Sandy Brown Jazz

 

Featured New Releases and Re-Releases 2018

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- please contact us if you find that any of them are no longer working]

 

Click here for Releases featured prior to 2018 and for the full Releases Index

 

By artist in alphabetical order:

 

A

Martin Archer + Engine Room Favourites - Safety Signal From A Target Town

 

B

Andrew Bain - Embodied Hope

Alan Barnes and David Newton - Ask Me Now

Sidney Bechet - Five Classic Albums Plus

Alan Benzie Trio - Little Mysteries

Brian Blade And The Fellowship Band - Body And Shadow

Oscar Brown Jr - Between Heaven And Hell / Sin And Soul


C

Mark Cherrie Quartet - Joining The Dots

Julian Costello Quartet - Transitions

 

 

D

Josephine Davies - Satori

Kit Downes - Obsidian

 

 

E

Wayne Escoffery - Vortex

 

 


F

Favourite Animals - Favourite Animals

Fraser And The Alibis - Fraser & The Alibis

 

 

G

Trio Galactus - Trio Galactus

Elliot Galvin - The Influencing Machine

Go Go Penguin - A Humdrum Star

Martin Pyne / Stephen Grew Duo - Winter Landscape

 

 

H

James Hall - Lattice

Lenore Raphael, Wayne Wilkinson and Chris Hodgkins - At Pizza Express Live

Billie Holiday - The Complete Billie Holiday Songbook

Peter Horsfall - Nighthawks

Anton Hunter - Article XI

 

 

I

 

J

Dinah Washington & Quincy Jones - The Complete Sessions (3 CD Box Set, Remastered original recordings)

 

K

Rose / Kellers / Roder - New World

 

L

Steve Lane - Steve Lane Plays Vintage Jazz Music

 

 

M

Nicolas Masson - Travelers

Wes Montgomery - In Paris : The Definitive ORTF Recording

AKA Moon - Now

Mark Murphy - Midnight Mood


N

Simon Nabatov String Trio - Situations

Alan Barnes and David Newton - Ask Me Now

 

O

Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core - Wild Red Yellow


P

The Oscar Peterson Trio and Singers Unlimited - In Tune (Remastered Anniversary Edition)

Leslie Pintchik - You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl

Bobby Previte - Rhapsody

Martin Pyne / Stephen Grew Duo - Winter Landscape


Q

 

R

Freddy Randall And His Band - My Tiny Band Is Chosen (The Parlophone Years 1952 - 1957)

Lenore Raphael, Wayne Wilkinson and Chris Hodgkins - At Pizza Express Live

The Matthew Read Trio - Anecdotes II

Rose / Kellers / Roder - New World

Rose / Kellers / Roder - New World


S

Marta Sánchez Quintet - Danza Imposible

David Series - Meerkat Parade

Walter Smith III - TWIO

Snowpoet - Thought You Knew

Zhenya Strigalev - Blues For Maggie

Thomas Strønen's Time Is A Blind Guide - Lucus

Kevin Sun - Trio

John Surman - Invisible Threads

 

 

T

Katie Thiroux - Off Beat

 

 

 

U

V

 

W

Mark Wade Trio - Moving Day

Dinah Washington & Quincy Jones - The Complete Sessions (3 CD Box Set, Remastered original recordings)

Lenore Raphael, Wayne Wilkinson and Chris Hodgkins - At Pizza Express Live

 

 

 

 

X

Y

Z

 

 

 

Alan Benzie Trio - Little Mysteries
(CD Baby) - Released: February 2018

Alan Benzie (piano and composition); Andrew Robb (bass), Marton Juhasz (drums).

Alan Benzie Trio Little Mysteries

 

Second album from the young Scottish pianist who won the BBC Scotland Young Jazz Musician at only 17 (his 2015 debut album was Traveller's Tales). Now 27, he has won a string of high profile awards in the last few years, including the prestigious Billboard Award at Berklee College of Music. Journalist Rob Adams has said: 'Benzie has an orchestrator’s ear for detail in his compositions… His spontaneous creativity impressed even more as improvisations were developed with a clear sense of direction and sustained with inspired phrase'. The Trio has recently been touring the Continent and the UK promoting the album. CD Baby describes it: 'From sensitive, magical textures to virtuosic explosions of energy, the trio are both sophisticated and accessible, with the warmth and empathy that can only be achieved through great friendship and years of making music together'.

Details and Sample Album : Video of The Warrior Who Became A Tiger : CDs are available through Alan's website :

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowpoet - Thought You Knew
(Edition Records) - Released: February 2018

Lauren Kinsella (vocals); Chris Hyson (multi instrumentalist); Josh Arcoleo (saxophone); Matt Robinson (keyboards); Nick Costley-White (guitar); Dave Hamblett (drums).

Snowpoet Thought You Knew

 

 

Jazz FM Vocalist of the Year (2016) Lauren Kinsella and multi-instrumentalist Chris Hyson explores the common ground between poetry, electronica, modern folk, and jazz. Blending sweet hook-laden vocal lines with warm and lush arrangements, the music is infectious, delicate and tasteful. The sound is clear and beautifully produced, while the lyrical content exhibits a deep and raw emotion.

See Robin Kidson's article Jazz And Poetry : The Work Of Snowpoet

Details and Samples : Video Introduction : Video for Love Again : Review ****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Surman - Invisible Threads
(ECM) - Released: 19th January 2018

John Surman (soprano & baritone saxophones, bass clarinet); Nelson Ayres (piano); Rob Waring (vibraphone, marimba)

John Surman Invisible Threads

John Surman’s Invisible Threads is near on his 20th album with ECM under his own name. He’s used electronics, had other ‘invisibilities’; witness Invisible Nature, the 2002 John Surman/Jack DeJohnette session.  Today I’m declaring Invisible Threads top of the Surman ECM stack. High praise because Stranger Than Fiction and Brewster’s Rooster are stunning sets, however the explorations of Invisible Threads are gripped by a beautiful intensity.  Tracks like the short, compressed, At First Sight, the extended Pitanga Pitomba and Concentric Circles deliver a strong narrative.  The vibes into piano, piano into vibes, lace the contours of these compositions.  On The Admiral,Surman’s bass clarinet cuts between the two like a wave through a spontaneous sea.

Why I’m so taken up with Invisible Threads is that the Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres and American-now-living-in-Norway, Rob Waring, (vibes/marimba), provide a pairing that gets underneath the Surman sound.  They own it for themselves.  Since I first heard John Surman playing with Barre Phillips and Stu Martin in 1970 I’ve realised he is special.  The baritone and soprano on Invisible Threads doesn’t ‘sound’ anything like the reeds that roared with the Martin/Phillips bass ‘n drums.  Take the trail through the past, and it is possible to hear how one great musician went on a mission. Together the three compatriots of Invisible Threads are ‘The Trio’, 2018.  Here there is also no need for electronics.  The sleeve has a studio photograph showing a never heard guitar propped up in the corner.  Now, what’s that doing there? 

Steve Day (Steve Day is a writer and poet and leads the band Blazing Flame. www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk )

Details and Samples : Samples on Soundcloud : Further Details on ECM Records page

 

 

 

 

Kit Downes - Obsidian
(ECM) - Released: 19th January 2018

Kit Downes (organ) with guest Tom Challenger (tenor saxophone)

Kit Downes Obsidian

 

 

Some of Kit's earliest musical experiences were as a church organist and in recent years he has been revisiting the instrument, exploring its sonic possibilities and idiosyncrasies, in improvisations both melodic and textural. In November 2016 producer Sun Chung followed Downes to three English churches - the Snape Church of John the Baptist and Bromeswell St Edmund Church - both in Suffolk - and Union Chapel Church in Islington, London. These are very different acoustic spaces housing organs of very different characters which Downes investigates creatively.

Details and Samples : Introductory Video : Review ****+

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Go Penguin - A Humdrum Star
(Blue Note Records : Decca UMO) - Released: 9th February 2018

Chris Illingworth (piano); Nick Blacka (bass); Rob Turner (drums).

Go Go Penguin A Humdrum Star

 

 

The Manchester-based trio conjure richly atmospheric music that draws from their shared love of electronica, their grounding in classical conservatoires and jazz ensembles alongside indie bands, and a merging of acoustic and electronic techniques ... “I think we felt even more liberated on this album—and I think there’s more of each of us on it,” says bassist Nick Blacka. Their latest material reveals both native turf and far-flung influences. ... As with previous albums, these tracks stemmed from a love of electronic music ... That electro-acoustic tension pulses throughout the new album. (Blue Note website).

 

Introductory Video : Purchase Details and Sample :

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Archer + Engine Room Favourites - Safety Signal From A Target Town
(Discus Music) - Released: 1st January 2018

Martin Archer (saxophones); Mick Beck (tenor saxophone, bassoon); Seth Bennett (bass); Graham Clark (violin); Laura Cole (piano); Steve Dinsdale (percussion); Peter Fairclough (drums); Johnny Hunter (drums); Kim Macari (trumpet); George Murray (trombone); Corey Mwamba (vibraphone); Walt Shaw (percussion); Riley Stone-Lonergan (tenor saxophone, clarinet).

Martin Archer Safety Signal From A Target Town

 

 

'This suite is the third and most ambitious release by my AACM influenced big band. Across three releases, the band has developed from the original idea of saxophone + percussion quartet + studio based orchestration ... to the current release which features a larger group and more complex scores. I’m not usually one for programmatic music, but these pieces were conceived written very quickly in the final 2 months of 2016. The titles enable the listener to imagine their own story of a world moving in exactly the opposite direction to the version most people would wish to live in'. (Martin Archer).

Details and Listen to the Album : Video of a test recording of The Playground In The Desert : Martin Archer's website : Martin's 'Tea Break' on this site in July 2017.

 


 

 

 

 

The Matthew Read Trio - ANECDOTES II
(Self Release) - Released: 9th February 2018

Matthew Read (double bass); Benedict Wood (guitar); Arthur Newell (drums).

Matthew Read Trio Anecdotes II

 

 

Drawing influence from a multitude of styles including jazz, folk, country, hip hop, dance music, spirituals and both European and American church music, the trio creates a soundscape of melody driven music. The album features eleven original compositions based on Read's experiences including K, an imagining of the music that might be played if Kendrick Lamar and Kurt Rosenwinkel were to play together: Burke and Hare, a melody with a contrasting, darker undercurrent that reflects its subject matter including 19th Century serial killers; and Revolutions, a piece that laments the loss of interest in physical media formats.

Details and Samples : Live video of Burke and Hare : Review ****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Pyne / Stephen Grew Duo - Winter Landscape
(Tall Guy Records) - Released: 22nd January 2018

Martin Pyne (percussion, vibraphone), Stephen Grew (piano, keyboards).

Martin Pyne Stephen Grew Winter Landscape

 

 

The album consists of a sequence of improvisations for vibraphone and piano recorded on a bitterly cold day in Lancaster in the north west of England.

See Howard Lawes' article 'Free Improvastion and the Music of Martin Pyne and Stephen Grew'

 

Details and Listen to the Album :

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenore Raphael, Wayne Wilkinson and Chris Hodgkins - At Pizza Express Live
(Bell CDs) - Released: 17th November 2017.

Lenore Raphael (piano); Wayne Wilkinson (guitar); Chris Hodgkins (trumpet)

Raphael Wilkinson Hodgkins album

 

 

Recorded at a live session at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, in 2016, this album was released last November. The event had originally been planned as a duo performance by American pianist Lenore Raphael and UK trumpeter, Chris Hodgkins, but Lenore's regular guitarist, Wayne Wilkinson joined them to make the Trio. With interpretations of 12 Standards and one original track by the three musicians, the album features enjoyable solo tracks, duets and ensemble performances.

Details and Samples : Listen to September In The Rain : Listen to Georgia On My Mind : Visit our Jazz As Art article :

 

 

 

 

 

Nicolas Masson - Travelers
(ECM) - Released: 16th February 2018

Nicolas Masson (tenor and soprano saxophone); Collin Vallon (piano); Patrice Moret (double bass); Lionel Friedli (drums).

Nicolas Masson Travelers

 

 

'The real strength of the recording resides in the musicians’ convergence, reciprocity, and team spirit. They denote a clear understanding of one another’s moves. More reserved than effusive, Masson’s music dawns slowly, subverting unnecessary stunts while describing through lightly smoky soundscapes the magical realism of a hermetic, personal world. Regardless if their storytelling is deep or shallow, the quartet engages in the commitment of wringing every emotion from a song'.

