‘Punch’ – Elliot Galvin Trio

Punch

SO WHAT was your early-childhood response to traditional seaside Punch & Judy entertainment – raucous laughter or quaking terror?!

Elliot Galvin’s wonderfully divergent trio release of 2014 – Dreamland, with bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Simon Roth – identified the creative ingenuity of this pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer, reinventing the notion of that most classic of jazz formats (toy piano and all) in a spirit reminiscent of the great Django Bates or Frank Zappa. No-less-mischievous follow-up album Punch (recorded at the Funkhaus, Berlin) again combines indubitable, slick musicality with an entertaining, edgy unpredictability; the startling title track Punch and Judy, in particular, reflecting those questionable, garish, Victorian puppet show characters delivering wry humour, domestic violence and capital punishment.

Hurdy-Gurdy‘s writhing, looping piano increasingly gathers pace, not unlike the rotary mechanics of the ‘ancient synth’ to which its title refers, until McCredie’s and Roth’s sparky rhythms eventually encourage Galvin into a more level-headed, if entrancingly angular, accordion passage; and evocative, kalimba-toned Tipu’s Tiger creeps both cautiously and beautifully, adorned by waltzing double bass phrases and delicate glockenspiel (Galvin’s compositional and spacial awareness always spot on). Recognisably broken, distorted Stylophone and dual/detuned melodicas bring more than a touch of self-satisfied Mr Punch anarchy to Blop (the video reveals all), whilst Lions – with pizzicato prepared piano (ie duct tape!) – is arguably the most outrageously slapstick episode of these ten tracks, yet so compelling.

Beethoven, Bach and e.s.t. affectingly rub shoulders in the brooding darkness of 1666 (London’s year of war, plague and the Great Fire) as Galvin’s funereal, chordal piano agonisingly treads to slowly-thrummed bass momentum and jangling percussion; and audaciously deconstructed Mack the Knife lurches almost unrecognisably, though magnificently… until a piano-and-glockenspiel musical box finally states its melody with reassuring clarity. Jaunty Polari recalls the heyday of mid-’60s pop, its straight-ahead catchiness suggesting Alan Price or Georgie Fame, with the trio at least as ebullient; and simply-whistled closer Cosy can’t help but erupt with Lady Madonna-styled piano bass riff, jarring chords and rhythmic fizz.

Even if you have a tendency towards pupophobia… please, don’t have nightmares. It’s all good, clean fun – and another triumph of contemporary jazz invention. That’s the way to do it!

Released on 26 July 2016, on the Edition Records label, Punch is available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp.

 

Elliot Galvin piano, kalimba, melodicas, accordion, cassette player, Stylophone
Tom McCredie double bass
Simon Roth drums, percussion, glockenspiel

elliotgalvin.com

Edition Records – EDN1076 (2016)

‘Let’s Get Deluxe’ – The Impossible Gentlemen

LetsGetDeluxe

I’VE BEEN TOWING this little beauty around for a while now… and travelling with it has only served to deepen the pleasure.

Let’s Get Deluxe is the third album from ‘transatlantic supergroup’ The Impossible Gentlemen, following on from 2013’s Internationally Recognised Aliens. With guitarist Mike Walker and pianist/multi-instrumentalist Gwilym Simcock in the compositional driving seat, they once again hook up with bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Adam Nussbaum, and are augmented for the first time by saxophonist, clarinettist and flautist Iain Dixon.

Maybe it’s the fine UK/US instrumental blend which makes the Gents’ music so pleasingly difficult to categorise. Certainly there’s the contemporary jazz styling of Pat Metheny (with whom Simcock has recently been touring) and John Scofield, or even Weather Report; but there are also American-rock hints of Little Feat and Steely Dan, not to mention a touch of prog and a dusting of good old British whimsy. It all adds up to an hour of exquisitely arranged, multi-layered, seamless performance which sparkles with rhythmic verve and blitheful melody.

The reputations of Walker and Simcock go before them, their individual prolificacy enriching the world of jazz quite immeasurably. But here, the sense of them relishing their North West English alliance is especially evident, with free rein to take these collaborative compositions wherever they please as they sumptuously layer-up the arrangements (assisted by Steve Rodby’s considerable production expertise). Title track Let’s Get Deluxe bubbles to an anthemic post-prog groove featuring Simcock’s lithe piano soloing over a full, sleek arrangement which enjoys the mellow beauty of his French horn and Walker’s typically soaring jazz/rock lead guitar improv. A Fedora for Dora‘s snappy rhythms, so characteristic of Simcock’s piano work, are energised by Rodby and Nussbaum – and, as often is the case here, the weave of supporting instruments (bass clarinet, French horn, tuned percussion) creates so much interest across this unfolding soundscape.

