#recentlistening – May 2019

Jonny Mansfield – Elftet
Ella Hohnen-Ford, James Davison, Tom Smith, George Millard, Rory Ingham, Dominic Ingham, Laura Armstrong, Oliver Mason, Jonny Mansfield, Will Harris, Boz Martin-Jones + guests Chris Potter, Gareth Lockrane and Kit Downes
Release date: 21 June 2019 (Edition Records)
jonnymansfield.bandcamp.com

Partisans – Nit De Nit
Phil Robson, Julian Siegel, Thaddeus Kelly, Gene Calderazzo
Release date: 17 May 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
partisansjazz.bandcamp.com

Shez Raja – Journey to Shambhala
Shez Raja, Trilok Gurtu, Wayne Krantz, Monika Lidke, Chris Nickolls, Pascal Roggen, Alex Stanford, Vasilis Xenopoulos
Release date: 17 May 2019 (Raja Records)
shezraja.com

Leïla Martial – Baa Box – Warm Canto
Leïla Martial, Eric Perez, Pierre Tereygeol
Release date: 24 May 2019 (Laborie Jazz)
leilamartial.com / laboriejazz.fr

Gabriel Grossi Quintet – #motion
Gabriel Grossi, Sergio Coelho, Eduardo Farias, André Vasconcellos, Rafael Barata + special guests Mauricio Einhorn and Hermeto Pascoal
Release date: 28 June 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
gabrielgrossi.bandcamp.com

Mark Lockheart and Roger Sayer – Salvator Mundi
Mark Lockheart & Roger Sayer
Release date: 5 July 2019 (Edition Records)
mark lockheart.bandcamp.com

‘Orbital’ – Max Luthert

MaxLuthert

AN INCANDESCENT elegance pervades this debut release from bassist Max Luthert – a sumptuous and mature sextet recording, richly coloured and layered by the creative possibilities this particular collaboration engenders.

Very much a respected player on the London jazz scene, Luthert is joined by Gareth Lockrane (flutes), Duncan Eagles (tenor sax), Séb Pipe (alto sax), Matt Robinson (piano) and Dave Hamblett (drums), who warmly bring to life these nine original compositions in which the leader has challenged himself to write for larger ensemble. The flute and dual sax combination achieves strikingly effective textures as mellifluent unison lines splay into opulent, three-way harmonic expressions, whilst also providing the freedom to extemporise individually – and, with an overarching sense of joie de vivre, this ‘little big band’ has much to say.

Title track Orbital perfectly illustrates the strengths of the collective with an ebullience which crackles to snappy, tricksy rhythms through which Duncan Eagles’ deeply-toned tenor both breezes and luxuriates. The mood swings in this are delicious, as is the crispness of the interaction, due in no small part to Dave Hamblett’s typically incisive though equally flamboyant drumming. Cloud on Cloud is characterised by flautist Gareth Lockrane’s mellow, slurred phrasing both floating above and melding with alto and tenor to create a luscious, dreamy ballad; and the subtly-infused Indian flavour of Assam‘s melodies and arrangements dissolve to afford space to Luthert’s distinctively-resonant bass soloing and the tabla-like hollowness of Hamblett’s carefully-weighted rhythms.

Grand Designs ripples to the complexity of shared and overlaid improvised woodwind phrases, Matt Robinson enhancing Luthert’s authoritative momentum with sparkling piano runs. In contrast, the most delightfully spacial Quiet December features the haunting tenor soloing of Eagles and the eloquent, gossamer fragility of Luthert’s imaginings (each attuned to the other, due to their close association in trio Partikel); and ascending tenor motifs bring an initial perky briskness to The Edgewall, its later, edgy sections finding Luthert’s mobile bass leaning more towards a Dave Holland sound world.

Full-bodied and swirling to a wonderfully tenacious bass and drums swing, Banrock Station is brightly illuminated by Lockrane’s high agility and Matt Robinson’s pianistic deftness; again, the close-knit ensemble work of Lockrane, Eagles and Séb Pipe shine out to provide that full, almost ’60s-style ambience – a definite stand-out. The broader landscape of Pacific Before Tiger features open, extensive soloing from Pipe, whilst the jaunty airiness of closing number Metro Moodie, with its tom-tempered percussion, includes Gareth Lockrane’s irresistible velvety-cum-gravelly bass flute register.

The majority of this session might well comfortably sit in the background at a dinner party, such is its unabashed equanimity – but, boy, how it lives and breathes when turned up loud and given the opportunity to fill a room! Released on 27 October 2014, information and audio samples can be found on the dedicated Orbital page of Whirlwind’s website.

