‘Tales From a Forbidden Land’ – Eyal Lovett Trio, featuring Gilad Hekselman (2CD)

eyallovett

AN OPENING GAMBOL through Henry Mancini’s The Days of Wine and Roses offers little indication as to what else lies behind the gatefold covers of Eyal Lovett’s double album Tales From a Forbidden Land.

Clearly stated as a trio recording (with double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen and drummer Aidan Lowe), the Israeli pianist/composer also features the mellifluous, pedalled electric guitar hues of Gilad Hekselman in an absorbing programme of, predominantly, his own works. Lovett’s approach and use of instrumentation has a distintinctive aura – specifically, the influence of romantic classical piano (sometimes solo) coupled with sprightly, South-East Mediterranean rhythms and melodies, balanced with an introspective, heart-on-sleeve sensitivity which genuinely becomes enthralling.

Based in Berlin, and regularly touring European venues and festivals, Lovett describes these ‘tales’ as “an attempt to capture some aspects about the experience of being an Israeli artist living abroad”, and says it’s “also a metaphor, for each of us has our own ‘forbidden land’.” It’s an album of discovery, whose fascination never seems to wane (even across two discs); and listening-in feels like a personal, intimate response to the moods which unfold. Entry Point‘s dark, tentative steps over arco bass suggests an almost Tchaikovskian journey into the unknown, albeit with Middle Eastern piano and guitar inflections, whilst Odelya‘s lilting piano jazz acceptance prompts tremulant, gossamer echoes from Hekselman. The riffy bass definition of Daphna Eilat’s A Song For a Beloved Land is more buoyant – sunny, even – with Lowe’s percussion shaping its affable melodies (this band’s sense of control and expression is immaculate); and Hope Without Borders combines lush chordal and melodic piano with a spirited, unified momentum (the inspired connection between trio and guitarist especially reinforced here).

Wistful piano mazurka, Japanese Tale, is typical of the continual thread of emotion, its delicate waltz time brightening to include Hekselman’s pinpoint improvisations; and the more whimsical grace notes of Little Ones relax into sustained Lisztian lyricism, inviting Dahl Knudsen’s sympathetic bass extemporisations (remarkably affecting). Bitter Sweet‘s discordant, major-minor waltz stays long in the memory, diverting along unexpected, textural and rhythmic avenues – perhaps that’s one of the secrets to both the originality and interest of Lovett’s music; and bluesy, crescendoing, Esbjörn Svensson-like Something Begins, Something Ends once again integrates Hekselman, this time in particularly gritty, pitch-bent majesty.

There are so many treasures here – and these eighty-four minutes have, over a period of time, repeatedly called me back to focus on their intricacies and their sincerity. At the moment, I wouldn’t stray far without this very special collection (and the trio’s 2013 debut release, Let Go – with Malte Schiller and Ramiro Olaciregui – offers more sublime beauty). Touring in 2017, a UK visit from the whole quartet would be warmly embraced.

Tales From a Forbidden Land is available, as CD or digital download, from Two Rivers Records at Bandcamp.

Videos: A Song For a Beloved Land and Japanese Tale.

 

Eyal Lovett piano, compositions, arrangements
Kenneth Dahl Knudsen double bass
Aidan Lowe drums
featuring
Gilad Hekselman electric guitar

eyallovett.com

Two Rivers Records – TRR-019 (2016)

‘The Fall Dance’ – Maria Chiara Argirò

Digipack - Artwork

THE UNEXPECTED, EMOTIONAL SWIRL of pianist and composer Maria Chiara Argirò’s debut release The Fall Dance has me in raptures as its engaging, visceral expressions of explosive excitement and sweet serenity unfold.   

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available from Proper MusicAmazoniTunes, etc. Watch the promo video here.

 

Maria Chiara Argirò piano, compositions
Sam Rapley tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Tal Janes guitar
Andrea Di Biase double bass
Gaspar Sena drums
Leïla Martial vocals

2017 tour dates
02 February Acapela Studio, Cardiff 
10 February Jazz Cafe, Newcastle
11 February Wonder Inn, Manchester
12 February Alma Tavern and Theatre, Bristol
14 February St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
25 February St Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton 
25 April Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

mariachiaramusic.com

Odradek Records – ODRCD513 (2016)

‘Duski’ – Duski

duski

AN EPONYMOUS debut release from Welsh-based quintet project Duski, led by bassist/composer Aidan Thorne, offers relaxed grooves and pleasurably atmospheric hues throughout its eight original tracks.

