‘Skyline’ – Tom Green Septet

Skyline

THE GRACEFULNESS of the cover art speaks volumes about the creative balance that shines out from Skyline, the debut septet recording from Cambridge-born trombonist Tom Green – a collection of expansive new compositions coloured by ever-changing hues, light and shade, allowing each of his players considerable freedom in improvisation.

The robust four-horn line-up of Green, Sam Miles (tenor), James Davison (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Matthew Herd (alto/soprano) offers impressive big band dynamism and breadth, yet also a supple luminosity which breathes life into the trombonist’s seven originals, plus one arrangement of a much-loved standard. Still in his 20s, Tom Green’s credentials are indubitable – the Royal Academy’s first postgraduate trombonist, winner of the 2013 Dankworth Composition Prize (leading Dame Cleo to declare his work as “some of the most exciting original new music I have heard for a long time”) as well as a 2014 Help Musicians UK ‘Emerging Excellence’ award winner. And his mercurial brass dexterity is a delight, ranging from blistering riffs to svelte tonal lyricism.

Initial impressions are of crisp arrangements and sharp execution, typified by the opener, Sticks and Stones. It’s brisk and propulsive, with layers of textures and ideas over which Green and James Davison solo brightly; and gear changes throughout this album (such as the brief trombone and piano contrapuntalism here) add greatly to a sense of variety, not unlike the fluctuations of light on a plain caused by fast-moving cumulonimbus. The dilatory drawl of a Deep South-suggested horn preamble to thirteen-minute Equilibrium opens into an addictive bossa of moody twists and turns, bejewelled with Sam James’ precise piano expression – and then, all at once, it gleams to lush arrangements and, also, cacophonous scribbles which Green glides through with proverbial swan-like ease.

Arctic Sun swings delicately to the rhythm of bassist Mullov-Abbado and drummer Chapman, building towards elaborate, soaring soprano from Matthew Herd (a saxman who always displays a real penchant for pushing the envelope). There are shades of contemporary pop ballad in the memorable phrases of Peace of Mind, Green fluent in his extemporisations; and easy-going Mirage prompts fine soloing amongst the exacting full horn scoring.

Hoagy Carmichael’s perennial favourite, Skylark, is both chirpy and breezy in Green’s hands, though perhaps loses a little of the charm of mellower renditions; and Winter Halo might easily conjure luminescent landscapes and vacillating murmurations (startling rapidity of soprano bird calls from Herd!), including another of those delectable duo interludes – Sam Miles’ rich tenor against pellucid bass. DIY is an irresistible closer, pictorialising the brash, processional jazz of New Orleans and encouraging overlapping showy solos from all quarters, as well as more examples of the leader’s flair for snappy, complex arrangements (no doubt a crowd pleaser on their recent launch tour).

As a jazz release, this displays so many hallmarks of a classic, seasoned ensemble. As an ambitious debut from a young, close-knit septet, it’s a striking first statement with great potential for future development. And, above all… such an upbeat listen!

Released on 2 February 2015, Skyline can be purchased directly from Spark or Tom Green’s website.

 

Tom Green trombone
Sam Miles tenor saxophone
James Davison trumpet and flugelhorn
Matthew Herd alto and soprano saxophones
Sam James piano
Misha Mullov-Abbado double bass
Scott Chapman drums

Illustration/artwork by Tom Barley

tomgreenmusic.com

Spark Label – Spark 001 (2015)

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‘Urban Novel’ – Kristian Borring

Kristian

THERE’S a sophisticated vein of cool confidence running through this new Jellymould Jazz release from Danish electric guitarist Kristian Borring who employs varying trio, quartet and quintet groupings to interpret eight original compositions inspired by the metropolitanism of London (where Borring resides) and its current, bustling jazz scene. 

Fellow urbanites are the fascinatingly jagged-yet-melodic pianist Arthur Lea, master drummer Jon Scott (Kairos 4tet, Dice Factory, Monocled Man) and Irish bassist Mick Coady (whose own Synergy recorded the impressive Nine Tales of the Pendulum, released last year on Jellymould), plus the illuminant vibraphone of much-in-demand Jim Hart. It’s evident from the outset that Borring’s writing encourages a collaborative approach amongst this personnel, rather than assuming an over-inflated guitar lead. In fact, a key strength of this follow-up to 2011’s Nausicaa is the seamlessness of the written and the improvised, the latter frequently dovetailing into rhythmically complex episodes with imperturbable composure.

From the gentle swing of opening number Hipster and the pacier Number Junky (both chiming with the close-knit perambulations of Borring and Hart) to the snappy drive of Equilbrium (in which Lea’s piano increasingly impresses both with hard chordal rhythm and deft soloing), there is much here to savour. Borring’s style occasionally, and happily, echoes that of seminal Dutch guitarist Jan Akkerman, with sustained, pitch-bent phrases and unexpected harmonic directions (there’s a touch, too, of Metheny). The guitar, bass and drums gem Arcade Coffee Shop is a particular highlight, displaying wonderfully accomplished interaction amongst the trio; and vibraphone is the key to the mystery of Kasper (In Darkness), Borring partnering Jim Hart’s runs against the superbly deliberate chordal stabs and percussive invention of Lea and Scott.

Quartet title number Urban Novel conjures the heat haze of a cityscape, Borring gliding high over the brake-hiss of Jon Scott’s cymbals and low hubbub of Mick Coady’s bass, and then providing subtly-chorused chords behind Lea’s bright piano extemporisations – imaginative picture-painting, tightly arranged… yet suggesting much freedom within. Out-and-out swinger Hidden Corners glistens with Kristian Borring’s unwavering soloing which eventually invites characteristically colourful, resonant percussion from Scott; and a piano-less quartet brings a different, mellow conclusion to the album, Hart and Borring eloquently combining in Weltall.

Released on 2 June 2014, and with Autumn tour dates on the horizon, this is the perfect opportunity to catch a rising name on the UK contemporary jazz scene. For further information and purchasing, visit Jellymould Jazz.

 

Kristian Borring guitar
Arthur Lea piano
Mick Coady bass
Jon Scott drums
Jim Hart vibes

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ016 (2014)