 

Max Luthert double bass
Gareth Lockrane flutes
Duncan Eagles tenor saxophone
Séb Pipe alto saxophone
Matt Robinson piano
Dave Hamblett drums

2015 UK live dates:
18 January: Ashburton Jazz Club
19 January: North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore
21 January: Dempsey’s, Cardiff
22 January: SoundCellar, Poole
23 January: Sheffield Jazz Club

Album artwork by Alban Low

maxluthert.co.uk

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4659 (2014)

‘Road Ahead’ – Mark Perry / Duncan Eagles Quintet

RoadAhead

GREAT TO FIND this big league seven-piece from London’s flourishing contemporary jazz scene recording together, presenting a set of ten colourful, original compositions (first aired at 2012’s London Jazz Festival) by leaders Mark Perry and Duncan Eagles. 

Having already established themselves as versatile instrumentalists in a variety of ensembles and projects, trumpeter Perry and tenorist Eagles bring together an accomplished ensemble who, together, produce a satisfyingly full sound – Gareth Lockrane on flutes, Sam Leak at the piano, double bassist Max Luthert and drummer Chris Nickolls, plus the wordless vocals of Ona Onabule.

Flip of a Coin provides the heads-up on the intent of this quintet line-up, Sam Leak the pacemaker with a determined piano rhythm, Luthert and Nickolls maintaining the steady but solid energy. Onabule’s vocals enhance the sustained frontline of trumpet and tenor before Perry and Eagles head off to solo spiritedly. Mark Perry’s delivery is undubitably incisive, complemented by Eagles’ rich and fluid explorations – certainly an in-form partnership. In the upbeat Chord Game, Sam Leak demonstrates the clear, spacial and considered piano technique which makes his own album recordings so appealing; and Perry and Eagles freely bounce ideas off each other. Easy-going Shawty and the still mellower Forever make good use of Onabule’s soulful voice, Eagles’ solo tenor in the latter just sublime. Barters Band raises a smile, Gareth Lockrane’s lithe flute the key to its chirpy ’70s sitcom’ flavour – the rhythm section ticks along amiably, a great foundation for Leak’s clean solo lines and fleetly-placed chords, whilst Perry and Eagles dance closely to Lockrane’s tune.

The tempered, late-night feel of Wray Common is perfect for Onabule’s subtle vocal additions, Luthert’s lyrical yet precise bass pairing well with Leak’s pianistic clarity, and trumpet and sax soporifically intertwining. In contrast, the agitated G.T. (a tribute to American saxophonist Gary Thomas) finds Eagles and Perry soloing grittily against a mysterious piano, bass and drums riff (great animation from Chris Nickolls) which offers more than a hint of ‘TV detective’!

Perry’s expressive, plaintive solo trumpet opens mid-tempo title track Road Ahead which affords Sam Leak the freedom to roam (and rather elegantly at that). One Last Kiss is beautifully poised, Lockrane and Onabule again adding their individual character to this very attractive, breezy number. With an element of emotional longing, and drawing this entertaining album to a close, Remember features softer, slurred tones from Mark Perry, velvety bass flute from Gareth Lockrane, and fine ensemble playing all round.

Launching ‘Road Ahead’ at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, on 17th November (as part of the 2013 London Jazz Festival), and releasing 2nd December, the quintet are set to tour in Spring 2014. Promo video, SoundCloud samples and more information here.


Mark Perry
Trumpet  markperrymusic.com
Duncan Eagles Saxophones  duncaneagles.co.uk
Gareth Lockrane Flutes  garethlockrane.com
Sam Leak Piano  samleak.com
Max Luthert Double bass  maxluthert.co.uk
Chris Nickolls Drums
Ola Onabule Vocals  ona-onabule.co.uk

Sleeve design and illustration by Alban Low

F-ire – F-IRECD 65 (2013)

‘Points of View’ – The Bannau Trio

BannauTrio

THIS IS SUCH a delightful, engaging and original release from a trio of top-class British musicians – the result, apparently, of a meeting and conversation between musical minds somewhere across the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, between Haiti and Barbados!

Welsh-born singer Nia Lynn joins forces with British jazz’s foremost flautist Gareth Lockrane and in-demand pianist (and organist) Ross Stanley to provide a release of diverse interpretations of songs by leading writers, along with a clutch of originals from Lynn herself. Audience applause comes as something of a surprise, as both performance and production values are outstanding, belying the fact that this is a live concert recording (from The Forge, London). The grouping of voice, piano and flute may seem out of the ordinary in a contemporary jazz context, but the invention and musicality is of such a high standard that it compels the listener to hang on to every nuance and detail. Nia Lynn, a familiar name on the London jazz circuit, possesses a voice of remarkable dexterity and contrast – by turns, mellow and effusive – perfectly suited, with something of a folk influence, to the open instrumentation and creative ambience of flute and piano.

To begin, Ralph Towner’s Renewal finds Lynn’s wordless vocals perfectly matching the rhythm of Lockrane, Stanley providing simple chordal and solo momentum – a beautiful balance from all three. Tom Waits’ writing is frequently a source of choice for jazz vocalists, and here, in Soldier’s Things, Lynn excels in her expressive qualities against sumptuous piano accompaniment and hard, breathy flute. The magical luminosity of Lynn’s own Linger allows both Stanley and Lockrane the opportunity to elaborate, leading to Nikki Iles’ Upon the Hill, Nia Lynn joined vocally by national jazz treasure Norma Winstone to express its tangible, emotional yearning. Two Points of View finds Lynn sharing writing credits with Gwilym Simcock, Lockrane’s low, reflective flute utterly charming.

