‘Klammer’ – Rick Simpson

Klammer

clamour ■ n. a loud and confused noise. ■ v. (of a group) shout or demand loudly.

IT WOULD SEEM rather off beam to suggest that this sextet resembled (in more conventional spelling) the above definitions; but they do provide a clue to their full-on, angular and often wondrously oblique approach to jazz.

Rick Simpson is a regular sideman on the London scene, as are his colleagues in this line-up – and saxophonists Michael Chillingworth and George Crowley are no strangers on the front line together (see recent release Scratch and Sift), communicating no-holds-barred creative grit and energy. The prospect, then, of them melodically heading-up the pianist’s original, unpredictable compositions is something to relish, especially in collaboration with vibraphonist Ralph Wyld, bassist Tom Farmer and drummer David Hamblett.

Simpson’s broad musical understanding and appreciation provides a solid basis for his writing, though improvisation is a key motivator (as much at home with the music of Kenny Wheeler as Django Bates, or as inspired by post-bop as free jazz). So in this project, the avoidance of structure doesn’t signal ‘clamour’, but rather that the zesty compositions offer his colleagues considerable freedom – and it’s notable how, throughout this near-hour-full box of delights, arranged phrases can either meld or snap into the wide-open spaces of individual extemporisation.

The many rhythmic intricacies here must surely pose a knotty challenge, as evidenced in the first two tracks, Pins and Beware of Gabriel Garrick Imitators; and the furtive, jolting advancement of sax, vibes and bass (especially with Tom Farmer on board) resembles the excellence of Empirical. But, although Rick Simpson is happy to join the combined ‘klang’ of the ensemble, on Fender Rhodes, his pianistic inventiveness also regularly comes to the fore. So he shapes How Deep is Your Disrespect with the kind of sensitive, wayward fascination associated with John Taylor; and his ‘alarm’ ostinato in this number, picked up from Ralph Wyld’s vibes, is an attention-grabbing vehicle which sparks percussive excitement, as well as typical outlandishness from Chillingworth and Crowley (turn it up loud!).

A pianist’s approach to composition can clearly be picked out in slow-moving, spacial Orbital, as lush alto and sax harmonies are complemented by nebulous, star-glinting piano and vibes which are then sumptuously swelled by the whole ensemble; and aqueous, tremulant Rhodes in Sea Change binds together the evolving, painterly layers of a jewel-encrusted canvas. The complexity of volatile, irascible Greasy Child! Ugly Man!, with its simple yet provocative double-horn jibing, is riveting; so, too, is bright, snappy Unsustainabubble whose straight-ahead tenor and bass hook-up is immaculately delivered. Rings End is packed full of undulating intrigue, somehow suggesting a comedic movie accompaniment; and the easy, South African lilt of Surreal Estate (almost ten minutes in duration) is just the prelude to a many-roomed promenade, crescendoing to a synth-enhanced climax.

Shut out any other forms of, er, ‘klammer’… and revel in its spirited fullness.

Released on Two Rivers Records, on 30 September 2016, and available from Bandcamp.

 

Michael Chillingworth alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet
George Crowley tenor saxophone
Ralph Wyld vibraphone
Rick Simpson piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, MS-10, glockenspiel, harmonium
Tom Farmer double bass
David Hamblett drums

ricksimpsonjazz.com

Two Rivers Records – TRR-012 (2016)

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‘Punch’ – Elliot Galvin Trio

Punch

SO WHAT was your early-childhood response to traditional seaside Punch & Judy entertainment – raucous laughter or quaking terror?!

Elliot Galvin’s wonderfully divergent trio release of 2014 – Dreamland, with bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Simon Roth – identified the creative ingenuity of this pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer, reinventing the notion of that most classic of jazz formats (toy piano and all) in a spirit reminiscent of the great Django Bates or Frank Zappa. No-less-mischievous follow-up album Punch (recorded at the Funkhaus, Berlin) again combines indubitable, slick musicality with an entertaining, edgy unpredictability; the startling title track Punch and Judy, in particular, reflecting those questionable, garish, Victorian puppet show characters delivering wry humour, domestic violence and capital punishment.

