Review – David Jackson and René van Commenée – Keep Your Lane

‘Keep Your Lane’ is an intriguing collaboration between David Jackson and René van Commenée. The two artists have known each other for many years, often collaborating on gigs. That friendship and their live performances led to the release of a live CD – Batteries Included in 2003. Jackson also worked with René’s project ‘Mr Averell’. This new recording is the duo’s first studio album that began during the covid lockdown. In the course of reviewing some previously laid down musical pieces David Jackson began re-working arrangements and orchestration – developing new ideas.

When he shared some tracks with René the project brought together two formidable virtuosos. Commenée began adding new production ideas and new parts from his astonishing collection of instruments. That collaboration blends their individual talents into a soundscape of overlaying styles and tempos capturing jazz vibes rock and folk.

Together the duo has created a suite of complex arrangements and multi-tracking with Jackson’s trademark sax and flute interspersed with van Commenée’s percussion. It is a wonderfully diverse collection of tunes that definitely fall into the eclectic and esoteric end of progressive rock and jazz fusion. Take opener Eternal Caravans with it’s pulsating percussion and edgy spiralling brass that gives a North African feel to the music, it is at once gripping but also asks questions of the listener as it builds into a crescendo. Garden Shed continues to pique your interest with its clever, upbeat, jerky delivery, like a brass band jamming with a local jazz collective, it sounds like it shouldn’t work but it really does. I am a big fan of Bird’s Lament with it’s marching band ethos reworked into something dynamic, fluid and thoroughly entertaining and the moody, atmospheric majesty of single release Gateway.

Waving At Strangers continues this diverse musical journey with a sophisticated and refined air, Jackson’s charismatic and compelling sax a laser sharp focus. The intelligent and influential songwriting continues with the intense and cinematic Gridlockdown, a track that could be the soundtrack to a grittier version of Hawaii-5-O and the wonderful medieval pageantry of Hills of The North, another highly satisfying piece of music full of pomp and circumstance. To me, Get A Grip! is a marvellous homage to the crime noir movies of the 50’s, or at least it should be. A true modern classic of dark, edgy jazz fusion with a pronounced air of superiority and a very clever piece of music indeed! Koozokudooro is as quirky a track as its title would suggest, just under two minutes of intrigue and chicanery that puts a smile on my face.

A lively and esoteric jolt of wild escapism mixing time signatures, keys, distorted sounds and voice, Pinball Potter dances suggestively across your synapses and JackLanzCom Haiku sees Jackson’s skittish flute play counterpoint to the moody sax and van Commenée’s strident percussion to deliver a mildly violent musical slap in the face. The new instrumental recreation and orchestration of Pioneers over c, the Van der Graaf Generator (VdGG) classic track from the 1970’s album ‘H to He Who Am The Only One‘. Now titled Pioneers over c, 2023’ is a homage to that elusive track that has only ever been played live once. It features the virtuoso Colin Edwin on bass (Porcupine Tree). Coming in at over ten minutes long, it is a wonderfully evocative piece of music that invokes the heyday of experimental progressive rock in the 1970’s, just lose yourself in the moment and enjoy the awe-inspiring musical tapestry that is laid out in front of you. The album closes with Felona, an impish, wistful piece of music drawn from the ideas that Jackson, with Peter Hammill prepared for VdGG’s Italian friends Le Orme for their 1973 English version of Felona e Sorona, Jackson’s sessions were timed-out, but they were not forgotten and have been reworked especially for this album.

If you’re a fan of intricate music full of expression and inventiveness that showcases the best of jazz fusion and epic progressive rock then go no further, your search is over. A more eclectic album you will be lucky to find this year and I really enjoyed it.

Released 2nd February, 2024.

Links to order CD and download here:

Keep your Lane | David Jackson (

Review – Kaprekar’s Constant – The Murder Wall – John Wenlock-Smith

This then is the new album from Kaprekar’s Constant, it is an interesting concept and listening experience and one that will engage you in some history, bravery, tragedy and triumph, all from the comfort of your own armchair!

The concept is about mountaineering, one of the band, Al Nicholson, knows the area around the Eiger in Grindelwald and Scheigg and came up with the concept of linking six attempts to conquer the North face of the Eiger between 1935 and 2007. This makes for an interesting and unusual set of pieces, as with every Kaprekar’s Constant album. Research has been conducted by the band to make the context real and valid and this project has been well composed and recorded to their usual high quality. The band have really worked on imbuing these tracks with life and capturing the daring boldness of the various climbers detailed throughout.

The album begins with a prologue that sets the scene for all that follows, the graceful voice of Dorie Jackson and the contrasting rougher vocal of Bill Jefferson gel together beautifully and really lend a powerful performance to proceedings.

This is an album that will require you to give it some time for is subtlety to shine through. The music is mainly folk based but with enough electrification to make it worthwhile. There is some understated excellence at play here with some lovely guitar lines and melodies along with great keyboards and the ever reliable saxophone and flutes of David Jackson, whose presence is a key part of this band’s sound and ethos.