Presumably inspired by Gwilym Simcock’s love of the ‘beautiful game’, Terrace Legend excitedly simmers to Zawinul/Santana-like keyboard-and-guitar phrases before exploding into percussive euphoria, only paused by distant, evocative crowd chants; and grungy, dimly-lit Dog Time – with particularly effective bass clarinet and tremulant Hammond pairing – finds Mike Walker at his bluesy, mischievous best as his guitar repeatedly howls to the moon. Purposefully shuffling, countryfied Hold Out for the Sun is melodically bright enough to be a TV signature tune – and despite its breezy openness, the many instrumental comings-and-goings along the way are delightful.

Friend, colleague and pianist, the great John Taylor, is remembered in It Could Have Been A Simple Goodbye* – a poignant, affectionate tribute whose lush stateside arrangement is redolent of Lyle Mays. Propane Jane‘s Scottish marching band feel soon breaks into jabbing Fender Rhodes-led ebullience, Mike Walker’s gutsy, colourful, harmonic guitar a runaway joy; and bucolic closer Speak to Me of Home, featuring Iain Dixon’s soprano sax, possesses a simple charm enhanced by Steve Rodby’s gently pliant bass improvisations.

The Impossible Gentlemen have developed a keen following on the strength of their first two releases and their entertaining live shows. This full-of-life album feels like their best yet.

Released on 1 July 2016, and launching at Manchester Jazz Festival on 26 July, Let’s Get Deluxe is available from Jazz CDs, etc.

*Video, from 2015 – live at Sligo Jazz Project: (It Could Have Been) A Simple Goodbye.

 

Mike Walker guitar, dog whistle
Gwilym Simcock piano, keyboards, French horn, flugel horn, accordion, vibraphone, marimba, percussion
Iain Dixon soprano sax, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute
Steve Rodby bass
Adam Nussbaum drums

impossiblegentlemen.com

Basho Records – SRCD 51-2 (2016)

‘Via Maris’ – Melange

Melange

MELANGE BY NAME, melange by nature… this jazz-inflected world music release from cellist Shirley Smart’s London-based collective is gloriously difficult to categorise.

Along with Smart, the core line-up in this recording comprises Stefanos Tsourelis (oud), Peter Michaels (guitar) and Demi Garcia Sabat (drums, percussion) – a quartet whose celebration of Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean music is, by turns, joyous, atmospheric and often deeply affecting. But then add in significant contributions from Maurizio Minardi (accordion), Joe Browne (saxophones), Jake Painter (trumpet) and Michele Mintolli (bass), and the creative hues become more broadly pronounced.

In 1989, Shirley Smart swapped the UK for Jerusalem, becoming immersed in its cultural life for a decade. It was there that this eight-piece ensemble was conceived, bringing together musicians from Greece, Spain, Morocco, Iraq, Italy and the UK – and importantly, despite prevailing political and social tensions in areas of conflict, these artists were able to continue to compose and perform together, confirming music’s universal power to transcend and overcome such challenges. Smart’s open and eclectic vision for this group is surely founded on her experiences performing with Palestinian, Israeli and Moroccan bands, as well as tours across Europe, Russia, Jordan and Egypt.

The overriding impression is of live, interactive music, joyfully played – easy to imagine a distant, energised pulse or lyrical phrase caught on the breeze, gradually intensifying with each closer footfall until this impassioned music is seen and heard in all its colourful splendour. And however familiar or unfamiliar this exotic sound world – incorporating Arabic maqam, jazz improvisation and including traditional tunes plus original compositions – the impassioned instrumental textures and rhythms become wholly arresting. Indeed, to more Western ears, the sound of Stefanos Tsourelis’ oud immediately evokes the world of Anouar Brahem, as in spirited opening number Bia Oula Bik (Between Me and You) whose whirling vibrancy is accentuated by trumpet and sax, and also in sultry, percussively fragrant Anosis.

Throughout, the leader’s assured, often vigorous improvisations are integral to the overall palette, her own Marrocai burning brightly in festive folkiness, with Peter Michaels’ guitar and Tsourelis’ oud complementing the rich cello sonority; and Maurizio Minardi’s typically adventurous, evocative accordion in old Iraqi love song Foq El-Nakhal contributes greatly to an irresistible levity. Longa Kismet‘s smouldering mystery confirms just how effective the quartet of cello, oud, guitar and percussion can be, whilst the gentle introduction of Joe Browne’s chromatic soprano sax and Minardi’s subtle accordion in Anouar Brahem’s Halfaouine adds spice.