Hurdy-Gurdy‘s writhing, looping piano increasingly gathers pace, not unlike the rotary mechanics of the ‘ancient synth’ to which its title refers, until McCredie’s and Roth’s sparky rhythms eventually encourage Galvin into a more level-headed, if entrancingly angular, accordion passage; and evocative, kalimba-toned Tipu’s Tiger creeps both cautiously and beautifully, adorned by waltzing double bass phrases and delicate glockenspiel (Galvin’s compositional and spacial awareness always spot on). Recognisably broken, distorted Stylophone and dual/detuned melodicas bring more than a touch of self-satisfied Mr Punch anarchy to Blop (the video reveals all), whilst Lions – with pizzicato prepared piano (ie duct tape!) – is arguably the most outrageously slapstick episode of these ten tracks, yet so compelling.

Beethoven, Bach and e.s.t. affectingly rub shoulders in the brooding darkness of 1666 (London’s year of war, plague and the Great Fire) as Galvin’s funereal, chordal piano agonisingly treads to slowly-thrummed bass momentum and jangling percussion; and audaciously deconstructed Mack the Knife lurches almost unrecognisably, though magnificently… until a piano-and-glockenspiel musical box finally states its melody with reassuring clarity. Jaunty Polari recalls the heyday of mid-’60s pop, its straight-ahead catchiness suggesting Alan Price or Georgie Fame, with the trio at least as ebullient; and simply-whistled closer Cosy can’t help but erupt with Lady Madonna-styled piano bass riff, jarring chords and rhythmic fizz.

Even if you have a tendency towards pupophobia… please, don’t have nightmares. It’s all good, clean fun – and another triumph of contemporary jazz invention. That’s the way to do it!

Released on 26 July 2016, on the Edition Records label, Punch is available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp.

 

Elliot Galvin piano, kalimba, melodicas, accordion, cassette player, Stylophone
Tom McCredie double bass
Simon Roth drums, percussion, glockenspiel

elliotgalvin.com

Edition Records – EDN1076 (2016)

‘These Skies In Which We Rust’ – John Law’s New Congregation

JohnLaw

FOR ALMOST thirty years, classically-trained British pianist John Law has been pushing on the door of jazz creativity, forming and reshaping his own particularly diverse routes through an impressive catalogue of ensemble and solo piano releases.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

John Law piano, keyboards, glockenspiel
Josh Arcoleo tenor sax
Yuri Goloubev double bass
Laurie Lowe drums, ibo drum
with 
Holly Law voice

johnlaw.org.uk

33 Extreme – 33Xtreme006 (2015)

‘The Aviators’ Ball’ – Matt Owens

MattOwens

I AM REMINDED of a golden age of TV themes. Statuesque 1960s/70s tunes and traditional orchestrations that have remained in the mind, the merest few bars’ snippet triggering inextricably-linked carefree memories. Manchester composer and bassist Matt Owens seems to capture such a spirit in this fine debut of charming, sometimes quirky, and beautiful creations.

Happily difficult to pigeonhole in terms of genre, with elements of jazz, folk, pop and movie soundtrack, Owens draws on an abundance of instrumentalists and vocalists (below) to convey the character of his distinctive writing. The majority of The Aviators’ Ball (a title inspired by Owens’ real-life discovery, in Prague, of an aviation society’s ball!) comes from his suite Ten – one of Manchester Jazz Festival’s excellent mjf originals commissions – and unabashedly seeks a mostly acoustic landscape of waltz, curtsy and blithe melody.

With woodwind, brass and breezy Irish tin whistle, Raindrops on our Rooftop immediately makes that retro leap, its persistent bassoon figure suggesting an era of Puppet on a String and marginal folk/rock band curiosity Gryphon. Title track The Aviators’ Ball exudes all the warmth of gentle period drama as mellow cornet improvisations float over piano and tea-parlour strings; and then – with a cosy woodwind intro redolent of… that’s right… The Clangers! – singer and guitarist Tom Davies delivers his winsome Mouse Song with unexpected and touching simplicity.

As sunshiny as a beach-bound, open-top Morris journey, the crisp, wordless vocal momentum of Going Back to the Village confirms Owens’ picture-painting prowess, arranged here by Manchester favourite (and co-producer of this album) guitarist/singer Kirsty Almeida; and the folksy theme of Every Wish is for You, initiated with pianistic nursery-rhyme candour, rolls along to placid trumpet and flute extemporisation.

The singular, expressive voice of Rioghnach Connolly interprets Celtic love song Black is the Colour like no other, her affecting tones breathing “I love the ground whereon he stands” like changeable winds across heather land. Soft-pop The Peanut Train shuffles to Owens’ downy horn-and-woodwind arrangement; Monsoon is similarly entrancing, led by the impassioned vocal of Zoe Kyoti; and full of dreamy nostalgia, Violet concludes the set, once again highlighting Matt Owens’ aptitude and greater potential for niche soundtrack scoring.

