Ace Tone

Ace Tone

Neutrino Funk Experience



Ron Samsom (drums)
Cameron McArthur (bass)
Roger Manins (sax)
Grant Winterburn (Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, acoustic piano)

A regular sideman on numerous Rattle Jazz releases, Ron Samsom's first album as band leader is an affectionate, no-holds-barred, pumping homage to 70's jazz funk.

Ace Tone bristles with energy and attitude, evident not only in the forward-leaning thrust of the performances and depth of generic understanding, rigour, and at times wit of the compositions, but also the gritty, full-frontal muscularity of the recording. On every level, this album kicks! There is confidence to burn from every one of the talented collaborators on Ace Tone, confidence that stems from years of application and understanding, but more importantly a deeply intuitive, visceral connection with the propulsive heart of hard-grooving jazz. But what makes this music truly infectious and wholly authentic is the passion and warmth at it's core, the sheer joy of groove, and grit, and pump! 



RAT-J-1027 (July, 2015)
This album was made with support from the University of Auckland, and Victoria University of Wellington.

  Ace Tone
  Ron Samsom and the Neutrino Funk Experience  

  Produced by Ron Samsom, Cameron McArthur, Roger Manins, and Grant Winterburn
  Recorded and mixed by Jordan Stone at Roundhead Studios, assisted by Jason Huss
  Mastered by Michael Fossemkemper at Turtle Stone Studios, New York
  Design by Carolyn van Hoeve, UnkleFranc
  Printed by Dave Trotter at Studio Q, Auckland

    Ben Harper (4:34)
    Don't Me (8:00)
    Neutrino (6:35) 
    Other Brother (6:52)
    Ace Tone (4:26) 
    Flat Cat (4:05)
    Portmento (4:27)
    Dog Pizzle (6:20)
    Scrub the Pans (6:10) 
    Ginger Beaver (7:13)
    Mr Fluffy Bunny (3:42)
    Love Forever – Yeah Whatever (9:02)
    Simple Facts (7:30)

    All compositions © Ron Samsom, 2015


The Neutrino project started off as a residency at the Albion Bar in Auckland. The line-up of Ron, Grant, Roger and Cam came together quickly, and the tunes were developed from some sketches Ron had knocked up on and old acetone organ left in the drum room at Auckland University. Alomng with some ideas gleaned from Sonny Stitt. The group had one rehearsal and then went to the gig.

The back story is that Ron had toyed with the idea of initiating a high-energy rock-jazz style of project, not too cerebral or complicated, but a gritty, engaging style of music that could easily be taken out and played anywhere. The intention was to create music with plenty of space and simple hooks to allow the soloist to freely embellish and drive the ensemble. Ron initially thought he would bring more comlexity to the drums, but the simpler he played, the more the music developed. This gave Grant and Roger a huge amount of room in the context of how the music evolved, and the musical jeering and banter between them makes for some interesting tensions that no one could have predicted before hand. These two frontliners are a bit like roommates fighting over food, and with Cam and Ron laying a solid a foundation for their musical antics, you get the full impact of their story telling. It’s definitely a band effort.

Ron Samsom is an Auckland-based drummer, composer, and educator, and is the coordinator of jazz performance at the University of Auckland. Ron’s unique approach to performing has made him a highly regarded and much-sought-after musician among musical communities here and abroad. With many ongoing collaborations and projects such as the FSH Trio, Samsom Nacey Haines Trio, DOG, and Neutrino Funk, Ron has established a strong publishing relationship with Rattle Records, sharing with the label a similar goal of producing a rich tapestry of improvised music featuring predominantly New Zealand musicians. Ron has performed with a wide range of visiting international artists, including Marc Isaacs (AUS), Benny Lackner (GER), Mike Nock (AUS), Barney McAll (USA), Chris Cody (FRA), and James Muller (AUS). Notable achievements include winning the Tui award in 2015 for Dog, and in 2010 for Whirimako Black Sings.

New Zealand born Roger Manins is one of the leading jazz saxophonists in Australasia, described as ‘that rarest of musician who manages to effortlessly marry tradition and individuality, swinging hard-bop with feisty modernism, and a sound that can at once charm and excite’. In 2012 he was awarded a ‘jazz hero’ award by the International Jazz Journalist’s Association in recognition of his outstanding ability, passion, services to education and to the community, and in 2002 he was the winner of the Australian Wangaretta National Jazz Awards for saxophone.