Details : Introductory Video : JazzTrail Review :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leslie Pintchik - You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl
(Pitch Hard Records) - Released: 15th February 2018

Leslie Pintchik (piano); Scott Hardy (acoustic bass, guitar); Michael Sarin (drums); Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) with Steve Wilson (alto saxophone); Ron Horton (trumpet, flugelhorn); Shoko Nagai (accordion).

Leslie Pintchik You Eat My Food

 

'Equipped with originals, jazz standards, and a supportive combo of talents, pianist Leslie Pintchik commits to a smooth and groovy jazz on her latest album ... Even lacking the factor surprise, the album has enough diversity and flexibility to conquer audiences looking for unwrinkled post-bop'. 'Pintchik found the album title in one of those "only in New York" moments. While crossing Canal Street at West Broadway in the SoHo section of Manhattan, she heard a voice behind her yell, "You eat my food, you drink my wine, you steal my girl!" It was a perfect fit for the sharp-elbows vibe of her new tune, with its samba-funk groove, understated humor and fender-bender of an ending. So with one gruff shout, serendipity handed her a bold, spunky for a bold, spunky tune'. '...the wide range of grooves (samba-funk with a touch of partido alto, swing, bolero, traditional samba, straight-eighths, and ballads-all played with exceptional skill and pizzazz by Pintchik and her top-notch band members) is a great added pleasure'.

Details and Samples : Audio Introduction : JazzTrail Review

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby Previte - Rhapsody
(RareNoise) - Released: 23rd February 2018

Bobby Previte (drums, percussion, autoharp, guitar, harmonica); Fabian Rucker (alto saxophone); Nels Cline (acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, slide guitar); Zeena Perkins (harp); John Medeski (piano); Jen Shyu (vocals).

Bobby Previte Rhapsody

 

 

'Taking into account the outstanding rhythmic skills of American drummer Bobby Previte, it came to no surprise that his new album, Rhapsody, reveals a tour-de-force storytelling that takes us into an uninterrupted journey of musical discovery while addressing pertinent subjects such as transit and migration in the current days ... Boasting a stupendous sound and concept, as well as an unconventional repertoire of converging influences and metaphors, this is a masterwork by a fearless musician who never ceases to innovate'.

Details : JazzTrail Review : Video : Audio Edit : Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Hall - Lattice
(Outside In Music) - Released: 9th February 2018

James Hall (trombone); Jamie Baum (flute); Deanna Witkowski (piano, Fender Rhodes); Tom DiCarlo (bass); Allan Mednard (drums) + guest Sharel Cassity (alto sax)

James Hall Lattice

 

 

'The effortless genre-bending approach that characterizes him is well patented on Lattice, his sophomore album inspired by his own love story and Herbie Hancock’s Speak Like a Child ... The tunes we hear on Lattice are easy to connect and assimilate. They not only show a high level of musicianship but also authenticate Hall as a talented voice in today’s jazz'.

Video : JazzTrail Review : Purchase Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Sun - Trio
(Endectomorph Music) - Released: 2nd February 2018

Kevin Sun: (tenor and C-melody saxophones); Walter Stinson: (acoustic bass); Matt Honor (drums).

Kevin Sun Trio

 

 

'The album Trio, released on the saxophonist’s label Endectomorph Music, allows him to explore textures and dynamics with freedom while merging the contemporary and the tradition in a tasteful way ... I have no doubt that Sun’s musical integrity will bring him wide recognition. Trio proves him a high flyer whose presence is voluminous and a gifted saxophonist who feels comfortable in a variety of musical contexts'. 

Video : JazzTrail Review : Purchase Details and Samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walter Smith III - TWIO
(Whirlwind Recordings) - Released: 9th February 2108

Walter Smith III (tenor saxophone); Harish Raghavan (bass); Eric Harland (drums); with guests Christian McBride (bass); Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone)

Walter Smith III TWIO

 

 

Working and touring for the last fifteen years, playing multi-layered compositions in different configurations with artists such as Terence Blanchard,​ Roy Haynes,​ Sean Jones, Ambrose Akinmusire and with his own bands, Smith also began to revisit classic jazz songs. He elaborates: “I would try and alter tunes quite radically by rearranging, reharmonizing and altering meters to a point where I was barely playing the original song; but realized that I was confusing the point of playing the songs, so I began to interpret them more directly, as they were first meant to be played ... This project represents something that everyone of all levels can relate to because it presents familiar and accessible songs that we've all grown up playing. The plan is that when we tour, I’ll use that opportunity to invite the community to come sit in, have fun, and share ideas, which I imagined this music was all about in the first place.”

Details and Samples : Video Introduction : Listen to Ask Me Now :

 

 

 

 

Katie Thiroux – Off Beat
(Capri Records) - Released: 18th August 2017

Katie Thiroux (bass and vocals); Ken Peplowski (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Roger Neumann (tenor and soprano saxophones); Justin Kauflin (piano); Matt Witek (drums).

Katie Thiroux Off BeatReleased in 2017, Off Beat, with its interesting mix of vocals and instruments, follows Katie’s inaugural album, Introducing Katie Thiroux, released in 2015.  The title comes from the mix of lesser known songs featured.  There are 10 tracks on Off Beat, but only one, Slow Dance With Me, which has a blues feel and is an instrumental with a solo on the bass, is composed by Thiroux. Katie has a degree from Berklee College of Music and a Masters from California State University and has an impressive musical background.  She has worked with numerous musicians such as Geri Allen, Branford Marsalis, and Ken Peplowski who plays reeds on 5 of these tracks. Roger Neumann arranged the title track, Off Beat, which uses both clarinet and soprano sax to good effect with good clear vocal and bass from Katie.  This is followed by When The Lights are Low,  a Benny Carter composition that features sultry vocals ably accompanied with a delightful piano solo by Kauflin.  Katie scat sings on Ray’s Idea, a Ray Brown composition including some smooth clarinet from Peplowski.  Duke Ellington’s Happy Reunion, has both Peplowski and Neumann’s tenor saxophones to the fore with backing from Thiroux’s bass and drums from Witek.  Willow Weep for Me, shows Katie’s talent off by a solo effort with just vocals and the bass.

This album shows off Katie Thiroux’s vocal skills and bass playing backed by great musicianship from the other band members.  There is a mix of tempos through swing to blues, clear vocals ranging through sultry to tender and dazzling arrangements from multiple band members which means that there is a hugely varied range covered in the short time available.  This is an unusual selection of tracks but there is something for everyone here and most jazz fans would favour at least one number.  I am sure I will be listening to this album again.

Tim Rolfe

Details and Samples : Interview with Katie : Katie's Website
 

 

 

 

Trio Galactus - Trio Galactus
(Improvvisatore Involontario) - Released: 8th January 2018

Giorgio Casadei (electric guitar, guitar-bass double handle); Alessio Alberghini (baritone sax, alto saxophone, flute); Simone Pederzoli (trombone)

Trio Galactus album

 

What you see below is the contents of the box that contains this really interesting Italian CD.  It starts with a most unusual line-up of double-handled guitar, baritone sax and trombone.  Then the subject matter is entirely devoted to compositions (by Casadei) inspired by superheros.  And the box contents shown here include 13 postcards, each one a painting by a different artist, of the 13 superhero tracks. And then there's the music.  Quirky and sparkling.  Some odd and broken time signatures, some very odd sounds from that combination of instruments, but overall I found the whole thing terrific fun.

As far as I can establish the complete box set is only available from jazzos.com under Giorgio Casadei's name (click here), but the music can be downloaded from all the normal sources.

Details and samples : Listen to Spider Jessica :

Peter Slavid (Peter Slavid hosts a monthly, 2 hour radio show at www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz and says: 'The programme has a very specific purpose. The show is entirely European and entirely modern').

 

Trio Galactus album cards

 

 

 

 

Rose / Kellers / Roder: New World
(FMR Records) - Released: January 2018

Simon Rose (baritone & alto saxophone); Will Kellers (drums); Jan Roder (double bass)

Rose Kellers Roder New WorldIn October 2017 I reviewed an album called Edith’s Problem.  It was a wonderful stark clean study of jazz minimalism by Berlin based British reeds player Simon Rose and Swiss pianist, Deniz Peters.  Mr Rose’s new album, with percussionist Will Kellers and bass player Jan Roder, takes the opposite approach.  New World is a dense soundscape built on drones and multiple rhythms. Twenty years previously Kellers recorded Twilight Etchings with Keith and Julie Tippett.  New World and Etchings share similarities, the link, not surprisingly, drums.  Will Kellers is a constantly inventive percussionist.  Technically jaw dropping, he holds your ears to the beats as if he’s Caesar.

What starts with Human Head, Mr Roses’ droned saxophone turning into deep soloing, moves into Cargo, a high pitch of mouthpiece, gong and split bass falling into richly fractured baritone against trip-tuned percussion.  At the album’s centre is No Joseph (maybe “No Joseph for your manager”, maybe some other Joseph), either way it’s a vital three-way improvisation with Rose bringing the reeds into forensic clarity against multi-active drums and Jan Roder’s spatial double bass.  The longest track is the final, River Witness.  It feels like a story but is played out as if the trio are turning a river into a lake; a liquid edifice where saxophones are air, the drums heavy rain, and the bass, the bottom of the ocean. New World is revitalised European saxophone, bass ‘n’ drums.  Anyone interested in the genre will want to hear this fascinating album.

Steve Day (Steve Day is a writer and poet and leads the band Blazing Flame. www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk )

Purchase Details : Simon Rose's website

 

 

 

Simon Nabatov String Trio - Situations
(Leo Records) - Released: February 2018

Simon Nabatov (piano); Gareth Lubbe (viola); Ben Davis (cello).

Simon Nabatov String Trio Situations

 

'Nabatov's chamber music calls for a kind of string player only recently arrived, who is equally comfortable with complex scores and the challenges of improvising ....violist Gareth Lubbe (Principal Violist in the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig) and cellist Ben Davis (Basquiat Strings) ... participate ... in Nabatov's compound vision - the dialectics of possibilities, the brace of the new in the embrace of the known. In a single piece, the trio moves from manic-chaotic through spiky school-of-Vienna pointillism to roller-coaster improvisation that thins out to something that might play blissfully in the background of an impossibly high-end Brazilian beach bar ...'

Details : As the album is only just out as we go to print, samples are likely to become available on the Leo Records site or on Simon Nabatov's site - click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zhenya Strigalev - Blues For Maggie
(Whirlwind) - Released: 9th March 2018

Zhenya Strigalev (saxophone, composer); Frederico Dannemann (guitar); Linley Marthe (bass); Eric Harland (drums).

Zhenya Strigalev Blues For Maggie

 

 

Live recording from two venues in Vienna and the Netherlands featuring seven original compositions by Zhenya. Maggie Black was a well known figure in London who loved jazz and supported its musicians. She has since become a close friend of Strigalev, inspiring and supporting his work. The recording's mood is 'ebullient'; Strigalev says: 'The goal was to capture our 'breath', along with our mistakes (you won't notice them, I bet), out friendship and joy, our spontaneous musical decisions and interactional mastery, as well as a serious approach to music. All ways we like to express ourselves - responsible fun ... and with a happy ending!'

Details : Video of Pinky live : Listen to Not Upset : UK purchase details

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Lane - Steve Lane Plays Vintage Jazz Music
(Lake Records - Limited Edition) - Released: 1st December 2017

Steve Lane (cornet, bandleader) with the Famous Southern Stompers; Red Hot Peppers and VJM Washboard Band and various personnel including: Bob Dwyer (trombone); Bob Beardsworth (trombone); George Dawson (clarinet); John Wurr (clarinet); Geoff Over (banjo); Martin Litton (piano).

Steve Lane Plays Vintage Jazz Music

 

 

Another valuable archive of historic UK jazz from Lake Records. 'From the late 1940s up until the 2000s Steve Lane’s various bands recreated the sounds of the Classic Jazz era of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke and a whole host of others. Steve also ran the Vintage Jazz Music record label, VJM. Never content to simply carbon copy the originals Steve Lane would put his own stamp on the tunes whilst remaining true to the genre. Steve never turned professional, but a whole host of musicians who would make music their living served an apprenticeship in Steve’s bands'.

Samples and Details : Profile of Steve Lane

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billie Holiday - The Complete Billie Holiday Songbook (2 CDs)
(Essential Jazz Classics) - Released: 13th October 2017

Billie Holiday (vocals) and other vocalists with various personnel.

Billie Holiday The Complete Songbook

 

 

Remastered original recordings with various takes and a wide variety of personnel, the CDs cover work from the Decca, Columbia and Commodore labels as well as a couple of short Basie film soundtracks. 'The idea is to draw together all the songs that Billie Holiday wrote or co-composed, firstly in her own performances and secondly in interpretatuions by other singers ... the real interest here is in Billie's own records, and some of them in particular are lesser-known gems ...' Writes Alyn Shipton in Jazzwise giving the album 4*.

