‘Red Circle’ – Simon Purcell

RedCircle

THE PURITY and completeness of the (red) circle speak profoundly about this long-awaited new quintet release from London-based pianist and composer Simon Purcell.

As Head of Jazz at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, Purcell is primarily renowned as an educator, garnering praise and respect from many of today’s jazz artists who have benefited from his experience and guidance; so, no surprise that he was once the recipient of a Parliamentary Award for Jazz Educator of the Year. Purcell became prominent in the ’80s, including collaborations with Julian Arguelles, Eddie Henderson and Kenny Wheeler – but, by his own admission, performing and recording activities have since taken second place to his teaching career… until encouraged to cut this album.

The cover art, by artist and Methodist minister Jan Richardson, is explained in detail on her own blog – and the crux of an analogy she makes of an encounter with an artist in residence provides a revelatory insight into this recording: “…the potter stood before us, a small piece of pottery cupped in her hands. Gazing into the ‘o’ of her bowl, she began to tell us what she had come to offer. Watching her, listening to her, I had the sense that we were encountering a woman whose life and creative work had worn away the impulse to impress, to prove, to convince. In her years of working with clay, the clay had also worked on her. Shed of pretense, the potter held out to us what she had to give. It was more than sufficient.”

That realisation of ‘more than sufficient’ seems key to the intention behind Simon Purcell’s desire to now, at last, document his powerfully direct approach to music-making with long-standing friends and colleagues who share a similarly high profile on the UK jazz scene – Chris Batchelor (trumpet), Julian Siegel (saxes), Steve Watts (bass) and Gene Calderazzo (drums). As Purcell explains, he doesn’t feel any expectation to connect to a particular tradition or genre of jazz, nor for the concept to be complex – the single most importance for this band’s creativity is about where their imagination takes them and the simple enjoyment of the moment.

Recorded ‘live’ in one room, this is jazz which is both tightly structured (from Purcell’s original compositions) yet endlessly free in improvisation, displaying some affinity with the classic Blue Note sessions of the ’60s. Imagine the immediacy of Wayne Shorter’s Angola or Freddie Hubbard’s Hub’s Nub, whilst embracing the influences of the intervening years (including early jazz fusion) and employing today’s clear production techniques, and this quartet’s combined inventiveness provides heady listening which demands focused attention.

From the restless momentum of Spirit Level (a reference, perhaps, to the early ’80s vibe of Tim Richards?) to the breadth of Red Circle – Enchantress, the double-horn-led character of this quintet is enthralling. Purcell is, all at once, lyrical and searching in his own extemporisations, as well as colouring the soloing of Julian Siegel and Chris Batchelor. The scat-like riffs of Minos pave the way for Watts’ brisk, walking-bass swing; at over eleven minutes in length, Answers for Job is an immersive experience – a space for improvisation to widen; and Pandora reels to the brashness of Gene Calderazzo’s intelligent percussion– a real swinger with a big band feel. Dark Night slow-grooves to Purcell’s marked piano fifths, encouraging Siegel (on soprano) and Batchelor to push to the limits, whilst Ithaca delicately waltzes to the crystalline piano of the leader; and show-stopper Maestros and Musos flies to Batchelor’s perky trumpet, plus monster soloing from Siegel.

To close, Liane Carroll guests as vocalist on an interpretation of the earlier Ithaca. There’s something magical about a lyricist performing their own words (“May the Summer mornings be bright and plenty”), and Carroll injects her unparalleled emotional intensity and rich tone into this piano-accompanied ballad, sparingly embellished by Siegel’s soprano. A tender and optimistic conclusion.

Released on 10 November 2014 (with a launch at the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival on 16 November), further information, promo video and purchasing can be found on the dedicated Red Circle page at Whirlwind.

 

Simon Purcell piano, compositions
Chris Batchelor
trumpet
Julian Siegel tenor and soprano saxophones
Steve Watts bass
Gene Calderazzo drums
with
Liane Carroll vocals (bonus track)

simonpurcell.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WWR4651 (2014)

‘Anything But Look’ – Jason Rebello

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A NEW solo studio release from Jason Rebello was always going to be something of an event, given his track record as one of the UK’s most respected jazz/rock keyboard players – and, with an album a year in the making, he’s certainly back with a funky, soulful BANG!

