Black Top


27–30 JULY 2017

Photo by Dawid Laskowski


We’re delighted to present a four-day residency with one of the greatest living UK-based improvisers – Pat Thomas. Criminally unheralded, Pat is a fearless and uncompromising player who – despite coming from a background of free improvisation and new music – can feel as close to the worlds of noise and experimental music. His performances range in approach and texture from fearsome cacophony that can sound like a piano having its guts ripped out, with Pat thumping discordant clusters of keys with his fists or rattling the exterior wooden frame; to delicately soothing passages where his fingers glide over the keys, creating microscopic tones and resonant melodies that can hold an entire sonic landscape.

The residency coincides with the release of Pat’s new LP – The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari – on our own in-house OTOROKU label, which comprises four typically genre-defying and sonically dexterous pieces from one of the UK’s most extraordinary pianists.

“I can’t quite think of anyone else who sounds quite like this: it is in a class of its own.” – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

“Thomas runs the gamut of techniques, splashing clusters, weaving contrapuntal lines and building elaborate structures from the inside out. Despite their variety, they share a fundamental quality – they truly sound like spur of the moment creations, not the final draft of ideas mulled over for weeks, if not months on end.” – Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure


To celebrate the release of The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari we’re offering a special LP + residency pass bundle deal for £38 (£27 members). To order, please click here.




Rachel Musson is a saxophonist, improviser and composer living in London, UK. She is involved with a variety of improvisation projects, including a trio with Hannah Marshall and Julie Kjaer, a duo with vibraphonist Corey Mwamba, and a trio with Mark Sanders and John Edwards. She has released two albums under her own name, one featuring Liam Noble and Mark Sanders (Tatterdemalion, Babel Records), and one featuring her ensemble Skein (Flight Line, F-ire Recorded Music). She also plays with the London Improvisers Orchestra and Alex Ward’s Quintet and Sextet, as well as with a variety of other musicians on the fluid European improvising scene.



Black Top is the duo of multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson 
and pianist Pat Thomas, who createdynamic and purely 
improvised collaborations.The two are joined at the 
Jazz Café,by Sonic Youthfrontman Thurston Moore.
A key member of the cult art punk band, Thurston Moore has 
remained at the forefront leftfield music, exploring new 
sounds and ideas with each new project.
Collaborating with artists like DJ Spooky, Dinosaur Jr., 
Yoko Ono, and even joining the black metal group Twilight, 
Moore has truly cemented his place on the musical fringe in 
recent years. Highly revered for his offhand improvisations, 
Moore has joined forces with the UK'S leading Avant Garde group
Black Top for what will undoubtably be an unforgettable live 
performance to be remembered.

from the concert..


JAMES BLOOD ULMER Trio – Are You Glad To Be In America? + BLACK TOP (ORPHY ROBINSON & PAT THOMAS) with Special Guest Violinist – Mandhira De Saram.

LONDON Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA

£17.50 + Booking fee BUY TICKETS

Blood hurtled headlong from the maelstrom of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time in the early 80s with a visceral collision of rock, jazz and edgy, blues-inflected funk that defined a post-punk jazz attitude.
Are You Glad to Be in America was a massive cult hit on its 1980 release – still laying down a stream of guitar improv consciousness that sounds like no-one else on the planet, Blood revisits a seminal statement in the evolution of contemporary black music with a fast and furious power trio.  Jazz is the teacher – funk is the preacher.

BLACK TOP with Special guest Mandhira De Saram (Violin)..

Opening set from the Black Top core team – Orphy Robinson’s vibes and percussion projecting intricate patterns, colliding and colluding with improv maestro Pat Thomas’s live looping and electronics with special guest the exciting Violinist Mandhira De Saram.   Echoes of dub and reggae, swing and freedom, digital,  analogue and acoustic are welded in music that carries the ‘forceful dignity and beauty of a Jackson Pollock painting’ (All About Jazz)

Part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.





Black Top have finally received some recognition from the UK Jazz establishment for their unique approach to new music.  Last year’s recipient was USA jazz pianist Jason Moran with his Fats Waller project. Black Top with their ground-breaking Concerts and innovative use of Digital and Acoustic instruments, have been attracting musicians of the calibre of Ornette Coleman Bass player Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Celebrated Free jazz stalwart Henry Grimes through to SunRa Arkestra Alumni Marshall Allen alongside their new album Black Top (Number Two) with Saxophonist Evan Parker. Black Top have been nominated for this years award alongside American Trumpet player Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah & Cuban Pianist David Virelles.



blacktop maida vale

Black Top : Pat Thomas & Orphy Robinson

Black Top, the duo of multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas, was initiated in late 2011, as a shape-shifting unit, dedicated to exploring the intersection between live instruments and lo-fi technology.

Their virtuoso, freely improvised performances combine twisted loops, samples and dub-effects, which draw on their Afro-Caribbean roots, with a spontaneity and daring rooted in the free-jazz experiments of New York loft-scene innovators such as Sam Rivers.

Through regular live performances at North London’s prestigious Café Oto and elsewhere, Black Top have concentrated on developing working relationships with musicians from across the cultural and generational spectrum, who can match their own technical dexterity and handle the element of surprise that’s ever-present in their experiments.

To date, live collaborators have included saxophonists Steve Williamson, Shabaka Hutchens, Jason Yarde, Marco Eneidi, Evan Parker, Vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, Fumi Okiji, Spoken Word Artist HKB Finn, Japanese traditional flute player Emi Watanabe, flugel horn player, Trumpet players Claude Deppa, Byron Wallen. Harmonica player Phillip Achille, Asian Percussionist Ansuman Biswas, Trombonist John Harborne.

Black Top Debut Album on Babel Label.

No. 1 with special guest Steve Williamson

by Black Top

  • Compact Disc (CD)
    Includes immediate download of 3-track album in the high-quality format of your choice (MP3, FLAC, and more), plus unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app.
    shipping out on or around 14 July 2014

     £8.99 GBP or more

  • Immediate download of 3-track album in the high-quality format of your choice (MP3, FLAC, and more), plus unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app.

     £6.99 GBP  or more


The debut album No. 1 with special guest Steve Williamson finds the duo reunited with acclaimed UK saxophonist and past collaborator, Williamson, for three wide-ranging musical journeys.

“There Goes The Neighbourhood” begins with Willamson’s unhurried tenor, unwinding like a late-night taxi taking slow corners on city streets. Robinson’s dabs of marimba and Thomas’s sharper piano jabs inject a note of noir-ish, urban tension, while electronic twitters, booms and bubbling rhythms add a neon glare, like street lights reflected in oily puddles.

On “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” Thomas unleashes the astonishing physicality that gives him such dramatic command of the piano: prancing, lurching chords narrow into racing, arachnoid right-hand figures, before a cock-eyed Latin-esque vamp dissolves into splayed pummelling, making full use of aleatory techniques while keeping a keen mind focused on story-telling structure. Robinson’s sharp, pointillist vibes solo is carried off with such daring precision that you can almost see the mallets making contact. It’s all fuelled by an off-kilter electronic rhythm, like woozy, robotic West African highlife.

“Archaic Nubian StepDub” could serve as an apt description on Black Top’s entire aesthetic. On this shorter piece, sci-fi bleeps and whooshes create an edgy dance rhythm, to which Williamson responds with tight circular phrases, pulsing with submerged funkiness.

Black Top’s dramatic, dynamic soundscapes suggest a generous, inclusive and life-affirming music that strives to encompass a 21st century, pan-global worldview. Be glad. Everyone’s invited.


black top at the jazz in the round chantelles photojw surplus photo