band's early-'80s breakout recordings. Utterly faithful to their original, post-Coltrane route to the jazz/funk shotgun marriage, Kopinski and Iliffe's playing is as shocking and in-your-face as it was back when they were freshmen.
Kopinski sounds practically untouched by the passing years. His playing is as hot and visceral and in-the-moment as it ever was, and his technique has grown beyond the merely formidable. He seems more comfortable with subtler nuances and lower boiling points, too: the unusually tender “Father Daughter (Ojciec)” here includes some rapturously lyrical playing.
Iliffe, who was always an arresting colourist and soloist, is on phenomenal form, with a tonal palette as broad as they come. And the rhythm section has never sounded so good: the twin-bass setup allows one player to maintain relentless, on-the-one, groove ostinatos while the other flies free above him.
In short, Pinski Zoo are still out there and still on cracking form. Organic, no-surrender, spiritually uplifting music, After Image is probably the best album the band has released to date. After 25 years at the barricades, that's an astonishing achievement.
Visit Pinski Zoo on the web.
_Track listing: CD1: Bounce; Spymistress; Father Daughter (Ojciec); Firepoint; Jab; Slim; Please Note; Polish Zigzag. CD2: Shed Bounce; Please Note After Image; Nu Choo; Night To Dream; Nathan's Song; Firepoint Sphinx; Stretcher.
Personnel: Jan Kopinski: saxophones; Steve Iliffe: keyboards; Karl Bingham: bass; Stefan Kopinski: bass; Steve Harris: drums.
www.vortexjazz.co.uk- June 2006 - Chris Parker
"At once a celebration of 25 years of operations in the ‘power fusion/free funk’ corner of the jazz world and a distillation of their live sound into 143 minutes of recorded music, this double CD is as close to a definitive Pinski Zoo album as you’re likely to get. It contains two storming versions each of anthemic live staples such as ‘Bounce’, ‘Firepoint’ and ‘Please Note’, but also captures the band’s subtler strengths: an attention to textural variation and nuances of timbre (especially from keyboardist Steve Iliffe, but also from the alternately stridently keening and multi-textured, almost Barbieriesque Jan Kopinski) that would not be out of place on a Weather Report or Joe Zawinul Syndicate album; a predilection for rubato musings where bassist Karl Bingham’s unshowy virtuosity comes into its own; an ability to sustain hypnotically regular beats (courtesy of ‘new’ member Stefan Kopinski and industrial-strength drummer Steve Harris) without losing tension; a control of dynamic variation that results in the climaxes seeming earned by, rather than gratuitously imposed on, the music. In short, as well as being one of the most viscerally exciting live acts currently operating, Pinski Zoo are a mature musical unit, and should be given credit for spearheading what is becoming an increasingly important and popular jazz movement, creating space for such contemporary bands as Led Bib and Fraud".
Jazz UK - July/Aug 2006 - (JF)
Regular attenders at London’s original Jazz Café in Stoke Newington in the late ‘80s will remember Pinski Zoo – a pioneering UK jazz-funk quartet that seemed to join Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, Albert Ayler and soul-sax music, and whose cult influence was out of all proportion to the exposure it ever had.
This is a double-CD set of Zoo live recordings between 2002 and 2005 – with all those early associations still plain, and what sounds like slightly more of a late-Miles feel at times – except that Pinski Zoo preceded much of the mingling of contemporary styles that has now become commonplace. Two electric bassists give the bottom end fearsome clout, the grooving is rugged and relentless, and the themes embrace the spikily hook-based and the unexpectedly tender. The ‘80s Zoo anthem ‘Sweet Automatic’ isn’t there, the recording quality is variable, and maybe not all the improvising justifies the length it’s represented at – but a unique band in full flight, and happily determined to keep airborne.
Jazz Review -November 2006 - PHILIP CLARK
Pinski Zoo have been playing their own concoction of post-Coltrane, post-Prime Time and post-Albert Ayler abstract funk since the early 1980s. This two-CD anthology pulls together material from live gigs, recorded over a three year span, into a sort of idealized Pinski Zoo performance. Tenor man Jan Kopinski and keyboard player Steve Iliff were in the group’s original incarnation, while Bingham and Harris joined in the mid-80s. Add Stefan Kopinski on electric bass and the basic group aesthetic is unchanged? Pinski Zoo is bigger than any single member.
One could criticize a lack of dynamic range in the performance (somehow even the quiet passages are loud) and a formulaic feel to the music’s structuring, but Pinski Zoo have an immediacy and vigour that’s always compelling. Unlike many post-fusion bands, their music retains a rockist edge and they’re unafraid to be a bit nasty. “Bounce” is dominated by the sort of retchy bass line that’s a trademark, while Jan Kopinski’s tenor has rarely sounded so authoritative. “Father Daughter” treads into what could be described as the ‘driven ballad’ territory that David S Ware occupies so skillfully, allowing Kopinski to reveal his lyrical side. But it’s their up-tempo mania that makes most impression – compromise isn’t a word in their lexicon.
JAZZ UK - JULY/ AUGUST 2006 -CHRIS PARKER
PINSKI ZOO are seen by many (including US drummer’s Mark Holub’s Led Bib drummer) as the originators of what is now known as ‘power fusion’ – a mix of hammered bass, crashing drums, shifting keyboard textures and keening/roaring saxophone rooted in Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics and James Brown’s funk, but more jazz-based than either.
