‘Live at the Vortex’ – Kristian Borring Quartet

KristianBorring_Live at the Vortex

DANISH GUITARIST Kristian Borring’s most recent solo albums (Urban Novel and Silent Storm) revealed artistry and technique of particularly deft, cool clarity – and from the bright, opening phrases of the first of six well-chosen numbers, these live quartet recordings garnered from a session at London’s Vortex Jazz Club hold the attention in an especially direct way.

Live music is so precious; and a glimpse (or memory) of this quartet’s late-November evening sparkle is recorded and engineered here with precision by Alex Bonney, the inclusion of appreciative, close audience applause placing it in context. Along with pianist Rick Simpson, double bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Jon Scott, Borring’s electric guitar personality consistently shines – from a Jim Hall lushness in busy Imperfect Circumstances to the free-spirited dreaminess of A Lullaby which shimmers to Simpson’s tremulant piano washes and Scott’s brush-and-cymbal coloration (a drummer who consistently shades even the subtlest original music with focused, balmlike expression). Interesting, too, to hear two different interpretations from the Silent Storm release – Fable and April Fools, both with particularly effusive piano spotlights and the strong bass presence of Dave Whitford.

Borring’s London Magic (complete with recurring chordal motifs echoing the since-silenced hour chimes of Big Ben) is a positive and buoyant treasure, with crystalline solo-line improv supported so skilfully by his band; and turn up the volume for the romantically ornamented, unaccompanied guitar opening of Hoagy Carmichael’s evergreen Skylark which, it turns out, is just the prelude to almost nine minutes of rapturous, restrained, six-string beauty.

A pleasure to listen in on Kristian Borring and colleagues, on-stage, right there in their element.

Released on 15 September, Live at the Vortex is available, digitally, from Amazon.

 

Kristian Borring guitar
Rick Simpson piano
Dave Whitford double bass
Jon Scott drums

kristianborring.com

Self-released (2017)

Advertisements

‘Transitions’ – Julian Costello Quartet

JulianCostello_Transitions

THE THREE subtle soprano sax keys on Julian Costello’s album cover hint at the assiduous craftsmanship which he applies, both compositionally and in performance, to this new quartet release, Transitions; and entirely appropriate that he’s joined by the similarly focused minds of guitarist Maciez Pysz, double bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 15 September 2017 and available from 33 Jazz and Amazon.

 

Julian Costello tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Maciek Pysz electric guitar, classical guitar
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Adam Teixeira drums, percussion

juliancostello.co.uk

33 Jazz Records – 33JAZZ268 (2017)

‘By’ – Hvalfugl

Hvalfugl

IT NEITHER SHOUTS nor stamps its feet, but this delightful debut release from Scandinavian trio Hvalfugl exudes crystalline warmth and a certain spacial delicacy – a beacon of serenity above the throng of high-energy jazz. 

The twelve tracks of By (translated as ‘town’) feature bucolic, European folk tunes which suggest they have been called out and handed down through the generations, yet are the original, contemporary works of pianist Jonathan Fjord Bredholt, guitarist Jeppe Lavsen and double bassist Anders Juel Bomholt. With Bazar Blå, Esbjörn Svensson Trio and Jan Johansson amongst their inspirations, the trio’s compositions combine brightly-dancing unison melodies and soft, carol-like phrases with subtle improvisation; and whilst this landscape’s openness might, at times, be interpreted as ‘new-age’ or ‘ambient’, it’s the precise execution and atmospheric breathability, as well as the skill in evoking imagery, which appeals.

There’s a reassuring bonhomie to ForårsdagOp Nord and Stormsvale, their gently rhythmic phrases skipping with a freshness which intimates the cycle of seasons and traditions, whilst Novemberhymne celebrates the coming of Autumn with shadowy bass-thrummed anticipation, then the cheery fireside glow of focused guitar and piano. Countryfied, suspended tranquillity in Lomborg and title track By are redolent of the music of Jonas Knutsson and Johan Norberg; velvety harmonium in Listevals recalls the folksy collaborations of Frode Alnæs, Arild Andersen and Stian Carstensen; and spirited waltz Mäsk exemplifies the trio’s natural aptitude for creating momentum without percussion, Bomholt’s bass providing the foundation to pirouetting motifs from Bredholt and Lavsen. Lilting Hvalfugl possesses a characterful melody which, like so many from the band, feels attractively familiar; and in pellucid Færgen (‘the ferry’), subtle electronics help to magically convey a twilight homecoming.

