REVIEW: ‘Torus’ – James Lindsay

THE WEAVE of warm, incisive melody and textural detail heard in bassist/composer James Lindsay’s Strand (his 2017 debut as leader) takes flight in this new album – a vibrant blend of folk-rock that radiates positivity, freedom and adventure.

Torus, in geometrical, natural and cosmological terms, is explained as ‘a spiralling flow of energy, constantly refreshing and influencing itself’ and informs this recorded “exploration of the flows which connect us to our world, and a reminder that change is our only constant”. Communicating those themes, Lindsay integrates himself within the body of an eight-piece instrumental line-up that drives his latest compositions with renewed vigour, certainly ramped-up from the relative homeyness of his original release. That said, amongst its high-energy rock riffs – from a core of electric guitar, keyboards, sax, bass, drums and percussion – the beguiling timbres and inflections of accordion and fiddle firmly root these nine numbers in the evolving folk-music heritage of the bassist’s native Scotland.

Also a member of renowned folk band Breabeach, and with various awards accolades to his name, Glasgow-based Lindsay’s approach to composition and arrangement feels both meticulous and open. There’s a clear sense of journeying threaded through his work that creates a fulgent or sometimes smirr-streaked soundtrack quality. Indeed, though the titles’ sources are varied, the strongest impressions are of Scottish coastal or heather-rich landscapes, with the ever-changing visual and meteorological contrasts they present (aligned to the album’s aspects of regeneration and renewal).

Optimistically-emerging Lateral Roots establishes Lindsay’s intent in an ebullient, contemporary folk-rock reel warmed by the particularly effective textural mesh of unison accordion and sax; and Ben MacDonald’s skittering, hammer-style improvisations can be fleetingly reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth or John Clark. Observatory’s sky-wide ambience brings forth the delightful, rapidly-articulated dance of fiddle and accordion, backed by a crashing, 1980s-hued pop groove; and in Electroreceptor (a system of tissues in a living organism that enables electrical power), suitably syncopated rhythms spark a buzz of overlapping soul-funk conversations throughout its instrumentation. The bass-rasping, synth-laden vigour of Lewisian Complex (referencing north-west Scotland’s ancient, craggy outcrops) has tremors of Depeche Mode or The Human League; but again, it’s fuelled by jazz-rock guitar and vibrant Scots colour, pausing only for the misty Gaelic vocal of Deirdre Graham.

Kalimba droplets and crunchy Rhodes chords prepare the ground for Cycles’ theme-tune riffs and solid beats, while ritualistically-dancing Skekler (a guiser involved in an ancient Shetland custom of banishing winter that includes the beating of wooden staves) culminates in the vehement pound of percussion, urgent fiddle and power chords. Taking Lindsay back to an old haunt, The Smiddy’s chirpy folk melodies become lusciously underpinned at one point by Moog bass, and Jinibara (the indigenous people of Queensland, Australia – an area once visited by the bassist) is similarly uplifting. To close, the first-light clarity of Holon’s accordion and bass seemingly rises to greet the sun, coruscating with a tapestry of guitar, fiddle and sax.

At times, the narrative of this music might benefit from greater fluctuations of light and shade, occasionally reducing the density to create space (as heard in that pool of atmospheric, vocal serenity) or even a near-silence that might portray dark sky zones, north of the border. But, imagined as the basis – or forerunner – of a mixed-media concept or screenplay score, James Lindsay’s evocations characteristically brim with vitality.

Produced by respected jazz and folk musician/engineer Euan Burton, Torus is released on 23 April 2021 and available as a limited-edition CD, or digital download, at Bandcamp.

 

Angus Lyon accordion
Ben MacDonald electric guitars
Deirdre Graham vocals (on Lewisian Complex)
Jack Smedley fiddle
John Lowrie keyboard
James Lindsay bass guitar, electric guitar, Moog
Norman Wilmore alto saxophone
Scott Mackay drums
Signy Jakobsdottir percussion

Illustration: ‘Observatory’ by Alice Strange

jameslindsaymusic.com

OIR Recordings – OIRCD002 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man’ – Sam Braysher Trio

THE BOLD, SOLID COLOURS of renowned Argentinian artist (and musician) Mariano Gil introduce Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man – a new recording from London-based alto saxophonist Sam Braysher in an essentially chordless trio with double bassist Tom Farmer and drummer/percussionist Jorge Rossy.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 22 April 2021, Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man is available from Sam Braysher’s online shop.

