F-IRE, in its prehistory over 10 years ago began as a workshop - a group of young musicians met to learn West African dance music, and its theory and methods of communication. They applied their learnings to inform their own compositional and improvisational languages. Timeline was one of the bands that first surfaced from this.
Barak Schmool (saxophones, percussion) bandleader of Timeline (Afro-rhythmic jazz) started the whole affair. He was a member of Django Bates' Delightful Precipice and had grown up musically inside the fertile environment around Loose Tubes. He has played extensively with Robert Mitchell's Panacea, Bosco De Oliveira and Nana Tsiboe. As a regular teacher at City University and Royal Academy of Music, it was his experimental pro-community bands Akwaaba drum orchestra, Méta Méta (Cuban batá Fusion) and Rhythms of the City (samba bateria) that were part of the attractive force that pulled people together to form F-IRE.
Joining him in these initial creative explorations were (amongst others, notably singer Eska Mtungwazi, Robert Mitchell, drummers Tom Skinner and Iian Pattinson...) Nick Ramm, Tom Herbert, Leo Taylor and David Okumu who formed Timeline... later though their own creative outlets were to be even better known.
Nick Ramm (keyboards) bandleader of his own circus-adventure quintet Clown Revisited (including Ben, Finn and Oren - see below) has established himself as one of the most imaginative young players on the London's jazz scene after leaving Guildhall's postgraduate jazz course. A regular sideman of Byron Wallen amongst many others, his unique sound has formed an irreplaceable part of Jade Fox along with co leaders Tom Herbert, Tom SKinner and David Okumu.
Tom Herbert (basses) was a student a Guildhall, his anchorman role underpinned not only those bands just mentioned,but many, many others. Tom was the connection to Pete Wareham and Seb Rochford, playing in both their bands and juggling acoustic and electric basses in the process. His solid presence has warmed also Oriole, Méta Méta, Synergy, Finn Peter's Quintet within F-IRE and countless groups outside, including Tim Richards and Tim Lapthorn to name but two.
David Okumu (guitar) meanwhile, was juggling music with a degree in History & Politics. When finally released, his powerhouse soloing graced countless acts at the funky end of the world including Eska, Ty, Bembe Segue... whilst he and the co-conspirators of Jade Fox have secured an underground following that eagerly awaits their coming album. David was nominated in the rising star at the BBC Jazz Award 2004.
Leo Taylor (drumkit) from the impeccable musical parentage of Norma Winstone and John Taylor, came with an incredible experience in dance music of many forms coupled with the most adventurous outlook of a contemporary jazz player. His driving style defined the early atmosphere of the collective's sound and led to many credits with 'older' acts including Nitin Sawnhey, 2 banks of 4, Bembe Segue and New Sector Movements.
Finn Peters (saxophones/flute) had been to Guildhall too, he had been a prizewinner in Young jazz musician of the Year 1998 and played in Méta Méta, where his extensive Afro-Cuban experience (Giovanni Hidalgo, Jimmy Bosch, Bobby Matos, Herman Oliviera) was invaluable. Outside this, Finn's dance music label Mantella (releasing his Dr. Seus project), his new band 'Bansuri' (with Eska abd Bembe Segue) and membership of contemporary classical ensemble Nosferatu, show him to be one of the most stylistically flexible of artists. His long association with the David, Nick and Tom Herbert have also realised a jazz quintet 'Finntet' whose debut CD is awaiting release. Other sideman credits have amazingly included Sam Rivers, Tony Allen and Sa-Ra Creative Partners, DJ Spinna, 2 Banks of 4 and 4 Hero.
Pete Wareham (saxophones) had too been a prize-winner 1997 Young Jazz Musician of the Year and at Guildhall and also recently toured with Sam Rivers, but it was his masterminding of Acoustic Ladyland and partnership with Seb Rochford that have brought him the highest accolades. Winning Best Band at this year's BBC Jazz Awards and 'Last Chance Disco's nomination there for Best Album, has made Acoustic Ladyland a near household name, captivating new and unexpected audiences with its hip London punk-jazz. Pete has brought his fiery sax playing to a wide variety of other projects including Jonathan Bratoeff's latest quartet CD.