In an album which might initially appear quaint, due to the genuiness of its eclectic, yesteryear approach, the persuasive strength of its endearingly tuneful hooks and arrangements make it utterly irresistible – certainly a delightful musical diversion.

Launching at Chorlton Arts Festival on 18 May 2015, The Aviators’ Ball is available from All Made Up Records.

 

Matt Owens double bass
Neil Yates trumpet, tin whistle
John Ellis piano
Rick Weedon drums, percussion
Sophie Hastings marimba, glockenspiel
Amina Hussian flute
David Benfield oboe
Lucy Rugman clarinet
Jon Harris French horn
Simon Davies bassoon
Semay Wu cello
Steve Chadwick cornet
Edward Barnwell piano
Danny Ward drums
Alison Williams violin
Naomi Koop violin
Aimée Johnson viola
Tom Davies guitar, vocals
Carla Sousa flute
Philip Howarth cor anglais
Jill Allen clarinet
Lucy Keyes bassoon
Kirsty Almeida vocals
Caroline Sheehan vocals
Orli Nyles vocals
Cara Robinson vocals
Atholl Ransome alto flute
Rioghnach Connolly vocals
Billy Buckley guitar, lap steel
Zoe Kyoti vocals, guitar
Rosa Campos Fernandez clarinet

mattowens.co.uk

All Made Up Records – AMU0007 (2015)

‘Christmas With My Friends IV’ – Nils Landgren

CWMFIV2

‘IT’S COMING ON Christmas’… so thoughts turn to seasonal musical fare to accompany the annual twelve-day celebration.

On a purely personal note, much of my Advent and Christmas listening is based on choral music and the 20th Century British classical tradition. But this series of albums, Christmas With My Friends, has caught my attention since its inception in 2006. Now on its fourth volume, respected Swedish trombonist and vocalist Nils Landgren once again gathers together colleagues from the ACT Music label to join him in this now-distinctive, collaborative selection of music for Christmastide which is both secular and spiritual, bridging genres (including traditional, folk, jazz, pop, choral, classical) with particular warmth, intimacy and harmony.

So, amongst the fifteen numbers: familiar English carol The First Noel, led by vocalist Ida Sand, is given an amiable jazz flavour with the soprano sax extemporisations of Jonas Knutsson; Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday makes it into the festive season with an upbeat, bluesy vocal against gently rhythmic guitar courtesy of Sharon Dyall and Johan Norberg, as Nils Landgren adds typically nimble trombone lines; and a jaunty Santa Claus Is Coming To Town jives to the winsome duet simplicity of the funkmeister’s trombone and Eva Kruse’s double bass. The original SATB precision of John Rutter’s Angels’ Carol is translated into a hearty popular ballad delivered by vocalists Jeanette Köhn and Ida Sand, complete with soft jazz sax break; and Johan Norberg’s evocatively chilly Icicles, played on kantele (similar to a dulcimer), is reminiscent of the ambiences of the Knutsson/Norberg album Skaren: Norrland III (ACT).

Renditions of popular tunes include What A Wonderful World and Wham’s Last Christmas, and enduring carols such as In The Bleak Midwinter (Holst/Rossetti) are bathed in a different, contemporary light. But, so often, it’s the revelatory interpretations of lesser-known treasures that magically become established in the holiday soundtrack – for example, Maria dutch ein Dornwald ging and Det grinner en stjärna for solo voice, embellished by the sensitivity of Landgren’s trombone and shimmering to watercolour kantele. Adolphe Adam’s O helga natt (O Holy Night) is enchanting in its measured delicacy, and the unassuming, closing interpretation of O du fröhliche glistens in vocal/instrumental new-age innocence.

On reflection, this may not be the strongest in the series, occasionally veering a touch close to ‘schmalz’ (though perhaps a vital ingredient for some). Nevertheless, it still makes a very welcome addition to Landgren’s delightful, continuing project – and volumes I-III are now wrapped up neatly in a limited edition 3-CD set (see below) or available singly. As December proceeds, all four are recommended to bring cheer – ‘singing songs of joy and peace’* – in alternative, heartwarming style.

Released on 3 November 2014, further information and audio clips are available at ACT Music.