If you’re sensing a chill in the air or disfavour the quickening sundown… this could be your lodestar.

Released in June 2017, By is available as a digital download from Amazon or eMusic, or as a CD by directly emailing: hvalfugl@gmail.com

Video: Novemberhymne

 

Jonathan Fjord Bredholt piano, harmonium
Jeppe Lavsen guitar
Anders Juel Bomholt double bass

hvalfugl.dk
@_Hvalfugl

Self-released (2017)

‘Vein plays Ravel’ – Vein

Vein plays Ravel

IF EVER there was a jazz piano trio album whose informed, creative invention deserved the proposition “just buy it”… well, Vein plays Ravel is most certainly a contender.

After more than a decade together, the partnership of pianist Michael Arbenz, drummer Florian Arbenz and bassist Thomas Lähns has spawned numerous recordings; and the Swiss trio’s recent release of originals (The Chamber Music Effect) beautifully reflects the freedom of interpretation to be found in classical chamber works. To approach the output of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) might, then, be seen as a natural progression; though also an audacious step, as it’s a sound world brimming with much-loved melodies and impressionistic piano and orchestral textures. However, Ravel famously listened to early-20th Century jazz (meeting George Gershwin in the States) and embraced it in his writing… so there’s a sense here that, if any of the historical composers were to sit on Vein’s collective shoulders, the Frenchman might well have collaborated with the greatest enthusiasm.

Importantly, the trio are way beyond any idea of simply retouching Ravelian manuscripts with a superficial swing or a cheery, ornamented solo line – on the contrary, it’s their depth of thought which is so compelling, understanding how to substantially deconstruct then sensitively reshape this glorious music without it becoming grotesque. Seemingly a labour of love – and what a triumph!

The recognisably babbling piano Prélude to Le Tombeau de Couperin organically integrates perpetuum-mobile bass and drums, drifting in and out of its formal structure with contemporary abandon, yet always faithful to the romanticism of Ravel. Forlane‘s original 6/8 dance is initially stated with exquisite fluidity before being decorated with fine percussion and lithe bass expressions; and there’s a magical, almost levitational intricacy to the opening of Toccata – the last of Vein’s three interpretations from this six-movement work – and the most dynamic, syncopated transformation, complete with rapid piano-and-bass figures and flamboyant drumming.

Entitled Blues by Ravel himself, the already impudent-sounding middle movement of his second Violin Sonata is the perfect vehicle for Vein’s mysterious, tango-like searching as Lähns’ arco octaves toy vocally with their suspicious accompaniment, whilst similarly playful Five o’Clock Foxtrot (from opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges) is magnificently refashioned as an episodic arrangement full of cat-and-mouse chase, elegant piano sorcery and rock-heavy riffs. Guest saxophonist Andy Sheppard joins the trio to reimagine Movement de Menuet (originally a piano sonatina) in a contemporary jazz setting of undulating tenor-led improvisation; and at first disguised within the charming, musical-box softness of Michael Arbenz’s prepared piano, the familiar motifs of Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte evolve into one of the most limpid, even emotional interpretations imaginable (replay it many times to luxuriate in its otherworldliness).

At the centrepiece of this project is, arguably, Ravel’s most familiar work – the repetitive orchestral progression, Bolero. Though sometimes derided, this is a unique masterpiece of crescendoing orchestral arrangement – and Vein’s octet interpretation (augmented by Sheppard and a quartet of reed and brass players) is extraordinarily imaginative. The constant snare drum motif of the original is cleverly expanded upon by Florian Arbenz, somehow managing to maintain its building momentum through elaborate rhythms whilst lush, rising, almost Zawinul-like harmonies and exuberant improvisations are underpinned by morse-code piano ostinati. Initially quite a jolt to the senses – ultimately an absolute tour de force.

The title Vein plays Ravel doesn’t begin to describe the detailing and the brilliance of this project – and it wouldn’t be surprising if Maurice is right there, in the midst.

Released on 8 September 2017 and available from vein-plays-ravel.com, as well as Amazon, Apple Music, etc.