Over the past 10 years he has worked with some of the finest jazz musicians in the world, featuring on approximately 30 jazz CD releases. His recent CD publication ‘Two Out’ with internationally acclaimed pianist Mike Nock has received international recognition including a 4.5/5 star review in The Australian. His collaborative CD release DOG won the Tui for Best Jazz Album of 2015, and he has featured on numerous award-winning and runner-up albums. His performances with the Sydney based Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra received critical acclaim, particularly recent concerts with Grammy Award winner Maria Schneider at the 2013 Melbourne International Jazz Festival of Jazz and the 2015 Sydney Festival. He is co-founder and artistic director of Creative Jazz Club, Aotearoa.

Grant Winterburn is one of New Zealand’s leading keyboard players. His wealth of experience across a wide range of musical genres has made him in demand as a musical director, pianist, accompanist, jazz organist, session musician and music tutor. Grant is an Artist Teacher at the University of Auckland School of Music.

Musical director credits include: The Pirates of Penzance directed by Raymond Hawthorne for Ben McDonald productions; Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris for Unitec School of Performing and Screen Arts; Richard O’Brien One Night Only; Cabaret directed by Michael Hurst for Auckland Theatre Company; Assassins directed by Oliver Driver for Silo theatre; RENT for Auckland Music Theatre; The Threepenny Opera directed by Michael Hurst for Silo theatre; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee directed by Murray Lynch for the Auckland Theatre Company; Marlene starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand as Marlene Dietrich; The Rocky Horror Show directed by Simon Prast for Auckland Theatre Company; and Geoff Sewell (Amici Forever) NZ tour and concert DVD.

Keyboard player credits include: Mamma Mia; NZ’s Got Talent; Stars in their Eyes; Midge Marsden; The Ladykillers; Jersey Boys; Cats; Anything Goes; and Avenue Q.

Since graduating for the UoA jazz programme in 2012, Cam has played with artists such as Nathan Haines, Carolina Moon, Jonathan Crayford, Sal Valentine and the Baby Shakes, to name a few. He has quickly become the first call of the younger generation of jazz musicians making their mark on the scene.


Coser to home, but not less joyful (as the review prior to this review of Ace Tone), is Auckland jazz drummer Ron Samsom's first outing as a band leader with his Neutrino Funk Experience. Jazz gets a bad rap from those who think its noodling too highbrow to crack a smile, but the combination of Grant Winterburn's organ and Roger Manins' sax plays with 70s jazz funk grooves like a comedian riffing his way through a killer set of heckler comebacks.
Samsom and bass-man Cam McArthur do far more than keep the beat, pounding out rhythms to create an in-your-face album that brims with wit and vitality.
James Belfield, The NZ Listener

