January 22nd 2013

23rd Jan 2013

The year of the Dragon finishes next month: a whole year of my sun-sign! As ever, I am terrible with website updates, and over the last few months I have been especially busy and had no time to sit down to write any concise overview of the events that have taken place. I looked back to a draft I’d written around Halloween, a few days after (if not the day of) the hurricane, and promptly deleted it because it was verifiably out-dated and I couldn’t even use any material from it to write this one.

Today seems like an appropriate time to write a website update. I’m in my warm, cosy 8×8 room in Astoria as the temperatures outside plummet to -4 degrees C, still morning time, up for a few hours due to the spacey bubble jet-lag has left me in after a month in Japan. Seems like the best time to get my website updated… at least where the news is concerned!

My band, Human Equivalent, finally recorded our follow-up material earlier this month, seven tracks brimming with color and energy that we managed to lay down in audio during a day at Bushwick Studio. I think what sealed the deal with this session and experience was working with the owner and engineer Josh Kessler: I instantly clicked with this man’s approach and personality. (Note to self: always work with people with a wonderful sense of humor.) We are looking to get the remaining mixing and mastering work completed next month, in February! I have the album name already at the back of my mind, so it shouldn’t be too long before the record is ready to roll! Otherwise, I’m looking forward to getting back in action with this band in 2013!

I’ve also had the pleasure of performing with Allegra Levy and her project again, through November and December, at various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as Emily Wolf in the Lower East Side area, and have been recording some of Rodrigo Bonelli’s music (when we’re all able to get together on the same day) at an audio recording school in the Manhattan area. Another project is slowly coming together with pianist Sean McCluskey, that will include original material in a Jazz-Celtic crossover vein. Rehearsals are to start very soon!

Work, writing and producing music with The Wig, has been steady, and yielding amazing results, and as time goes on I’m finding new techniques and approaches to using the software to help take our music to the “next level” (or some-such phrase). Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoy the whole process and get a great kick out of working in the electronic genre. Having the balance between electronic and acoustic feels natural for me right now. We are laying down the last foundations for Usessions Records, who are signing three of our Emotional House tracks for our upcoming EP ‘Viisions’ (UR019). This is an exciting step for us, as we’ve been working hard together on developing our material for the past ten months, with more paths emerging as we go.

Twice-weekly performances with Noah MacNeil at La Flor Bakery & Restaurant in Queens have been a continued success and, as always, the best opportunity to perform with a great friend and keep the jazz chops in shape.

2012 was mostly a year of “ups” but November, with its relatively quite spells gig-wise, brought a more devastating event in the form of Hurricane Sandy. The area in which I live, Astoria in Queens, was unscathed for the most part, save for the odd tree or two that had tumbled or uprooted into the streets and onto people’s cars. Because most of us were O.K. in the northern area of the city, it took us a few days to realize that elsewhere in the city, there was major chaos. Personally, from my own standpoint, I felt it was hard to get a sense of what had happened because much of the public transportation system was a jumble, severing us from Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. I know that when I lived in Williamsburg and the ‘L’ was out for a weekend, we all took it for granted that we wouldn’t be going anywhere, so stayed inside. It wasn’t until I saw updates from people that I know generally to be self-sufficient and “strong”, calling out on FB from wifi they had managed to snag from elsewhere, that I realized there was something wrong. I don’t watch the news in the US, and BBC online is obviously selective with its material, but with events as quick as this and a city in hysteria it’s hard to gauge how far the damage extends. I live almost on the other side of town from where a friend and her community needed a hand in the clear-up, but everything is close by in our modern world, so I went down to help. If there are questions being raised in our modern world about “helping” people out as too risky, or as an unwanted expense to your time and (jeeze, I will even go there) ego, then, of course, this isn’t news for us human beings. But I hope for most people it does become old news soon…

Okay, so that’s one of my end-of-2012 two cents’ worth but, ultimately, November spent in New York was both an experience of people at their best and at their worst, going to areas in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach to help with the clean-up. Ultimately, you can’t give up: you have to do what needs to be done. I haven’t much more to talk about on the events, I just went to help.