Once again, voice and flute pair up instrumentally to great effect in John Lee’s bluesy piano-led Harriet before launching into an exquisite reading of Newley & Bricusse’s Who Can I Turn To – such a lyrically spellbinding vocal from Nia Lynn. Lonely Ghosts, an original of Lynn’s, continues the feel-good, whilst Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Time is sensitively delivered, illuminating the romantic lyrics of Betty Comden and Adolf Green – and a shining example of the delicate poise of and understanding between these three musicians (‘Bannau’ being the Welsh translation of ‘beacon’). Concluding the set, Nia Lynn’s nine-minute Precious is a breezy illustration of her impressive vocal dynamics, Lockrane and Stanley clearly enjoying its freedom.

An album of unexpected pleasure, ‘Points of View’ was launched at September 2013’s inaugural Whirlwind Festival, and a 2014 tour is planned. Promo video here.


Nia Lynn
Voice  nialynn.com
Gareth Lockrane Flute  GarethLockrane.com
Ross Stanley Piano

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4645 (2013)

‘Shepherd’s Stories’ – Asaf Sirkis Trio

Shepherd's_front

ISRAELI-BORN DRUMMER and percussionist Asaf Sirkis has firmly established himself as a highly individual and treasured mainstay of the buzzing British and international jazz scene. For many years the rhythmic backbone of Gilad Atzmon’s amazing Orient House Ensemble, also to be found within John Law’s and Alex Hutton’s piano trios with bassist Yuri Goloubev, and alongside Gwilym Simcock in Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio (to name but a few!), his precise, sensitive and versatile approach to jazz is both refreshing and unfailingly compelling.

For his own current trio project, his compositions and performances are fascinatingly redolent of the jazz-rock/’Canterbury’ period of the mid to late ’70s and early ’80s (I’m thinking maybe ‘National Health’, ‘Colosseum II’, ‘Bruford’… even ‘Camel’) – but the music is very much of the present, Sirkis’s many influences crystallising into this distinctive sound. Teaming up again with guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and bassist and fellow ‘Orient Householder’ Yaron Stavi (following on from their 2010 album, ‘Letting Go’), they present this new collection, ‘Shepherd’s Stories’. Sirkis explains the album title as the ‘déja vu’ effect we can experience when hearing a melody; familiar yet unable to place, but reminding us of times past and “where we have come from” – perhaps another suggestion of the richness and vision of Sirkis’s creativity.

As before, the extended tracks feature Spiliotopoulos who creates a clear, sustained lead guitar tone and technique often reminiscent of the great Allan Holdsworth. Considerable melodic interventions are also made by the accomplished Stavi on bass, leaving the guitar free to then create complex and varied backdrops of electric or acoustic chordal textures and washes.

Sirkis, himself, displays all of his customary panache throughout – yes, the leader and writer, but never dominating proceedings. He is one of those musicians who, in concert, completely captivates with his confidence, meticulousness and (very clearly) the enjoyment of all he is sharing with colleagues and audience alike. Here, ‘Meditation’ exemplifies his method, with bassist and guitarist combining to create a mysterious, anticipatory opening through which Sirkis gradually joins to reveal his mastery – subtle at first, then joyously abundant (check out the title track, too, for Asaf at glorious jazz/rock full tilt!).

For this release, three guests are welcomed into the fold, each of whom colour the trio’s sound in an interesting and different way. The Fender Rhodes of John Turville introduces an exciting new dynamic, with a deft display in the opening ‘1801’, and then later on in ‘Dream Sister’. In-demand flautist Gareth Lockrane also augments well the trio’s sound, presenting a beautifully restrained yet lithe improvisation in ‘Together’; and the charming, layered, wordless vocals of Sylwia Bialas on the gentle ‘Traveller’ further enhance the trio (for me, pleasingly reminiscent of the ‘new age’ vocals of Mike Oldfield’s early catalogue). These contributions certainly whet the appetite for, I hope, future collaborations.

I have been listening for a number of weeks now and have gradually become enchanted by this album’s feel-good ambience – another of those very welcome ‘slow burners’ that can be returned to again and again to reveal hidden delights. Already available at iTunes, ‘Shepherd’s Stories’ is launched at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, on 17 July, 2013, followed by a number of UK dates.

For information, news and discography: http://www.asafsirkis.co.uk/


Asaf Sirkis
 drums and percussion
Tassos Spiliotopoulos  guitar
Yaron Stavi  bass
with
John Turville  Fender Rhodes
Sylwia Bialas  voice
Gareth Lockrane  flute

 SBPT003 (2013)