Details :

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar Brown Jr - Between Heaven And Hell / Sin And Soul
(Soul Jam Records) - Released:

Oscar Brown Jr (vocals) with various personnel including Floyd Morris (piano); George Duvivier (bass) and David 'Panama' Francis (drums).

Oscar Brown Jr album

 

 

Recorded between 1960 and 1962 'This CD includes two of Brown’s finest studio albums from his most inspired years at Columbia Records: the excellent and underrated Between Heaven and Hell (1962), featuring a couple of arrangements by the fascinating Quincy Jones, and Brown’s critically-acclaimed debut LP Sin & Soul (1960). Both masterpieces are widely regarded as landmark recordings of the early ‘60s. This remastered collector’s edition also includes 3 bonus tracks from the same period'. 16 page booklet with rare photos, memorabilia and detailed liner notes.

Purchase Details : Review : Listen to Work Song from the original Sin And Soul album :

 

 

 

 

 

Sidney Bechet - Five Classic Albums Plus
(Avid) - Released: 3rd November 2017

Sidney Bechet (clarinet and soprano saxophone) with various personnel.

Sidney Bechet Five Classic Albums plus

 

 

2 CDs with remastered original recordings of the albums On Parade; Ambience; Deux Heures Du Matin Au Vieux-Colombier; Rendez-Vous and Bechet Revient complete with original artwork and liner notes plus Airs Du Film Serie Noire EP; Un Ange Comme Ca EP and L'Inspecteur Connait La Musique EP. 'Bechet's own compositional skills are to the fore on a number of the sides on this two CD set, including Petite Fleur, a big hit for Bechet and a few years later a million seller for Chris Barber - as well as the suitably moody Temperamental and the beautiful Jacqueline which Bechet composed in honour of his mistress'. 'Alyn Shipton in Jazzwise gives it 4* and says: ' ... an excellent follow up to Avid's earlier set of Bechet in France'.

Details :

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Murphy - Midnight Mood
(MPS Records) - Released: 17th November 2017

Mark Murphy (vocals); Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet); Äke Persson (trombone); Derek Humble (alto saxophone); Ronnie Scott (tenor saxophone); Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone and flute); Francy Boland (piano); Jimmy Woods (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums).

Mark Murphy Midnight Mood

 

 

'Mark Murphy exhibited an inventive stylistic range that covered blues to bebop on through to modern jazz. His 1967 MPS recording lands in the middle of his European decade, and it is one of the most beautiful, striking documents of his skills. Midnight Mood is characterized by the sophisticated dialogue between voice and eight musicians from the Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big band ...'

Details, Sample and Album Description : Listen to Alone Together : Listen to My Ship :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Bain - Embodied Hope
(Whirlwind Recordings) - Released: 10th November 2017

Andrew Bain (drums, percussion); Jon Irabagon (saxophone); George Colligan (piano); Michael Janisch (double bass).

Andrew Bain Embodied Hope

When I first became interested in jazz as an adolescent in the 1960s, British jazz seemed to suffer from a pronounced inferiority complex. The assumption was that, for the truly authentic product, one had to look to America. All began to change when Miles Davis recruited not just one British jazz musician but two – Dave Holland and John McLaughlin – for his band in the late sixties. Since then, British jazz has developed its own self-confident and distinctive voice, well able to compete - and collaborate on equal terms - with the best in America and beyond.

Andrew Bain’s new album, Embodied Hope, shows just how thoroughly British jazz has shaken off any inferiority complex, particularly in relation to American jazz. The album sees Bain, a Scottish born, Birmingham based percussionist leading three Americans in a recording made in the English Cotswolds for a British record company. And not just any Americans: Jon Irabagon on tenor saxophone is a rising star of American jazz. George Colligan on piano has a long established international reputation, winner of the 2015 Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll for keyboards amongst other accolades. Michael Janisch on double bass is one of a number of American musicians who have chosen to pursue their careers in the UK. He is also the owner of Whirlwind Recordings which is producing some of the best contemporary music around at the minute on both sides of the Atlantic. Andrew Bain himself has lived and worked in America with distinction.

Embodied Hope is a suite of eight pieces all composed by Bain around the theme of positive change in the fields of human rights, community and social transformation. Actually, Bain considers himself more as a writer of music for improvisers rather than “composer” – “like all good music written with improvisation in mind”, he says, “Embodied Hope starts with an idea and a vibe, as well as melodies, chord sequences, solo sections and as many boundaries as I want to provide. But apart from that, it’s all in flux and very much up to the band, even in terms of suite order, solo order, etc.”. To a listener unaware of the underlining theories, however, Embodied Hope is just high quality, straight ahead contemporary jazz with a strong, rhythmic pulse as one might expect from a band led by a drummer. And for all Bain’s emphasis on improvisation, there are some surprisingly good tunes to be found.

The album opens with Accompaniment, which Bain says was originally intended as a ballad, “but as we rehearsed, it became this classic Coltrane rumble-and-tumble, elevating it with some kind of higher energy”. Both Irabagon and Colligan take solos against a  gentle wash provided by Bain and Janisch, sounding slightly ominous on bowed bass. Irabagon’s sax is often attractively lyrical but with some striking patches of Coltrane intensity and strained notes. Colligan has a distinctive style and plays marvellously liquid runs of notes. The whole does have a Coltrane feel about it – think the Psalm section of A Love Supreme.

The second track, Hope, is an upbeat, rhythmic piece with a memorable melody. Irabagon builds his improvisations in a logical and compelling way with snatches of half familiar tunes. Colligan’s solo is all note filled virtuosity with a classical feel at times. Bain and Janisch provide a solid, sometimes rock, beat throughout which is guaranteed to set feet tapping.

Practice is another upbeat piece but with sudden changes in the beat from fast to very fast. Both Irabagon and Colligan get to stretch themselves in the faster sections, and Janisch provides some nimble bass. The next track, Responsibility has an intricate but attractive tune full of nice hooks and riffs with a touch of Dave Brubeck about it. Janisch gets to shine in an impressive solo; and Bain and Irabagon engage in some neat call and response. Surprise is notable for its sudden and abrupt (and therefore surprising?) changes in rhythm. Its stop-start feel is (again, surprisingly) very effective and keeps the listener’s attention throughout. Bain takes two solos, beautifully judged both in their textures and length.

The first part of Listening is back to the vibe of the first track, Accompaniment, with Janisch on bowed bass again. The improvisations are freer than some of the other tracks with a jagged feel and little bombs of discordance. It is almost as if the instruments were having a drunken conversation with the sax being whimsical and the piano, assertive and truculent. Then the beat picks up with something of a latin flavour, and both Irabagon and Colligan take dazzling solos. Towards the end, there is some engaging call and response between sax, piano and drums – back to a conversation although perhaps a little more sober and certainly more animated. Trust is another upbeat piece with a good tune. It segues into a reprise of Accompaniment and ends in a satisfying mélange of cacophonous sound. The final track is a brief reprise of Hope which fades in as if one has gradually opened a door to a joyous party. Then the party quietens down and peacefully finishes. It’s an effective, life-enhancing end to a life-enhancing and, yes, hopeful, hope-filled album.

Robin Kidson

Andrew Bain is touring with his Embodied Hope Quartet from 2nd to 15th April 2018. Details of dates are on his website.

Details and Samples : Video of Hope

 

 

 

 

Julian Costello Quartet - Transitions
(33 Jazz Records) - Released: 15th September 2017

Julian Costello (tenor and soprano saxophones); Maciek Pysz (electric and classical guitars); Yuri Goloubev (double bass); Adam Teixeira (drums and percussion).

Julian Costello Quartet Transitions

 

In the album's sleeve notes saxophonist Iain Ballamy says: 'What I hear is a set of music with a strong identity - with a thread running through it created by a group that has clearly played the music enough to be able to wield it in a playful way. The music is expressive (there is no module for expression to be seen on an undergraduate music course!) it ebbs and flows, accelerates and slows naturally in the only way a real band can'.

A good description by Ballamy. The music is appealing, warm, enjoyable, eloquent and varied from an international band now all based in the UK. The musicians co-ordinate comfortably within the arrangements leaving plenty of room for solos from Costello and Pysz. Recommended.

Ian Maund

Details and Samples : Video of Walking Through The Jungle : Listen to Earworm and Panettone : allaboutjazz review ****

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Series - Meerkat Parade
(Bandcamp) - Released: 12th December 2017

David Series (guitar and compositions); Huw Rees (keyboards); James Lindasy (double bass); Max Popp (drums).

David Series Meerkat Parade

David Series is an Edinburgh based guitarist whose debut album consists of 6 tracks composed by David. Although it may look a shorter album, 3 of the 6 tracks are over seven minutes long and another six and a half minutes in duration with only two less than four minutes.  David states that the compositions are modern jazz influenced by amongst others, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Julin Argüelles and Derek Trucks.  He has also created the colourful and quirky artwork that features on the album. There are no CD notes about the basis for the tracks, but they sure do have some quirky titles, like Oink, Hermwei and Mr. Frisbee.

The first track is called Herzog, with the intro featuring a melodic double bass which then provides the pulse with guitar and drums joining later.  There is also an interesting keyboard solo.  Mr. Frisbee has Popp on drums keeping everything going with some melodic interplay between keyboards and guitar and an inspired keyboard solo around the middle.  The changes in rhythm are interesting and well managed and this seems to be a theme on most of the tracks.  Oink, is possibly the track which shows Series' wonderful guitar playing at its best.  Gentle instrumental beginning with the guitar lead through the melodies building to a crescendo, and there is lots of interplay between superb keyboards and the aforementioned guitar. Hermwei is the longest track at 8 minutes 11 seconds where the entire band starts together but each breaks out and has a solo section.  Quieter, light guitar sections interspersed with a memorable keyboard solo feature on this track.  On Where’s Waltzy, the bass solo was of note.  The last track is Scoobie Snack, which has a soulful guitar start with bass before the pace picks up as everyone piles in, and again each of the band members produce some great solos.

This is a mostly a well-balanced and melodic album with lots of interaction between the musicians whoever is providing the lead or base rhythm and I did look forward to Series' guitar sections when listening to the album. 

Tim Rolfe

Details and listen to Album :

 

 

 

 

Anton Hunter - Article X1
(Efpi Records) - Released: 9th February 2018

Sam Andreae, Simon Prince, Mette Rasmussen, Cath Roberts (saxophones); Graham South, Nick Walters (trumpets); Seth Bennett, Richard Foote (trombones); Anton Hunter (guitar); Eero Tikkanen (double bass); Johnny Hunter (drums)

Anton Hunter Article XI

 

This album is two ends of a spectrum.  After just a couple of weeks percolating my ears, I have become caught up in its dropped curve – Article X1 is another superb ‘on-a-roll’ project from those busy Luminous people.  A very smart live sound from Alex Bonney and Dill Katz, straight from The Vortex in London, along with two tracks caught at the Manchester Jazz Festival.  Initially I couldn’t help feel slightly disappointed that Anton Hunter’s own asymmetrical guitar isn’t more centre stage in these performances.  (Mr Hunter is not some flashy stadium guitar-slinger.  Given the right context, his telecaster can merge a whole intake of crackle ‘n pop into a probing ascetic.  It’s not just the sound that is unique to him, but the deceptively casual way he cuts into an ensemble.)  On this Article X1 debut the Guitar-Hunter takes on the role of composition catalyst; an under-the-scene scope-shaper hovering beneath the action like a current off a cliff. Article X1 deserves a lot of attention.  This is the Sloth Racket/Favourite Animals team (check out previous reviews), plus others, on yet another important encounter.  Okay, it leaves me waiting for Anton Hunter’s ‘guitar’ album but I’m a man of patience, right now I’m listening to something else.  It’s multiple stars, let’s get on with it!

Retaken captures a glorious opening from the eleven musicians. Brass chords played like laying out a carpet.  It’s an unveiling of a harmonised melody which feels rich with very little; a morning tune played at night with sparse reeds and held notes.  It falls into a Nick Walters’ trumpet solo.  I don’t know why, but it initially reminded me of raga structure.  What I really like about Retaken is the fix it gets on that melody.  After eleven minutes (the number must be coincidental) it ends, compositionally well taken.  There’s form, there’s beauty, Nick Walters has spoken with something to say about the ‘sound’ of trumpet.  There’s a glimpse of guitar at the back of it just tipping off the structure.  Anton’s brother Johnny’s drums breaking up the beat, fetching and carrying it so things don’t come out straight.  And it ends the right way up, a glorious opening begets a glorious ending, and I know whatever else this is music not taken lightly.