The beginning of December was intensely busy and by the 18th, I was flying to Japan. The main purpose for the trip was to perform with fellow Berklee-Alum and one of my best friends, pianist Alan Benzie, under a duo project called BG-C Duo (I know, not the most creative name, but it was something we had to whip up on the spur of the moment…!). My first week there was spent at the Naeba Prince Hotel, in the Niigata prefecture of Japan: lots of mountains, fresh air, snow and sports. We played each day there, a few sets per day over the Xmas season at the hotel’s lounge area. It was restful and a wonderful way to spend the Christmas Day: playing music and sharing it with good friends. I want to thank our director for the opportunity, Yasuko Sato, for the event and look forward to (hopefully!) working with her again in the future.

On the 26th, we Shinkansen’d off to Tokyo, where I spent the next 3 weeks. There I reconnected with a childhood friend, Zach Thomas, and was invited to sit in with his band The Deadlines for a couple of sessions. Made up entirely of Bloomberg employees at the Tokyo Office, they put together the group to hone their creative energies outside of work (which, in Tokyo, is a luxury amidst the workaholic lifestyle there) and, to tell the truth, they play some mean music. I had a blast with them!

Another highlight in Tokyo was the BG-C Duo’s performance at the city’s Somethin’ Jazz Club. The club’s name is familiar: it is the partner venue to the SJC in New York and is an equally great hub for live music and various artists from all across the nation (and globe!). We had a great turn-out, playing on Saturday 5th January and it reminded the Alan and I that we will play again and retain that musical connection, despite living in different countries and continents for the time-being.

Otherwise, I actually spent the majority of my time in Tokyo completely by myself, without a useable phone and with no internet connection, save for Starbucks Coffee a few blocks away. I can barely speak any Japanese and I only began reading the most basic of Hiragana whilst being there. For days at a time, walking the streets of Tokyo, speaking only “thank-you’s” now again, I don’t think I have ever placed myself in such a solitary position. I had no street map (I hadn’t thought to buy one before heading East), my only connection to contacts I had was through pay phones at stations (that you sometimes spent 10 minutes trying to find) and I had little knowledge of what the society and customs of Tokyo entailed. But, I walked every length of central Tokyo with the help of a basic subway map, explored many back-alleys, parks and museums, and probably visited close to every temple and shrine in Tokyo. I also took the train south to Kamakura for a couple of days, to explore the hiking trails of the old Capital, one of the most intensely spiritual areas I’ve been to.

The experience I had in Tokyo taught me a lot about a society and culture I knew bits and pieces about, through pop culture, movies and second-hand knowledge. Having little connection with the outside world, it was what I had hoped for. One passion of mine is to observe and experience things first hand. It helps a tremendous amount to have someone to translate and show you around (which I did have, sporadically), but you see very different sides and perspectives of the coin when you’re completely alone. I learnt a lot from being there, related a lot to the society and culture they hold there and came away with personal treasures and images that have added another page to my life’s book, little pieces as a tourist but most of it without any icing or pretty bow on top. The raw thing. And I would do the whole experience all over again in a heartbeat: I’m already planning on it.

So, here’s to 2013. It is going to be an eventful one and I hope to keep things up to date here more often. I already know I am heading to Berlin, Germany, for a week in April, to work on internet music software being developed by James Ingram, a former assistant to the late Karlheinz Stockhausen. We will be using my Electronic Wind Instrument to test out and experiment with this program James is working on for the World Wide Web. Then, in July, I will be working with a UK sextet, LOCUS, on more original material of mine for a short UK tour. More information to come very soon on that!


05th Jun 2012

The last couple of months have been pretty exciting and busy in general. Much of it was taken up with me agonizing over my Artist Visa submission and getting the paperwork sorted for it. Iʼm still awaiting the final approval. All I can do right now is wait. Itʼs a nasty kind of limbo, but eventually you just have to let go and throw the distraction of anxiety to the wind.

The gigging has been great and frequent, and many of the people I meet when out at parties, or checking out local concerts, often knows a friend of a friend and can lead to some great playing opportunities, but there is so much left to explore here, so Iʼm looking forward to seeing what happens next (and then making “what happens next”).