The excitement of ‘Anything But Look’ is due, in part, to so many of its ten originals having considerable commercial appeal (easily radio hits) – yet, delving deep into the detail, there is much to savour in terms of differing vocal performances, shifting time signatures and modulations, clever tricks, flicks and textures… all held together by Rebello’s multifarious, entertaining keyboard work. He has a terrific understanding of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of jazz (his Steinway-only interpretations of standards and folksong were brilliantly displayed in a recent acoustic trio gig at Kings Place with Stephen Keogh on drums and bassist Alex Davis). Here, he combines that mastery with his vast experience of touring over the years as keyboardist for the likes of Jeff Beck, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Joss Stone.

The hand-picked personnel of established and up-and-coming instrumental and vocalist friends provide a sumptuous programme, the result being an intensely joyous, positive and personal album which Rebello describes as “a musical kaleidoscope of jazz, soul, Latin, funk and rock, painting a picture of a soul’s journey into the unknown. We all are made up of light and dark, but we don’t usually want to acknowledge what we really are, due to a fear that we may discover something terrible… we will do anything, but look!”

The funkiest of electric bass and clav grooves open the show, celebrated soul singer Omar’s resolute tones delivering the catchy Know What You Need, Pino Palladino providing a fantastic ground for Rebello’s typically glittering piano and electric piano soloing. Sumudu Jayatilaka’s beguiling voice intertwines effortlessly with Rebello’s piano on The Man on the Train (with a hint, maybe, of Gordon Sumner in its sublime slower section) – and Troy Miller’s drums, the percussion of Miles Bould and Karl Rasheed-Abel’s acoustic bass provide the irresistible pulse. Bouncy 7/8 instrumental Without a Paddle, with cheeky contrary motion hook and Paul Stacey’s bristling guitar, is breathlessly compelling – so much going on, a real smile-inducer!

Solid bass and pitch-bent synth characterise the beautifully-measured chill-out title track Anything But Look before Alicia Carroll’s soprano voice brings theatrical urgency to the more sinister Dark Night of the Soul, an intoxicating multitracked masterclass in Rebello’s considerable piano and keyboard prowess – breathtaking to listen closely. With Immediate Effect flows along with all the amiability of a Lyle Mays/Pat Metheny favourite, backing vocals, guitar and synth soloing the key to this likeness. Sadness-tinged ballad Is This How? features the vocals of US jazz/R&B singer Will Downing and the adept, prodigious drumming of Rebello’s 14 year-old son George – a particularly beautiful, poignant and memorable chorus here; and young singer Jacob Collier’s precise wordless vocals are a perfect match for the bright keys of In The Thick Of It, jazz stalwart Tim Garland (on flute) adding to the lightness of touch.

Joy Rose’s vocal warmth and dexterity in the deliberate, soulful New Joy symbolise the sincerity of this release, Miller and Palladino again creating a fantastic rhythm, Rebello and Garland just magnificent – joy all round! Concluding, Xantoné Blacq presents the uplifting, perhaps even spiritual lyric of Lighten Up The Load, the Latin flavour of Bould’s percussion and Rebello’s piano octaves taking us on our onward journey.

Released on LYTE Records on 4 November 2013, the fervour and craftsmanship of ‘Anything but Look’ are stunningly evident. Indeed, Jason Rebello’s creativity, optimism and technical wizardry might well encourage us through the long, dark winter months – as the fade-out whispers, “See you on the other side”!……

 

Jason Rebello keyboards; bass, track 7; backing vocals, track 6
Troy Miller drums, tracks 1,2,3,4,5,8,9,10; guitar, track 7; percussion, track 4
Pino Palladino bass guitar, tracks 1,4,6,7,9,10
Karl Rasheed-Abel acoustic bass, tracks 2,3,5,8
Paul Stacey guitar, tracks 3,6,9
Jeremy Stacey drums, track 6
George Rebello drums, track 7
Miles Bould percussion, tracks 1,2,3,10
Tim Garland flute, bass clarinet, tracks 8,9
Joy Rose vocals, track 9; backing vocals, tracks 1,6,9,10
Omar Lye-Fook vocals, track 1
Sumudu Jayatilaka vocals, track 2
Alicia Carroll vocals, track 5
Will Downing vocals, track 7
Jacob Collier vocals, track 8
Xantoné Blacq vocals, track 10
Aja Downing backing vocals, track 7

jasonrebello.com

LYTE Records – LR021 (2013)