REVIEW: ‘Close to Home’ – Ari Erev

EVER THE MELODICIST and bestower of hope and light, Israeli pianist Ari Erev releases Close to Home, the follow-up to 2016 album Flow.

Continuing the configuration of piano trio augmented by soprano saxophone and percussion (plus, on this occasion, flute), Erev again presents a considerable breadth of original composition and reinterpretation – over 70 minutes, in fact. Within this music is a beauty which clearly amplifies its overarching title, referencing his deep emotions for family, friends and familiar places – a sentiment which has been pulled into sharp relief for so many, over the past year or so.

The pianist’s deliberate yet rubato expression can sometimes be reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim – there’s a warmth and a focus there that reflects both his experience and this album’s theme. In addition, the subtly detuned tone of his instrument creates a ‘chamber’ aura of intimate recital or jazz bar, even with occasional traces of traditional music hall. However you might define this ensemble’s collective sound, it’s a congenial blend.

Curiously, from a purely personal perspective, the opening two numbers – Israeli Story and Playground – don’t necessarily foretell the elegance and interest of the hour which then follows them. But then, immediately in Childhood Scenes, is found the most dreamy, slightly nostalgic trio waltz – an example of how Erev’s originally-stated themes frequently have a recollective dimension, suggesting they might also host a vocal lyric first heard many moons ago. Chipper Falling in Place crackles with Yuval Cohen’s soprano-led exuberance as bassist Assaf Hakimi and drummer Gasper Bertoncelj drive it forward with panache, while Old Friends’ chromatic figure possesses a tentative air. Another ruminative original, Saturday Coffee, features lithe sax improvisations, as well as posing a thought of how the richer timbres of tenor or baritone might also suit the pianist’s output. In Afar (for Tal), though, Cohen’s high register is gracefully interlaced with the flute of Hadar Noiberg, fashioning a particularly homely, trad-jazz-tinged dedication to Erev’s daughter.

In terms of other composers’ works, the emotive, Brazilian shades of Debora Gurgel’s Para Sempre (Forever) find greater mobility with Erev, accented by the percussion of Gilad Dobrecky; and the solid beat of Efraim Shamir’s Shi’ur Moledet (Homeland Class) – from successful Israeli pop band Kavaret – is significantly reworked as a melodramatic, almost silent-movie-styled episode whose percussion impetuously tugs the piano trio towards an excitable Latin groove. Keith Jarrett’s So Tender (known to many in his breezy recording with Gary Peacock and Jack De Johnette) is respectfully visited in a sparkling, bossa miniature; Olha Maria (Antonio Carlos Jobim) flows tenebrously; and Paul Simon’s evergreen Still Crazy After All These Years enjoys a pleasant, countrified outing. To close, Erev’s assuredly grooving Po (Here) displays a theme-tune quality, its bright, memorable melody expanded on by saxophone and piano.

At the heart of this recording and, indeed, Erev’s own pianistic delivery is a sense of both conviviality and gratitude; and his own compositional flair perhaps has the greatest appeal in this collection. Falling in Place is certainly an irresistible, tightly executed, good-time gem!

Released on 8 June 2021, Close to Home is available at Bandcamp.

 

Ari Erev piano
Assaf Hakimi double bass, bass guitar
Gasper Bertoncelj drums
with
Yuval Cohen soprano saxophone
Hadar Noiberg flute
Gilad Dobrecky percussion

arierev.com

(2021)

REVIEW: ‘Another Land’ – Dave Holland

IN A CAREER spanning an astonishing seven decades, the name of master bassist Dave Holland is affectionately known to most in the sphere of contemporary jazz. Working with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Jack DeJohnette, John Abercombie, Pat Metheny (the list goes on) – and extraordinarily prolific for many, many years on the revered ECM label, leading or contributing to around 40 albums – his legendary status has long been assured.