Seemingly informed by ’80s new romantic, indie pop and ambient/electronic jazz, its appeal owes much to the undulating washes of Paul Jones’ keys/synths and Dan Messore’s electric guitar inventiveness. Carried on a wave of bubbling electric bass and Mark O Connor’s tight percussive rhythms, Greg Sterland’s luxurious, straight-ahead tenor sax resonances glide across these instrumental landscapes with reassuring warmth, frequently with an accessibility which recalls The Crusaders, though also with the nebulous searchings of, say, Zero 7 or Air.

Smoky melodic hooks and controlled synth/guitar expanses in Spare Part elegantly prepare a canvas for Greg Sterland’s subway-echoed tenor improvisations, whilst the ticking groove of Simple Tune might easily recall Talk Talk’s ‘It’s My Life’, glistening to Jones’ Fender Rhodes chimes and Thorne’s legato bass phrasing. Amongst dreamlike, vaporous miniatures, Sterland’s gruff-toned tenor in slowly-building Lakeside then becomes positively drowsy in slumberous Two Hours Long, its guitar sustenance suggesting endless late-night journeyings; and agile Another Simple Song again breezes along to relatively uncomplicated yet attractive pop harmonies with electronic refractions.

A likeable first outing indicating a penchant for pictorial soundtrack, Duski’s effectiveness in layering textures and evoking moods is admirable, and it even prompts thoughts as to how their already established group sound might develop in the future – perhaps augmented by voice or Canterbury Scene unusualities such as bassoon or oboe to provide a more distinctive edge. A pathway has been opened…

Released on 12 October 2016, Duski is available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp. Aidan Thorne tours as bassist with Slowly Rolling Camera; guitarist Dan Messore records as Indigo Kid.

 

Greg Sterland saxophone
Dan Messore guitars
Paul Jones keys, synths
Aidan Thorne bass, compositions
Mark O Connor drums

Illustration: Sophia Wagstaff

duskimusic.co.uk

Cambrian Records – CAM008 (2016)

‘Skarkali’ – Skarkali Trio

Skarkali_AP

THIS ICELANDIC trio release from pianist/composer Ingi Bjarni Skúlason and colleagues can stand proudly amongst the finest of the current genre. Completed by bassist Valdimar Olgeirsson and drummer Óskar Kjartansson, the Skarkali Trio’s debut album Skarkali (translated, loud noises) carries a depth of invention, verve and delicacy which sets it apart from any run-of-the-mill piano trio expectation.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available as CD or download from Bandcamp.

 

Ingi Bjarni Skúlason piano, compositions
Valdimar Olgeirsson double bass
Óskar Kjartansson drums

ingibjarni.com

Ingi Bjarni Skúlason – IBS001 (2015)

‘Land Grab’ – Sam Trapchak

LandGrab

THE HEADY GROOVE of this solid Stateside jazz/rock album has had me transfixed for some weeks. But it’s way too good to keep to myself!…

Land Grab – the second release, as leader, from Michigan-born double bassist Sam Trapchak and his irrepressible quartet of Greg Ward (alto sax), Tom Chang (electric guitar) and Christian Coleman (drums) – hits a remarkable balance of compositional and improvisatory verve; and its the raw power of frontline alto and guitar combined with robust bass and drums which holds the attention throughout, as well as an impressive ability to snap from lush, lofty chordal jazz into irresistibly gutsy hard rock riffs.

Tom Chang’s prominent, sustained and enquiring guitar style is likely to draw a good few comparisons – easily John McLaughlin or Pete McCann; perhaps John Abercrombie, Allan Holdsworth or John Goodsall – sharing a great voicing affinity here with saxophonist Greg Ward to pull off a raft of audaciously complex unison lines. Take, for example, bold, swaggering Lumpy’s Blues which, buoyed by the thunderously percussive rhythms of Trapchak and Coleman, resounds to brash, Led Zeppelin-like guitar-and-sax riffs; and Trapchak himself displays an animated bass pliancy reminiscent of Dave Holland or Ben Allison.

