#recentlistening – June 2019 (1 of 2)

Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band – Begin Again
Fred Hersch, The WDR Big Band, arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza
Release date: 7 June 2019 (Palmetto Records)
propermusic.com

Tori Freestone Trio – El Mar de Nubes
Tori Freestone, Dave Manington, Tim Giles
Release date: 31 May 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
torifreestone.bandcamp.com

Liam Noble – The Long Game
Liam Noble, Tom Herbert, Seb Rochford
Release date: 7 June 2019 (Edition Records)
liamnoble.bandcamp.com

Dave Liebman ± Richie Beirach – Eternal Voices
Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach
Release date: 14 June 2019 (Jazzline)
propermusic.com

Kevin Holbrough – Influences
Kevin Holbrough, Dave Newton, Sebastian de Krom, Zoltan Dekany
Release date: 29 May 2019 (New Jazz Records)
newjazzrecords.bandcamp.com

Babelfish – Once Upon a Tide
Brigitte Beraha, Barry Green, Chris Laurence, Paul Clarvis
Release date: 29 June 2019 (Moletone Records)
amazon.co.uk [awaiting more links]

‘Chasing Rainbows’ – Babelfish

Babelfish

IN SO MANY WAYS, this feels like one of the most consummate and unswervingly original releases of the year to date.

Singer/songwriter Brigitte Beraha is distinct in jazz spheres for her venturous, artisan approach to music making, much in the same way as, say, Dame Cleo Laine and Annie Ross were in their heyday. For this second Babelfish quartet release, she again teams up with long-standing colleague Barry Green (piano), plus Chris Laurence (double bass) and Paul Clarvis (percussion), to offer an exquisite, acoustic collection of no less than sixteen numbers which explore “love in many different forms.”

Beraha and Green share writing credits on pieces which, along with a scattering of sensitive reinterpretations, glisten with clarity and emotion (whether lovelorn or in downright japery), all delivered with delightful unpredictability. And whilst the characteristic diversity of Brigitte Beraha’s vocalisations mostly take centre stage here, it’s the indubitable, intelligent connection between all four artists which creates this album’s magic.

Take, for example, Beraha’s opening composition, You, Me & The Rest of the World, which ripples with all the composure and stature of a Real Book classic, the lyric-inspired vocal phrases buoyed by deft bass and percussion and Barry Green’s high piano embellishment (certainly one of jazz’s most engagingly limpid pianists). The soft Brazilian sway of Caetano Veloso’s Michelangelo Antonioni is captured so rapturously, escalating into an impressive scat-like middle section from Beraha; and Your Turn To Ask parades Monkishly to Green’s piano before Beraha superbly embodies the level of exploratory dynamic range and creativity attributed to Dame Cleo.

A wondrously quirky thread of ‘confusion’ runs through the album, taking the form of four miniatures in which each musician improvises individually on the same mere fragment of a phrase before concluding in a final, quartet coming-together. All are fascinating in their own way, though arguably the most entertaining (perhaps even alarming on a first listen!) is Brigitte’s Confusion, Beraha’s faux frustrated laryngeal efforts eventually becoming clear; and even Paul Clarvis’s 24-second rhythmical snare interpretation is a treat.

The most surprising credit here is Aaron Copland’s… but, the lofty and intense beauty of this piano/vocal arrangement of Heart, We Will Forget Him (from Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson) genuinely shadows the more familiar classical soprano reading; and somehow it segues naturally into a breezy rendition of I’m Always Chasing Rainbows (that strange mix of Chopin, Vaudeville and Judy Garland!). Following is an attractive, bass-bubbling arrangement of traditional song Down by the Salley Gardens, its introductory combination of piano ostinati and percussion curiously resembling the timbres of a hang drum, as Beraha delivers folk-song purity and soaring improvisation.

A dramatic Edith Piaf-like preamble to Nuit Blanche evolves into a delicate display of Beraha’s voice as instrument, her wordless extemporisations seemingly effortless; and the weighty piano-and-voice simplicity of A Story Ends (another of the singer’s originals) is reminiscent of Norma Winstone’s fine work with Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier. Barry Green’s compositions Knocked Knees and Stubble Rash are rather endearing – melodically bright, with harmonic and rhythmic twists, the four ‘voices’ match so well. And, before that impudent, closing Confusion, Beraha’s own Unspoken only confirms her bejewelled magnificence in “the cycle of life” of contemporary jazz vocalists.

Released on 27 April 2015, Chasing Rainbows is easily a five-star album, and not to be missed. Available from Amazon and all good jazz retailers.