Certainly a journey into the unknown, this album delights at every turn: Erotokritos sounding fascinatingly medieval, Longa Sha’anaz‘s exotic riffs absolutely charming, Azraq (another of Smart’s originals) hitting a rocky groove as well as treading into dark, oud-improvised alleyways, and Greek- or perhaps Bulgarian-suggested Kiselo Mlkako fizzes with audacious, exuberant mischief (‘has to be heard!). Breathless, anarchic, tenor-screeched Turkish stomper Longa Sakiz, too, is a brilliant showstopper, whilst end piece Sound of the Ground parties on with an almost Mexican radiance.

Melange are a complete delight, and Via Maris an enthralling debut release. Available as CD or download, on Two Rivers Records, at Bandcamp.

 

Shirley Smart cello
Stefanos Tsourelis oud
Peter Michaels guitar
Demi Garcia Sabat drums, percussion
with
Maurizio Minardi accordion (tracks 1, 4, 6, 10, 11, 12)
Joe Browne saxophones (tracks 1, 6 , 11, 12)
Jake Painter trumpet (tracks 1, 7, 12)
Michele Montolli bass (tracks 1, 10, 11, 12)

melangecollective.com

Two Rivers Records – TRR 013 (2016)

‘Dreamland Mechanism’ – Beledo

Beledo

POWERING his way into the typically resolute MoonJune galaxy of contemporary jazz/rock recordings, US electric guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Beledo releases Dreamland Mechanism – an impressively energised and virtuosic solo debut.

Something of a late-teen guitar hero in his native Uruguay, as well as neighbouring Argentina, Beledo moved to New York at the beginning of the 1990s – and his professional career has continued to flourish there, working with a panoply of big-name artists including Jimmy Haslip, Jeff Berlin, Randy Brecker and Gilad Atzmon. Now, for this dynamic solo project, he calls on a clutch of his associates – chiefly electric bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Gary Husband, with contributions from Tony Steele, Doron Lev, Endang Ramdan, Cucu Kurnia, Dewa Budjana and Rudy Zulkarnaen.

Beledo’s experience of the changing face of jazz/rock fusion over the past few decades, and presumably an understanding of its ’60s/’70s roots, appear to be significant in the realisation of his compositions and these band performances – opener Mechanism, with Jerry Goodman-style violin flamboyance, summons the spirit of Mahavishnu; and reedy synth extemporisations alongside Lincoln Goine’s prominent, aqueous, electric bass in Marilyn’s Escapade easily echo the vibrancy of Zawinul and Pastorius. In an album of contrasts, such sunshiny, multi-coloured grooves are balanced with guitar rock-outs Bye Bye Blues and Big Brother Calling, their wailing synth/moog lines and soaring, echoic guitar solos perhaps recalling early ’80s Jeff Beck; and the strong, articulate drums and percussion of Gary Husband are particularly evident in these higher-octane outings, Mercury in Retrograde‘s guitar/bass/drum simplicity actually filling the room with effective, dramatic saturation.

Combining dual kendang and other percussion with Beledo’s acoustic guitar, Lucila produces an exotic, cross-cultural blend of Brazilian, Javanese and Flamenco influences – and tempered by richly lyrical electric guitar and fretless bass improvisations, this becomes a fascinatingly fluent, polyrhythmic journey. First impressions might indicate ‘an album style’, but closer investigations draw out the breadth of composition and instrumental colour across these fifty-six minutes, Silent Assessment rolling solidly to its deep bass undulations and attractive guitar riffs, as well as chiming, sweeping synths reminiscent of Dave Stewart (National Health, Bruford); and the perky, complex rhythms of Sudden Voyage are irresistible, Husband playing out of his skin(s).

Indonesian guitar star Dewa Budjana appears on sumptuous BuDJanaji – presumably a direct dedication, it’s characterised by Beledo’s shared, Lyle Mays-style vocal/guitar lines and his guest’s fine, Allan Holdsworth-like wide tremolo improvisations (both Budjana and Holdsworth are MoonJune artists). And Front Porch Pine is the perfect closer to this extravaganza – Beledo’s superb guitar electronics and speedy runs almost vying for dominance with Tony Steele’s mobile electric bass oscillations and Doron Lev’s relentless drums/percussion.

If you’re looking for good-time, well-produced, high-energy jazz/rock with especially piquant detail…… Dreamland Mechanism is available from the MoonJune Records website, as well as BandcampAmazon, etc.