After the short instrumental Theme (Hall of Mirrors) we are told of Tall Tales By Firelight on which David really excels, the song talking about the world carrying on in the face of disaster. Failure Takes Care Of Its Own follows and this song tells of the disastrous attempt on the Eiger in 1936 by Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Willi Angerer and Edinburgh Rainer that is still one of mountaineering’s most notorious tragedies. The sound is a moving and sorrowful one and leads into Another Man’s Smile which tells the story of the tragedy the befell the four climbers on the mountain, dying young on ‘The Murder Wall‘ that is the Eiger’s North Face. One that is frequently affected by devastating storms, leaving climbers both exposed and vulnerable to the rarest elements imaginable.

The mountain foe holds beauty, challenge and danger in equal measures, a sentiment that Years To Perfect encapsulates succinctly in its lyrics. This song has a cameo vocal from Judy Tzuke which is a real pleasure and a treat to hear. Hope In Hell extols the bravery and the foolishness of people who try in vain to conquer The Murder Wall and Victorious tells of the day in July 1938 when the notorious wall was finally beaten by Henrik Harrer, Fritz Kasperk, Ludwig Vorg and Anderl Heckmair. Finally, four brave men have tamed the mountain, bravo!

The Rain Shadow is a brief interlude which, I think, points to the years of the second world war 1939-1945 and to Switzerland’s neutrality and to the absence of further attempts to climb the mountain during those years. Third Man Down opens with an elegant guitar line and is accompanied by a beautiful organ. This lengthy opening section is very compelling leading into the odd tale of the attempt by Adolf Derungs and Lukas Albrecht, two Swiss stonemasons who made their ascent in 1959. Albrecht wore an old overcoat that he threw down the mountain leading to fears that one man had died on the climb. The mystery was solved when they both returned from their climb and were able to explain their actions satisfactorily.

A Silent Drum is about the motivation of a man like John Harlin had when he completed the task that cost his father his life on the Eiger some 40 years previously and how he focused his thoughts and efforts with the goal of succeeding in his aim and letting his actions honour his late father’s memory. The Stormkeeper’s Daughter is about the mountain itself and how it feels about being scaled and how it reacts to these attempts. The track opens on acoustic guitar before becoming more of a band piece, the good dynamics on this piece make it memorable, forming part of The Stormkeeper’s Daughter suite. This also includes the haunting World Before Man section before returning to the A Storekeeper’s Reprise.

Endeavour is a brief instrumental interlude before the epic Mountaineers, which evokes the spirit of the sixties adventurers and its references to a swinging London of those tumultuous years. Hall Of Mirrors concludes the album gracefully with a refrain we have heard earlier in the album

This is a fitting conclusion to an impressive and bold album. There is much here that will appeal to fans of good progressive music, especially to fans of Big Big Train as Kaprekar’s Constant’s historical focus offers a similar style and approach. Three albums in and now the band are venturing out once more and in this album they have a fine platform on which to set forth and have given us a superb album with remarkably interesting lyrics too. I do recommend that you have the lyrics to hand whilst listening as it all falls into place that way. Great songs and playing, lovingly produced with great artwork as well, what is there not to enjoy?

Released 25th March, 2022.

Order the album here:

Kaprekar’s Constant – The Murder Wall CD (

Review – Kaprekar’s Constant – Fate Outsmarts Desire – by Leo Trimming

6174 – there you go, 6174 apparently is virtually always the Answer using Kaprekar’s Constant, which may lead some to ask what is the Question? … and what does it have to do with a new Kent based Progressive Rock band, featuring David Jackson, once of veteran ‘Prog’ greats Van Der Graaf Generator? Who knows?

‘Fate Outsmarts Desire’ is their interesting and rather impressive debut album, written and largely played by multi-instrumentalists Al Nicholson and Nick Jefferson, who formed this project in 2015. Why they have the rather peculiar band name is rather a mystery but research shows that ‘Kaprekar’s Constant’ is a number theorem devised in 1946 by an Indian mathematician in which the answer is virtually always the number 6174 in no more than 7 steps… all rather mystifying but you can google it as well if you’re really interested!

Strange as it may seem, the choice of the band name indicates that this is a group with an interest in enigmatic curiosities and history, which imbues the atmosphere of this album.

The stark and memorable opening lines of this album:

“Your band of scrotes and their dredging boats robbed the shingle from under our feet…”

make an immediate statement that this is a work steeped in atmospheric historical narrative. Hors D’Oeuvre effectively acts as a promising overture for the album, referencing elements of the longer pieces to come, and David Jackson evokes slight hints of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers by VDGG with his distinctive droning sax sounds.