Last month saw me travel down to Baltimore for a couple of trips, to work with a fellow electronic adventurer and musical collaborator, Sean Thornton. He is also the musical director of an arts-based company I work a lot with, Art-Shape. He has a wonderful setup at his house in Westminster, Maryland, and itʼs always a joy to go there and spend hours creating music (normally loops and soundscapes) at his studio. Being in a wide-open space to experiment and get creative is something I havenʼt really done in a long, long time, so itʼs a refreshing experience. Sean was recently working on sound design for a video game down in Miami – he hasnʼt let on what the name of the game is but itʼs set to be released sometime later this month and Iʼm looking forward to playing (and hearing) the end result of the game! Weʼre also preparing for our first excursion into the electronic realms, on June 21st at 9pm, at Fat Baby, Lower East Side, NYC. It should, if anything, be an experience… ;D

As well as that, I have a lot of pleasure in announcing that I will be performing a short recital at the 16th World Saxophone Congress this year, on Saturday July 14th, at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK. Because Iʼve been exploring (with a lot of enthusiasm) some more of the electronic side of music, I decided to create two compositions (Parts 1 & 2, of an overall “unnamed” 20 minute “piece”), the first being made up of synths and sounds Iʼve created, blending the EDM style with
some jazzier harmonies, and the second being mostly coherently composed of samples that I lovingly spent hours cutting up deep into the nights this last couple of months (I actually love the sampling idea, enjoying creating music out of different “materials”, like a patch-work quilt). Electronic Wind Instrument and Alto Saxophone will be featured on the compositions (it is a Sax Congress, after all), but it will be a joy to present something different to those who will be attending!

No matter where I end up residing over the next year or two, another Human Equivalent album is on the cards. In terms of booking gigs for the band at the moment, itʼs been a rather strange psychological stall to wait for this visa approval, so Iʼve been primarily waiting on my future plans before diving head first into investing energy and focus in my acoustic group. The members Iʼve been working with are all amazing musicians, bringing a sound that Iʼm looking for right now and are all a joy to hang out and work with. So, if all goes to plan, I intend to record an album of new, fresh material and to then start making frequent outings in the NYC area.

So, Iʼll leave you with that for now! Once things settle down a little more over this end, I can fill you in with all the gory details… 😉

News update, 23 March 2012

23rd Mar 2012

Well, as per usual, I’ve been rather poor at keeping a regular update on my site here but, I’m happy to say, it’s because there has been an incredible whirlwind of activity going on here in NYC over the last couple of months!

Not too long after my last update, I left my internship at Yessian to properly start getting stuck into the music scene here in NYC. Don’t get me wrong: I was terrified to be leaving such a great group of people. And the parting of ways was certainly friendly! It was an amazing place to be, first moving down to NYC from Boston, and my learning experience there was invaluable. The advertising world, even where music is concerned, is a hard-hitting and competitive one. Every day you had to be on the edge of seat, ready to put your all into the task at hand, because getting a hold of that client and a job, is the name of the game. I’m someone who is versatile in a range of situations but, in honesty, there was an element where I didn’t quite feel ready to settle into that world, so that was a part of the reason why I decided to really throw myself into the deep end and become a full-time (freelance) musician and writer.

Was I fearful that everything would come tumbling down, that my NYC experience would end quickly because I would, ultimately, be struggling? Yes. A lot. For the first couple of weeks of being “free”, I was stressing and gearing myself up for a few months of nothing before I would give up and leave.
The thing is, the situation actually woke me up: I was FREE, damn it! This was a good thing, not a bad thing! No more institution (of any kind), no more worrying about schedules set by other people… It was time to go out and have fun, see people, not network but just re-kindle the love and appreciation of friendships and, ultimately, have fun making music.

Since then, the past 2 months have been the best times I’ve had so far here in NYC, because the music has been much more and I can count a number of people who I respect musically and as friends. Here they are, this is what I’ve been up:

Emily Wolf has been making more strides on the NYC scene, with a gig at least once a month at Caffe Vivaldi in the West Village, LIC Bar in Long Island City and we also have an up-coming gig next month at Triad in the Upper West Side. The musicians in this band are all great people, incredible musicians (many from NEC) and just wonderful to hang with!

