‘Signals’ – Sue Rynhart

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“STAND UP, MAKE IT HAPPEN, live your precious life, stay on your path and lose your way

It only took a few short excerpts to be drawn into the magic of Dublin-based vocalist and songwriter Sue Rynhart’s twelve-track album Signals. A collection of jazz-inflected folk compositions, it continues the partnership with Dan Bodwell established in 2014’s debut release Crossings. The revelation is that the perceived acoustic simplicity of voice and double bass actually presents such a richness of unpredictable artistry, with Rynhart’s imaginative and individualistic approach perhaps comparable to Björk and Lauren Kinsella, and her synergy with the multi-faceted technique of Bodwell endlessly compelling (so much so that a shiver of emotional pleasure is never far away).

Melding melodic Irish folk tradition and enigmatic poetry with oblique, atmospheric twists, the duo radiates a beautiful, contemporary freedom of spirit. Rynhart’s pure, dextrous voice communicates her original writing in a personal, storytelling way that suggests it simply wells up from inside and demands to be heard, whilst Bodwell’s pizzicato-dancing bass is able to shift into arco lyricism and mystery. Descending-bass jazz number Be Content has a catchy familiarity, whilst smouldering Foxed couples a subtle, thrummed bass groove with Rynhart’s wide, enquiring phrases (“Oh little red fox I know you’ve been there, but today your coat looks brighter than a gemstone rare”). Dramatic whisperings and close-to-the bridge bass creaks in The Tree precede a plaintive annunciation which becomes elaborated with wisps of choral psalmody and the classically-interpreted folk of E J Moeran or Vaughan Williams; Little Sparrow‘s autumnal melancholy is simple and tender; and The Coldest Month‘s openness lilts with harmonic bass colour.

Closely layered vocals in Compassion are extraordinarily intricate, and haunting harmonies in a new interpretation of In Dulci Jubilo (with multi-instrumentalist guest Francesco Turrisi providing drum rhythm) suggest the period work of Trio Mediaeval. A contemporary edge is maintained by the dark, arco bass and fluid vocalisations of In Between, accentuated by Rynhart’s persistent mbira chimes; and Black as the Crow Flies (“Twinkle twinkle are your eyes tonight, black as the crow flies on a new moon and never went home”) stands out with its hushed tones and an especially captivating, pliant bass motif from Bodwell. Sue Rynhart paints so vividly with words and music, the repeated phrases of solo piece Summer Bell offering an impression of distant peals across endless fields; Turrisi’s baroque-ornamented then rock-grooving lute in Silliest Game perfectly complements the elegant, bittersweetness of this new Irish folk song; and Wall, Wall, Another Wall closes with a dreamy overlay of speech and floating, sung phrases.

Signals is different… original… and enchantingly transports us to another place. “Lose your way and I’ll follow you.”

Released on 28 April 2017 and available as CD or vinyl from Sue Rynhart’s website, or as a digital download from Amazon or iTunes.

 

Sue Rynhart voice, mbira, recorders, zither
Dan Bodwell double bass
with
Francesco Turrisi lute, medieval drum

suerynhart.com

mrsuesue Records – MRSUESUE 002 (2017)

‘Khamira’ – Khamira

Khamira

EXHILARATING and mesmeric, the eponymous debut release from seven-piece Khamira fuses Welsh folk, jazz and rock with Indian classical music.

It was a masterclass at the Berklee-affiliated Global Music Institute in New Delhi by the four Welsh members of this band (who are united in separate jazz/folk outfit, Burum) which led to the concept of combining a standard jazz quartet of trumpet, piano, bass and drums with the Indian colours of sarangi and tabla, plus vocals/Konnakol and guitar. Blurring the edges of genres and cultures here feels entirely organic, summoning the seminal ’70s fusion experiments of John McLaughlin and Miles Davis, as well as finding a modern-day crossover connection with artists such as Dwiki Dharmawhan and Dewa Budjana.