Perhaps the strongest and most memorable composition on the album is the elegiac Hallsands, (but I may be biased as I live very close to that beautiful but tragic location!) A fine song based on the true story of the negligent environmental disaster visited upon a South Devon village by rapacious developers who stripped a shingle bank protecting the village to provide material to build the docks at Devonport in Plymouth. This led to the eventual collapse of the whole of Hallsands village in to the sea in 1917 – perhaps a lesson for modern times and it’s exploitation of the environment. The music is suitably nautical and evocative of a simple seaside community falling victim to thoughtless dredgers. Paul Gunn provides some thankfully brief narration interludes, but the main impact is conveyed by the folk tinged fine vocals of Bill Jefferson, conveying more than a little anger and bitterness. Acoustic guitars with whistles and flutes conjure up the simple seaside community, ultimately destroyed by

arrogant lies… the beach went to Devonport, the houses went to the sea”.

Epic in length and evocative in nature, Hallsands holds the attention and touches the emotions with skillfully composed music which very successfully conveys the images atmospherically. Contrasting simple acoustic passages, reminiscent of Jethro Tull in some ways, with more discordant storm driven percussive sections, Hallsands is one of the main highlights of this album, successfully describing a captivating and instructive story in our recent history.

Real US police radio conversations introduce and underpin the remarkable Four-Faced Liar. Inspired by much more recent events, the story of the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers is conveyed in a fine lilting melodic rock song, sung perfectly by Bill Jefferson, backed colourfully with some well judged keyboards and string sounds. The events are described from the perspective of the Clock of the Boston Custom House, called the Four Faced Liar locally as none of the clock faces tell the same time. Maybe that is a metaphor for the different perspectives on how one story can be reported, or may just be an interesting local detail for a band that evidently likes idiosyncratic stories from reality. The relative brevity but excellence of this song is a reminder for progressive rock bands that sometimes ‘less is more’.

Pearl of the Lake features Dorie Jackson (daughter of David Jackson) on some lovely vocals in a much shorter and simpler song, relying purely upon the strength of the melody and the lyrics to express itself.

Dorie Jackson takes lead vocals for the epic concluding piece, Houdini – King of Cards, based on the renowned escapologist. A possibly over extended first lyrical section sets the scene before giving way to an instrumental passage, combining keyboards and saxes possibly conveying the peculiar atmospheres of séances. Houdini was very skeptical of tricksters in his life time, but wondered if he could effectively ‘cheat death’ by communicating with his wife Bess after his death. They agreed on a very personal message between them that he would try to communicate from beyond the grave. Bess started the tradition of spiritualism sessions to see if her husband, the man who could escape from any jail, managed to escape death. For 10 years after his death Bess organized these sessions without receiving a sign from her husband, and then ceased them convinced that even he could not cheat death. The closing melodic section is sung beautifully by Dorie Jackson over a slowly building backing, with her father adding some effective woodwind. The apparently real archive spoken parts from that era are interlaced with this song, and add an eerie and authentic element to the narrative.

In contrast album opener Bluebird demonstrates for me just how NOT to use spoken parts!

Based on the story of Sir Malcolm Campbell and other high speed motoring pioneers Bluebird is introduced and constantly punctuated by short explanatory spoken parts by Paul Gunn, which are clearly delivered in a tone intended to sound contemporary to the story… but have the unfortunate effect of sounding like the rather pompous Harry Enfield comedic character ‘Mr Cholmondley-Warner’. The music is melodic progressive rock imaginatively expressing the events, including the dramatic journey of the car ‘Babs’ along Pendine Sands in Pembrokeshire. A restrained but expressive guitar carries the middle section, alongside Jackson’s saxes and flutes. This is an ambitious song of nearly 18 minutes full of some finely played music, but one has to wonder whether there was enough narrative to justify such an epic treatment. Just when you think it’s over Gunn’s voice pops up to let us know the story was moving to the next stage. This is a clumsy device which for me distracted from the music – it felt like I was looking at a lovely painting in a gallery and then suddenly a tour guide stands in front of it telling me what I am seeing, but now cannot see because the guide is in front explaining it to me! The whole song feels episodic and rather a history lecture, which is a pity as there is some good music on this piece. Perhaps this new band needed to rely less upon the ‘Basil Exposition’ type interludes and really trust much more in the imaginative power of their music.

However, it would be grossly unfair to focus on this flaw, (which explains why the first song on the album appears at the end of the review), rather than commend Kaprekar’s Constant on what is undoubtedly a very promising and good debut album.

They are clearly talented musicians and singers with a mission to entertain and inform with fascinating stories and melodic rock songs. Their historical narrative songs are clearly in the same territory as the eminent band Big Big Train, but let’s not forget that a band such as Big Big Train took quite some years to mature and develop in to their current excellence. If Kaprekar’s Constant continue to develop their evident melodic sensibilities and further hone their songwriting craft they have the potential to offer much more to Progressive Rock. To think that this is a debut album is remarkable…

… now what was the question again?

Whatever, 6174 is the answer.

Released 10th March 2017 via Uranium Club

Buy ‘Fate Outsmarts Desire’ from Uranium Cub on bandcamp