The Rodrigo Bonelli Group has had a spate of gigs this month (almost one every week), at the Sugar Bar in the Upper West Side, Shrine in Harlem and Somethin’ Jazz Club in Midtown East. Every gig just gets better and better, the high-octane Brazilian Jazz is true work-out to play and exciting to listen to.

I’m keeping the ball rolling as much as possible with Human Equivalent NYC, booking the group for a gig at least once a month at various venues, from LIC Bar, Shrine and venues in the Lower East Side (where the indie and rock bands settle themselves). We’ve been picking up some great press from local listeners (check out Eric Hathaway’s blog for a recent review). The band has gone through various re-arrangements musician-wise, but I’m digging the current line-up, looking to nurture the sound more!

I’ve also had the pleasure of re-connecting with my friend and musical collaborator Noah MacNeil. He moved down to NYC at the beginning of the year and, through some turn-of-events, we have had a couple of gigs performing as the Leah Gough-Cooper:Noah MacNeil Duo, at a truly wonderful restaurant in Queens, La Flor Bakery & Cafe, where we perform three sets of straight-ahead jazz and originals! They’ve invited us back for another Monday night session, so it’s looking to become a regular weekly slot for us: a free meal and small fee are a great deal, as well as the fact that the owners of this Mexican Fusion restaurant are amazingly generous and appreciative!

As well as all the regular bands I perform with, I continue to perform with pop vocalist Meagan Hickman when she rolls into NYC from Chicago and also recently performed with another, Hannah Sumner, at Brooklyn’s Resort World Casino (which was both at once the most amazingly cool and odd experience I’ve had since moving here!). I also head up to Boston twice a month to play in-house with guitarist and singer George Woods, at 6B Lounge, Sunday nights from 8pm, which is a great excuse to see old friends often as well as having a great music-making time!

And last, but certainly not least, during most days I’ve had the most amazing pleasure to work with a great friend and musician, Rich Chwastiak (aka. DJ The WIG), who has been my travel companion into the world of Electronic and Dance music. In all, I’ve garnered a writing and production role alongside him (under the moniker of PANOOC) and we’ve been accumulating a range of dance tracks for both of us to use in performance, separately and together, and also to share with the community out there. We recently remixed a song by Boston-based group Bad Rabbits (‘Can’t Back Down’), which has been getting a healthy amount of hype from social media sites such as Secret Boston, as well as NYC’s music promoters Scotch & Murder Music and Tennessee’s 128 and Up. We’ve produced another three tracks thus far, hoping to have two more completed in time for April. It’s a great experience working with Rich, and one that I hope will continue for many more months to come!

Diverse or what? I’ve been having a blast working with all these great people and have been lucky enough to get a healthy amount of gigs recently (i.e. almost one every night!) and, although you will walk away from one gig or another with little more than tips, it’s always a good feeling to be creating music, having fun and doing exactly what you love!

So, ’til next time, enjoy the Spring!


16th Jan 2012

Once more, itʼs been a rather long time since I last posted news on what Iʼm up to here. The last 6 months have been an exciting time, here in NYC. I wonʼt go into all the details of what I did, but along with settling into this city a little more, I had many great opportunities to perform frequently with the aforementioned groups and continue gaining experience at my internship!

So, whatʼs in store at the moment? Iʼm having the great privilege to perform with another wonderful singer, Allegra Levy, and her band this month, at a wonderful French Bistro in Brooklyn, and thereafter am hoping to continue working with these great bunch of musicians! Iʼm also continuing to book the odd gig with my own quartet, Human Equivalent (in its many shapes and forms), on a per monthly basis. Open invitation, however: feel free at any time to ask of my services! I am not bound to any one project and am always excited to work with new people and new/different music!

