Held On The Tips of Fingers (Babel Label)

Polar Bear

Released March 21, 2005

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2005






Polar Bear’s second studio album originally released on Babel Label in 2005 and re-released by Leaf in 2014.
This was the group’s break-though album, with Observer Music Monthly placing the album at number 12 in its list of the “Top 100 Album of 2005″and Jazzwise listing the record at 100 in the article “100 Jazz Albums That Shook The World”. The success of Held On The Tips Of Fingers lead to Polar Bear being shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize in 2005.
The album shows a distillation of the group’s sound, with the enchanting compositions moving between hushed incantations and wild, swirling improvisations.

Track Listing:

1. Was Dreaming You Called You Dissapeared I Slept 2:08

2. Beartown 5:56

3. Fluffy (I Want You) 5:18

4. To Touch the Red Brick 2:51

5. Held on the Tips of Fingers 5:15

6. Argumentative 4:08

7. The King of Aberdeen 5:55

8. Your Eyes the Sea 3:17

9. Life That Ends Too Soon 7:26


Mark Lockheart: tenor saxophone

Pete Wareham: tenor saxophone

Tom Herbert: double bass

Sebastian Rochford: drums

Leafcutter John: electronics

Jonny Phillips: guitar (2)

Joe Bentley: trombone (2)

Emma Smith: violin (2)

Ingrid Laubrock: tenor saxophone (3, 9)

Hannah Marshall: cello (3)

Executive-Producer: Oliver Weindling

Recorded by Paul Richardson, Robert Harder

Produced and Mixed by Robert Harder, Sebastian Rochford

Mastered by Robert Harder


Such was the brilliance of Polar Bear’s Held On The Tips Of Fingers, the band’s second release it almost won the 2005 Mercury Music Prize. Not only the most gifted jazz drummer of his generation, bandleader Sebastian Rochford crafted sublimely original chamber music. A stylistic crossroads where folk, avant-jazz, electronica and raw punk co-existed, Rochford’s music was aptly called “the sound of the future” even though it betrayed a love of Ellington, Monk and, yes, Napalm Death. Held On The Tips… twisted in digital trickery to a frontline of heavyweight tenor saxophonists, dazzling with folksy anthems such as ‘Bear Town’ or the drum ’n’ bass drenched ‘Fluffy’. Groundbreaking, it gave young British jazz bands the guts to label themselves like rock bands and to stretch beyond their comfort zone.

Tom Barlow (Jazzwise)