NOONWARD is the duo of Sean Noonan and Alex Ward, two composer/performers working at the intersections of rock, jazz, improvised music and contemporary classical composition. The duo’s collaboration began in informal improvised meetings, but when the chance to play a whole evening’s worth of music in public arose, both musicians elected to bring along some pieces from their extensive books of compositions to include as well. Inspired by how well this worked, Noonan and Ward then each began writing new pieces intended specifically for the duo. The results of this evolution can heard on this, their debut CD - which, as anyone familiar with Noonan and Ward’s individual bodies of work would expect, covers a wide and constantly surprising stylistic terrain, bound together by the utter distinctiveness of the musicians’ instrumental approaches. Pieces like Ward’s “Packed” and Noonan’s “Circle Of Willis” burst out of the starting gate with explosive rock energy; whilst by contrast Ward’s “Leaf Count” and Noonan’s “Funnel Weaver” establish in their opening sections a subdued and evocative melodicism. The improvisational rapport and exploration that provided the first point of contact for the musicians is fully on display throughout, but is equally fully integrated into the compositional structures - the pieces eschew head-solos-head predictability in favour of rich multi-part forms frequently carrying strong suggestions of an underlying narrative, to which Noonan’s vocal contributions on three pieces provide tantalisingly cryptic clues.
Alex Ward - Multi-instrumentalist British clarinet/guitarist (Thurston Moore Sonic Youth/Eugene Chadbourne/Derek Bailey)
Sean Noonan drums/vocals
A drummer and composer whose music enthusiastically defies category, Sean Noonan prefers the title “Rhythmic Storyteller” – an apt description for a modern-day sonic griot who spins imaginative yarns in the ancient tradition of wandering minstrels while weaving captivating narrative tapestries via his unique polyrhythmic language. Noonan's wide-spectrum music serve as an extension of his four limbs fusing discoveries from harmolodic jazz-rock to avant-garde chamber music. Noonan has performed and produced albums with many luminaries such as Marc Ribot, Malcolm Mooney (The Can), Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Abdoulaye Diabate, Ligeti Quartet, and Matthew Bourne.
"Independence might be the ruling concept of this drummer/leader’s career. It defines a common relationship not only among his hands, feet, and voice, but between his art and almost everything else in drumland". Modern Drummer Magazine
Alex Ward was born in 1974 and is based in London. He works in composed and improvised music, and areas which combine the two. His involvement in free improvisation dates back to his early teens when he met the guitarist Derek Bailey, with whom he played on many subsequent occasions including Company Weeks 1988, 1990 and 1994. Since then he has gone on to perform as a clarinettist, and increasingly since 2000 as a guitarist, with a wide range of improvising musicians including Steve Beresford, Lol Coxhill, Thurston Moore, Joe Morris and Weasel Walter. Amongst his most regular improvising partners are Steve Noble (including Noble's long-standing improv power-trio N.E.W.) and Dominic Lash; and he has played in ensembles led by Simon H. Fell, Eugene Chadbourne, Duck Baker, and Luke Barlow (with whom he runs the label Copepod), as well as being a member of Charles Hayward and Charles Bullen's This Is Not This Heat. From 1997 to 2001 he co-led the rock band Camp Blackfoot with Benjamin Hervé, and in 2005 he released a solo album of his songs entitled "Hapless Days". (His two subsequent solo releases "Cremated Thoughts" and "Proprioception" are albums of clarinet improvisations, from 2008 and 2017 respectively.) Other current projects as a composer and/or leader include Forebrace, the Alex Ward Quintet/Sextet, the ensembles Items 4 & 10, and Dead Days Beyond Help.