Iʼve been finding much inspiration in a couple of other areas this year.
At my internship, Iʼm finding myself gravitating a lot towards the Mixing/Audio and Sound Designing aspects there – my goal is to gather much more practice and experience in these fields, getting an even better grasp on the various software used in the industry and for my own projects, too.
With this, Iʼve begun to delve more into Electronic music, which has always been a genre that Iʼve gaped at in wonder and adoration from afar for years now. Like anything in the arts, it takes time, patience and practice to fully realize ideas (both sounds and composition/arranging) and understand the full potential of it all – itʼs also amazing in that itʼs a world where you really have to set your own limits as you go along and be really sure of what it is you want to produce, because the rabbit hole can go on and on and on…
In all honesty, itʼs been a while since Iʼve been this inspired and really determined to learn it. Funny how I canʼt seem to escape the educational (or, should I say, self-educational) bug, right…? It now feels like Iʼm ready to pursue this area after all thatʼs come beforehand!

So, as they say, please watch this space. Iʼm excited to go down this path and merge everything I learnt (theory, acoustical performance) with this new platform! Iʼm sure the outcome with be entertaining, at least… :)
In the meantime, the temperature has dropped here in NYC – hereʼs to making it through January with a warm heart…!
Check back in soon!


06th Sep 2011

Yet again, as is the way, it’s been quite a time since I last wrote an update for the site. I can assure you that it’s due to the crazy whirlwind of activity that’s happened over the last few months.

So, seeing as today is Labor Day here in the US, and having been for a vigorous 8 mile walk (yes, exercise is still something I have to put in, even when it’s as scarce for me as it is right now!), a few hours’ practice, some laundry and a spot of cleaning my apartment, it seemed the appropriate time to sit down, relax for the rest of the afternoon and detail some of what’s been going on at the headquarters here.

For the next year, I’m going to be living in Brooklyn, New York (NYC), where I have been now for the past month (since August 1st, to be exact). It’s a school-related work-experience year that all foreign students (unless you’ve committed a crime or some-such idiotic act), are entitled to, so I decided around the time I last updated my site, that I wanted to spend mine in The Big Apple. I’m going to be honest, 6 months ago, the thought of moving to NYC was a daunting and extremely scary prospect: the massive buildings, the fast-paced mentality, the horror stories of being a miserable, starving artist etc., etc.
Would it be melodramatic of me to say that this city has potentially saved my life? Answer: yes (haha!). But for those of you who know what transformation took place with me over the last year, you’ll understand what I’m talking about…

NYC is inspiring because it is a city that constantly reminds you to live for NOW. It has amazing beauty, but also edge and grit. It has it’s quieter, more serene areas, but is also has the most over-the-top-Times-Square-crazy-party-life districts, too. It has an abundance of culture, from so many places and backgrounds, that have created this melting pot over a space that’s not as big as you would think. NYC has the ‘tude but you’ll always get help with your luggage in the Subway. You’ll never get bored with both the scenes and up-to-date ideas and creativity produced by anyone and everyone, Einstein to Average Joe.
And people like it when you smile at them in the street. Even if you or they are a little bit crazy…
In short, I am very happy here and inspired. Thought I’d just express that. Which brings me to the proper update…

So, why am I happy? Because I can be who I really am here:

Human Equivalent is back in business, after a 1 year (and a half)’s hiatus (blame the Masters course… ;). I’ve decided to go back to my roots, to a time when I had the same fiery passion to just make some fun and bristling music with a nice wee group of friends, so am returning to the Quartet setting, with sax, electric guitar, electric bass and drums, for that edgy Rock-Jazz I’ve missed for so long.
Human Equivalent NYC features Serghio Jansen on electric guitar, Alex ‘Busby’ Smith on electric bass and Bob Edinger on drums. They are all NYC-based musicians, all incredible and just some of many of the coolest people I’ve met here so far.
We’ve already done a show, got a small recording out of it, so will be posting that up in the near future, as a little taster, unless we get an opportunity to record something with even better quality before then…!

Some other projects I’m going to be getting a chance to be involved in is drummer Rodrigo Bonelli’s Group, who specializes in a mixture of contemporary jazz & Brazilian music. If you’re in the city, try and check this group out!
I’m also having the pleasure of sitting in with vocalist and composer Emily Wolf over the next month, a great singer who I went to school with, for some more straight-ahead jazz, in some great little settings in and around the city!

So, that’s some of the performances I will be doing/have been a part of. But there’s more…

A good friend of mine from Berklee approached me over the summer to inform me that a company in Manhattan was looking for an intern. As I had only just graduated from the Masters and the world was looking like a rather big oyster, the opportunity was something I definitely wanted to participate in.