Seb Rochford (drumkit) was initially attracted to London from Aberdeen by the bright lights of the city and ended up becoming one himself. Polar Bear, his darkly humorous two-tenor quartet has received a Mercury nomination this year, a year after he received the Rising Star award from the BBC. But Polar Bear is just the tip of the iceberg for Seb - his alt-rock and electronica leanings, his own new elecro/acoustic trio Fulborn Teversham (with Nick and Pete) and of his widespread presence: with Julia Biel, Ingrid Laubrock, Oriole, Menlo Park, Tim Richards, Basquiat Strings and Jonathan Bratoeff show a mature and broad artist waiting to surprise us again and again.
Ingrid Laubrock (saxophones) had also come through Guildhall, she had a connection through both the 'Latin' side of the Collective (co-leading the Brazilian bands 'Nois' and 'As Meninas' with Monica Vasconcelos and Ife Tolentino) and also through her extensive jazz playing. Her quintet has recorded for both Candid and F-IRE, and her latest CD 'Forensic' (on F-IRE) features Ben Davis alongside other F-IRE stable-mates. Ingrid also notably plays with Tom Arthurs' Centripede and Jonny Phillips’ Oriole, she was nominated this year for Rising Star at the BBC Jazz Awards.
Tom Arthurs (trumpet) had been a student under Barak at City University, his nomination for Rising Star at the 2004 BBC Jazz Awards followed an incredible debut recording with his quintet 'Centripede' that showed his creative force as a oblique improviser and ambitious composer. He has recorded and played with a wide variety of projects including Justin Quinn's Bakehouse, Chartwell Dutiro's Spirit Talk Mbira and Richard Fairhurst. Tom's latest projects Anglo-Canadian trio 'Squash Recipe' and Electronic duo with Ollie Bown still retain an unparalleled sense of the risky adventure.
Ben Davis (cello) is one of Europe's top jazz string players. His cross-over string quintet Basquiat Strings intertwines the written and the improvised imperceptibly. His own compositions in this field are often emotional epics with a conception far beyond the expected. Ben has been a part of Django Bates’ Delightful Precipice in its early days, where he met Barak, and the demand for his quality of rhythmic string playing has taken him to work with Huw Warren, Christine Tobin, Jamiroquai, Eska, Julian Joseph and Mike Westbrook and Ingrid Laubrock’s Quintet amongst many, many others.
Julia Biel (voice) was the winner of Perrier (jazz) Vocalist of the Year in 2000. She was once part of Robert Mitchell's Panacea but her other F-IRE collaborators are many. Her pure and silky delivery has appeared on Polar Bear's first CD 'Dimlit' and Oriole's 'Song for the Sleeping' whose bandleader Jonny Phillips is her regular song writing partner. Julia's own first CD 'Not Alone' was released earlier this year to rave reviews.
Joe Bentley (trombone) had been at university with David Okumu. His longstanding friendships with all the F-IRE family have led him to play and record with Synergy, Eska, Bembe Segue, 2 Banks of 4, Chartwell Dutiro, Menlo Park and Polar Bear. Joe has also been a strong organising presence in the community, spearheading several initiatives that have resulted in commissions for F-IRE composers.
Maurizio Ravalico (percussion/voice) arrived in the UK from Italy and quickly established himself in a host of successful bands including Jamiroquai and the James Taylor Quartet. His connection to F-IRE came through his extensive knowledge of Afro-Cuban music. One of his past projects, Afroshock, was centred around the same repertoire as Méta Méta, for whom he now sings and plays percussion. Maurizio has also been singing and playing in F-IRE's samba bateria, Rhythms of the City, and he is one of the most demanded conga players in the London salsa scene; but besides and above all that he is a passionate experimenter. As a core member of the Italian collective Ezzthetic his name appears in a number of European productions associated with contemporary and visual art, and he is often to be seen performing around the London improvised music venues circuit.