‘Live at the Vortex’ – Kristian Borring Quartet

KristianBorring_Live at the Vortex

DANISH GUITARIST Kristian Borring’s most recent solo albums (Urban Novel and Silent Storm) revealed artistry and technique of particularly deft, cool clarity – and from the bright, opening phrases of the first of six well-chosen numbers, these live quartet recordings garnered from a session at London’s Vortex Jazz Club hold the attention in an especially direct way.

Live music is so precious; and a glimpse (or memory) of this quartet’s late-November evening sparkle is recorded and engineered here with precision by Alex Bonney, the inclusion of appreciative, close audience applause placing it in context. Along with pianist Rick Simpson, double bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Jon Scott, Borring’s electric guitar personality consistently shines – from a Jim Hall lushness in busy Imperfect Circumstances to the free-spirited dreaminess of A Lullaby which shimmers to Simpson’s tremulant piano washes and Scott’s brush-and-cymbal coloration (a drummer who consistently shades even the subtlest original music with focused, balmlike expression). Interesting, too, to hear two different interpretations from the Silent Storm release – Fable and April Fools, both with particularly effusive piano spotlights and the strong bass presence of Dave Whitford.

Borring’s London Magic (complete with recurring chordal motifs echoing the since-silenced hour chimes of Big Ben) is a positive and buoyant treasure, with crystalline solo-line improv supported so skilfully by his band; and turn up the volume for the romantically ornamented, unaccompanied guitar opening of Hoagy Carmichael’s evergreen Skylark which, it turns out, is just the prelude to almost nine minutes of rapturous, restrained, six-string beauty.

A pleasure to listen in on Kristian Borring and colleagues, on-stage, right there in their element.

Released on 15 September, Live at the Vortex is available, digitally, from Amazon.

 

Kristian Borring guitar
Rick Simpson piano
Dave Whitford double bass
Jon Scott drums

kristianborring.com

Self-released (2017)

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‘Silent Storm’ – Kristian Borring

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A COOL, LUMINOUS BREEZE once again permeates the classy grooves of Danish guitarist Kristian Borring’s original music in new album Silent Storm.

Directly following 2015’s late Autumn tour schedule with pianist Arthur Lea, double bassist Mick Coady and drummer Jon Scott (who were also the core line-up of 2014’s Urban Novel), London-based Borring and his quartet took to the studio to capture, within 24 hours, something of the freshness of their live performances; and the shared empathy and vibrancy honed in their time on the road is stylishly communicated throughout this one-hour, ten-track session.

The guitarist’s clear improvisatory journeyings, as always, catch the attention here; and with integral support from Lea, Coady and Scott, he gleefully swings opening number When He Goes Out to Play with a subtly overdriven, wide-skied freedom at which both its title and Borring’s own album cover image hint. This is no underused fretboard, Ton‘s solo guitar lines scuttling across the pacey rhythm section as Arthur Lea adeptly jabs at and chromatically runs across the keys; and the afterglow freshness of Islington Twilight‘s solo guitar introduction belies its punkish drive, later halted by the leader’s attractively phased timbres which recede into the darkness.

April Fools‘ central, homely piano figure encourages eloquent bass meanderings from Mick Coady, wrapped warmly in Borring’s delicate chords – and Jon Scott’s drums, so often characterised by crackling fervour, add sensitive, glinting precision. The purposeful pop-song demeanour of Everyman, which could easily invite a vocal line, instead opens the way for expressive, Latinesque electric guitar as Lea’s piano provides a rockier edge; and Cool It (modelled on Sonny Rollins’ Airegin) flies like the wind, its swift, classic jazz exuberance buoyed by the happy chatter of bass and drums.

Borring’s delicate tracery throughout title track Silent Storm – mainly for guitar trio – might suggest John Etheridge or Mike Walker, yet the Scandinavian inflections here are quite distinctive, creating such gentle positivity. Nosda, too, is finely balanced, as Lea’s piano emphasises its subtle samba rhythms and bright, rolling phrases (Arthur Lea is clearly the perfect melodic partner for Borring, especially evident when their paths intertwine so meticulously); and closing Fable displays all the guitar finesse of Jim Hall with a soft, bluesy, summer’s afternoon swing which reveals, with more clarity than ever, the individual musicality of these fine players.

Joyful, sophisticated and certainly moreish.

Released on 29 July 2016, Silent Storm is available from Jellymould Jazz.

 

Kristian Borring electric guitar
Arthur Lea piano
Mick Coady double bass
Jon Scott drums

kristianborring.com

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ024 (2016)

‘Ana’ – Emilia Mårtensson

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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)