More recently, his Crosscurrents Trio performances with percussionist Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Chris Potter revealed a wonderful camaraderie that enfolded the most glorious acoustic sounds, followed-up by an album – Good Hope. Now, moving on from that 2019 release, Dave Holland extends his association with Edition Records in Another Land – a striking gear-shift of a project with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire.

Those mostly familiar with the veteran bassist’s upright stance alongside his full-bodied or Czech Eaze instruments will, here, instantly identify a quite different environment as a number of the album’s dynamic jazz-rock grooves are driven by electric bass, tuning into the fervid invention and tracery of Eubanks, plus Calvaire’s vehement, often thunderous presence behind the kit. Describing the live shows that informed this New York studio recording, Holland relates that once their continuous set began, they rarely stopped. That sense of being deep within the groove is palpable here, and totally infectious. Indeed, the fullness, equality and adaptability of this trio’s sound is pivotal across 68 minutes which feel like they could run and run.

Funk-laden Grave Walker mixes up 7/8 beats with mellow, shuffling riffs, Eubanks completely at one with his crunching, pitch-bent rhythms and improvised melodies; and the exchange of knowing nods and smiles can easily be envisaged throughout its propulsive yet precise course. 20 20, too, ripples with purpose, Holland’s double-bass euphony just as integrated with the exciting, Jimi Hendrixian blues/rock of Eubanks as its more subdued sequences – again, this cohesive triumvirate turns out so many variations and moods within a single number. Holland’s alternating trip-up figure sets up elegant title track Another Land, whose bossa-suggested gyrations provide space to illuminate detail; and the bassist’s Quiet Fire is reimagined, pared down in a sensitive and enchanting solo guitar arrangement.

Back on the groove trail, the ‘playground chant’ of Calvaire’s South American-hued Gentle Warrior is a delight as it proceeds towards Holland’s tireless, rhythmic soloing and an audacious, scratchy feature from Eubanks. For rock energy and complexity, the guitarist’s Mashup takes some beating, its velocity prompting an amazing, collaborative saturation of ideas; and hearing Holland’s electric bass meshing with Eubanks’ tones is just stunning – conceivably it enjoys considerable development in a live setting. Ice-cool bass and guitar licks/improv in Passing Time drift blithely, supported by crisp, percussive colour, while Holland provides The Village’s deep, blue bass as Eubanks chromatically ascends (with fabulous fretboard and pedal techniques) to the crackling accompaniment of Calvaire. Closing, the guitarist leads his soulfully smooth Bring It Back Home with an unashamedly ostentatious swagger.

Always progressive in both outlook and his support of new talent, now in his mid-seventies, Dave Holland has created a zestful trio partnership whose classy, full-on grooving is repeatedly a joy to get into.

Released on 28 May 2021, Another Land is available in various formats at Edition Records.

 

Dave Holland bass, bass guitar
Kevin Eubanks guitar
Obed Calvaire drums

daveholland.com

Edition Records – EDN1172 (2021)

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: ‘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)

REVIEW: ‘Tales from the Punjab’ – Shez Raja

A SULTRY SUN silhouetting Badshahi Mosque and the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh in the cosmopolitan city of Lahore, Punjab, signals a quite different project from Wirral-born, London-based electric bassist Shez Raja.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released 19 March 2021 at Ubuntu Music and available from Shez Raja’s website, Amazon, Apple Music, etc.

 

Shez Raja bass guitar
Fiza Haider vocals
Ahsan Papu bansuri
Zohaib Hassan sarangi
Kashif Ali Dani tabla
Qamar Abbas cajon

shezraja.com

Ubuntu Music – UBU0077 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Let the world be a question’ – Monika Lidke

SINCE IF I WAS TO DESCRIBE YOU, and through 2017’s Gdyby każdy z nas… (If all of us…), singer-songwriter Monika Lidke has seemingly been absorbing musical influences and experimenting with vocal styles to bring divergent atmospheres to latest album Let the world be a question.