New arrangements of traditional Welsh songs and Indian classical melodies are combined with two original compositions to deliver fifty-five minutes of extensive, instrumental splendour. Particularly impressive is the versatility of Suhail Yusuf Khan’s stringed sarangi in partnering so melodically with Tomos Williams’ trumpet and Aditya Balani’s electric guitar; and the incisive, often rapid top-note resonances of Vishal Nagar’s tabla accentuate the rhythmic grooves of Dave Jones (piano), Aidan Thorne (electric bass) and Mark O’Connor (drums).

It’s a sound world which increasingly engages, as Khamira’s palette is so varied and the blends so intriguing. Slow-release Pan O’wn y Gwanwyn (The Song of Spring) awakens to spacial trumpet and sarangi conversations before launching a lurching, saturated jazz/rock pulse underpinned by tremulant organ and thrashing percussion; and Basant‘s heady, vocalised Indian flavours – including the ‘jugalbandi’ of sarangi and tabla – are complemented by gravelly electric bass and urgent trumpet improv.

Jazz-grooving, eleven-minute Answers reinforces that this is an immersive, progressive experience, rather than a collection of snappy, individual ‘tunes’ – but this band’s open and ever-changing landscape, here with exquisite Paulo Fresu-style muted trumpet, becomes so appealing. Ffarwel i Gymru / Morey Nain shimmers to plaintive trumpet and a sustained sarangi thread, supporting its beautifully inflected Indian vocal; and the vibrant, contemporary jazz piano of Dance of Nothingness prompts bluesy guitar and frenzied sarangi. The initial, Eastern serenity of Y Gwydd (The Weaver’s Song) belies the enthralling explosion of drums, tabla, Konnakol and electric piano to be revealed later, very much in the spirit of jazz/world fusion; and wistful hymn Hiraeth am Feirion (Longing for Meirionnydd), pairing trumpet and sarangi over the gentle ebb of tabla, creates a restrained yet anthemic sundown.

Released on 2 May 2017, Khamira is available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp. Catch a ten-minute video impression here.

 

Tomos Williams trumpet
Suhail Yusuf Khan sarangi, vocal
Aditya Balani guitar
Dave Jones piano, keys
Aidan Thorne electric bass
Vishal Nagar tabla, vocal
Mark O’Connor drums

khamira.net

Recordiau Bona – BOPA 003 (2017)

‘Self-Identity’ – Ollie Howell

Self-Identity

THE SLEEVE of a seminal early-1970s 12″ vinyl jested that its contents could not ‘be played on old tin boxes, no matter what they are fitted with’ – maybe a prophetic warning to a quick-grab, smartphone-to-the-ear generation to come. But such wisdom was recalled when soaking up this second release, as leader, from British drummer and composer Ollie Howell.   

Self-Identity follows 2013 debut album Sutures and Stitches, and the intervening years have seen Howell’s career flourish, with the great Quincy Jones’ “360-degree beautiful young cat” compliment leading to him selecting the drummer for the opening residency, this year, at his Q’s jazz club in the luxurious Palazzo Versace Dubai.

Expanded to a sextet, with the addition of guitarist Ant Law, this line-up is completed by tenor saxophonist Duncan Eagles, trumpeter Henry Spencer, pianist Matt Robinson, double bassist Max Luthert; and ‘old tin boxes’ are definitely out, because what is striking – both about Howell’s arrangements and this Real World Studios recording – is the rhythmic sonority which he, Robinson and Luthert achieve. So, spanning some seventy minutes, the consistent appeal of these twelve original numbers is not so much the tuneful hook, but rather the slickness of the groove and the ensemble’s overarching synergy which provides fertile ground for confident, melodic soloing – and an especially tight link-up between tenor and trumpet.

Syncopated, leaping figures in Shadows typify the approach as unison piano bass and double bass riffs are driven by Howell’s exacting, versicoloured lead; and the album’s pervading optimism is continued with the bright sax-and-trumpet lines of Resurge. Echoic electronics play their part, too, transitorily segueing the usual broadness of the writing, as well as enhancing the ‘timeslip’ intro to ruminative, brushed Almost TomorrowRise and Fall‘s central vibrancy rocks to Eagles’ deep tenor improv and Law’s fretboard agility, whilst the rhythmic prominence of pianist Matt Robinson in Moving On and Knew is impressive.

