"With ever increasing advances in MIDI and sampling, not to mention the scarily ubiquitous auto-tune, music producers today can turn even the most turgid performance into a polished thing of commercial beauty. Yet there’s no substitute for real live musicianship, and here’s a prime slice of self-produced excellence from Australian bassist Craig Strain. The reason this rises onto our radar is its unfettered groove-soaked good vibes – full of rubbery  basslines, screaming guitar goodness and old-school beats. Drummer Matthias Edwards has a perfect chemistry with Craig, and alongside the slamming brass section, plus guitarists Neil Boland and Jason Liacos, this sounds and feels like a kicking jazz-funk band, fuelled by Craig’ powerful bass work, creating an album full of funk-fuelled contrasts."


"Sojourn" is the debut recording for “Pickpocket”, a Melbourne based jazz-funk group lead by UK bassist and now Melbourne resident Craig Strain. From the downbeat “Sojourn” paints a seriously funky picture with its infectious grooves, tight horn lines and jazz harmony. To pigeonhole "Pickpocket's" sound by likening it to a particular group would be selling it short as there are obviously many influences that make up the fabric of Strain's compositions. One can hear elements of Tower of Power, Bootsy Collins, Weather Report, Prince, the Meters, and English bands like the Brand New Heavies and Incognito, not to mention the harmonic jazz influences that are at play here. The ten year period taken by Strain to compose and finalise these tracks has paid dividends and has resulted in a collection of quality compositions that are balanced and engaging to the ear, "Sojourn" is a truly jazz-funk recording. "Sojourn" is balanced dynamically amongst the ensemble, an ensemble that possesses an obvious musical unity in its approach to groove and improvisation.


From a recording point of view, "Sojourn" is pristine in its quality and punchy in presence to the ear. Engineers Barney Loveland and David Nicholls have captured that true studio sound, one highly appropriate for this style of music. The listener can settle into the music without having to battle sound issues or a second-rate recording. "Pickpocket" have successfully captured the energy and vibe of their live performances and transfused this into this recording a feat often hard to achieve in a recording session.


Strain’s bass playing and sound are exceptional, not only in his finger tone but his slap tone (a maple/ash F bass is Strain’s weapon of choice). Strain’s maturity as a musician can be heard within the bass lines he has created for each track, bass lines that are musically appropriate and supportive of the music. Strain and drummer Matthias Edwards seem to have a special bond in the rhythm section, seamlessly playing off each other and creating a deep foundation for the rest of the band to launch from. Unlike the trap many bass players fall into by not leaving their egos at the door, Strain has not gone for chops, which he obviously posses, but has gone for feel and creativity as the mark he has chosen to leave on this recording. Strain's approach to the music is also adopted by the ensemble, it is this level of maturity within the music that will keep the listener returning for more.


"Sojourn" is a must-have for lovers of Jazz-funk and for supporters of independent Australian artists. "Pickpocket" are regulars on the Melbourne Festival scene and are a group to keep on the radar. Be sure to head over to or the “Pickpocket” band camp page to grab a copy of this cracker of a recording.



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