 

Sam Braysher alto saxophone
Tom Farmer double bass
Jorge Rossy drums, vibraphone, marimba

sambraysher.com

Unit Records – UTR 4951 (2021)

RECENT LISTENING: April 2021

‘Conversation #1: Condensed’ – Arbenz X Mehari/Veras
Hermon Mehari, Nelson Veras, Florian Arbenz
Release date: 23 April 2021
florianarbenz.bandcamp.com

‘Reflector’ – Twospeak
Ronan Perrett, Mike De Souza, Ben Lee, Joseph Costi, Ben Brown, Adam Teixeira, Ben Rodney
Release date: 7 May 2021
twospeak.bandcamp.com

‘Shores’ – Fergus Hall
Fergus Hall, Cameron Nixon, Matt Carmichael, Fergus McCreadie, Mark Hendry, Dominykas Snarskis, Fay Guiffo, Sarah Wagner, Helena Rose, Aimée Laws, Rufus Isabel Elliot, Zakia Fawcett, Keena Wildman, Sarah McWhinney, Mathew McAteer
Release date: 16 April 2021
linktr.ee/Fergushall

‘XXXX’ – Michael Wollny
Michael Wollny, Emile Parisien, Tim Lefebvre, Christian Lillinger
Release date: 30 April 2021
actmusic.com

‘Tvuru’ – Tvuru
Andreas Andersen, Henrik Sandstad Dalen, Ola Øverby
Release date: 23 April 2021
ingroov.es/tvuru

‘Moon On The Lake’ – Satoko Fujii
Satoko Fujii, Takashi Sugawa, Ittetsu Takemura
Release date: 8 May 2021
librarecords.com

REVIEW: ‘Cwmwl Tystion / Witness’ – Cwmwl Tystion / Witness

THE IDENTITY and landscape of Wales is steeped in historical, political and cultural significance, something which composer and trumpeter Tomos Williams seeks to explore and interpret through his experimental project Cwmwl Tystion (‘Witness’ or, literally, ‘Cloud of Witnesses’, quoted from 20th century poet Waldo Williams’ ‘What is Man?’).

Cardiff-based Tomos Williams also leads folk/jazz outfit Burum and ‘Indo-Welsh’ band Khamira; but this more exploratory, frequently free-jazz suite stems from his desire to “create a piece that both celebrated and questioned the idea of Welshness and referenced notable events in Welsh history.” The democratically-spirited sextet – with Francesca Simmons (violin, saw), Rhodri Davies (harp, electronics), Huw V Williams (bass) and Mark O’Connor (drums) – also features acclaimed pianist Huw Warren; and for this live recording, captured both in Swansea and London, the performances were accompanied by the animated visuals of Simon Proffitt.

Seven movements indeed identify specific inspirations from Williams’ homeland, opening with a suitably expansive depiction of Mynyddoedd Cymru (Mountains of Wales). From rugged Snowdonia in the north to the vast, southerly sprawl of the Brecon Beacons, the majesty of Wales’ geographical wonders is illustrated through austere, ascending motifs and fierce, whirling, climatic expressions. Across more than twenty minutes, its episodic breadth and saturation is initially whelming – yet the relentless progression can also be breathtaking, its many textures including Rhodri Davies’ Jimmy Page-like electronically-manipulated harp. Welsh folk tune Glyn Tawe is beautifully interpreted by violin and piano – a plaintive melody, heard on the wind, that brings to mind Sir Edward Elgar’s useful, distant-song encounter in Llangranog – but it also seems to have a troubled soul (Elgar again!), Francesca Simmons’ ‘flattened’ string improvisations so gorgeously bittersweet.

The fascinating and well-documented connection of popular African-American baritone Paul Robeson with Welsh mining communities is remembered in Paul Robeson ac Eisteddfod y Glowyr 1957 (Paul Robeson and the Miners’ Eisteddfod 1957). This brashly jazz-swinging commemoration vigorously flashes with harp and piano, and the effect of a classic horn section from the duality of trumpet and violin is quite something. The anger of Llyfrau Gleision 1847 (the disparaging 19th century enquiry into the state of education in Wales) is communicated through urgent rhythms, crashing ‘guitar’, impassioned trumpet improv and the curious waver of a saw, while Huw Warren‘s unbridled mastery (both inside and outside the piano frame) is just glorious.

Quoting a triad of Welsh folk songs, the restless angst of Pa Beth yw Cenedl? (What is a Nation?) develops apace, Warren’s intense soloing white-hot against the throng of thrashing percussion and tumultuous bass. Tryweryn 1965 recalls the controversial flooding of valley village Capel Celyn to create a reservoir for Liverpool’s water supply, sparking huge local and political unrest, now belied by its quiet beauty. Williams illustrates these contrasts with sparky, disoriented figures and an elegant though wistful violin tune. Closing Pa Beth yw Dyn? (What is Man?) – the source of the project’s title – transforms discordancy into a verdant, straightahead-jazz celebration of Cymru, dominated by Huw Warren’s elegant pianism.