Howell’s compositions are roomy, so not only do their ‘passing clouds’ of ideas have the effect of shedding fluctuating light on their progression, they also encourage freedom of individual expression. Balancing Stones‘ dynamic range illustrates this well (including delicate timbres from the leader’s kit), as does The Unknown with its dual-horn assertiveness; and Coming Home‘s subtle, opening blend of folk/hymn tune and Balkan-imbued percussion provides the springboard for breezy, closing showcases from Howell’s players.

Eschew the tinny headphones or portable speakers… and find a way to bask in the rewarding ‘hi fidelity’ of Self-Identity.

Released on 14 April 2017 and available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp, and at iTunes.

 

Ollie Howell drums, electronics, compositions
Duncan Eagles tenor saxophone
Henry Spencer trumpet
Ant Law electric guitar
Matt Robinson piano, Rhodes, electronics
Max Luthert double bass

ollie howell.com

Ropeadope (2017)

‘Christmas With My Friends V’ – Nils Landgren

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IT’S NOW TEN YEARS since Swedish trombonist and vocalist Nils Landgren released the first in a series of albums which have imparted joy and peace in the run-up to and throughout Christmas. The successful recordings (and concerts) have consistently drawn together new interpretations of familiar carols and songs with classical arrangements and lesser-known gems, all presented by vocalists and instrumentalists from the ACT Music roster. And following on from 2015’s offering comes Christmas With My Friends V

Landgren and his musicians researched and made their selections together; and, befittingly, they recorded during the week leading up to last Christmas Day – so this festive feel-good is delivered with an extra air of authenticity. Here, exuberant ‘lollipops’ rub shoulders with soft ballads, original compositions and peaceful, crisp, starlit tradition; and somehow, the whole is so lovingly crafted that it creates a sweet, homely and lasting impression.

Multi-tracked trombone ‘solo ensemble’ Morgenstern and Morgenlicht (recognisable as Epiphany carol How brightly beams the morning star, with harmony by J S Bach) heralds the proceedings to wide-skied, echoing valleys; and Landgren’s tender vocal in Eva Kruse’s Let the Stars Come Out Tonight is sparingly supported by folksy guitar and tenor sax. Familiar hymns and carols such as Joy to the World and Go Tell It on the Mountain are refashioned, the latter in growling, muted trombone gospel (Ida Sand the vocalist), and Hogmanay staple Auld Lang Syne‘s fireside coziness is sensitively weighted.

Baby It’s Cold Outside and Everyday is Christmas pick up the affable, swingin’ holiday vibe; the usual whipcracking orchestration of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride is replaced with a delectable guitar-and-horn-accompanied soft-jazz jaunt featuring the voice of Jessica Pilnäs. Ida Sand presents her emotive Now the Time is Here with delicacy, enhanced by Eva Kruse’s empathetic bass soloing; and inflected, soulful Love is Born is delivered emphatically by Sharon Dyall’s colourful vocal to a slick and eager instrumental arrangement complete with bluesy sax break.

The tingle factor in these recordings so often comes from a sense of stillness. There Is No Rose‘s medieval strains are carried on the late-evening air by Jeanette Köhn’s crystalline annunciation; the clear, midnight-sky trombone melodies of Johan Norberg’s Seven Stains from Christmas Eve are reminiscent of Landgren’s duo album collaborations with pianist Esbjörn Svensson (Swedish Folk Modern and Layers of Light); and Norberg’s intricate kantele timbres are threaded through such fine delicacies as O Heiland, Reiß Die Himmel Auf and his own gossamer solo Kokles Christmas.

Amongst our regular, seasonal fare of choral, orchestral and pop favourites, Landgren’s concept remains a welcome breath of alternative, chilled enjoyment. A number of these eighteen tracks could be tagged #schmalzy, and there’s certainly variety in arrangements. As with all four previous albums, V possesses a special something – including more, rather attractive European folk-tinged discoveries – all presented with warmth and sincerity by accomplished musicians. A charming gift with which to scent the air during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Christmas With My Friends V can be found at ACT Music, iTunes and other outlets (promo video here). The complete 5CD box set, The Jubilee Collectionis also available.