Ron Samsom’s Neutrino Funk Experience ‘Ace Tone’ album has so much up front punch that that a warning is needed on the label. It is an album that grabs you by the lapels and demands your attention. As you listen it transports you to a world of joy. The album and the live band exudes a vitality that enters through your pores, pulsing through your body like the wild blood of extreme youth. Try as you may, it is impossible to keep still as the rhythms consume you limb by limb. While the album brings historic musical references to mind, it is very much of the present. This is Jazz Funk at its very best.Ron 'Ace Tones' 094There is cleverness aplenty in the album, but that’s not what it’s about. The pulse, punch and danceability are the draw cards. The tunes let each listener glean their own references. During the album launch someone said, “Oh wow that takes me back to Deep Purple”, while others talked of the Jazz funk gurus like Herbie Hancock, Eddie Henderson and Jimmy McGriff. What ever references people heard, one thing is for certain. This band updates 70’s Jazz Funk as few other albums do. A lifelong fan of the classic genre observed, “few classic 70’s funk albums actually sound as good as this”.
There is a hackneyed saying that states; good Rock music is simple music made to sound complex and good Jazz is complex music made to sound simple. That brings me to Samsom’s compositions. Samsom joked that the tunes were so simple, that anyone who couldn’t learn them in minutes was wrong for the band. While the heads are often simple, the weave of the music is not. These tunes are skilful constructs and the subtle shifts and turns are deeply nuanced. The writing allows for open-ended improvisation and soloing, while never letting the over-arching themes subside (e.g. the single bass note and organ chord dominating ‘Simple Facts’ or the catchy closed loop melody line played on bass in ‘Other Brother’). Driving everything like a powerful locomotive is that amazing back beat. There is no mistaking the leader. Samsom is authoritive.Ron 'Ace Tones' 090 (1)Material like this needs highly skilled and experienced musicians in order to extract the maximum advantage and that is exactly what Samsom got. This is an alignment of talent that works so well that they must surely build on their success. The Neutrino Funk Experience formed in 2014 and started doing regular gigs at Auckland’s Albion in the central City. The word soon got around and one by one we drifted down to see them. The band stood-out from the first day and the disbelieving expletives from experienced musicians confirmed what our gut told us. These guys were total ‘muthas’.Ron 'Ace Tones' 089Roger Manins always sounds great but he has excelled himself here. This brand of earthy down-home funk is a natural place for him and his own funk albums reinforce that view. Manins just tears the place up on these sessions and it would be hard to find his equal. There are times when he apparently defies gravity, rising to his toes and abandoning self to move inside the music. These are moments of pure Zen and I watch for them now. Man and instrument becoming one and out of the bell streams a cornucopia of sound, distilled from the human experience. From the otherworldly wails to the gentlest urgings you recognise Manins uniqueness. Organist Winterburn said of him, “Working with Roger is perfect for me. He’s such a rhythmic saxophonist”. Coltrane, old school funk, ballads and modern edge; it’s all there in the sound.   
Grant Winterurn is another extraordinary talent and a fully formed musician. He can talk engagingly on anything musical; complex theory, Bill Evans, Kieth Jarrett, Rick Wakeman, Brother Jack McDuff or Schoenberg. Securing him for this unit was a masterstroke. He is a busy working musician and consequently we don’t see enough of him on the scene. When he does appear an audience follows; he has admirers everywhere. He is not only the consummate organist, pianist and keys player but a great showman. When a C3 or B3 player sits at the keyboards lumpen it feels plain wrong. There is no chance of levelling this criticism at Winterburn. He is delightful to watch and to listen to. Few keyboardists are better able to co-ordinate limbs, groove and flourish like him. Like all improvisers he creates maps of sound in his head and the logic of his solos draws on his wide musical knowledge.Ron, Neutrino 086On the album we have Cameron McArthur on upright bass. Even before leaving the UoA Jazz school Cameron was punching well above his weight. I would describe him as an instinctive player. Knowing where to place his lines and always strongly supportive of other band members. He quickly became a fixture in quality rhythm sections and visiting artists praised him. After a trip to New York to check out the scenic he picked up some work in cruise ship bands. By happy coincidence they had cut the album prior to him leaving. So punchy are his bass lines on ‘Ace Tones’, that you think he is playing an electric bass. In his absence Samsom hired Karika Junior Turua for the launch gig. Again this was a good choice. This time we did hear an electric bass and as Turua has experience with Jazz funk, the transition from upright to electric bass was seamless.Ron 'Ace Tones' 088 (1)Lastly there’s the album art work and the recording credits. Who ever created the cover design and layout must feel pleased; they did an amazing job. The presentation tells the ‘Ace Tone’ story perfectly. My friend Iain Sharp and I were involved in the project as liner notes providers. As requested we contributed poems. It is rare (but not unheard of) for an album to use poems instead of the standard liner note blurb. I really hope that this trend continues for selfish reasons. Contributing something to an album like this is pure pleasure. The recording and mixing took place at ‘Roundhead Studios’ in Auckland and the mastering at ‘Turtle Tone Studios’ in New York. The album is out on Rattle Jazz where the best of original New Zealand music lives.
Having documented the band from their first gig, I have long felt a stake in this project. The finished album is surely not where this story ends; music of this quality deserves a sequel. Ron Samsom is an intuitive multi-faceted drummer and gifted composer. He is program coordinator at the UoA Jazz school. (if you haven’t already done so check out his and Manins contributions on the award-winning DOG album).
John Fenton

Ron Samsom and the Neutrino Funk Experience; Ace Tone (Rattle Jazz): Drummer Samsom, longtime pal Roger Manins (tenor), bassist Cameron McArthur and keyboard player Grant Winterburn here strap in for bubbling and funky workouts on pieces with witty titles like Ben Harper, Flat Cat, Dog Pizzle, Scrub the Pans, Mr Fluffy Bunny and such. There's certainly an enjoyable wit and humor on these 13 mostly energetic tracks but among the best are the stop-start rhythms of Don't Me (over which Winterburn delivers a terrific, endlessly unwinding solo before Manins gets it down'n'romantically edgy), the brooding downbeat post-bop thunk of Other Brother and woozy Flat Cat nailed down by Samsom's slashing beat. Lots of other good things and grooves (the Latin inflections on Ginger Beaver) going on here too. Recommended. Available from Rattle Jazz here.
Graham Reid, Elsewhere
Jon Fenton, localjazz32 website