Innards Of Atoms is the one track where the guitar kindles the flame, or to paraphrase the title, becomes the ‘innard’ within the atom.  The piece begins piping a repeat between brass and reeds.  After about three minutes, the ears ‘getit’, the Hunter brothers then enter just like I’ve heard them do on other sessions; they have an uncanny instinctive way of rolling in a dual direction.  It’s their almost blues-but-isn’t way of stringing the sound out.  See, it’s not so much soloing as listening to an explanation from the guitar, while all the time there’s percussion offering up some kind of agreement.  Yeah sure, try this, right....! tell me more, ok, ok, let me assist you a little, ah, I’m with u. And then perhaps, finally - let’s nail it.  Innards Of Atoms ends with all eleven players intact and playing a concentrated credo which takes on the form of an aural scientific study.  It’s artful, evolutionary and one of those performances you’re damn glad that the likes of Alex Bonney and Dill Katz were on hand to capture the Atoms.

There’s inventive title-ling of this material; how about I Dreamed I Spat Out A Bee? A description of an alto sax turning inside on itself. (Sure, Mette Rasmussen’s alto mouthpiece accuracy can b major when she’s not b-ing minor.) Or there’s C# Makes The World A Better Place, a nice sentiment.  This sharp ‘sea’ is an ocean free of plastic, as well as a drone tonic which opens up into a melody so transforming it truly does give off a feeling of positivity.  And the ‘litter’ of clicks and smearings, rattles and beats on a prepared snare only go to emphasise the inherent poignancy of the piece.  Then there’s the simple two word title, Peaceful Assembly, alluding to Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Both in content and context it has a close connection to Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra – the stellar trumpet solo could almost come from the horn of the great Michael Mantler when he’s having a good day.

The thing that really encourages me about Anton Hunter’s Article X1 recording is the cordial rapprochement inherent in the final track, Not The Kind Of Jazz You Like. It seems to me it signals something special.  Anton Hunter is a different ‘kind’ of guitarist/composer playing The Kind Of Jazz that, by his own admission, is possibly not ‘immediate’ to majority taste.  Not only are such considerations beside the point, he makes no apology, why should he?  Sure, he’s aware of his situation, but because the whole LUME scene is The Kind Of Jazz that leads to true exploration he is going to do it anyway.  The band move from squashed, crushed experimentation into the Drummer-Hunter driving the band forward in a welter of 4/4 for a short distance only to break the whole thing up in a dead-end of improv. From here the ensemble reappear out of the debris, with the Fender telecaster setting up a final trombone song for either Seth Bennett or Richard Foote (I wasn’t there so I’m not sure who is responsible and yes – Mr Bennett is usually playing double bass!). The Guitar-Hunter hits a play-out riff and it’s all over; until next time.

I hope that Anton Hunter is able to find the necessary mental fix to stay at the task he has set himself.  His presence on Martin Archer’s crucial 2016 album Storytellers was, for me, the green light.  Here, Article X1 is further dramatic evidence of his abilities.  Personally, I’m also keen to hear a recording from his trio.  I believe that could reveal even more than we’ve heard so far.  That was certainly the case with the American avant-garde guitarist Mary Halvorson, with whom Mr Hunter shares similar terrain.  May we all find some place for Peaceful Assembly; I’d urge anyone who really has an interest in any ‘kind of jazz’, to spend at least one evening taking in Anton Hunter’s direction. None of us can stand still, not unless we want to get run over.

Steve Day

Details and Samples : Video of I Dreamed I Spat Out A Bee ; Anton Hunter's website

Steve Day is a writer and poet and leads the band Blazing Flame. www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Cherrie Quartet - Joining The Dots
(Trio Records) - Released: 2nd February 2018

Mark Cherrie (steel pan); John Donaldson (piano); Mick Hutton (double bass); Eric Ford (drums) with guests: Dominic Grant (acoustic guitar); Dave O'Higgins (tenor saxophone); Nigel Price (electric guitar); Sumudu (vocals).

Mark Cherrie Quartet Joining The Dots

 

Mark Cherrie is one of the foremost steel pan players in the UK but it is unusual to hear the instrument in a jazz context. Perhaps the best known use of the steel pan as a jazz instrument is on the 1979 album Morning Dance by Spiro Gyra where it was played by David Samuels who went on to co-found the Caribbean Jazz Project, although in this band the steel pan was played by an Andy Narell.  Both these musicians were born in the USA whereas Trinidad is the ancestral home of the instrument invented by Anthony Williams who along with other members of the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra showcased the instrument at the 1951 Festival of Britain. Another member of the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra was Sterling Bettancourt who made his home in England and as well as being a pioneering musician went on to be a leading light of the Notting Hill Carnival where the steel pan has become so popular with large ensembles and marching bands.  Mark Cherrie's father Ralph played steel pan with Sterling Bettancourt and now Mark continues the family involvement with the instrument and has done for many years.

For his quartet Mark Cherrie has selected musicians with biographies that include involvement with many of the best jazz bands around, suffice to say that with John Donaldson on piano, Mick Hutton on double bass and Eric Ford on drums there is a wealth of expertise and experience but on top of that there are also special guests in the form of Dominic Grant on acoustic guitar, Dave O'Higgins on tenor saxophone, Nigel Price on electric guitar and Sumudu with vocals. In the album notes Mark Cherrie mentions that the band had never played together before entering the recording studio but this is not normally a problem for good jazz musicians and so it transpired. Cherrie comments on each track in the album notes and it would seem that this album is to some extent a Desert Island Disc compilation of tunes that have been important in his jazz journey. Of the thirteen tracks plus one reprise featured on Joining The Dots, only four are composed by Cherrie despite the fact that he has been a prolific composer of music for film and television over many years; other  compositions are by some of the great names in jazz and also jazz versions of rock and folk music.  All in all an eclectic mix of personal favourites from a genuine musician.

Cherrie's compositions begin with a tune called Morse Code, and of course the steel pan lends itself to providing the staccato notes of early telecommunication. Cherrie describes the track as the 'opening salvo' but it is not aggressive, just energetic with some nice saxophone from Dave O'Higgins.  The other Cherrie compositions are much more romantic, celebrating the birth of his son with October's Child, accompanying the vocals of Sumudu on Just Like Lovers Do and playing a lovely, latin style duet with Dominic Grant on acoustic guitar in Lost Summer.  The folk song is Scarborough Fair in which the steel pan sounds suitably plaintive for a song about a lost lover while for Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing the piano introduction is followed by Cherrie playing a strikingly evocative version of a song about love and dreams.  The jazz standards include Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage with plenty of cymbal from Eric Ford making it sound like a very rough crossing; Pat Metheny's When We Were Free in which John Donaldson's piano more than does justice to a piece which was one of the composer's favourites and the all too short Sippin' At Bells by Miles Davis and featuring Nigel Price on electric guitar in a duet with Cherrie. Also included is the tune which really turned Cherrie on to jazz music, the title being due to Dylan Thomas's immortal phrase Starless and Bible Black and which became part of the jazz canon via Stan Tracey's version of Under Milk Wood.  One of the best tunes on the album is the Nirvana rock anthem, Smells Like Teen Spirit, the band are really grooving with some great drumming from Eric Ford and Cherrie's arrangement is excellent.

This is a really enjoyable album featuring the steel pan which is rarely heard in jazz but which easily holds its own in the company of the more usual instruments. This eclectic collection of tunes lasting well over an hour is great to listen to and all the more interesting because it includes tunes that were written specifically for the steel pan as well as others of different genres that were not - a rare gem not to be missed.

Howard Lawes

Introductory Video (Morse Code) : Sample The Tracks : Website : Purchase

 

 

 

 

 

Elliot Galvin - The Influencing Machine
(Edition Records) - Released: 26th January 2018

Elliot Galvin (piano, keyboards, toys); Tom McCredie (double bass, guitar); Corrie Dick (drums, percussion).

Elliot Galvin The Influencing Machine

 

Terrific! Immediately my ears caught the trail and before I was finished with the first track, I knew I’d be there for the duration.  It’s a lesson, music is a connection.  Unless you can make it, even ‘good’ musicians just become a damn fly buzzing in your box.  It could be said the title of this recording, The Influencing Machine, makes a play for that idea.  It’s the third album Elliot Galvin has released under his own name and it’s already received a lot of interest. Mr Galvin is also the keyboard player with Laura Jurd’s band Dinosaur; I’m going to attempt putting aside what I’ve already taken in.  Punch, the previous Galvin album was a really neat thing, but The Influencing Machine runs it very close.

I’m going to cover the context because there is no way anyone can listen to what is going on here without realising there is something being said.  This session is threaded through with samples – sounds, spoken word and musical clippings.  If you are someone who is only here (hear) for the piano trio you might as well go find yourself a Bill Evans album and enjoy it; don’t bother with The Influencing Machine.  However, not bothering would be a mistake in my view.

The thread that runs through this brilliant conception is the life and times of James Tilly-Matthews whose story takes us back to the latter half of the 1700’s.... yet also plunges us straight back into our own world dilemmas.  It’s the kind of facts-based story you could read in a Robert Harris novel. Tilly-Matthews was involved in British and French spy networks.  A political activist, merchant .... and paranoid schizophrenic who believed he was being influenced by a ‘machine’ in order to undertake acts of espionage.  Okay, so the internet is currently responsible for hatching terrorism; well, Tilly-Matthews in the 18th century got there first. There’s no space here to debate this stuff, all that I can tell you is that Elliot Galvin makes an utterly convincing fist (and fingers) job of bringing all this together through music and samples.  And if you’re still with me, in amongst all that, there is a ‘piano trio’ buried within.  It’s just that they play beyond piano, bass and drums.  This, my friends takes us a hell of a lot further forward than the latest American Songbook regurgitation.  What does not get lost in all the studio edits is Elliot Galvin - one imaginative pianist and keyboard player.

The Influencing Machine consists of ten tracks.  I am going to pick out three which I find fundamental to what is going on here.  This approach should not distract from the other seven pieces which all offer surprises.  Even in the pathos of the very short final ‘goodbye’, Fountainhead, there is a beguiling moment.  It is in fact a compression of the starter track – New Model Army.  The NMA was Oliver Cromwell’s much vaunted professional fighting force of the English Civil War. They literally revolutionised the way combat troops were organised.  Here’s another link, when Charlie Haden in 1983 recorded his Liberation Music Orchestra for the first time on the ECM label (Ballad of The Fallen) one of the pieces quoted on the title track was The People United Will Never Be Defeated, originally based on the Chilean song by Sergio Ortega.  As I sat down to my first listen-through of The Influencing Machine there, right at the beginning, before anything else had happened, was that evocative melody making its presence felt as if it were a forgotten eulogy.  Played bitter/sweet by the piano through an oscillating bell, if you knew the connections it did what I guess it was meant to do; I felt strangely moved, at the same time apprehensive, yet completely focused.  If a musician is going to bring such strands together and use them as his starting position, what on earth is going to follow? Answer: the name ‘James Tilly-Matthews’ is writ large, and it becomes an album of intrigue.

Take for instance the third track, Red and Yellow. It begins with a funky piano riff given additional motivation by Tom McCredie’s defined double bass (he’s a strong protagonist throughout the whole session) squeezing his runs into tight corners.  Dinosaur’s drummer, Corrie Dick, completes the angular path feeding in odd fills, smart rolls and whole-drum-kit comment.  It could be weird Chic.  At heart Red and Yellow is a five minute theme with a clear form, yet it is spiked with ‘ghost’ samples of electronic speech that cross like interruptions from a past life, confabulated by stride and honky-tonk piano.  I guess my reason for picking it out is that this track is actually a dub ‘mix’, a technique which defines this session. Red and Yellow has no extensions; it has a beginning, a middle and an end.  On this occasion the frame serves a purpose. Every track on The Influencing Machine has its own retinue of sounds. Mr Galvin keeps control of them.  What could become a mere musical toy box is used with care.  This is an audio story with a narrative maintained throughout.

The central track is probably Bees, Dogs and Flies. It is the longest cut and passes through a continual haze of torn harmony.  Pieces of prepared piano, a hint of Hammond organ, hymnal quotes accompanied by percussion detritus, fragments of folk song, echoes of distant drumming; it cements itself into the consciousness like heat when baked into gravel.  This would be my download choice, though it hurts to hear it, like listening to Britten’s War Requiem or Billie Holiday’s March 1959 recording with Ray Ellis of All The Way.

