Empirical

Live Act Jazz Contemporary Jazz Improvisation free jazz
Empirical - Jazz Contemporary Jazz Improvisation free jazz Live Act in London

Empirical Short Info

“Empirical could turn out to be one of the most important bands in British jazz history” (Jazzwise, 2009) – there can hardly be a more expectant prophesy to live up to for a young band, but since their formation in 2007, Empirical haven’t ceased proving their indefatigable and fearless creative fervour while honing an instantly recognisable group sound rife with raw energy and roiling emotion.

Featuring Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Tom Farmer (double bass), Lewis Wright (vibraphone) and Shaney Forbes (drums), the band settled on its current line-up in 2009 following the departure of three of the original college-friends quintet. A tribute concert to Eric Dolphy, centred on his classic 1964 album Out To Lunch! found Facey and Forbes joined by Wright and Farmer. The quartet bonded through a sense of common purpose: “I’d never met guys who took it so seriously. The process of studying together is really what brought us together, and we just carried on doing it” recalls Tom Farmer.

Collective study and exploration has remained the bedrock of Empirical’s creative process and has seen the band assimilate influences from right across the rich history of jazz. While oblique harmonies, translucent textures and jagged, quick shifting rhythms are the signposts of Empirical’s musical territory, the band is not afraid to explore other musical realms: a collaboration with the string ensemble Benyounes Quartet, and the attendant challenge of making strings an integral part of the Empirical sound, brought out some of the band’s most complex and lyrical writing.

Empirical’s sound is defined by a deep commitment to improvisation and a uniquely collective spirit that allows each band member to play an equal part in shaping the music, during recording and in live performance. The band’s rare instrumentation lends perfect expression to this vision: “Empirical are among the most admired and individual-sounding bands in contemporary jazz. […] Much of this is down to the instrumentation of alto saxophone, vibraphone, bass and drums, which has the lightness and clarity to convey quite adventurous ideas without losing the listener along the way.” (The Observer, 2016).

Empirical’s knack for pushing boundaries is not limited to their music: in an effort to win new audiences for jazz, in February 2016, the band took their music directly into people’s daily lives by setting up a week-long ‘pop-up jazz lounge’ at Old Street Underground station in central London. Performing 16 live sets over the course of six days, including an 8am gig for surprised morning commuters, their risk-taking approach paid off amply by attracting close to 3,000 listeners, many of them new to jazz and Empirical.

Playing an intense run of gigs such as their 2015 six-day residency at Foyles bookshop or the recent pop-up lounge has also been a way of fulfilling the band’s ambition to develop music through experimentation during live performance. “We’ve always had huge respect for all those great bands that played together night after night.” notes Shaney Forbes. “It was pivotal to how their music developed and being able to do that ourselves allowed us to be in the mindset of improvising and composing on the spot.’

Coming together in an environment that treats jazz as a search rather than a destination, jazz’s heyday isn’t just a musical inspiration: “That constant search for meaning in the early avant garde was really powerful and it’s essential to our band.” Not least in seeing Empirical as a long-term collective project as Lewis Wright emphasises: "We're really committed to each other. We've been together for almost ten years, produced five albums and have no plans to put the brakes on." On the contrary: the band plans to take its ‘pop-up jazz lounge’ concept UK-wide and is seeking to establish a permanent base at a concert hall in their home town London, while touring their latest release, Connection, across the UK and Europe.

Despite the intellectualism often ascribed to jazz, for Empirical, it’s ultimately all about moving, rather than impressing their audience. As Nathaniel Facey sums it up: “It’s nice having people realise that they don’t have to ‘understand’ what we’re doing. That it’s really about what the music is communicating. Can I hear some honesty and some depth? Does it mean something to me? Does it move me?”

Press quotes:

‘Empirical are among the most admired and individual-sounding bands in contemporary jazz […] As anyone who has heard the band live will know, their approach is so fresh and their sound so appealing that there’s never a dull moment. Much of this is down to the instrumentation […], which has the lightness and clarity to convey quite adventurous ideas without losing the listener along the way’ – The Observer (2016)

‘Empirical, soon to celebrate ten years as a quartet, still maintain the aura of tightly disciplined, creatively-driven firebrands’ – London Jazz News (2016)

‘Empirical are a prime argument in favour of a band that stays together down the years, honing their group empathy and common cause’ – The Jazz Breakfast (2016)

‘A significant renewal of Empirical’s commitment to giving 1960s hard bop and free jazz (probably still their deepest loves) a 21st-century identity.’ – The Guardian (2016)

‘Empirical's skill and ingenuity keep on growing’ – The Guardian (2013)

‘Empirical have become fascinating and fearless’ – The Guardian (2011)

‘(Empirical) continue to display a fiercely imaginative sensibility, producing music as challenging and stimulating as anything on the international scene’ – MOJO Magazine (2011)

‘Empirical could turn out to be one of the most important bands in British jazz history’ – Jazzwise Magazine (2009)

“Empirical could turn out to be one of the most important bands in British jazz history” (Jazzwise, 2009) – there can hardly be a more expectant prophesy to live up to for a young band, but since their formation in 2007, Empirical haven’t ceased proving their indefatigable and fearless creative fervour while honing an instantly recognisable group sound rife with raw energy and roiling emotion.