Polish-born and London-resident, Lidke’s earlier output has comfortably breezed between light jazz, European folk and easy-going pop. But this collection of a dozen songs, self-penned or co-written, also reveals different facets to her vocal expression. So alongside the recognisably carefree numbers, there are others which display a seasoned edge; and a host of accomplished musicians (listed below, including guitarists Matt Chandler, Kristian Borring and Maciek Pysz) interpret the contrasting moods and grooves with attractive detailing. These are unashamedly direct pop songs – but the trick is that they avoid lovelorn clichés, focusing rather on deepening family relationships and the circle of life, as well as the quiet beauty of the natural world.

Some lovely scenes are painted, including the Paul Simon-like, country-guitar-enhanced shuffle of Making it up as we go, Lidke’s vocal occasionally veering towards that of Suzanne Vega. The characteristic innocence of her wordless (‘dooh-dooh’) melodies break into poetic profundity in A Winter Morning, Curious Puzzle and heartfelt Mother, while Lazy Detour’s bluesy electric-piano groove, including a feature for trumpeter Dawid Frydryk, suggests the illumination of new artistic pathways. Alle Choir London’s snappy backing brings frissons of delight to numbers such as gospel-tinted Not a Bad Bone and hip-swinging Samba, Biodra i Nogi; and soft-rock Słuchaniem być (To be listening) especially stays in the memory, with Matt Chandler’s fluid electric-guitar improv a real treat.

Initially quaint, Snowflake’s Dream’s lyric implies a touching mother-to-son conversation about life (“…always remember me shining… I’ll make a full circle… a teardrop in the corner of your eye”), then ramping up into a more effusive aspect of Lidke’s performance we should hear more of. Tango’s descending-bass mystery, too, has an attraction, the Polish-sung lyric of encouragement offering up pictorial lines such as “I’m not afraid [of] your words which fight like a windmill with light” before hitting a bright rock-out; and rhythmic W deszczu pod parasolem (In the rain under an umbrella) is joyously uplifting – Could it really have happened, a miracle between us.

Finally, alongside Zimowy Poranek (a Polish version of A Winter Morning) are three remixes by producers Happy Cat Jay and Wulfnote. While such arrangements can sometimes appear to be gimmicky or even questionable add-ons, these are imaginatively refashioned with a peppy, radio-play vibe. Wulfnote’s Lazy Detour, in particular, abounds with so much interest.

There’s a sense, from the depth of a clutch of these songs, that Monika Lidke’s journey could flourish in more challenging areas, perhaps led by a theme, a concept. Certainly her harder vocal timbres point that way… in a direction I’d follow.

Released on 8 October 2020, Let the world be a question is available as CD, vinyl and digital download at the monikalidke.com store.

 

Monika Lidke vocals
Alle Choir London* backing vocals (tracks 5, 6, 8)
Matt Chandler guitars (tracks 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15)
Kristian Borring electric guitar (tracks 4, 5, 14)
Maciek Pysz acoustic guitar (tracks 4, 5)
Adam Teixeira drums (tracks 1, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Waldemar Franczyk drums (tracks 2, 6, 8, 13, 16)
Chris Nickolls drums (tracks 3, 4, 5)
Tim Fairhall double bass (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Marcin Grabowski fretless bass (tracks 2, 13, 16), double bass (track 6), electric bass (track 8)
Shez Raja electric bass (tracks 4, 5)
Jan Freicher piano (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 14), vibraphone (tracks 2, 6, 13, 16), synth (tracks 2, 13)
Adam Spiers cello (tracks 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Wayne Urquhart cello (track 14)
Dawid Frydryk trumpet (tracks 3, 6, 14)
Happy Cat Jay drums, piano (track 15), synth (tracks 15, 16), bass guitar (track 16)

*Alle Choir London are:
Marta Mathea Radwan director, backing vocal arrangements
Klaudia Baca, Anita Łazińska, Karolina Micor, Marta Mathea Radwan,
Justyna Rafalik, Krystian Godlewski, Krzysztof Suwała singers

monikalidke.com

MLCD002 (2020)