 

Nils Landgren trombone, vocals
Jonas Knutsson saxophones
Johan Norberg guitars, kantele
Ida Sand vocals, piano, school organ
Jeanette Köhn vocals
Jessica Pilnäs vocals
Sharon Dyall vocals
Eva Kruse bass

nilslandgren.com

ACT Music – ACT 9830-2 (2016)

‘ELDA trio’ – ELDA trio

ELDA

THE VOICE that launched… well, a whole new expression of jazz unveils her eponymous debut recording with Slovenian accordionist/vocalist Janez Dovč and Brazilian-born percussionist/vocalist Adriano Adewale – ELDA trio.

Over the last few years, award-winning Swedish singer Emilia Mårtensson has graced a number of fine recordings, such as those of Kairos 4tet (including Everything We Hold) and her own solo albums (the most recent, Ana). Based in London, she is unsurprisingly in demand for various jazz and cross-genre projects, the dexterity, warmth and Anglo-Swedish clarity of her voice so fascinatingly distinctive and desirable.

Mårtensson explains that the concept of providing a confluence for their own cultural and musical experiences was an exciting prospect for the trio – the idea of creating, through the folk music/tales of their three countries of origin, a space to develop and express new compositions with differently-timbred voices, traditional instruments and electronics. From the resultant twelve tracks – mixed, mastered and produced with the reputable expertise of Alex Killpartrick and Chris Hyson – unfolds an atmospheric, enchanting thread of emotion, longing and joy which feels as peerless as it is beautiful.

Much of the album was conceived by Mårtensson in Izola, on the coast of Slovenia; so it’s greatly inspired by the sea, especially her grandparents’ story of how they moved from Slovenia to Sweden (and her empathy with accordion music stems from the impression made on her by her grandfather’s talent for the instrument). So a strong element of adventure and journeying is evident both in Mårtensson’s sincere delivery of her poetic lyrics (“I’ll always remember when the moon fell asleep behind the hill”) and in the chameleonic chordal and percussive invention which Dovč and Adewale supply – and that sense of the unknown, throughout, holds the attention.

Dusky memories in Stone Agaton are emphasised by Adewale’s deep chantings, accompanied by earthy percussion; and songwriter Jamie Doe’s positive, accordion-pulsed love ode, Winter, appears to sneer at the darkest season (“So put on all your jumpers and scream around the house”). Homely, descending chromatics, along with Mårtensson’s warm, high tones, are a joy in Barnaby Keen’s The Air Holds a Memory, whilst the contrasting themes of exile in Aleksandrinke touch the heart, emphasised by the watery swell of udu; and tranquil, overlaid vocals alone in To the Sun, To the Moon evoke cool, clear skies above silhouetted forests.

Rhythmic Mårtensson/Dovč composition Hon Och Han might suggest it has long been rooted in tradition (redolent of, say, Trio Mediæval’s output), even with an anthemic, Coldplay-like chorus; and following, sustained by bass synth, the vocals of Dovč’s slow, mysterious The Tree cry upwards to the moon. Quirky hoots, squeaks and clangs in Jac Jones’ Ellis Dreams are interspersed with a blithe vocal/synth melody; and the hollow, echoic interpretation of Swedish folk song Remembering/Vem Kan Segla further confirms Mårtensson’s clear communication with Dovč’s sensitive accordion phrasing.

A mesmerising solo from Adewale – I am dreaming with you – is quietly disconcerting, with shouts and percussive rattles three-dimensionally coming in and out of range through the darkness; the Konnakol introduction of Dovč’s Tillsammans curiously evolves into a hint of melodic, swingin’ Sixties; and Adewale’s trio curtain-call, Lobo Guara, fizzes with joie de vivre (Emilia perhaps overdoing it on the punsch!).

Catalogue it in ‘jazz’, ‘folk’ or ‘world’… wherever, ELDA trio is a beautiful experience.

Released on Two Rivers Records, on 23 September 2016, and available from Bandcamp.

 

Emilia Mårtensson vocals
Janez Dovč accordion, synth bass, electronics, vocals
Adriano Adewale percussion, vocals

eldatrio.com

Two Rivers Records – TRR014 (2016)