 

Nils Landgren trombone, vocals
Sharon Dyall vocals, harmonica
Jonas Knutsson baritone and soprano saxophones
Jeanette Köhn vocals
Eva Kruse bass
Jessica Pilnäs vocals
Ida Sand piano, vocals, glockenspiel
Johan Norberg guitar, kantele

*Joni Mitchell’s River features on volume III

I-III_150

nilslandgren.com

ACT Music – ACT 9568-2 (2014)

‘Flint’ – Bill Laurance

Flint

OVER THE LAST DECADE, thunderous New York jazz-funk fusionists Snarky Puppy have garnered a solid international fan base with their intoxicating live shows, as well as a successful catalogue of albums. At the heart of this creative powerhouse is English pianist/keyboardist Bill Laurance, who now presents his own sparkling debut release, along with a UK and Netherlands tour.

Described by Laurance as the album he’s been searching for since he started making music, Flint is a collaboration with two close friends – Snarky stalwarts Michael League (basses, guitars) and Robert ‘Sput’ Searight’ (drums, percussion) – as well as a host of string and horn players. Together, they realise a magnificent compositional spectrum, often on an orchestral/filmic scale as well as anticipated jazz-funk grooving, with Laurance commanding at the grand piano and Fender Rhodes. And, although the majority of the ten through-composed pieces are solely from the leader’s pen (along with League’s considerable input as arranger), the communal sense of striving for both musical exactitude and improvisation is palpable… and exciting.

Setting the tone are the complex urban drum patterns of opener Never-Ending City, with gutsy five-string bass, keys ostinati, cityscape strings and Laurance’s cool piano extemporisations. Janáček/Copland-style brass announces Money in the Desert, a brooding, quietly-pulsating episode which can’t help but break out into moog-driven funk with accented strings, and League’s popping electric guitar lead (blame it on the boogie!). Title track Flint (named after the inspirational effect on Laurance of a Snarky Puppy gig in Flint, Michigan) is more akin to soundtrack, dipping in and out of marching band mode and expansive Philip Glass-like pianistic/orchestral vistas, underpinned by Sput’s metronomic pulse. And all the while, the arrangements feel organically whole.

Smooth jazz Swag Times features quite breathtaking drum razzle-dazzle from Searight against an irresistible Rhodes/synth/vocoder wash – and again, brass and strings widen the landscape (such beautiful execution from string players who completed their entire recording requirement within a day!). The Good Things pares down the line-up to piano, bass and drums, Laurence leading in mysterious, echoic grandeur, plus impressive fuzz bass from League; and baroque-inflected Chia, with its gorgeously mercurial piano and double bass, invites the rapid gypsy fiddle of Zach Brock and portamento string backing to ramp up the tempo and augmented orchestration – in a word, delightful. Whimsical and grungy ska tune Smokers Castle jerks and clatters around Laurance’s detuned piano and a wonderfully brash New Orleans-style brass section; and Gold Coast features the fluid flugelhorn of Mike Maher (also of Snarky Puppy) in an orchestrally opulent, shining affair.

At ten minutes in length, penultimate track Ready Wednesday is a sure highlight, Searight’s fast Latinesque tempo showcasing Laurance’s exacting, rhythmic piano style; and the broad orchestral sweep – even in its later, slower section – has ‘movie soundtrack’ written all over it. As closing titles roll, classical piano end-piece Audrey, with delicate strings and flugel, melancholily waltzes to its rest.

As part of the package (on a second disc), a 47-minute DVD documentary – made by Andy Laviolette – provides a fascinating insight into the making of Flint, revealing the musicians’ passion for their art, as well as various triumphs over adversity along the way (including the sudden non-availability of their pre-booked studio, twelve few hours before recording sessions were due to begin!). Videos of all tracks are also included.

Released on 14 July 2014, this is an ambitious and absorbing project – not least for the Snarky Puppy faithful – which promises much in its translation to a live setting (see below for October 2014 tour dates, samples and purchasing). Check it out!