On the strength of Elliot Galvin’s recommendation I went to my local library and got out the book, The Air Loom Gang: The Strange and True Story of James Tilly-Matthews and His Visionary Madness by Mike Jay. I pass on the recommendation to anyone who has got this far in this review. Here is an extraordinary album, bigger than it initially appears.  Certainly not easy, neither is schizophrenia.  It is dark territory made positive; music made anew.  This is how it is. Thanks.

Steve Day

Details and listen to the album : Video Trailer (there are flickering images at the start) : Elliot Galvin's website

Steve Day is a writer and poet and leads the band Blazing Flame. www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk 

 

 

 

Mark Wade Trio - Moving Day
(Edition 46 Records) - Released: 19th January 2018

Tim Harrison (piano); Mark Wade (acoustic bass); Scott Neumann (drums).

Mark Wade Trio Moving Day

 

Mark Wade is a proficient double bassist and composer who has been playing in NYC for two decades, showing off his fluid, athletic sound. The follow-up to his widely recognized debut album, Event Horizon, is entitled Moving Day and like before, features a classic trio with Tim Harrison and Scott Neumann on piano and drums, respectively. Together, they achieve an impressive triangular tightness that can be heard without delay on the first track, the 6/4 post-bop wonder that gave the album its title. It kicks off with the pianist delivering an ostinato, which, minutes later, is reutilized by the bassist to install the groove. The bandleader, embarking on an effusive back-and-forth solo, discharges melody and rhythm with aplomb, and the energy doesn't faint when Neumann unleashes his clear-sighted chops over a rock-inflected vamp.

These soloists are furiously active again on “Wide Open”, a pretty straightforward tune with a catchy piano riff and a gorgeous rhythm that brings a scent of R&B and soul to the jazz-rock stamina that sustains its core. I thought of it as a crossing between Stevie Wonder and Chick Corea. Borrowing melody from Debussy’s “La Mer”, “The Bells” is an imaginative waltz encompassing glorious suspensions and a chamber-esque sparseness created by the bowed bass. On top of this musing, Harrison’s left-hand onrushes are perceptible on the lower register, bringing McCoy's technique to the mind. The coolness of the piano solo sparks nice melodies while the brushwork of the drummer is noticeable throughout the bass solo. Wade devised new shiny outfits for a couple of jazz standards, with “Another Night in Tunisia” being shuffled in tempo while maintaining the strong latin affinity present in Dizzy’s original, and “Autumn Leaves” being subjected to a successful reorganization to include Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”. 

Virtuosity and creativity also reign on “Midnight in the Cathedral” in which the band plunges into a dense modal spirituality. Although honoring medieval music, I sensed it more like a mantra-based chant within a style that reminisces Alice Coltrane. With disparate natures, “Something of a Romance” and “The Quarter” are a medium-tense ballad and an elated march, respectively. The latter has a decompressing effect, displaying occasional bluesy flourishes and a more traditional flow that feels as humorous as the compositions of drummer Matt Wilson. With an impressive command of his instrument, Wade takes his tightly-knit acoustic trio beyond stereotyped formulas or just simplistic reinterpretations of known songs. Moving Day is a dazzling testament to his evolving artistry, where inventiveness is on full display.

Filipe Freitas - JazzTrail.

Introductory Video : Performance Video: JazzTrail Review

Filipe Freitas runs JazzTrail in New York City with photographer Clara Pereira. They feature album and concert coverage, press releases and press kits, album covers and biographies. They are valued contacts for Sandy Brown Jazz in the United States. You can read more about Filipe and Clara in their 'Tea Break' item with us if you click here.

 

 

 

 

Wes Montgomery - In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
(Resonance Records) - Released: 26th January 2018

Wes Montgomery (guitar); Harold Mabern (piano); Arthur Harper (bass); Jimmy Lovelace (drums) + guest Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone).

Wes Montgomery In Paris

 

 

'Released as a deluxe 2CD-set and digital edition, In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording signals the memorable Paris concert by the super jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. The event took place at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées during his 1965 European tour ... It is bebop at its best, revealing that the guitarist’s sound is just as brilliant live as it is in the studio'.

Details and samples : JazzTrail Review : Video introduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Escoffery - Vortex
(Alliance Import) - Released: 2nd March 2018

Wayne Escoffery (tenor and soprano saxophone); Dave Kikosk (piano); Ugonna Okegwo (bass); Ralph Peterson (drums).

Wayne Escoffery Vortex

 

 

'... shaped in an urgent, socio-political way that aims to (highlight) racism, bigotry, and hate in the US, (the album) is a tour de force and the title track exemplifies this better than any other track. It’s an attractive post-bop discharge whose kicking-and-screaming locomotion is absolutely stunning. The bandleader shows his magnificent soloing capabilities, showing an affinity to explore deeply and widely with irrepressible inventiveness and bristling provocation. Kikoski and Peterson don’t squander their chances to be noticed when called to intervene'.

Details : JazzTrail Review : Video - Wayne at Ronnie Scott's in 2016.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marta Sánchez Quintet - Danza Imposible
(Fresh Sound New Talent) - Released: 1st October 2017

Roman Filiu (alto saxophone); Jerome Sabbagh (tenor saxophone); Marta Sanchez (piano); Rick Rosato (bass); Daniel Dor (drums).

Marta Sanchez Quintet Danza Imposible

 

'Madrid-born pianist Marta Sanchez has been an influential voice on the New York jazz scene since she moved to the Big Apple seven years ago. Danza Imposible, couldn’t have been a better follow-up to Partenika (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2014), exceeding all the expectations by presenting music that challenges, intrigues, and bewilders.... Conquering her space with a triumphant confidence, Marta Sanchez, proves she is a top 21st-century composer. This seminal work takes us to unexpected places, radiating energy in its most varied forms and passages. This outstanding Danza is not Impossible at all!'

Details and Sample : JazzTrail Review : 'Nebulosa' from the album : Video

 

 

 

 

AKA Moon – Now
(Instinct) - Released: 19th January 2018

Fabrizio Cassol (saxophone); Michel Hatzigeorgiou (bass); Stéphane Galland (drums)

AKA Moon Now

 

My CD of the month comes from across the channel in Belgium from a trio that almost never makes it over here and is probably a new name to most readers, despite having being one of the best known European improvising bands since an encounter with the AKA Pygmies some 25 years ago. This new album is typical of their style, and quite unlike most British jazz.  There are certainly influences from Steve Coleman's M-Base movement, and some of the early music from F-IRE and Loop collectives did have a similar approach.

The music is built on simple riffs and phrases, but is rhythmically complex and full of inventive and often ferocious improvisation. The collective interplay has patterns and rhythms constantly shifting between the different instruments. To celebrate their 25 years together the band has also released a 20 CD Box set. That may be a bit tough for newcomers but it does feature their collaborations with Indian, African, Balkan and other musicians, as well as other trio albums.

Peter Slavid

Listen to Persevering : Details : Purchase :

Peter Slavid hosts a monthly, 2 hour radio show at www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz and says: 'The programme has a very specific purpose. The show is entirely European and entirely modern'.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Strønen's Time Is A Blind Guide - Lucus
(ECM) - Released: 19th January 2018

Thomas Strønen (drums); Ayumi Tanaka (piano); Hakon Aase (violin); Lucy Railton (cello); Ole Morten Vagan (bass). 

Thomas Stronen Lucus


Norwegian drummer/composer Thomas Strønen, a member of the experimental jazz band Food, returns with a quintet variation of his Time Is A Blind Guide project. Entitled Lucus, the 11-track album features the collective’s core members: violinist Hakon Aase, cellist Lucy Railton, and bassist Ole Morten Vagan, plus a valuable new addition with the up-and-coming Japanese pianist Ayumi Tanaka sitting in for Kit Downs.

An ethereal chamber setting is immediately assimilated on the first track, “La Bella”, a reiterative meditation of great beauty that, suspended and static in nature, varies in intensity. All the compositions belong to Strønen, except this one ... it was with the idiosyncratic arrangement of “Wednesday” that the band captivated me the most, showcasing classical piano spells and beautiful folk melodies instilled by Aase ... Strønen gives his counterparts the freedom they need to totally connect with his spacious sense of composition, and Lucus lives from the harmony of their constant exchanges.

Filipe Freitas - JazzTrail

Video Introduction : Details and Samples : JazzTrail Review

 

 

 

The Oscar Peterson Trio and Singers Unlimited - In Tune (Remastered Anniversary Edition)
(MPS) - Released: 17th November 2017)

Oscar Peterson (piano); George Mraz (bass); drummer Louis Hayes (drums) and Singers Unlimited.

Oscar Peterson Trio In Tune

 

 

'Peterson himself instigated the first contact between the Schwarzwald studio and The Singers Unlimited (TSU). That contact developed into a fruitful decade-long relationship; the Villingen studio's superb technology perfectly suited the sophisticated requirements of vocal artist and leader Gene Puerling. Recorded in 1971, In Tune was TSU's first album on MPS. It feeds off the languages of the two musical poles, whether it's in the swinging give and take of the opener, Sesame Street, or in the switch from the reverential orchestrally-layered choir intro to Peterson's sparkling play on It Never Entered My Mind'.

Details : Samples : Listen to Catherine; Sesame Street ; Here's That Rainy Day

 

 

 

 

 

Dinah Washington & Quincy Jones - The Complete Sessions (3 CD Box Set, Remastered original recordings)
(Essential Jazz Classics) - Released: 13th October 2017

Dinah Washington (vocals); Quincy Jones (director, arranger, conductor) and various personnel including Clark Terry, Joe Newman, Charlie Shavers (trumpets); Urbie Green, Quentin Jackson, Billy Byers (trombones); Lucky Thompson, Paul Quinichette, Budd Johnson, Jerome Richardson (reeds); Wynton Kelly (piano), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass); Jimmy Cobb, Osie Johnson (drums).

Dinah Washington Quincy Jones The Complete Sessions

 

'This 3-CD, 73-track set presents, for the first time ever on a single edition, all existing sessions featuring the singing of Dinah Washington with bands conducted by Quincy Jones, who was also responsible for most of the arrangements on these dates. Ranging from 1955 to 1961, the sessions include the complete contents of the classic albums For Those in Love (Emarcy MG-36011), I Wanna Be Loved (Mercury SR-60729), and The Swingin’ Miss “D” (EmArcy MG-36104), along with various other tunes issued on singles. Contained here are her unforgettable renditions of “Mad About the Boy”, “Blue Gardenia” and “I’ll Close My Eyes” (the latter two were selected by Clint Eastwood for the soundtrack to his movie The Bridges of Madison County)'.

Details : 4* Jazzwise review of Feb 2018 'This 3CD set is an extremely efficient way to acquire all the Jones/Washington collaborations'.

 

 

 

Brian Blade And The Fellowship Band - Body And Shadow

Album Released: 17th November 2017 - Label: Decca (UMO) - Reviewed: January 2018

Brian Blade Body And Shadow

Brian Blade (drums); Myron Walden (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Melvin Butler (tenor saxophone); Dave Devine (guitar); Jon Cowherd (piano, keyboards); Chris Thomas (bass). 

American drummer Brian Blade has conquered many jazz fans with his sophisticated technique, open nature, and instinctual rhythm. His unique touch, never too loud and never too soft, has played a crucial role in projects of likes such as Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner, David Binney, and Wayne Shorter. He also built an amazing reputation as a leader of the Fellowship Band, a 20-year endeavour that normally comprises two saxophones, one or two guitars, piano/keyboards, and bass.

Body and Shadow is Blade’s fifth album with this band, whose regular members include saxists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, pianist/keyboardist Jon Cowherd, and bassist Chris Thomas. The novelty here is guitarist Dave Devine, a sure-footed Denver-based rock guru, who makes his debut in the group after Daniel Lanois, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Marvin Sewell and Jeff Parker have occupied the position in the past.

Click here to listen to Duality from the album.

Embracing identical methodologies as in the previous albums, yet cutting a bit in the improvisations in detriment of a more crafted textural work, the band opens with “Within Everything”, a melodious, unfussy piece that carries the lightness of a pop song entwined with the warm melancholy of Americana. I’m quite sure that both Joni Mitchell and Oasis would approve its atmosphere.

The title track was divided into three parts according to the parts of the day. “Body and Shadow (Night)” upholds a flowing chamber jazz quality, enhanced by bass clarinet melodies (expertly handled by Walden), low-toned key vibes, and bowed bass. The guitar, whether translucent or distorted, fingerpicked or strummed, fits perfectly within the uncongested musical scenario. Conversely, the ‘Morning’ part increases the electrified sounds, getting a tangy indie rock bite, while the ‘Noon’ part is a stagnant electro-acoustic episode with emphasis on Devine’s guitar.