Yessian Music is a production house for original music, sound design, audio mixing and music licensing in film, television, advertising, gaming and even theme parks. I was a performance major (along with plenty of composing) for my time at school, so you can imagine that I am very willing to learn the ins-and-outs of the business and how it all works, as it wasn’t the avenue I pursued originally.
Needless to say, I am extremely fortunate to have been given this position and can’t express how much I enjoy working there. Not only am I still continuing to learn, but the team at the office have made my settling-in to NYC even more easy, with their supportive work-ethic and friendship! The advertising industry is one that I never even thought about (mainly just because, again, my previous knowledge of how it all worked was minimal), but it is incredibly creative and the aspects involved with analyzing music and film, deciding what might fit and (for the on-site composers), having to produce something for a deadline, with certain criteria, is amazing to be a part of. It’s also giving me the chance to get to grips with the technology side of music and writing, something I always wanted to do, but never had time to knuckle down to during school.

So, fingers crossed that I get to be a part of this experience a little longer…!

I’m really going to try my best to update more regularly from now on, it’s not that hard an activity to do, really! So, watch this space for a Leah Gough-Cooper news update near you! 😉



News update, 7 March 2011

07th Mar 2011

Hello Folks!

Yes, I am ashamed to say it has been an awfully long time since I gave an update on my latest adventures, and to those of you who visit this website now and again, I apologise a trillion-fold! It’s been pretty much a year – I am a terrible person, I know… 😉

This last year has been a bit of a trip, with some amazingly cool things happening, but also some big changes for myself and also my family and friends. I was going to go into enormous detail about it all, like a chapter from a book, but I decided against it for the meantime. I may publish it for public view in the near future, but for now I just want to let you all know of upcoming projects and other cool things that will be going down in the next few months!

Keep an eye out for my newest project and group, The Janus Quintet. Don’t worry – Human Equivalent are still in the stratosphere, but seeing as many of us will be moving in different directions over the course of the next year or so, I decided to take teeny-tiny break. Plus, I’ve been dabbling with a new instrumentation with this more recent project, incorporating tenor sax into the mix instead of guitar. I adore guitar. Timbre-wise, however, I’m finding some cool new sounds with a 2-horn line-up.
SO, Monday April 11th 2011, we will be performing at the New England Conservatory @ 8pm, in Brown Hall. It is in fact part of my Senior Graduate Recital (as part of my Masters) and will have 2 sets, one of which will have acoustic bass, the other electric.
Check out my gig schedule for the line-up – it’s going to be fantastic! I may even get some tracks recorded for your listening pleasure, if not for a newer release…!

So, what happens after school?
NYC, baby! Well, that’s the plan, anyway. I’m hoping to venture on down to the Big Apple, play plenty of music, perhaps even teach a little and live in the artist environment! I’m currently working a little with a fantastic piano player, Noah MacNeil, originally from the Mass. area. I was fortunate enough to gig with him in Harlem this past weekend at The Shrine and keep an eye out for Banda Magda, led by Greek Singer/Songwriter Magda Giannikou, and also another fantastic piano player, Yuki Shibata. These are sure to be (if not already) regular performers in the NYC scene.
I’m also doing some collaboration work (when we both get it fitted into our busy schedules) with Electronic artist Rudi Zygadlo. Again, did some Sax work on his last album and we’re hoping to do some live performances for a month or two this coming summer, back at home in the U.K., if not in Europe!

And lastly, keep an eye out for an emerging Company, Art Shape. Can’t go into too much more detail about it just now, but I will be most definitely filling you in on it all when the Company takes off and what I’ll be doing as part of it…!

Right, better be off to a rehearsal! I shall back for more updates and maybe some backstory for the past year very, very soon! X

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – The List, March 2010

04th Apr 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent – Future Pop

Dumfries-born, Boston-based saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper’s debut album shares three musicians with drummer Patrick Kunka’s album (reviewed a couple of issues back), and merits equally high praise. While certainly accessible, Gough-Cooper’s intelligently crafted music is way too intense to be a credible future pop, nice though that notion is, but open-minded rock/pop/funk/dance fans may well connect with what is going on here.