Featuring Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Tom Farmer (double bass), Lewis Wright (vibraphone) and Shaney Forbes (drums), the band settled on its current line-up in 2009 following the departure of three of the original college-friends quintet. A tribute ...

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Empirical on Tour

  • 16 | 12 | 2016 Reading, UK Progress Theatre
  • 20 | 12 | 2016 London, UK Old Street Records
  • 06 | 01 | 2017 Muenster, Germany Muenster International Jazz Festival
  • 03 | 02 | 2017 London, UK Kings Place - 'Curated by Empirical' series launch

Past Gigs Empirical

  • 11 | 2016 London, UK Old Street Records
  • 11 | 2016 London, UK Kings Place - London Jazz Festival
  • 10 | 2016 London, UK Old Street Records
  • 09 | 2016 London, UK Old Street Records
  • 09 | 2016 Winchester, UK The Barn
  • 08 | 2016 Bremen, Germany Bremen Musikfest
  • 07 | 2016 Manchester, UK Manchester Jazz Festival, Albert Square
  • 07 | 2016 Marlborough, UK Marlborough Jazz Festival
  • 07 | 2016 Vienna, Austria Vienna Jazzfest, Porgy and Bess
  • 06 | 2016 Munich, Germany Unterfahrt
  • 06 | 2016 Berlin, Germany A-Trane
  • 03 | 2016 Bedford, UK Bedford Jazz Festival
  • 03 | 2016 London, UK Kings Place - 'Connection' album launch
  • 02 | 2016 London, UK Jazz in the Round, Cockpit Theatre
  • 02 | 2016 London, UK Empirical 'Pop-up Jazz Lounge', Old Street Station
  • 11 | 2015 Southampton, UK Turner Sims Concert Hall
  • 10 | 2015 Calstock, UK Calstock Jazz Festival
  • 09 | 2015 Lancaster, UK Lancaster Jazz Festival
  • 07 | 2015 Lviv, Ukraine Alfa Jazz Festival
  • 09 | 2014 Bradford on Avon, UK Wiltshire Music Centre
  • 08 | 2014 Nis, Serbia Nisville Jazz Festival
  • 09 | 2013 Paris, France Jazz de la Villette
  • 12 | 2012 Vietnam British Council Touring
  • 11 | 2012 London, UK London Jazz Festival
  • 11 | 2011 London, UK London Jazz Festival
  • 07 | 2010 Molde, Norway Moldejazz
  • 05 | 2010 Cheltenham, UK Cheltenham Jazz Festival
  • 05 | 2010 Countances, France Jazz Sous Les Pommiers
  • 11 | 2009 London, UK London Jazz Festival
  • 05 | 2009 Bath, UK Bath International Music Festival
  • 11 | 2008 London, UK London Jazz Festival
  • 08 | 2008 Newport RI, USA Newport Jazz Festival
  • 06 | 2008 Montreal, Canada Montreal Jazz Festival
  • 06 | 2008 New York, USA New York Jazz Festival
  • 06 | 2008 Vancouver, Canada Vancouver Jazz Festival
  • 07 | 2007 Toronto, Canada Toronto Jazz Festival
  • 07 | 2007 Rotterdam, Netherlands North Sea Jazz Festival

Discography Empirical

  • 2016 Connection Album | Cuneiform Records
  • 2013 Tabula Rasa Album | Naim
  • 2011 Elements of Truth Album | Naim
  • 2009 Out 'n' In Album | Naim
  • 2007 Empirical Album | Destin-e

Media

  • Video EMPIRICAL - 'The Two-Edged ...
  • Video EMPIRICAL - The Making of '...
  • Video EMPIRICAL - '6 Days in Old ...
  • Video Empirical Live @ Studio 2 "...
  • Video Empirical Live @ Studio 2 "...
  • Video Empirical Live @ Studio 2 "...
  • Video Empirical - 'Yin and Yang' ...
  • Video Empirical - 'Mean What You ...
  • Video Empirical - Scoffie (Live a...
  • Video Empirical - The Making Of T...
  • Video EMPIRICAL - The Making of '...

Fan Radar

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Origin

  • London GB

Founded

  • 2007

Members

  • Tom Farmer Double bass
  • Nathaniel Facey Alto sax
  • Lewis Wright Vibraphone
  • Shaney Forbes Drums