 

Beledo
electric guitar
acoustic guitar (tracks 4, 8)
violin (track 1)
Fender Rhodes (track 1)
Mini Moog (track 2)
acoustic piano (track 3)
accordion (track 3)
fretless bass (track 4)
vocals (track 8)

Lincoln Goines electric bass (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Gary Husband drums (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Tony Steele electric bass (tracks 9, 10)
Doron Lev drums (tracks 9, 10), percussion (track 9)
Endang Ramdan lead kendang percussion (tracks 4, 8)
Cucu Kurnia kendang percussion (tracks 4, 8)
Dewa Budjana electric guitar (track 8)
Rudy Zulkarnaen electric bass (track 8)

beledo.com

MoonJune Records – MJR077 (2016)

‘Mare Nostrum II’ – Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano, Jan Lundgren

MareNostrumII

IT’S SOME NINE YEARS since masters of their art Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano and Jan Lundgren convened to produce their sublime collection, Mare Nostrum, for trumpet/flugelhorn, accordion/bandoneon/accordina and piano. It revealed chamber music of extraordinary empathy and clarity, combining their individual compositions with interpretations of Antônio Carlos Jobim, Charles Trénet and Maurice Ravel.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Paolo Fresu trumpet, flugelhorn
Richard Galliano accordion, bandoneon, accordina
Jan Lundgren piano

ACT Music – 9812-2 (2016)

‘Hon’ – Huw V Williams

Hon

This…… THIIIIIIISSSS [waves CD sleeve]…… is worth your attention!

Hon (the Welsh translation of ‘This’, inspired by a somewhat abrasive poem of the same name by T H Parry-Williams) is the striking debut album from double bassist and composer Huw V Williams; a contemporary jazz release whose brash delivery and left-field instrumental sparkle catches the ear and won’t let go.

Hailing from Bangor, North Wales (on the beautiful Menai Straits), and a 2012 graduate of the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama (first class honours), Williams relocated to London to embark on his career. And now, teaming up with the irrepressible jazz energy of Laura Jurd (trumpet), Alam Nathoo (tenor sax), Elliot Galvin (accordion, piano) and Pete Ibbetson (drums), the bassist unleashes a quintet recording of original material defined by unfettered invention and clamorous beauty. In fact, he declares his enthusiasm for this music, describing it as emanating from “the mixing pot of all your history, so this is just as much about a teenage rock phase in North Wales as a mid-twenties free jazz phase in London.”

Recorded on the periphery of Snowdonia, the eight studio tracks of Hon transmit a certain wild freedom. From the crackle of Skardu’s Missing, with its mischievous trumpet and tenor phrases and dissonant shards of prepared piano, to 06/01/14‘s anarchic, undulating bass landscape (almost electric in its execution), there are surprises around each corner (including elephantine shrieks from Jurd’s bell and typically boisterous, percussive crashes from Pete Ibbetson). Elliot Galvin’s individualistic piano imprint on the UK jazz scene has been a breath of fresh air; yet it’s that same oblique approach to accordion, here, which colours this line-up so differently, offering glissandi, sustained chordal meshes and impertinent solo lines throughout fast-walking-bass Slumps.

Rotten Apple Boughs‘ trumpet-and-accordion melancholy (almost New Orleansean, at times, in its inebriated, flutter-tongued abandon) is perpetuated by dark-clouded unrestraint in the form of jangling percussion, intense bass and mysterious accordion; and retro-detective soundtrack Mugs babbles its way through a relatively simple motif, the solid rock propulsion crescendoing up through saturated waves of wonderful, tenor-screeching mayhem. The deeply-beaten groove of title track Hon is cleverly built out of Williams’ intertwined electronic crackling and harmonic arco bell peals, opening into a rollicking episode which pulsates with horns and tremulant Hammond; and it’s to be hoped that the disembodied clunks and scrapes of Retrogressive Shredfest – five minutes stuffed full of fascinating, unpredictable shocks – don’t turn up on your iPod Shuffle as you walk the Llanberis Pass after dark!

Bonus trio track, Glyn – an 11-minute live recording from Brecon Jazz Festival (video here) – features acclaimed North Wales pianist/composer and Williams’ longtime mentor Huw Warren (also producer of this album). With Jim Black’s impressive density at the drums, it’s a smouldering, building anthem which showcases the bassist’s particularly resonant, improvisational technique – and a towering conclusion to a box of continually unfurling delights.

Released on the Chaos Collective label on 26 February 2016, Hon is available as CD or high quality download at Bandcamp.

 

Huw V Williams double bass
Laura Jurd trumpet
Alam Nathoo tenor saxophone
Elliot Galvin accordion, piano
Peter Ibbetson drums
with
Huw Warren piano (bonus track)
Jim Black drums (bonus track)

huwvwilliams.com

Chaos Collective – CC005 (2016)