‘Isang’ – Camilla George Quartet

camillag_isang

ONE OF saxophonist, composer and teacher Camilla George’s abiding recollections of music college (Trinity Laban, to be precise) is how she learnt to swing – and her straight-ahead, straight-to-the-heart debut quartet album Isang certainly offers a rich, lilting fusion of African and Western grooves, reflecting her coastal Nigerian roots.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available from Amazon.

 

Camilla George alto saxophone
Sarah Tandy piano
Daniel Casimir bass
Femi Koleoso drums
with
Zara McFarlane vocals on Ms Baja

camillageorge.com

Ubuntu Music – UBU0004 (2016)

‘Dreamsville’ – Roberto Olzer Trio

dreamsville

ITALIAN PIANIST Roberto Olzer’s wonderful partnership with double bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Mauro Beggio continues to go from strength to strength.

2015 release The Moon and the Bonfires‘ limpid romanticism and sparkling energy ensured that it remains an oft-played recording; and some five years since this trio was established, the friends have again seamlessly blended a handful of originals with fascinating arrangements from sources including Henry Mancini, Alexander Glazunov, Sting and Giacomo Puccini.

Olzer explains that many of Dreamsville‘s titles seem to inspire a reflection on time; and introducing an album as diverse as its predecessor, the pianist’s own, wistful Novembre captures something of the essence of this ongoing collaboration; namely, an innate empathy between three accomplished musicians which elevates their sound to a magical, coalescent state. And here, Goloubev’s fine melodies and improvisations echo Olzer’s measured elegance, all supported by Beggio’s pin-sharp understatedness. The typically lush orchestration of Henry Mancini’s Dreamsville becomes an irresistible, bright’n’breezy waltz, whilst John Taylor’s New Old Age (Taylor, the album’s dedicatee) is transported from its piano, clarinet and bass familiarity into pacier, mesmeric and, at times, deliciously abstract environments; and Mauro Beggio’s solo miniature, Unlikely Taiko, adds a soupçon of intricate, oriental percussion.

There’s always a sense of a warm invitation into this trio’s sound world – and often via less obvious pathways. A fleet, yet sensitive reimagining of the Moderato from Glazunov’s Violin Concerto becomes illuminated by Olzer’s chiming high-line melodies, a world away from the original’s orchestral yearning; similarly, Com’è lunga l’attesa (from Puccini’s Tosca) revels in a new-found piano trio momentum; and the emotive violin theme from Richard Strauss’ Morgen is heartstoppingly refashioned, its tender piano awakening carried forward by Goloubev’s characteristically eloquent arco bass vibrato. Music’s subtleties can be so emotionally powerful.

Amongst these twelve tracks, contemporary reworkings include trumpeter Fulvio Sigurtà’s The Oldest Living Thing (from his album of the same name), its descending motif ideal for this trio’s introspective delicacy; and rising above so many cover versions, a swiftly grooving portrayal of Sting’s Fragile coruscates to imaginative improvisation and chameleonic colour (Olzer’s and Goloubev’s rapid, shared bass riffs are utterly joyful). Compatriot Italian pianists are well represented, too: Ramberto Ciammarughi’s charming Beau Piece flies like the wind, with Olzer’s intelligent, fluid extemporisations a key feature; and songlike Ferragosto – a composition by Carlo Magni and Goloubev – has the aura of a classic, enhanced by the bassist’s nimbleness and the fiery precision of Mauro Beggio.

Dreamsville‘s sublime hour radiates – as art so often can – life-affirming beauty and encouragement through remarkable musicianship. Indeed, Olzer appropriately quotes from John Henry Mackay’s poetic lines in Strauss’ Morgen: ‘Tomorrow the sun will shine again… and upon us will sink the mute silence of happiness.’

CD available directly from record label Atelier Sawano.

 

Roberto Olzer piano
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Mauro Beggio drums

robertoolzer.com
yurigoloubev.com
maurobeggio.com

Atelier Sawano – AS152 (2016)

‘Alimentation’ – Solstice

alimentation

WHAT A FEAST that Solstice spreads before us! A debut release, yet anything but an unknown line-up, this British sextet’s shared culinary enthusiasm translated into an exploration of their combined compositional and instrumental possibilities – hence various ‘foody’ references. The musical outcome? Well, certainly luscious, zesty, cordial… and wonderfully satisfying.

A glance at the personnel is temptation enough – Tori Freestone (saxes, flute), Brigitte Beraha (voice), John Turville (piano), Jez Franks (guitars), Dave Manington (double bass) and George Hart (drums) – with each bringing original compositions to the table to prompt affable, fluvial conversations. The closeness of the collaboration was evident when the band presented this material at the 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival, and is discernible in this fine studio recording.