 

Michael Arbenz piano
Thomas Lähns bass
Florian Arbenz drums
featuring
Andy Sheppard tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
(on Bolero and Mouvement de Menuet)
and
Martial In Al-bon trumpet, flugelhorn
Florian Weiss trombone
Nils Fischer soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Noah Arnold alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
(on Bolero)

vein.ch

Challenge Records – DMCHR 71179 (2017)

‘World Peace Trio’ – World Peace Trio

WorldPeaceTrio

INVITED to perform, in 2015, at Jakarta’s Kota Tua Jazz Festival and then at the Bali World Music Festival, Indonesian pianist/keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan, British saxophonist/clarinettist Gilad Atzmon and Kuwaiti oud player/guitarist Kamal Musallam chose to consolidate their new-found partnership as the World Peace Trio.

Creating a tingling fusion of musical strands – as well as importantly demonstrating an absence of cultural or religious divide – the trio followed up each of these festival performances by capturing their essence in local studio recordings, honing down a larger amount of material which flowed from the sessions into this hour of hypnotically exotic grooves. Atzmon’s impressive Orient House Ensemble catalogue of Israeli-inflected jazz improvisation and cabaret eccentricity is well-loved – and here, that signature clarinet and sax vibrato melds sublimely with Musallam’s evocative oud textures and Dharmawan’s profuse, polychromatic piano to fashion music which displays oriental and gamelan luminosity.

With the majority of these eight, spacious numbers being co-composed and improvised as a trio, the connectional freedom is tangible as themes are introduced and then expanded through heady, often repetitive environments – so The Seeker‘s mysterious, rhythmic motif crescendos towards Atzmon’s dry, reedy acclamations; and the aromatic kendang-and-oud impetus of traditional Palestinian song Ramallah, across almost eleven minutes, finds Atzmon’s low, fervid clarinet electronically ‘whistled’ in higher register.

Another kind of beauty is reflected in quieter pools. Nasser Salameh’s high, hollow frame drumming accentuates Morning Mist‘s overlapping melodic chants; balmy Peace and Beyond shimmers to Dharmawan’s electric piano, along with Asaf Sirkis’s intuitive snare and open cymbals, before Musallam’s energized midi guitar soloing ramps up; and in a particularly original interpretation of Gershwin’s In a Sentimental Mood, coruscating piano and kendang patterns give way to a rapturous central section of oh-so-romantic clarinet and piano.

The intense, addictive gyrations of Ghaza Mon Amour (from Atzmon’s album ‘The Whistle Blower’) seem made for this trio, with guest Ade Rudiana’s driving kendang spirit coaxing angular yet rolling piano, fierce oud improv and electronically-manipulated soprano sax enunciations – a quite mesmerising cocktail. And segued by the dreamy piano and questioning reed escalations of Anecdote, expansive Dawn paints an awakening aurora of gathering positivity through fluctuating, episodic imagery.

A stimulating project whose concordal ambitions are as much about world harmony as musical discovery, it’s tantalising to imagine how it might evolve by inviting guests from around the globe to add their cultural imprint.

Released on 18 August 2017, World Peace Trio is available from Proper Music, Amazon, Apple Music, etc.

 

Dwiki Dharmawan piano, synthesizers
Gilad Atzmon clarinet, soprano saxophone, electronics
Kamal Musallam oud, guitar, midi guitar
with guest musicians:
Ade Rudiana kendang
(on Ramallah, In a Sentimental Mood, Ghaza Mon Amour)
Nasser Salameh
frame drum
(on Morning Mist)
Asaf Sirkis
drums
(on Peace and Beyond)

worldpeacetrio.net

Enja Records – ENJ-9642 2 (2017)

‘London Stories’ – Maciek Pysz & Gianluca Corona

MaciekPysz_GianlucaCorona

THERE’S MAGIC at work when music repeatedly invites you back to delve more deeply into its subtle nuances; something sensed particularly strongly in London Stories – an intimate, acoustic sound world created by guitarists Maciek Pysz and Gianluca Corona. 

Based in the UK capital, Polish-born Pysz and Italian native Corona began this partnership in 2012, and also are acquainted through projects such as their Acustica Trio. These eight original numbers, originally captured in 2014, recall the pellucid craft of Ralph Towner, Al Di Meola or (the now late) John Abercrombie, presenting an airy synergy which suggests relaxed conversation drifting from a dappled-lit pavement cafe; a series of studies or, indeed, chapters where the unfolding narrative continues from page to page.