Obeying a 7/4 time signature, “Traveling Mercies” is arranged with compassionate melodies and harmonies that bring some sadness attached. It rekindles the flame during the chorus, in a successful combination of genteel jazz and untroubled folk-rock, as if Joshua Redman has fused with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The resplendent Christian hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” is subjected to two opposite treatments. The first is ‘sung’ exclusively by Cowherd's harmonium, and the second devotionally orchestrated according to Blade’s categorical arrangement.

The syncopated rhythms that initiate “Duality” are also velvety. They are an integral part of a magical soundscape, which, even shifting along the way, maintains both the consistency and stability. The improvisations are further extended here, beginning with Cowherd, who pulls out interesting melodic lines over exuberant chord changes. Giving the best sequence to a short bridge, packed with horn unisons and counterpoint, it’s Walden who, taking advantage of the recently appeared balladic tones, makes his alto saxophone cry and beseech intensely within an outstanding, repeatedly motivic post-bop language. Holding an absolute control of tempo, “Broken Leg Days” closes the session, flowing elegantly while Blade's drumming brings together simple rudiments and dynamic rhythmic accentuations.

Click here to listen to Broken Leg Days.

Brian Blade, as stylish and generous as ever, continues to persuade, and Body and Shadow is another great personal achievement that also serves to commemorate two decades of a tight musical bond.

My Favourite Tracks: Traveling Mercies, Duality and Broken Leg Days.

Click here for details.

Filipe Freitas JazzTrail

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Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core - Wild Red Yellow

Album Released: 7th July 2017 - Label: Rogue Art - Reviewed: January 2018

Larry Ochs Wild Red Yellow

Larry Ochs (tenor & sopranino saxophones); Natsuki Tamura (trumpet); Satoko Fujii (piano, synthesizer); Scott Amendola (drums, percussion, electronics); Matthias Bossi (thunder drums; Chinese gongs, shaky flotsam, percussion); William Winant (timpani, roto-toms, percussion).

The Drum is the most basic and yet at the same time, one of the most sophisticated of instruments. What do you do with it?  You hit it!  Sound.  Hit it! Tap it. Stroke it.  One way or an other it carries the rhythm of the heartbeat.  It holds loops; on beat, off beat, rolls, fills, a single shot.  There are flicks and brushes on skin, heavy hands to touch-light.  The beat can be eternal, the beat can be a moment struck in emphasis.  Duke Ellington called one of his short epicsThe Drum Is A Woman (click here).   It became a controversial title because, for sure The Duke was using the phrase to carry the humanity of rhythm, but women (and men, adult and children) should not be beaten to obtain their sound.  I would suggest, the drum is an instrument that carries what we ourselves cannot hold, and therein lies its importance and fascination. 

When Larry Ochs originally formed his Sax And Drumming Core, the band was a trio including current kit drummer, Scott Amendola.  The focus was on the trade off between the leader’s horns and Mr Amendola’s percussion. Scott Amendola still has a central role within the Core but for Ochs the drum became so compulsive that he needed more beats than one person could produce - enter Matthias Bossi and William Winant on gongs, timpani, plus a massive collection of additional percussion.  Running in parallel with all this is the fact that Larry Ochs is also one of the original members of the Rova Saxophone Quartet, formed in 1977, who could be said to have their roots in John Coltrane’s later works like Ascension and Meditations. In other words, the period when Coltrane was piling on beats through the use of double drummers and percussionists.  Rashid Ali, his regular drummer, was being asked to multiply time and rhythm.  The music could not stop still; it was eventually played to the backdrop of a thickening of beats.  Of course the ‘twist’ is that Rova Saxophone Quartet, the band that ‘made’ Larry Ochs name, actually contains no percussion at all.

The essential premise of Wild Red Yellow is to connect drumming into the core of things.  If necessary, to run so many beats in different times and combinations that it becomes possible to trade off the ‘frontline’ of Larry Ochs’ tenor and sopranino saxophones / Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet / Satoko Fujii’s keyboards into multiple directions.  At any split second in the process, the direction of travel can be shredded into a number of routes at exactly the same time. 

The album only has three tracks, Omenicity, A Sorcerer’s Fate and Wild Red Yellow. Of the three, Sorcerer’s is the shortest at just over nine minutes, bookended by the big beast Omenicity and the title track, both weighing in at over twenty minutes each.  Already this description doesn’t need a conjurer to work out that the content of this Wild Red Yellow session is not for the faint hearted.  It demands acute concentration on the part of the musicians and, if you’re going to commit to the course of events, a lot from the listener too.  Can I recommend it to you?  You bet you I can.  Wild Red Yellow is like going on an intense fitness course at the gym. Damn hard work, not to be taken lightly, but once completed the result is a feeling of exhilaration.  It’s a whole body experience – what comes through your ears is ingested and then poured through your inner system of nerve endings, muscle and mind.  Jeepers! Drums are the thunder of the soul.  Or at least, something like that.

Sandy Brown Jazz featured Fujii and Tamura in my November review of Satoko Fujii’s celebratory album Aspiration along with trumpet icon, Wadada Leo Smith.  Here on the Ochs album Fujii plants both her synth and piano into the mix of Omenicity early. She spins the frontline for about thirty seconds before either Larry Ochs or Natsuki Tamura can bring their horns to the mouth.  The three percussionists are already spreading a blanket of sound and fury.  Even listening blind to vision it’s obvious there are at least three languages in action.  As for Satoko Fujii, rather like the omnipresent ‘ghost in the machine’, she unleashes her own withering whine of keyboards across the soundscape as if the ears have entered Hades-Under-Heaven.  Rarely does Omenicity ease the pace, just when it seems they may be applying the breaks, the whole ‘Core’ move into a new phase.  About fifteen minutes in there is a massive sheet metal sound which brings down an arpeggio of piano.  For a short while this internal shudder ushers in a massive dance between the innards of a grand piano and the drummers.  It could be fertility; it could be death; it could be some kind of ceremonial descent into crisis.  I don’t know what it is.  The Sax And Drumming Core have pulled down the lights and entered into a storm of their own making.  Larry Ochs dedicates this huge work to June Taymor (who directed The Lion King). Omenicity would scare Broadway Theatre.  A friend of mine who knows these things, tells me June Taymor is a brave producer.  Good.  Omenicity is bravery personified.

Back in 2009 at the Sigüenza Jazz Festival in Spain a member of the audience called the police to investigate the fact that the Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core were not playing jazz.  Once the law enforcement arrived, they too were mystified as to whether what was coming off the stage constituted the j-word.  Sandy Brown Jazz readers will be pleased to know that the final judgement was that Larry Ochs was found to be innocent of the crime of not playing jazz.  So, it’s a matter of factual accuracy that A Sorcerer’s Fate, the ‘short’ nine minute track, has official clearance to be reviewed on a ‘jazz’ website.  For sure I find it a golden nugget. 

In my view, Mr Ochs could present Sorcerer’s Fate to the Spanish authorities as a prima facia fact that he, and indeed the whole band, are jazz musicians.  Sorcerer’s starts with a tight pulse coming off the kit drum (I think it’s Amendola), with Bossi and Winant (or maybe some other combination) whipping and whooping additional percussion on the ‘on’.  Mr Ochs eases in his tenor horn, Fujii and Tamura sound like they’ve just turned up at Ronnie Scott’s and got away with it, and then Fate deals to the damned; it is obvious, the Sax And Drumming Core playing ‘jazz’ in disguise.  Nonetheless the track maintains something close to the evidence required.  I’d swear on its authenticity (sic).

The title track, Wild Red Yellow is another country.  Essential listening.  It is twenty minutes long.  It takes its time.  What begins as a platform so spare of clutter, utterly divorced of the big gesture yet full to the brim with creative detail, ends like it has traversed a mountain range.  This is dissection of sound. The bloom of a bell ringing. The hint of synth-electricity curling on trumpet breath.  Even when Ochs’ reeds come in advocating action he is somehow contained, given space, but contained nonetheless.  Produce a wasted note at your peril; Wild Red but not wilful.  Yellow with colour not green with envy.  It is an improvisation of manners. The final result is, in its own way, a beautiful story without words and narrative.  I don’t believe in perfection, but music like Wild Red Yellow makes me want to.

Finally, let’s give a mention to the sleeve notes written by master-craftsman jazz writer, Brian Morton.  They are worth the cost the album.  Over eight paragraphs Mr Morton sets out a hypothesis on the nature of “where does Asia” begin?  A profound short speculation on the socio interrelationship between the European, the American and the ‘Asiatic’.  I have not the space to devote a second ‘review’ to Morton’s concept.  I’ll therefore finish by quoting a small section which conveys a morsel of what’s on offer:

“If one quality of Asian cultures sets them apart from the European/American then it is a curiosity of language.  European tongues lack what might be called the ostensive case, the ability to put down “Dog” or “Tree” or “Stone”, and not imply a narrative: whose dog? in what landscape? is the dog peeing on the tree?  A quality of Asian art that troubles the Western eye is that the subject floats in the picture space without context.  It presents but doesn’t explain.  Larry Ochs’s music is often like that, and it is like that here.” 

There you have it, Wild Red Yellow floats.  If I’ve provided a little context for this floating, may this not detract from Brian Morton’s fascinating premise, or an album worthy of purchase.

Click here for details.

Click here for a video of Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core live at The White House 2009.

Steve Day  www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk

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Peter Horsfall - Nighthawks

Album Released: 24th November 2017 - Label: APP Records - Reviewed: January 2018

Peter Horsfall Nighthawks

This CD from Peter Horsfall is the first album under his own name, a horn player with the swinging Kansas Smittys collective; he puts down his trumpet to sing lead vocals on this 10 track album. Of these, 3 are short instrumentals, two are covers and the rest are original compositions. As with other musicians, the inspiration for the project was Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks”. As Horsfall states “Edward Hopper’s painting of the same name has always chimed with me. The lonely figures of the night time scene; the waiter working until the early hours, the man sat lonesome at the counter. Perhaps it is musicians who are the definitive nighthawks.”

The rest of the band comes from Horsfall’s fellow musicians in the Kansas Smittys House Band based in a bar of the same name located in Hackney, East London. They are saxophonist Giacomo Smith, pianist Joe Webb, Ferg Ireland on double bass and Pedro Segundo on drums. On track 8, Couldn’t Stop Loving You, David Archer plays guitar, and backing vocals are provided by Cherise Coryna Adams-Burnett and Renato Paris.

Click here for a video of Couldn't Stop Loving You.

The lyrics to the songs are reproduced in a booklet that accompanies the album and that has original artwork of three water colours by Cecile McLorin Salvant.

The opening title track is a fitting introduction to the ‘Nighthawks’ theme and features “breathy” vocals from Horsfall whilst the backing musicians echo the lyrics with especially good accompaniment from Smith on alto sax and Segundo on drums. The two covers are, Barry Harris’ Paradise and Duke Ellington’s Sunset & The Mockingbird which has a new lyric.

The compositions by Horsfall are: Then I Saw You, Secretly, Couldn’t Stop Loving You and This Is Goodbye. The 3 instrumental sections are entitled Interludes 1-3 and as they are interludes, they are very short, but I would have liked a touch more of these atmospheric and melancholy pieces. The closing track This Is Goodbye is also appropriately titled and the drums and double bass lend a gravitas to the finale.

Edward Hopper Nighthawks

This is not a CD that gets your foot tapping, nor is it the most uplifting, but it is different. There is a strong nightclub set feel with some of the lyrics and vocals taking you straight back to the 1930s or '50s (eg. Paradise).

 

Edward Hopper - Nighthawks

 

 

Horsfall’s voice is hard to categorise, some comment it is “bittersweet”, “plaintive” or gritty”, perhaps it is just unique. However, although the structure with its mix of vocals and instrumental interludes is dated in itself, there is a sense of modernising in the contemplation within the lyrics. The album title is well echoed in the desolation from the sound of the voice and lyrics which enhance the late night vibe.

Click here for details and to sample the album.

Tim Rolfe

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Favourite Animals - Favourite Animals

Album Released: 4th December 2017 - Label: Luminous Label - Reviewed: January 2018

Favourite Animals album

Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone); Sam Andreae (tenor saxophone); Anton Hunter (guitar); Seth Bennett (double bass); Johnny Hunter (drums); Dee Byrne (alto saxophone); Julie Kjaer (bass clarinet, flute); Tom Ward (bass clarinet, flute); Graham South (trumpet); Tullis Rennie (trombone).