Brigitte Beraha is establishing herself as one the UK’s most dextrous jazz vocalists, including notable appearances on albums by Babelfish and Geoff Eales; and any comparison with Norma Winstone would seem quite appropriate. Across these nine tracks, her lyrical or wordless contribution is integral to the overall blend, and there’s a special affinity with Tori Freestone’s ever-tumbling wellspring of saxophonic invention. Space and balance are key. Even in the brisker numbers, there’s never a sense of oversaturation, thanks to consummate performances from Turville, Franks, Manington and Hart.

Ultimate Big Cheese‘s apparent, airy glee is enhanced by Tori Freestone’s delightfully feel-good flute; melodic Mourning Porridge, with a unison voice-and-guitar pairing redolent of Pat Metheny, finds Freestone’s characteristic tenor waltzing around feathery percussion and Dave Manington’s authoritative bass resonances; and Jez Franks’ acoustic timbres in his own composition, Tilt, provide a folksily-threaded backdrop to Beraha’s scat. Björk’s original The Anchor Song is a pearl of almost naive charm – but this band’s interpretation, in an arrangement by Dave Manington, is achingly beautiful, the affecting simplicity of voice and piano preceding a magical, bubbling otherworldliness, with a particularly vivid pictorialisation of diving to the bottom of the ocean.

Avocado Deficit (Freestone’s title inspired by her surprise that a friend hadn’t eaten the fruit for twenty years!) ascends, Escher-like, as the tenorist’s seamless phrasing emphasises its endless, hypnotic path. Beraha’s poetic delivery is central to Her Words, Like Butterflies, adorned by John Turville’s piano elegance; there’s an adroit sax-and-voice connection in Tori Freestone’s buoyant Universal Four (from her trio album In the Chop House); and George Hart’s turbulent, darkly-hued Solstice encourages dramatically screeching voice and sax. Arranged afresh for this ensemble, Beraha’s bright Unspoken closes the set with affirming repeated chorus (“It’s the cycle of life”).

Released on 9 December 2016, and available as CD or digital download from Two Rivers Records at BandcampAlimentation is a joy from beginning to end. To quote B Guðmundsdóttir – right now, “this is where I’m staying, this is my home.”

 

Tori Freestone tenor sax, soprano saxophone, flute
Brigitte Beraha voice
John Turville piano
Jez Franks guitars
Dave Manington double bass
George Hart drums

solstice-music.co.uk

Two Rivers Records – TRR-020 (2016)

‘The Fall Dance’ – Maria Chiara Argirò

Digipack - Artwork

THE UNEXPECTED, EMOTIONAL SWIRL of pianist and composer Maria Chiara Argirò’s debut release The Fall Dance has me in raptures as its engaging, visceral expressions of explosive excitement and sweet serenity unfold.   

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available from Proper MusicAmazoniTunes, etc. Watch the promo video here.

 

Maria Chiara Argirò piano, compositions
Sam Rapley tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Tal Janes guitar
Andrea Di Biase double bass
Gaspar Sena drums
Leïla Martial vocals

2017 tour dates
02 February Acapela Studio, Cardiff 
10 February Jazz Cafe, Newcastle
11 February Wonder Inn, Manchester
12 February Alma Tavern and Theatre, Bristol
14 February St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
25 February St Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton 
25 April Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

mariachiaramusic.com

Odradek Records – ODRCD513 (2016)

2016 – WHAT A YEAR!

IT HAS BEEN A THRILL to either review or provide label copywriting for a wondrous diversity of album releases during 2016. I offer my gratitude to all concerned for the privilege of listening and appraising, as well as the ongoing life enhancement this music provides (an album is for life, not just for Christmas!).

In a year which has seen an extraordinary output of outstanding jazz and jazz-related recordings – and more reviews and views at this site than ever before – once again it seems virtually impossible to select ‘the best’. But it feels right to reflect on the past twelve months. So I have chosen to highlight, here, a dozen albums which have made a particular impression on me (though fluctuating, emotive responses to music – what it’s all about – would suggest that this selection could easily change at the drop of a hat!).

So, if you’re looking for recommendations… in no particular order, do investigate the following:

12_

Andre Canniere The Darkening Blue copywriting for label
Marius Neset / London Sinfonietta Snowmelt review
Snowpoet Snowpoet review
John Ellis Evolution: Seeds & Streams review
Snarky Puppy Culcha Vulcha review
Tim Garland ONE review
Shez Raja Gurutopia review
Phronesis Parallax review
The Impossible Gentlemen Let’s Get Deluxe review
Nigel Price Organ Trio Heads & Tales, Volume 2 copywriting for label
Roberto Olzer Trio The Moon and the Bonfires review
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra E.S.T. Symphony review

Thank you to all the astonishingly creative musicians who continue to feed our souls so richly.