Peeling back the layers of this performance – excellently recorded, live – and either learning of or reacquainting oneself with the extraordinary history and breathtaking landscape of this nation, the creativity of Tomos Williams and his sextet becomes increasingly meaningful. A truly effective and important melding of message and music.

Released on 5 March 2021, Cwmwl Tystion / Witness is available from tycerddshop.com, iTunes and Amazon.

Tomos Williams trumpet, compositions
Francesca Simmons violin, saw
Rhodri Davies harp, electronics
Huw Warren piano
Huw V Williams bass
Mark O’Connor drums
with
Simon Proffitt live visuals

Videos: Mynyddoedd Cymru and Tryweryn 1965

Introductory YouTube video
Tomos Williams at khamira.net
tycerdd.org

Tŷ Cerdd Records – TCR029 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Wax///Wane’ – Lucien Johnson

MYSTICAL, a touch retro, and increasingly spellbinding, Wax///Wane is the work of New Zealand saxophonist and composer Lucien Johnson. It’s described as an album inspired by the lunar landscape of the southern skies – echoed by Julien Dyne’s virtually animated Neil Fujita-style cover art – and feels influenced by the output of both John and Alice Coltrane.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 1 April 2021 as a digital album at Bandcamp.

 

Lucien Johnson tenor saxophone, compositions
John Bell vibraphone
Michelle Velvin harp
Tom Callwood double bass
Cory Champion drums
Riki Piripi percussion

Cover art by Julien Dyne

lucienjohnson.com/

Deluge Records (2021)

REVIEW: ‘One From Brooklyn’ – Matt Clark Three

FROM BRIGHTON to Brooklyn in thirty minutes, guitarist/bassist Matt Clark has fashioned, in this lockdown-enforced, home-studio creation, a sidewalking soundtrack influenced by his recollections of New York and Chicago, where he experienced first-hand their avant-garde jazz scenes.

A retro-styled album cover and name – the Matt Clark Three – finds him assembling a mid-grooving sequence of numbers which draws on his affinity with lo-fi samples/loops, jazz and blues, experimental and electronic music. Now based on England’s south-east coast, some 35 years in (and out of) the business included his formation of Leicester-based psychedelic rockers Cardboard, as well as undertaking various solo projects; and this recording’s guests, Mark Wilson (double bass) and Darren Beckett (drums), have worked with Underhood and Madeleine Peyroux respectively.

Across seven tracks, the guitarist creates an ambulatory soundscape evoking big-city panoramas, twilit vistas and populational bustle; and the mellow, pitch-bent tones he elicits from a rebuilt Fender Jaguar also add a dash of raw, Sixties-pop colour. However you view sampled sounds, Clark’s creative adeptness in this field is obvious, and clearly integral to his intentions. Opening Gambit’s nonchalant, bass-figured strut seemingly takes in a nearby jazz club’s smoky, muted trumpet improvisation before this almost cinematographic, urban exploration progresses with bluesy, cool-as-you-like partners Two Hours This Side and Two Hours That Side (the latter, journeying down electric rails to alight at the next subway station).

Other facets of these instrumental perspectives suggest alternative rock, punk and minimalism, Exit Kennedy’s crackling progression (with a violin-like motif reminiscent of Penguin Cafe) even invoking the steam-filled thoroughfares of Philip Glass’s ‘Low Symphony’, three-dimensionalised with public-address echoes and travelling chatter. In Hey Queens, a street-corner saxophonist connects with the prominent, purposeful gait of bass and guitar, the location enhanced by siren wails and passing dialogue – effectively, on these foursquare Manhattan journeys, Clark is recalling the atmospheres he absorbed. Swinging Melancholia is peppered with impressionistic electronic communications; and in Last Lost, his blithe guitar lines are appealingly underpinned by a scratchy, worn piano ground harking back to archive jazz recordings, though carried on a strong, slouchy drum rhythm.

Like so many of us over the past year, Matt Clark’s half-hour sojourn takes solace from revisiting, in his imagination, a significant place – and he invites us along for the ride. Don’t forget your root beer and Ray-Bans.

Released on 2 April 2021, One From Brooklyn is available as a digital album at Bandcamp.

 

Matt Clark guitars, bass guitar, samples
Mark Wilson double bass
Darren Beckett drums

mattclarkmusic.co.uk

Matt Clark Music – MCM0020 (2021)