Intriguing, then to hear them (after a characteristically wide-ranging, witty and oddly-moving 40 minute solo-piano-plus-tapes set from the extraordinary Matthew Bourne) after Holub’s band in a June mini-festival at London’s Vortex, programmed by Led Bib. All the old Zoo power and roiling energy were in evidence, leader Jan Kopinski waiting until the band reached near boiling-point before tearing into his anthemic saxophone themes, keyboardist Steve Iliffe providing the textures and moods, bassists Karl Bingham and Stefan Kopinski complementing each other perfectly and drummer Steve Harris crashing out the industrial-strength beat. At full throttle, there’s no sound as full-blooded or viscerally powerful as Pinski Zoo’s – unless its Led Bib’s. The band played a short introductory set that was almost painfully intense subjecting everything from Erik Satie to simple musical hooks to their full-on, two-sax, no-holds-barred approach, powered by Holub’s pounding drums.
WIRE - May 2002 - BEN WATSON
LONDON 93 FEET EAST UK
The poster told us that No Immortal, a club night run by Kingsuk Biswas of Bedouin Ascent, was featuring two “legends” who have “influenced a legon of freestyle Techno, breakbeat and Hip-Hop experimentalists”. The organizers had managed to convene authentic line-ups, too. Pinski Zoo comprised the quartet who cut 1990’s East Rail East , the Zoo’s finest release: Jan Kopinski (alto and tenor sax), Steve Iliffe (keyboards), Karl Wesley Bingham (bass) and Steve Harris (drums). Kopinski hasn’t only learned from Ornette Coleman how to shuffle a groove into freedom, he’s also learned to train the family: his son Stefan Kopinski’s electric bass fitted in beautifully.
Pinski Zoo play a jagged, reconstructed boogie music which manages to solve all kinds of problems which foxed post-Miles Davis fusion. Kopinski isn’t frightened of simplicity, and some of his themes come direct out of Polish folk song and the Gene Ammons-style tenor-Hammond strip joint tradition. But the rhythm section is never cast into a subservient role. In the authentic P-Funk manner, the quintet turn their instruments into a drum circle. With Stefan laying down a heavy ‘one’ (his intro to “Polish Journey” managed to invoke both Deep Purple and dub, something even Davis never quite achieved), Bingham is free to cavort in the upper register, coming on like a cello and even a lead guitar. He has his harmolodic chops down, his thumbed motifs dancing and glinting just like his persistent smile. Iliffe is responsible for the gothic, discordant aspect of the Zoo, a panic nightmare dreamed by Joe Zawinul. His jarring, determinate, ‘bad’ chords chase away the classicism that usually vitiates keyboard contributions. A track from Ghost Music, Kopinski’s spooked-out solo album, was almost unbearably sick and scary. Drummer Steve Harris makes sure each beat feels like an attack, there’s no coasting in the Zoo’s harmonic thinking, and none in the rhythm department either. Faced with this twirling, defiant, East European danse macabre, the audience seemed unsure whether to dance or lie down and die, which seemed quite correct.
The Guardian - April 2003 - James Griffiths
Pinski Zoo is a seriously left-field jazz/funk outfit lead by saxophonist Jan Kopinski. In a career spanning more than 20 years they have won prestigious awards, supported some of the biggest names in jazz, and demonstrated an admirably restless creative spirit. Kopinski's range of influences stretches from free jazz to film soundtracks and the music of eastern Europe, and he mashes them up with gleeful abandon.
In Leeds the performance begins with some eerie sound effects from Steve Iliffe's keyboard and sampler. Drummer Steve Harris sets up a crisp funk rhythm, Kopinski's saxophone makes brisk work of the opening theme and the twin basses of Karl Bingham and Stefan Kopinski mesh snugly together. This first piece is the most successful - infectiously funky, and intriguingly textured. But from here onwards, the gig is something of a bumpy ride.
Pinski Zoo's compositions can be a tad impenetrable. Sculptured around queasy harmonic shifts, they bristle with bizarre electronic ambiences and saxophone solos that last an aeon. They revel in their own ingenuity without really engaging the emotions. The musicians look rather pleased with themselves, but the cumulative effect of all their cleverness is, well, a bit of a racket.
A good proportion of this set is wilful cacophony - Kopinski screws up his face with pleasure each time Iliffe's keyboard barrages reach a peak of sickening intensity. However, there is a genuine problem with the two bass guitars. Funk bass-lines playing in counterpoint is an interesting idea, and one which may well work in a recording studio, with a bit of judicious stereo panning. But in a live environment the two instruments get under each other's feet, muddying the sound.
Funk needs space and clarity - two things there is precious little of in this latest version of Pinski Zoo. Still, Kopinski's demeanour is that of an impish experimenter who fully understands that risk-taking and innovation will not always produce the most harmonious of results. God only knows what he'll think of next.
PINSKI ZOO Poland, tours 1985
Jan Kopinski - sax, Steve Iliffe - piano, Nick Doyne-Ditmas bass, Tim Bullock - drums, Aniruddha Das - percussion
PINSKI ZOO's line up until 2006, featuring the late Steve Harris on drums (click to read his obituary)