Pterofractal, which opens the album’s extended six-track sequence, soars deliciously to a frenzy of clanging guitar mixed with unfettered, Steve Coleman-like sax; and the searching ambience of Beautiful/Furious switches into fabulously overdriven, pitch-bent wailing from Chang. Here again, sax and guitar connect superbly in shrill, on-the-edge improvisation as Greg Ward’s alto sputters and swoons to the fierce rhythm (as writer, Trapchak rarely seeks the limelight, but is clearly the backbone of this quartet).

The briefest and most insular of the tracks, Bell Curve, is a lightly-trod episode of rising and falling contrapuntalism, predominantly for drumless trio – fascinating to hear how the differently-textured, almost Bachian melodies intertwine; and, introduced by Trapchak’s phonetic bass solo, nine-minute Breathing Room opens into a broad, prog jazz landscape redolent of the work of Asaf Sirkis or Nguyên Lê. Title track Land Grab closes the album in a blazing Weather Reportian/Mahavishnuan maelstrom fired by the persistent pulsation of bass and drums; and Ward’s lower alto register, not unlike Shorter, becomes hypnotic when combined with Chang’s piercing, seemingly McLaughlin-inspired soloing.

Released on Raw Toast Records, Land Grab is available from CD Baby as well as iTunes and Amazon. Sam Trapchak’s intelligent compositional prowess is intuitively realised by this fine quartet, and turning up the volume is requisite… but just keep those ‘air guitar’ hands on the steering wheel!

 

Sam Trapchak bass, compositions
Greg Ward alto sax
Tom Chang electric guitar
Christian Coleman drums

samtrapchak.com

Raw Toast Records (2015)

‘Zero Sum World’ – Ant Law

ZeroSumWorld

MARKING his debut release on the Whirlwind label, guitarist Ant Law’s second album Zero Sum World assembles something of a British contemporary jazz dream team to realise the frequently freewheeling adventure of his own eleven compositions.

For the last fifteen years, Law has practised perfect fourth guitar tuning – symettrising string intervals by simply nudging up the top two by a semitone. As well as creating instrumental logic and order (Law is also an accomplished pianist), it also provides the opportunity to more readily develop and extrapolate ideas across the entirety of the fretboard, as well as offering subtle harmonic variation. Equal to this album’s creative challenge are Mike Chillingworth (reeds), Ivo Neame (piano), Tom Farmer (bass) and James Maddren (drums), Neame being the only line-up change from 2013 release ‘Entanglement’.

As both composer and instrumentalist, Ant Law takes an inquiring approach to his music – not unexpected, given his higher education in Physics (Google ‘zero-sum game’ for a clue to the album title) – which is evident as each of these extended numbers unfolds; and it’s this broadness which coaxes the listener in to discover more of its beauty (definitely not a lite gallop through standards or radio-friendly ‘choons’).

So, a sense of evolution is illustrated in the title track as it widens from Chillingworth’s solo sax line into overlapping chordal atmospheres created by Law and Neame; and, against the intensifying bass and drums urgency of Farmer and Maddren, guitar and sax share unison lines as well as developing their own improvisations. Law is showcased more prominently in Waltz, its memorable riff encouraging his deft guitar colorisations as well as characteristic piano invention from Ivo Neame (a thrill to hear in any line-up); and Mishra Jathi is an early highlight, delivering a seven-beat bass/piano/drum propulsion (reminiscent of Kairos 4tet) with an effective amalgam of instrumental textures and solos.

The initial dreaminess of Asymptotes gives way to a perky descending bass motif which sparkles especially to Ivo Neame’s lithe piano against Law’s guitar washes, whilst Parallel People‘s buoyancy is infectious, Chillingworth’s alto chromatically dancing around the band’s impressive maelstrom. In Triviophobia, the mellow-yet-sprightly tone of Ant Law’s guitar (with echoes of Wes Montgomery) swings out to Farmer/Maddren assuredness, as does the polyrhythmic quirkiness of Leafcutter and the shadowy nursery rhyme-like Symbiosis with its wonderfully twisted agility and the woody sonority of Chillingworth’s bass clarinet.

At nine minutes’ duration, statuesque Monument is dedicated to American guitarist Ben Monder, it’s underlying prog predilection pointing to the likes of early Genesis, plus mischievously free improvisation and jazz phrases reminiscent of Kit Downes’ solo releases (perhaps that’s the woodwind). The closing Blues is characterised by effective cantabile double bass and guitar, as well as Neame’s mastery at the piano – all topped off with a tantalising BB King-style fade-out!