The focus here, heard closely, is a delight as the players’ classical and acoustic guitars seamlessly exchange precise, bright melodies and sensitive chordal efflorescence in Maciek Pysz’s gentle, Flamenco-tinged Fresh Look; and co-composed Amici skips amiably in similarly Spanish shades, though also with a more subdued, wistful heart. From Pysz’s trio album Insight, warm, melodic Those Days takes on an openness which reveals more of its deft, harmonic framework alongside crisp soloing and a purposeful unison bass riff – in fact, attempting to track the cross-pollination of the duo’s roles can be pretty futile, such is their technical parity. Corona’s Tower Block ebbs and flows through sun and shade, the closeness of the recording picking up hints of breath alongside Aeolian harp-like guitar expressions, whilst Pysz’s elegant bossa, Story of a Story, perpetuates that sense of storytelling as the implied tranquillity of green spaces becomes interspersed with urban busyness.

Phrases in Gianluca Corona’s LHM are fleetingly imbued with the classical guitar character of Lennon & McCartney (maybe it’s those diminished harmonies, reminiscent of ‘And I Love Her’); and dustily rhythmic Desert – another dually-written composition – is perhaps one of the most ambitious as rapid, impassioned, fret-sliding intervals combine with brisk, improvised lines. Closing the set, Corona’s charming, song-like Red Door (one can imagine a vocal) is flushed with countrified descending chords, perhaps imagining a silhouetted-skyline afterglow – and for a moment, all seems well with the world.

These London Stories are recounted in a very personal way by two skilful, empathetic guitarists. Your full attention will be rewarded.

Released in April 2017 and available from 33 Jazz, Proper MusicApple Music and Maciek Pysz’s website.

 

Maciek Pysz classical guitar, acoustic guitar
Gianluca Corona classical guitar

maciekpysz.com
gianlucacorona.com

33 Jazz Records – 33JAZZ262 (2017)

‘Riser’ – Rob Luft

RobLuft_Riser

GUITARIST Rob Luft packs a lot into his debut, Riser – a quintet release of original music oozing vivacious, sun-kissed creativity. 

Based in London and still in his early twenties, Luft was awarded the 2016 Kenny Wheeler Music Prize whilst, in the same year, also achieving second place in the Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition; and his Big Bad Wolf project’s recent first issue, Pond Life, announced an intelligent approach to composition and performance (despite this album’s title modestly referring to the claim that he’s happier on a stage riser than filling out staves and ledger lines).

A contemporary feel across these fifty minutes reflects the cross-genre interests of a young personnel completed by saxophonist Joe Wright, organist/pianist Joe Webb, bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Corrie Dick. Luft’s guitar distinction is his meticulous technique as colorist, imbuing his music with either a bright, township radiance or becalmed beauty; imaginable hero influences might include Kurt Rosenwinkel, Steve Howe or Steve Hackett as he scampers across the frets in Night Songs, its organ-tremulant vibrancy intimating Weather Report with a Caribbean hook. Beware, full of perky, almost Celtic unison riffs, highlights Luft’s quite astonishing soloing rapidity; and title track Riser is dappled with a rocking-chair guitar quaintness associated with ’70s prog before reaching full-Leslie pop-rocking assuredness.

It’s palpable how many concepts whizz around this quintet, so there’s scant evidence of unnecessarily drawing-out ideas. Different Colours of Silence‘s affecting and serene guitar-and-sax aurora comes to dance energetically to Corrie Dick’s skittering percussion, and the afterglow segue into Dust Settles can’t help eventually whipping up a proud, memorable anthem; yet the constant, meditative, swirling washes of both Blue, White and Dreaming and Slow Potion imply the painterly imagery of soundtrack. There’s fun in the air as bass-grooving Shorty and St. Brian I scream their instrumental chants through honking tenor, wailing guitar, heavily-beaten rhythms and sustained organ; and the Spanish guitar delicacy of extended closer We Are All Slowly Leaving (with immaculate intonation from Luft) accelerates into a dizzying house-beat haze of fluid sax improvisation and searing, clashing guitar clusters.

If these myriad expressions sound at risk of being intangible or incohesive… well, it’s thanks to Rob Luft’s artistic overview that it all actually flows with great continuity, the band’s searching spirit driving the album through swathes of textural interest, warmth and esprit.

Riser? Luft is certainly on that upward trajectory.

Released on 28 July 2017 and available as CD or digital download from Edition Records at Bandcamp.

 

Rob Luft guitar
Joe Wright tenor saxophone
Joe Webb Hammond organ, piano, harmonium
Tom McCredie bass
Corrie Dick drums

robluft.co.uk

Edition Records – EDN1095 (2017)