Here’s to 2017!

🎹 AP

 

‘TOP ALBUMS OF 2015’
‘TOP 20 OF 2014’
‘BEST OF 2013’

‘Zentuary’ – Dewa Budjana (2CD)

zentuary

BALINESE electric guitarist Dewa Budjana seems to be a man on a mission. High-energy jazz-rock artistry pours from him like there’s no tomorrow! For latest double album Zentuary (follow-up to 2015’s Hasta Karma) he calls on a core, western powerhouse of bassist Tony Levin and drummer/keyboardists Gary Husband and Jack DeJohnette, as well as guests including saxophonists Tim Garland and Danny Markovich.

Major influences on Budjana’s career are iconic guitarists John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny; and such transmitted dynamism, coupled with heady, colourful infusions of Indonesian culture, provides the foundations for these one hundred minutes of intense, original composition and improvisation. With Bali some 8,000 miles from the UK, the guitarist’s often anthemic soundscapes traverse geographic borders – in music, what borders? – with ease, providing a window on exotic vocals, textures and rhythms. The scale of the project might initially feel pretty overwhelming, and perhaps Zentuary (the guitarist’s contrived word, melding ‘zen’ and ‘sanctuary’) could more easily be considered and digested as an entire, continuous movie soundtrack. In fact, Budjana thinks big, even taking the opportunity to incorporate sessions with the Czech Symphony Orchestra.

By turns, these twelve particularly expansive tracks are exhilarating and mysterious, Dancing Tears immediately chasing pace and bubbling to Tony Levin’s signature Chapman Stick bass. Budjana is undoubtedly a ‘guitar star’, his breathless, varying explorations of the fretboard shining out above thunderous rock drumming; and Solas PM‘s similar line is coloured by the rapidity of Danny Markovitch’s high-flying soprano. Lake Takengon adds flamboyant wordless vocals into the mix; the tropical atmospheres of Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky) combine the evocative tones of Indonesian flute with spoken phrases and delicious fuzz guitar; and the steady progression of Suniakala confirms the guitarist’s aptitude for orchestral, almost Pink Floydian grandeur.

Dear Yulman descends into dark, shady thriller territory, though Budjana’s impressively liquefied chromatics rise above; Pancarabo‘s Methenyesque vocals alternate with a driving synth groove redolent of Jan Hammer (and even Husband’s time with Level 42); and the exuberant, chiming celebration of Manhattan Temple glints to Tim Garland’s unmistakable vibrato and Levin’s beautifully resonant NS bass. At this stage of CD2, there’s a sense of envelopment, of basking in the aromatic wonder – and Dedariku‘s breathy suling flute finds a path through dense undergrowth to ascend melodically with synth and guitar (this is certainly theme tune material). The eastern joy of Ujung Galuh – one of many vast tracks – is carried by Danny Markovitch’s soprano improv; Uncle Jack‘s quirkiness is characterised by catchy guitar motifs, glissando bass and all manner of piano and synth hues; and the peaceful, closing acoustic guitar and strings oasis of title track Zentuary also has a symphonic urgency which suggests there remains plenty more for Budjana to say… next time.

A big statement from a strong Indonesian jazz-rock force, Zentuary is available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp and Amazon, as well as at iTunes.

 

Dewa Budjana guitars, soundscapes
Tony Levin electric upright NS Design bass, Chapman Stick
Gary Husband drums, keyboards, acoustic piano
Jack DeJohnette drums, acoustic piano
with guests
Danny Markovich curved soprano sax
Tim Garland tenor sax
Guthrie Govan guitar
Saat Syah custom-made Indonesian suling flute
Ubiet vocals
Risa Saraswati vocals
Czech Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michaela Růžičková

dewabudjana.com

Favoured Nations (in association with MoonJune Music) – FN2880 (2016)

‘A Magic Life’ – Alison Rayner Quintet

arq

A CELEBRATION of life itself, British double bassist and composer Alison Rayner’s second quintet album was, she recounts, inspired by two happenings: “…the loss of a friend last year, who wrote her own epitaph about how magic her life had been; then a chance encounter with a young boy, who asked me ‘Is music stronger than magic?’ I replied, ‘To me, music is a merging of magic and logic.’ These events set me on a course of thinking about connections between memory, mortality, magic – and music.”

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Alison Rayner double bass
Buster Birch drums, percussion
Deirdre Cartwright guitar
Diane McLoughlin tenor and soprano saxophones
Steve Lodder piano

blowthefuse.com

Blow the Fuse Records – BTF1613CD (2016)