Ant Law’s ‘magic eye’ artistry here (my description of the enlightened, three-dimensional experience to be found when delving deeper) is greatly rewarding to hear again and again. Indeed, a recent disparaging, left-field commentary on this album, having caused consternation but mostly hilarity amongst the jazz fraternity, indicates that it’s worth developing the listening skills to fully appreciate this quintet’s rich musicality!

Released on 16 February 2015, visit the dedicated Zero Sum World page for more information, audio clips, promo video and purchasing.

 

Ant Law guitar and compositions
Michael Chillingworth alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet
Ivo Neame piano
Tom Farmer bass
James Maddren drums

Sleeve art: Iza Turska (see also Alban Low’s Art of Jazz)

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4663 (2015)

‘Sutures and Stitches’ – Ollie Howell

OllieHowell_Sutures

WHEN A DEBUT ALBUM sounds this good (correction: this spectacular), you simply cannot ignore it! Relatively new to British and international jazz audiences, drummer and composer Ollie Howell’s first release comes as something of a revelation.

The initially curious title, ‘Sutures and Stitches’, soon becomes clear as Howell openly shares his recent history of numerous neurosurgeries and, importantly, his determination to take the positive from these experiences and channel them musically. Indeed, this collection of self-penned post-bop originals (plus an arrangement of Dear Old Stockholm) is a remarkably confident and mature first release, boasting a strong personnel: Mark Perry (trumpet), Duncan Eagles (tenor sax), Max Luthert (double bass) and Matt Robinson (piano). With endorsements from renowned drummer Jimmy Cobb (“He’s loaded with talent!”) and music legend Quincy Jones (describing Howell as “an unbelievable drummer. So creative I couldn’t believe it. This kid is a 360-degree beautiful young cat that I believe has what it takes to make a life out of music.”), this is surely a great curtain-raiser to a glittering career to come.

Later On opens the album with aplomb, Howell instantly displaying his crisp and direct attention to compositional and drumming detail, Robinson hitting the advance button for Perry and Eagles to take flight with characteristic shared brilliance. There’s a cordial spirit to the lively Beyond, its opening unison melody feeling welcomingly familiar, soon stepping up a gear for a terrific tenor solo, Robinson’s accomplished piano then driving on and on to a cross-rhythmical hand-clap/percussion conclusion.

Short solo intros from each band member precede five of the tracks – not mere fillers, but concise lead-ins to the pieces which follow, beginning with Howell himself on rapid, perfectly-tuned toms, ahead of So Close, So Far. With its finely-balanced sound, and possible imaginings of a big band arrangement, Perry’s assured flutter-tongueing blazes high above the tight ensemble accompaniment. Lively miniature, Angry Skies, leads to Perry’s melancholy trumpet intro to 19th Day, a wistful tune beautifully carried by Eagles’ rich tenor, partnering with Perry to great effect. At almost nine minutes, A World Apart is a great centrepiece to showcase the raw, combined talent of this quintet – Howell skilfully directs the band to reach for that higher rhythmic, melodic and improvisational plane… result: success!

Max Luthert’s sonorous bass intro to For Anya is a worthy preamble to its delicate bass- and piano-led dedication. They finds Ollie Howell on fine form, bringing shape to Perry’s and Eagles’ searching solos, Luthert again with a lyrical bass addition. Eagles’ brief sax intro takes us into the gorgeously introspective Two Sides, tenor and piano creating between them such an appealing dialogue. Traditional tune Dear Old Stockholm receives a feisty arrangement, all players pushing at its animated energy. Howell’s drum display is so dynamic, so exact, whilst Robinson and Luthert perpetuate the heady groove. Finally, a particularly limpid piano intro leads to A Hollow Victory, Eagles’ and Perry’s unanimous melody giving way to their own thoughtful solos – a gentler, considered finale to a superbly creative and rounded album.

Released by Whirlwind on 23 September 2013, Howell is touring ‘Sutures and Stitches’ until 3 December – and one can imagine (or, better still, experience) live pyrotechnics of the highest order! Details and samples here.


Ollie Howell
drums/compositions  olliehowell.com
Mark Perry trumpet  markperrymusic.com
Duncan Eagles tenor saxophone  duncaneagles.com
Max Luthert double bass  maxluthertcouk
Matt Robinson piano  mattrobinsonmusic.com

Sleeve design and illustration by Alban Low  artofjazz.blogspot.co.uk

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4636 (2013)