When do ten Favourite Animals add up to five?  Roberts, Andreae, Bennett & 2 x Hunter’s are members of Sloth Racket (see our review archive).  The Racket is an improvising quintet led by baritone sax player Cath Roberts.  Over the last eighteen months they have begun to re-energise the process of spontaneous jazz composition/performance in the UK. This new larger version of Sloth Racket is an exciting development.  For sure if you’ve picked up on the quintet’s two previous albums Triptych and Shapeshifters you’re gonna dig this new Favourite Animals session.  But even if you found those first two precious gems a little demanding I’m suggesting you may well wish to consider this latest Cath Roberts project as a new start. 

Here comes the statement:  Favourite Animals is a brilliantly conceived big band construct, played by musicians who tip their tones to the Brotherhead of Breath, Keith Tippett’s The Ark, with a trace of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra somewhere down in the deep end.  There’s maybe even a smidgin of the great Loose Tubes in the mix.  For all that lineage, it is the FA’s who are now producing a radical contemporary music which is absolutely on the money.  The album was paid for by crowd funding; join the masses.  Favourite Animals comes very early in the year, but it makes January 2018 worth getting into; it’s a stunner!

Track one, Confirm Or Deny is undeniably ‘big’.  It steps out with a riff as huge as a dinosaur (no, this one is not extinct) and then creates space for flute/wind, reed smears to give us a whole rainforest of smaller Favourite invertebrates.  And I’m glad Cath Roberts gets in early with her baritone saxophone.  (Come ON, when do you get to hear a good bari exercising some discretion over proceedings?).  Anton Hunter’s guitar is bleeping his own spacey descriptions alongside the reeds and brass.  Plus, there’s that dinosaur riff building and fading providing a kind of compass point to the direction of travel.  The Drummer-Hunter forcefully batters his kit.  For a few bars it’s as if he’s joined the old Brecker Brothers.  Michael and Randy would have been scrambling for the open country if they’d ever been asked to get this close to a tight corner.  It’s the first track, eight minutes of creative mayhem, invention, and sheer joyous orchestrations and improv.  Already I’m congratulating the good people of the LUME collective for releasing these Favourite Animals from captivity.

Click here to listen to Confirm Or Deny.

The next fabulous track is called Unspeakable – I won’t let the title get in my way, because music like this gets to the core of what improvisation in contemporary orchestras is all about (and what it isn’t).  This is my interpretation, I don’t ‘speak’ for Cath Roberts or her crew.  The quality of Unspeakable comes direct from the interaction of the musicians, the ‘compositional’ element is in the form not the lines. It begins with Anton Hunter’s guitar, a simple chord shaping and theme setting the scenery, his brother Johnny logging the slow, slow pace of the piece with poised percussion positioning.  Everything else that is unveiled over the next eight-plus minutes grows out of these initial delicate conversational cadences.  Unspeakable doesn’t stay still, it isn’t soft focus ambient ‘Eno’, neither cathartic workout; every ‘Favourite Animal’ is on message. Reeds and brass almost shudder within their detailed front-line/backdrop of orchestration. Seth Bennett’s double bass ripples underneath the other nine like he’s had private information of the direction home.  A slightly extended version cries out for contemporary choreography.  When it dies away, using crushed electricity coming off the Guitar-Hunter, I have to agree the performance has become Unspeakable.  The word ‘Magic’, simply will not do.

Click here to listen to Unspeakable.

What follows are three contrasting tracks.  Boiling Point is introduced by reeds, brass and an investigative double bass. Byrne, Roberts and Andreae’s reeds achieve every angle other than playing a straight line.  They know the score (that there is no score), and the flute/bass clarinet partnership of Kjaer and Ward begin a circle dance of their own. South and Rennie’s brass come to the boil just as the reeds gradually begin to pull out some long lines of form.  The Hunter brothers have also imperceptibly established contact.  The Boiling Point is cooking.  By the time the tentet reach thirteen minutes there is an arrival. The end is a lovely thing for sure but it’s how they got there that is the real fascination.  Off-World is a different pitch and only half the length of Boiling. It is built on ‘small’ sourced sounds.  The Art Ensemble of Chicago came to something close to Off-World two or three decades ago.  How any improvising ensemble harbour the tiny detail in their capabilities is surely an important facet of their art.  The AEoC were/are true pioneers of the longevity of maintaining a stable line-up over years, over decades, across continents, through marriages and death, in politics and out of politics, via reeds, brass, drum&bass and literally another hundred other instruments collected on the journey.  May it be that twenty years from now there will be a Favourite Animals continuum that tracks their journey too.  I’d suggest, it’s that important, this music.  The longevity.  And as such the discovery of the ‘smaller’ sounds – the scrapes and rattles, the overblows, the percussion of sax pads, the bringing together of the brittle wire in electricity, and the choices made in bringing them together give a sense of ‘fit’ to musicians and thus the music they make.  It’s an Off-World. The real world.

The final track is called Shreds and there-in lies the clue. Shreds is literally conceived out of Shreds of everything that has gone before. So it begins with that Confirm Or Deny riff from track one and goes on to reference aspects of Unspeakable, Boiling Point and Off-World.  By ‘shredding’ the music there is an element of re-cycling, in so doing the content has become a different thing.  To my mind Shreds could be said to be a long coda seeking to reframe the ‘bandbook’ without calling any of it into question.  I like the way it just ends.  It just stops.  No returning to the Confirm Or Deny riff, in fact not confirming or denying anything.  In doing so Cath Roberts gives validity to the whole five track performance. And I like that too.

Over the last couple of years the Cath Roberts/Dee Byrne Lume Collective (as well as the Martin Archer Discus Label in Sheffield) have really made their own ‘Giant Steps’ on the UK jazz scene.  The fact that none of these people figured in the ‘British Jazz Awards 2017’ should not be considered a problem unless you want to find one.  Often, okay very often, that’s just how it is.  It doesn’t take away from all those excellent musicians who did figure in the Awards listings.  But this I know, Favourite Animals are making a ‘mindset’ change not just a musical one.  In doing so they represent an immensely positive start to 2018.  Stay on board for the Luminous long game. Brilliant.

Click here for details and to listen to the album.

Steve Day  www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk 

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Freddy Randall And His Band - My Tiny Band Is Chosen (The Parlophone Years 1952 - 1957)

Album Released: 1st December 2017 - Label: Lake Records - Reviewed: January 2018

Freddy Randall My Tiny Band Is Chosen

Lake Records continue their retrospective collections by British jazz musicians with this compilation of tracks from trumpeter Freddy Randall and his Band. From the correspondence I receive, I know many readers have fond memories of the Freddy Randall band playing at venues such as Wood Green Jazz Club or Cooks Ferry Inn or from those who played with him such as Dave Keir and Gerry Salisbury, both who feature on this album.

As usual with Lake releases, Paul Adams has included informative liner notes, in this case looking back at the record labels that existed as the Trad boom grew in the 1940s and 1950s and how they responded to jazz. 'Parlophone on the other hand was the one label to embrace it from the word go' ..... 'Lyttelton and Randall produced two of the finest bands of the era. Freddy Randall did not achieve the fame and following Humph did, but given the number of records which were issued, they must have sold well enough to justify continuing with releases. In those days Freddy stuck doggedly to his Chicago / Condon / Spanier style: he was not frightened to use a guitar instead of a banjo and, like Humph, was prepared to use a saxophone'.

Freddy Randall was born in 1921 in Clapton, East London. At eighteen he was playing trumpet with the St Louis Four and with other bands as a sideman. After the War he led his own groups that would feature many top British jazz musicians such as Bruce Turner, Danny Moss and Brian Lemon, but he sadly gave up playing between 1958 and 1963 suffering from lung problems. He returned to the recording studio in the mid 1960s playing with Dave Shepherd and recorded for Black Lion Records in the early '70s. He passed away in 1999. at the age of 78. Click here for a full obituary for Freddy in The Independent.

In his liner notes, Paul Adams quotes Digby Fairweather as saying that Freddy played: 'in a style which varied at will from the direct punch of Muggsy Spanier to the more florid creations of Harry James and Charlie Teagarden ... his records of the 1950s period - for Parlophone's Super Rhythm Style - are great Jazz in any language'.

So here we have 24 tracks in all. 21 are from Parlophone and three 'from a very rare somewhat battered acetate and have never been issued before. In fact 'The recordings on the CD came from a variety of sources: original master tapes, 78 rpm discs, LP, EP and acetates ... the rarest sides are tracks 8, 9, and 10 (Smokey Mokes; The Sheik Of Araby and At The Jazz Band Ball) and they required the most work'. As you might guess, Paul Adams has produced the reproduction with care.

The first eleven tracks are from 1952 starting with a happy version of I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll and Freddy takes the vocal in a line up that includes Norman Cave, Bruce Turner, Lennie Felix, Lew Green, Ted Palmer and Lennie Hastings. Dark Night Blues is an interesting track with the effects introduced in the arrangement. Opening with Lew Green's guitar the use of muted brass make this a little different to the norm. Clarinet Marmalade romps away, as you might expect, punctuated by Norman Cave's trombone and with Bruce Turner interrupting before Norman takes his solo and Ted Palmer's bass duets with Art Straddon on piano. The Original Dixieland One-Step gets your feet tapping and has a nice, extended solo from Bruce Turner. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) has a sensitive clarinet introduction with Freddy then taking the vocal and following it with a straight trumpet solo before Norman Cave's trombone enters. (I now realise that I have not given due notice in the past to Norman's playing).

Billy Banks takes the vocals on Tishomingo Blues with a line up where David Fraser on piano, Bob Coram on guitar and Ron Stone, bass, replace Art Straddon, Lew Green and Ted Palmer. Banks has a distinctive vocal style and here again Norman Cave makes himself heard. The same line up play Walking The Dog, a dance step described by Banks in his vocal. Bruce Turner's clarinet is a joy 'walking that dog, boy'! 'Do that slow drag round the hall ... drop just like a dog'. Smokey Mokes, one of the rare tracks here, has call and response with the rhythm section solidly driving the band through a great track that exudes 'happy'. The Sheik Of Araby ripples in with David Fraser's piano leading into a clear Freddy Randall trumpet solo before trombone and clarinet come out the play, and then At The Jazz Band Ball is taken fast; played this fast even the teens of the time would have had a job dancing to it! The same band line up slows down somewhat for Sunday with nice ensemble interaction and a solo from Bruce Turner before Freddy cuts in. Norman's trombone and David's piano each take us back to the ensemble. Let me mention again the solid rhythm section that ties things together well.

The next three tracks introduce a different line up from 1955. Trumpeter Dave Keir plays trombone here; Al Gay (a charming, highly respected musician I only met once and sadly never heard play live) has the clarinet; Betty Smith is on tenor sax, Harry Smith on piano and bass, and Stan Bourke has the drums. They take the title track, a derivative My Tiny Band Is Chosen, with a storming solo from Freddy Randall and a short swinging burst from Betty Smith. They follow it with Hindustan with a weaving clarinet from Al Gay before Betty solos again. Al Gay has his solo turn as does Harry Smith on piano before the ensemble drives to the finish. W.C. Handy's Memphis Blues makes use of the front line in unison and Al Gay, Freddy Randall and Harry Smith take the solos. Another band change has Pete Hodge coming in on trombone, Syd Boatman at the piano and Jack Peberdy on bass for November Blues with Freddy on muted trumpet for a call and reponse beginning. Al Gay, Pete Hodge, Betty Smith and the muted Freddy take solos on this smooth version. Ja Da has Orme Stuart on trombone and Harry Smith is back at the piano. No mute to Freddy's cutting trumpet here and Al Gay's clarinet dances lightly before trombone, bass, piano and drums solo.

Another change for the next three tracks sees Eddie Thompson on piano for a welcome version of Sugar reminding us how good these musicians were. That Da Da Strain and Ain't Misbehavin' bring more good solos to old favourites. Esox and Jealousy bring an interesting change as trumpeter Gerry Salisbury takes over on bass! Gerry told me that Freddy Randall’s one-time piano player, Mike Bryan, phoned Gerry to say that he was starting up a band to play at the United States Air Force bases throughout France. Lennie Hastings, Tony Coe, and others had signed up but Mike needed a bass player – was Gerry interested? Gerry had just two weeks to learn. Mike offered Gerry an old string bass that was at Mike’s house, and two weeks later, Gerry went to France and stayed for six months playing with the band. Esox has some good solos at differing tempos.

