Since the release of their critically acclaimed 2019 debut A State of Flow, Ishmael Ensemble has become a platform for band leader & saxophonist Pete Cunningham to subvert the conventional notions of producer/artist relationships, unsettling genre tags, and transcending the familiar landscape of UK jazz itself. Their highly anticipated follow up album Visions Of Light (2021) received instant praise from journalists & broadcasters alike with glowing reviews from The Observer, Future Music, Uncut & Dummy as well as huge support from BBC Radio 6 Music with both singles Morning Chorus & The Gift being playlisted, Huey Morgan choosing the record as his “Album Of The Year” as well as regular appearances on NPR, BBC Radio 1’s Chillest Show & Jazz FM. The record’s success culminated in a 17 date UK & EU tour in November 2021 with sell out shows at London’s iconic Jazz Cafe & Bristol’s legendary Thekla.
Initially a project started by Cunningham to break the mould of making music alone, Ishmael Ensemble’s richly inventive debut A State Of Flow marked them out as an explosive new force in UK jazz, imbuing lush cinematic compositions with left-field dub and electronic sensibilities redolent of Bristol’s vital musical landscape. Named The Guardian’s ‘Contemporary Album Of The Month’ and MOJO’s ‘Jazz Album of The Month’, it saw the group perform Maida Vale sessions for both Gilles Peterson and Tom Ravenscroft, as well as feature on compilations for Brownswood Recordings and Soul Jazz Records. Cunningham’s rise as an in-demand producer has led to remixes for the likes of techno royalty Carl Craig, as well as legendary jazz label Blue Note Records.
Following the release of Visions of Light in August ‘21 and its respective end of year tour, 2022 began strongly with a performance at New York’s WinterJazz Festival at the invitation of Gilles Peterson & BBC Introducing. The band were also invited to support Groove Armada on their last live UK tour at Bristol’s Marble Factory and London’s Brixton Academy, before stepping out on their own into a busy summer of festivals that included main stage appearances on Glastonbury’s West Holts stage, Forwards Festival and We Out Here amongst others. The band also featured prominently on the recent Jazz UK: Spitting Fire documentary that aired on the BBC on June ‘22.
“Music that’s pitched somewhere between astral jazz, burbling electronica, trippy minimalism, psychedelic dub and 20 years of club culture.” The Guardian – ‘Contemporary Album Of The Month’
“Wonderfully expansive; Visions Of Light captures the evolution of a band that reveres innovation and creativity” Future Music – Album Of The Month
“A band seemingly capable of doing anything, yet remaining fleet footedly themselves throughout.” The Wire
“Flawless astral jazz with dance floor savvy” MOJO – Jazz Album Of The Month
“A deeply arresting sound from one of our favourite cities, simply beautiful” Mary Anne Hobbs – BBC 6 Music
“Incredible independent music from Bristol. These guys just get better with every release” Gilles Peterson – BBC 6 Music
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