 

Brigitte Beraha voice
Barry Green piano
Chris Laurence double bass
Paul Clarvis percussion

brigitteberaha.com
moletone.com

Moletone Records – Moletone 006 (2015)

‘Ana’ – Emilia Mårtensson

ana2

MUSICAL DISCOVERIES are, I believe, waymarkers on a lifetime’s journey of appreciation and enjoyment of the artistic creativity that those blessed with a talent bestow upon us. Once experienced, they stay with us forever, evoking memories of the first unexpected rush of exhilaration that touched our soul.

In 2010, I chanced upon a debut release (Kairos Moment) by hitherto unknown contemporary jazz ensemble, Kairos 4tet. Led by indomitable saxophonist Adam Waldmann, their originality spoke loudly and clearly to me – and amongst the instrumental energy, a jazz vocalist delivered a single heartfelt ballad, Unresolved. Transfixed by its depth and beauty, I went on to discover this solo artist’s own debut album (And So It Goes… with pianist Barry Green) as well as appearances on subsequent Kairos albums and intimate piano-accompanied performances in London and Manchester.

Unsurprisingly, Emilia Mårtensson is rapidly making a name for herself on the London jazz circuit and beyond. A grounding in the folksongs of her native Sweden and standards of the leading ladies of jazz, combined with an admiration for a singer-songwriter genre that includes Paul Simon, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, has resulted in a meltingly gorgeous voice characterised by sincerity, warmth, dynamic control and endearingly crisp Anglo-Swedish diction.

Masterminded by producers Rory Simmons and Alex Bonney, this second solo release features a particularly inventive instrumental line-up, the spacial detail of which complements and colours Mårtensson’s sensitive approach so appropriately. As before, Barry Green’s expressive and intuitive piano is the perfect match for Emilia’s velvety tones. Rhythmic and ornamental zest is provided via a refreshing range of timbres from Brazilian percussionist Adrian Adewale; and bringing a deep sense of equilibrium is bassist Sam Lasserson. Finally, fashioning the most wonderfully interwoven textures on half of the album’s ten tracks are the Fable String Quartet, whose precision and integrality with this project are outstanding.

Illustrating all of this is opening number Harvest Moon, written by Jamie Doe, Emilia’s soft vocals floating above a gently bubbling momentum. In profound dedication to her grandmother, Ana is communicated with love (Soft, at night, her hand on mine, she says, “Close your eyes before you open up your mind”), Barry Green decorously enhancing the affectionate mood over Sam Crowe’s delicate string arrangement. Barnaby Keen’s Learnt from Love is a standout, the distinctive chord progressions and melody of the chorus, in particular, still lodged in my mind from a live first hearing last July; and Emilia’s voice also displays a brighter, stronger edge.

Tomorrow Can Wait is perfect for Mårtensson, the heart-on-sleeve poignancy of writer Emine Pirhason’s verses emphasised by the initial sparseness of solo piano, and Emilia’s digitally-layered harmonies are used to great effect here, suggesting her folk roots. Traditional Swedish folksong is represented by bass/percussion-accompanied När Som Jag Var På Mitt Adertonde År; and Black Narcissus Music, Joe Henderson’s familiar tune set to Emilia Mårtensson’s skilfully-intoned words, is interpreted breezily courtesy of a great Rory Simmons string arrangement which melds perfectly with the instrumental trio.

Paul Simon’s Everything Put Together Falls Apart comes so naturally to Mårtensson before Green and co. run with it in a jaunty, bluesy direction. Moffi’s Song confirms her own songwriting prowess, its string-led arrangement imbuing this tribute to her grandfather with the feel of an old jazz classic; and to close, a folksy unaccompanied miniature, Vackra Människa – the translation, ‘beautiful person’, so very fitting for this accomplished singer.

Released on 7 April 2014 (in Babel Label’s 20th anniversary year), Ana is available here … a musical discovery awaits.

Video: The Making of Ana
Video: Harvest Moon


Emilia Mårtensson
 voice
Barry Green piano
Sam Lasserson double bass
Adriano Adewale percussion

The Fable String Quartet
Kit Massey violin
Paloma Deike violin
Becky Hopkin viola
Natalie Rozario cello

Babel Label – BDV14126 (2014)

‘The MJQ Celebration’ – Jim Hart, Barry Green, Matt Ridley, Steve Brown with Dave O’Higgins

MJQ

Originally formed by pianist and composer Michael Garrick MBE, who sadly passed away in 2011, The MJQ Celebration had been delighting sell-out UK audiences with their fresh interpretations of the pioneering 1950s/60s sounds of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Determined to continue the success of the project, and in Michael’s memory, the friends are now touring again as a new line-up, launching this engaging debut release.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…


Jim Hart
vibraphone
Barry Green piano
Matt Ridley double bass
Steve Brown drums

special guest
Dave O’Higgins tenor saxophone

Kings Gambit Records (KGR001) – 2014