The saxophonist’s fluent and inventive work on alto and soprano is supported by responsive and focused ensemble playing and strong soloing from the band, featuring Kunka and pianist Alan Benzie (prominent on Fender Rhodes and electric keyboards as well as piano) alongside guitarist Serghio Jansen and bassist Martin Nessi. George Garzone, a leading figure in the Berklee College faculty, is a special guest on tenor saxophone on ‘Night Surf’.

Kenny Mathieson – The List, 29 March 2010.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Altsounds.com March 2010

28th Mar 2010

With nine instrumentals and an average duration of six minutes, several lead instruments, complex rhythm sections and vague titles that makes you wonder what they were smoking before they made up the set list, calling your album “Future Pop” might be a bit optimistic. However, Leah Gough-Cooper and her band Human Equivalent do have their reasons to be optimistic. Ever since she started out, Gough-Cooper has been hailed as the new jazz sensation and given this album, that’s not a surprise. Entering the world of jazz college only five years ago, when she was sixteen years old, the young saxophonist has been invited to many a jazz festival and played with many a known musician. Drawing inspiration from Frank Zappa and Bjork as much as from Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, Gough-Cooper didn’t take the easy way, but it pays out on her band’s album debut.

Though it’s her name featuring on the album cover and Human Equivalent is definitely her band, ‘Future Pop’ is nothing like a solo album. It is, in fact, quite surprising how small a role she’s got on her own album. Opener ‘Future Pop’ sees her collaborating on an exciting piece of jazz psychedelics, with her and guitarist Serghio Jansen firing away the solo’s on the rhythmic sounds of the Rhodes piano. With the calming ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and the lounge music of ‘Leaf Blower’ in between, where pianist Alan Benzie serves as the main contributor, it’s only on ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ that she’s the one shining out.

Luckily for her, ‘Politix Street’ is the highlight of ‘Future Pop’. ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ is an amazing piece of fusion – combining soundtrack, pop, jazz and experimental rock – with drummer Patrick Kunka and guitarist Jansen highlighting the lot. But it’s the nervous breakdown jazz of ‘Politix Street’, once again with Jansen and Benzie having a prominent role, that shows why Human Equivalent is Gough-Cooper’s band. Rather than being egocentric and the main musical contributor, she only plays when necessary and inspired. But rather than just releasing a collection of improvisational pieces, songs like ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ are quite epic and so much more than the regular jazz composition. Gough-Cooper’s quality doesn’t lie in her talents as saxophonist only, it’s as a songwriter that she really stands out.

In a way, the album title is not as overoptimistic as it sounded at first. After all, before Elvis made the blues rock and roll, jazz was the youngsters wild musical anthem and with so much originality hidden in her songs, Gough-Cooper does give jazz an edge of excitement again. A new jazz revolution taking over the world doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon though, but in her own jazz land, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that she will be seen as an established name any day now.

– Floris Stoter – AltSounds.com March 28, 2010, 02:23 PM

CD endorsement ‘Future Pop’ – Diverse 102.8 FM

06th Mar 2010

This is amongst the best modern jazz I have heard…. I will be playing it on my Monday night programme on Diverse FM, and be recommending it to others. – Tony Catanzaro, DJ and Presenter.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Pipeline Magazine, Spring 2010

06th Mar 2010

Young Scottish saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper has come a long way since she won an international scholarship to Berklee College of Music aged just 16. Still only 20, 2009 found her releasing her second album and playing at the London Jazz Festival. Supported in Human Equivalent by guitar, bass, keys and drums, Future Pop was recorded in Brooklyn, New York. On such a self-composed set it’s good to hear the other members of such an obviously talented band featuring significantly, although of course the main feature is Leah’s athletic technique on sax. Beware, it’s so dynamic it might scramble your brain if modern jazz is not your cup of tea. – Alan Taylor.

  1. MP3: Future Pop ('Future Pop')
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  2. MP3: Leaf Blower ('Future Pop')
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  3. MP3: On the Other Side
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  4. MP3: From the Ash (live at Bar East)
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