 

Bill Laurance acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, vocoder, keyboards, shaker, congas, ride cymbal, propane tank, hand claps
Michael League electric bass, double bass, moog bass, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, hand claps
Robert ‘Sput’ Searight drums, timpani, marching snare & bass drums, shekere, cowbells, vibraslap, woodblocks, shaker, hand claps
Maria Im violin
Zach Brock violin (solos)
Curtis Stewart violin
Henry Flory violin
Lev Zhurbin viola
Eylem Basaldi viola
Maria Jeffers cello
J.Y. Lee cello
Mike ‘Maz’ Maher trumpet, flugelhorn
Matt McLaughlin french horn
Chris Bullock tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Brian Donohoe alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Scott Flynn trombone
Magda Giannikou propane tank, glockenspiel, xylophone
Emília Canas Mendes & Andy Laviolette hand claps

2014 UK tour dates
03 October: St George’s, Bristol
04 October: Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
06 October: The Glee Club, Birmingham
07 October: Band on the Wall, Manchester
08 October: The Grand, Clitheroe
09 October: Ropery Hall, Barton on Humber
10 October: Turner Sims, Southampton

2014 Netherlands tour dates
11 October: Bird, Rotterdam
12 October: North Sea Jazz Club, Amsterdam

billlaurance.com
Bandcamp.com
iTunes

groundUP music – GRO117 (2014)

‘Pulcinella’ – Bestiole

Pulcinella

FIZZZZING with les ébats et le feu (er, frolics and fire), French quartet Bestiole create an extravagant, fantastical whirl of excitement with their third album, Pulcinella.

Hailing from the South West (Toulouse) and translated as ‘tiny creatures’, Bestiole consists of the tireless and highly inventive talents of Ferdinand Doumerc (saxes, flute, metallaphone), Florian Demonsant (accordion, kaval), Jean-Marc Serpin (double bass) and Frédéric Cavallin (drums, metallophone, glockenspiel). And together, with theatrical, circus-like wonder as well as an innate jazz sensibility, they present this eleven-track cross-genre amalgam of kaleidoscopic colour.

That typically Gallic pairing of saxophone and accordion features strongly throughout, delivered with fluent, showy abandon by Doumerc and Demonsant. At times, as in the long-titled opening number Garez vous chez vous dans l’allée vous emmerdez tout le monde, there’s a resemblance to the Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen duo project, ‘The Little Radio’. But, as a quartet, with added bass and drums thrust, they push their ideas to the limits via squawks, flutters, glissandi, handclaps and yells (check out Ni vu ni connu) over rapid ostinato phrases. First hearings suggest chaos and randomness, but it’s all carefully conceived and beautifully executed.

Christiana identifies the band’s more reflective alter ego – a mysteriously lilting waltz propelled by bassist Jean-Marc Serpin, its sustained, cascading accordion gently underpinning Doumerc’s mellow tenor. The addition of Patrick Vaillant’s mandolin and Daniel Casimir’s trombone in Sur le pavé la lune conjures clandestine monochrome movie mischief, although this slippery, moonlit soundworld later breaks down into a mandolin-induced riot of brass and percussion (it’s this unpredictability which is so fascinating). The gently-rocking metallophone in Morphée, along with its slumberous tenor melody, vividly illustrates the idea of twilight sleep – and although there’s a twist (again) as sinister, nightmarish overtones develop, quietude is eventually restored.

The cheeky, spacial brevity of Raksi chaparrak (la danse du papillon) – its trilled flutes reminiscent of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson – leads to the wonderfully sauntering-cum-swinging Le moustique ambiteux, Serpin and Cavallin providing the spiky bass and percussion propulsion – infectious stuff indeed! ‘Jazz-funk salsa’ inhabits another short episode, Tu parles trop (or ‘you talk too much’), its yakking nature portrayed superbly by pecking mandolin and brassy chatterings. Niger is sublime in contrast – lyrical tenor against undulating accordion. And then… eight minutes in the company of La Tarantelle, which buzzes, clatters and falls over itself with unalloyed exuberance. This whirling dance, which rests only momentarily, seems to sum up the band’s ethos – put simply, a rollicking good time! The quietly bewitching endpiece, Envoûtement, with its breathy kaval melody over repeated metallophone (curiously recalling Gong, Mike Oldfield) is exquisite, and a mark of Bestiole’s impressive musicality.

Successfully coupled on recent UK gigs (in the Match & Fuse series) with similarly brash British bands Troyka and Brass Mask, Pulcinella is now on general release, and hugely entertaining – here’s a quick blast of what to expect.

 

Ferdinand Doumerc saxophones, flûte, métallophone
Florian Demonsant accordéon, kaval
Jean-Marc Serpin contrebasse
Frédéric Cavallin batterie, métallophone, glockenspiel
with
Patric Vaillant mandoline
Daniel Casimir trombone

Yellowbird/Enja – 9276 (2014)