Which brings us to the three 'bonus' tracks. These have much the same line up as the Billy Banks tracks from 1952 but without the vocalist and with Dave Fraser on piano. Avalon, Mood Indigo and New Orleans Masquerade are from battered acetates, not from Parlophone and are previously unissued. Lake Records have done an excellent job with the reproduction and with Bruce Turner's clarinet and Bob Coram's guitar on Avalon; Freddy's trumpet and Norman Cave's trombone on Mood Indigo and the Masquerade jauntily taking us out, these are welcome 'finds'.

If you remember Freddy Randall's band, this is a compilation worth having. If you don't remember Freddy Randall, this is not only a fine introdution to the bandleader but a great reminder of some early nuggets from British musicians who should not be forgotten.

Click here for details and to sample the album.

Ian Maund

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Fraser And The Alibis - Fraser & The Alibis

Album Released: 1st October 2017 - Label: Self Released - Reviewed: January 2018

Fraser and the Alibis

This eponymous debut album from Fraser & The Alibis is the result of someone's Dad suggesting the band do a recording.  The group of erstwhile music students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama met at college and have been playing together for around 10 years.  The band features Fraser Smith on tenor saxophone,  Joe Webb on Hammond organ, Harry Sankey on guitar and Gethin Jones on drums.  The album has seven tracks and lasts twenty five minutes in total. 

Major influences for the band include tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, guitarist Wes Montgomery and organist Jack McDuff; all musicians who were active around the 1960s during the hard bop and soul jazz era. This style of music came into being in reaction to both the cool jazz of the 1950s and rock and roll which was rapidly gaining popularity with young audiences at the time. Hard bop is dynamic and vigorous music with roots in gospel and blues and Fraser Smith & The Alibis happily embrace this genre with gusto, Joe Webb's Hammond organ in particular evoking giants of the style such as Jimmy Smith.  All of the tunes are compositions by Fraser Smith.

Fraser Smith describes the music the band play as straight ahead jazz, in other words a melody (or head) establishing a chord progression that is typically repeated each time a band member plays a solo. This approach is commonly adopted in jam sessions and at jazz clubs and pubs where perhaps a visiting soloist plays with the house rhythm section and it is enjoyed by many jazz fans, particularly when the soloists are really good.  Luckily this band does have some really good musicians with a combination of instruments that provide excellent opportunities for some exciting music.

The first two tracks are classics of the straight ahead genre, entitled Dream and French Toast respectively. Both melodies have Smith's distinctive, burly saxophone providing the introduction and lively solos from saxophone, organ and guitar.  The next track is a blues, called B's Blues, and is the longest track on the album; the title could indicate a link to BB King and the guitar does get the first solo.  Track 4, On The Green reverts back to the original format with another strong saxophone melody and some really good solo improvisations.

Click here for a video of Fraser and the Alibis playing On The Green at Sofar, London on March 31st, 2017.

Track 5, Breakout, raises the tempo considerably with a bebop style piece, energetic drumming and solos that really demonstrate the bands skill and versatility. Tracks 6 and 7, Boogaloo Stew and The Woods return to the straight ahead style which Fraser Smith and the band are passionate about. 

The straight ahead style of jazz and hard bop played by Fraser Smith & The Alibis was probably most popular in the 1960s and again from 1980s but is still enjoyed today by many and it is they who will most appreciate this album.  The album transfers your local jazz club into your living room and this may be an attractive option if winter tightens its icy grip and no one fancies venturing out of the house. The band is made up of some talented, energetic musicians who are making their way in the music world playing different styles of jazz in various bands, which is confirmed on the band website where it states that the band has an unrivalled repertoire of American songbook and classic popular tunes and that they have played at over 500 private and corporate events.  In view of this it is a little disappointing that the album is rather short and could perhaps have been improved with some extra tracks, maybe a ballad or two and some variations of tempo and rhythm. 

Click here to listen to the complete debut album from Fraser and the Alibis.

Click here for Fraser and the Alibis' website.

Click here for our 'Tea Break' with Fraser.

Howard Lawes

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Josephine Davies - Satori

Album Released: 24th February 2017 - Label: Whirlwind Recordings - Reviewed: January 2018

Josephine Davies Satori

Josephine Davies (tenor & soprano saxophones);  Dave Whitford (double bass); Paul Clarvis (drums).

The inventive percussionist Paul Clarvis hasn’t crossed my path for a few years.  It’s probably a matter of where I’ve been, not him.  (His world’s bigger than mine.)  No matter, it’s great to rattle my ears again with his take on time.  Paul Clarvis smacks drumhead, rim and metal in a way that edges a band forward; like dodging dodgems.  There’s something Southend-On-Sea about him.  Here Mr Clarvis is in partnership with bassist Dave Whitford.  A man who is so damn linear he runs a continuous line straight through this session.  He could lead you into tomorrow without you realising midnight had passed the witching hour.  Why, what’s on their agenda?  Josephine Davies.  A reeds player who is new to me.  Her soprano is both strong and smooth, her tenor a feed off all those names you already know, yet she definitely has her own way of doing stuff.  Dances the sound of her two horns into some very fine music.  Already the Satori session could be said to have raised the game, at least in the UK. 

The fact that Ms Davies has taken (what still seems like) a bold step and dispensed with ‘comping chords’ is to her credit.  No piano or guitar.  The Clarvis/Whitford team afford her all the clarity she needs.  Satori has got to rate as a debut classic, full of fine artistry and unfettered melodic investigations, brimming over with pleasure.  She name-checks Sibelius on the cover.  Okay, I wouldn’t know about that.  I’d checkmate Ornette and call it a day.

The opener, Insomnia is all melodic soprano, a nice taster.  Then you hit this short thing called Something Small played on a new voice tenor and it seems as if the leader has just opened the windows.  She might as well be reading poetry.  The saxophone is singing unaccompanied for the first verse then Mr Whitford’s bass begins following her note for note, and that man Clarvis is shaking his drum kit around the pair of them as if the party’s over and they’re making their way home through deserted streets where they’ve got the whole width of the road.  Josephine Davies is faintly awesome, dying a note the way Charles Lloyd used to.  She lets this Something Small bleed into the third track The Tempest Prognosticator (a 19th Century leech barometer – no, I don’t know either). To my ears it begins before the other has ended.  It doesn’t matter, that’s why Something Small is recorded, just play the track over and over again until you’ve convinced yourself it’s the tonic you’ve been searching for since the coming of the winter solstice. Then you can allow entry to The Prognosticator and wake up to the realisation that here is another whole composition turned into an experiment as powerful as medication.  A tight bass and drum duet leads into the tenor getting turned on until it swings and races through the non-existent ‘changes’ like Jarrett or someone similar had got hold of an invisible score and was playing them in silence.  I tell ya, she’s the real thing.  And this trio is exactly where she should be right now.  Ms Davies has been in the reeds ranks of both the Pete Hurt Orchestra and the London Jazz Orchestra.  Fine, but having some space around her is definitely what’s needed. 

Click here to listen to The Tempest Prognosticator.

It’s not always true that the longest cut is the deepest.  But I’m going to try and make that case for Snakes.  It’s not that Snakes is way ahead of the pack.  This album is consistently good from the git-go.  Snakes is singled out because it begins languid and loose, almost a casual slow blues pulled from the pocket; there’s Clarvis worrying the cymbals, Whitford pulling off a bass line like he borrowed it and can’t give it back, and the tenor unthreatening and late-night.  But as the saxophone talks, it begins to speak of midnight’s demons and gradually unfolds into something close to Coltrane when he was still recording for Atlantic. It’s possible to position the saxophone with such a description.  But it really will not do.  Let’s start a new paragraph.

Click here to listen to Snakes.

This Satori album contains two takes of a composition called Paradoxy which are a straight nod to Sonny Rollins both in the title and recital, but Snakes has much bolder ambitions.  Josephine manages to squeeze through the gap in mere ‘homage’.  Her Snakes contain venom.  It is one of four tracks on the album recorded live at the Jazz Nursery at Southwark. Listen carefully and you can hear the audience respond to this ‘snake’ (a term Evan Parker used to use for his horn).  There’s a couple of other smart performances, Crisp Otter (say it fast and think of a famous America tenor player).  There’s an odd time signal, a theme which spreads out and then closes in on itself. I like the fact that a dedication can both invoke another player without paraphrasing them. 

The other key track is a spare twisting, circling thing called The Yips.  It runs the Davies soprano very close to the territory of Jane Ira Bloom.  Ms Davis allows the straight horn to sing through its full length.  The sound simply takes off.  And it’s here that the Clarvis/Whitford partnership becomes embedded.  There’s space given to a truly creative tangled percussion/single noted duet - all brushed snare smacks and flip flicks, double bass picking a line free of borders.  Yippee!

Click here to listen to Something Small.

I’m totally convinced.  Josephine Davies needs to hang onto this trio.  I hope to hear them again, live and on disk.  Someone put the word out – DAVIES, CLARVIS, WHITFORD. 

Click here for details and to sample the album.

Steve Day  www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk

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Alan Barnes and David Newton - Ask Me Now

Album Released: January / February 2018 - Label: Woodville Records - Reviewed: January 2018

Alan Barnes and David Newton Ask Me Now

Alan Barnes and David Newton, two stalwarts of the British jazz scene, have been collaborating on various projects for 40 years. Ask Me Now is their latest joint outing and features Barnes on clarinet, and alto, soprano and baritone saxophones; and Newton on piano. Together, they elegantly work their way through eleven pieces ranging from old standards to some less familiar tunes.

The sleeve notes nonchalantly tell us that the album was “recorded ‘round Ronnie Smith’s house, Watford on 12th and 13th July 2017” and, indeed, photos of the recording session on the sleeve show microphones, musicians and instruments within the cosy domestic setting of stairs, halls and sitting rooms. This lends an appealingly intimate tone to the album, as if the musicians were performing in your own sitting room. You can almost hear them breathing – and what sounds like humming on occasion. It has to be said, though, that there is nothing home-made about the recording quality which is superb.

There is a freshness to the album which may also be partly a consequence of the recording context. Familiar tunes, like the Jerome Kern opening track, I Won’t Dance, are played as if they’d never been played before. The quality of the improvising is a factor here – both Barnes and Newton are skilled and imaginative improvisers who never allow themselves to settle into a complacent groove.

Another factor contributing to the fresh feel is the emotion which both musicians invest in their playing. Listening to Barnes’s lilting and passionate alto on I Won’t Dance, for example, is enough to convince you that, no, he won’t dance. Ever. But it is on clarinet, of which he is surely one of the modern masters, that Barnes can be at his most feeling and lyrical. On the Luiz Bonfa tune, The Gentle Rain, for example, his warm clarinet leaps and soars.

Even on baritone, which sometimes I find can be a cumbersome, rather cold instrument, Barnes hits the mood time after time – pleasantly melancholic on Billy Strayhorn’s Ballad For Very Sad And Very Tired Lotus Eaters; wistful but intense on the old standard, Little Man, You’ve Had A Busy Day; humorous and agile on the title track, Thelonious Monk’s Ask Me Now.   

But this is not the Alan Barnes Show with Newton providing the accompaniment. This is a genuine collaboration with both musicians interacting beautifully, their contributions knitting together to create constantly satisfying performances. On The Gentle Rain, for example, Newton’s arpeggios mimic the sound of said rain perfectly. On Ask Me Now, Newton is just as agile and imaginative as Barnes, and both capture the Monk-like mood of the piece. The Harry Warren composition, You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me, sounds like the two musicians are having a far-reaching conversation with each other in the pub.

Barnes contributes one of his own compositions to the album: The Sun, The Sea, The Stars, And Me, originally composed for lyrics by Alan Plater. As a tune, it easily holds its own with the rest of the album, with an attractive bossa nova rhythm rendered superbly by Newton. Not to be outdone, Newton brings his own composition, Looking At You – coincidentally, another gentle bossa nova (and another memorable tune) – to the table.

The highlight of the whole album is a version of Duke Ellington’s The Mooche. Barnes plays some marvellously passionate and brooding clarinet, engaging with all the different moods and registers of the piece. Newton’s bluesy piano has touches of Ellington and Monk, but is mainly Newton. Both players manage to sound like a much bigger ensemble than a duo, locking together in a compelling performance which would surely have even impressed the Duke himself.

This album will be available on Woodville Records during January 2018 and more widely from February.

Click here for a video of Alan Barnes and David Newton playing The Song Is You in 2017 with Eryl Roberts (drums) and Ed Harrison (bass) - [Not on the album].

Click here for Alan Barnes' website. Click here for David Newton's website.

Robin Kidson

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These reviews are the personal impressions/opinions of each reviewer. Where we can, we provide links to samples of the albums so that readers can make up their own minds.

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2018

 

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