REVIEW: ‘Wes Reimagined’ – Nigel Price Organ Trio

ONE OF THE GREAT, industrious and entertaining characters of British jazz – a champion of UK festivals, drawing on years of performing experience and winning hefty appreciation on the live circuit – electric guitarist Nigel Price’s musical passion, versatility and technical expertise are a true delight.

His excellent contrafact organ trio double albums of 2011 and 2016, Heads & Tales, showcase his invention in reworking jazz standards (Volume 2 is especially recommended). Now, he specifically turns his attention to the music of influential American guitarist Wes Montgomery (1923–1968), confirming himself a fan, particularly as Montgomery’s compositions are “great vehicles for improvisation, especially used in the organ trio format”.

Alongside Price’s core line-up of B3 Hammond organist Ross Stanley and drummer Joel Barford, he also welcomes saxophonists Vasilis Xenopoulos (tenor) and Tony Kofi (alto) who provide joyous horn textures and fervid soloing that reflect their particular characters, their mid-registers nicely attuned. Further complementing the sound is returning percussionist Snowboy; and the Phonograph Effect Strings, with fine arrangements by trombonist Callum Au, occasionally underpin with an elegant, soft sheen.

In the spirit of those earlier releases, Price’s homage – Wes Reimagined – respectfully looks afresh at eight of the Indianapolis-born guitarist’s works, plus two interpretations, respectively, of Monk Montgomery (Wes’s bassist brother) and Frederick Loewe (famously, Lerner and Loewe). And what a joyous celebration! Over a full hour, these tunes are respectfully reworked (“just a kind of ‘what if?’… if Wes had been in alternative frame of mind that day”); and, of course, they’re centred around the organ trio structure. Cariba!’s original bossa pace, for example, translates into Barford’s irresistibly cool slouch, Stanley’s offbeat chords supporting an exchange of lithe guitar and sax solos across preening strings, while familiar, ease-back Leila becomes an amiable fast swing of rippling improvisation.

Perky Jingles sambas with a great energy, thanks to Snowboy’s congas (including whistle-announced solo spot), its sense of fun also tangible in a vibrant reading of Monk’s Shop (Monk Montgomery). Far Wes’s usually straight promenade now elegantly waltzes to Price’s glistening extemporisations and, similarly, scampering So Do It! is refashioned as a lush, relaxed bolero, shimmering with the Phonograph Effect Strings’ airy grace. The cheery bliss of these reimaginings is equalled, throughout, by the band’s textural possibilities, along with some audacious, rhythmic twists. Just catch the new, strutting funk of Movin’ Along, Xenopoulos’s flowing tenor in the snappy boogaloo of Twisted Blues or the punchier groove of Road Song to get a feel for the validity of the project. In the latter, Price (not for the only time) nods to the characteristic, sunny octaves of Montgomery’s playing while Stanley’s soloing is, as ever, supported by his seemingly effortless bass pedalling – this is pure, contemporary organ trio, and it shuffles magnificently,

Recorded by Wes Montgomery, I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face (Frederick Loewe) provides the most gorgeous, wistful endpiece to this sequence as Nigel Price’s open, balladic guitar style becomes gradually infused with the sensitive, yet crunchy swell and ebb of Ross Stanley’s Hammond (with a beautiful solo tone), and the Phonograph’s tremulant strings add more than a dash of movie-like nostalgia.

Contextually, here is a recording which is as good as anything you’ll hear from the golden late-1950s and 1960s era of organ trios, but bolstered by the frontline pizzazz of double saxes and more. Enrich your library with the full, retro-styled CD package – rather than the superficial gratification of streaming or downloading (then mislaying) a random track – as this album might well be your summer-long vibe!

Released on 4 June 2021, Wes Reimagined is available from nigethejazzer.com, Amazon, etc.

 

Nigel Price guitar
Ross Stanley B3 Hammond organ
Joel Barford drums
with
Vasilis Xenopoulos tenor saxophone
Tony Kofi alto saxophone
Snowboy congas, bongos, surdo, shekere, whistle
Callum Au trombone, string arrangements
and
Phonograph Effect Strings:
Kay Stephen
violin 1
Anna Brigham violin 2
Elitsa Bogdanova viola
Chris Terepin cello

nigethejazzer.com

Ubuntu Music – UBU0080 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Another Land’ – Dave Holland

IN A CAREER spanning an astonishing seven decades, the name of master bassist Dave Holland is affectionately known to most in the sphere of contemporary jazz. Working with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Jack DeJohnette, John Abercombie, Pat Metheny (the list goes on) – and extraordinarily prolific for many, many years on the revered ECM label, leading or contributing to around 40 albums – his legendary status has long been assured.

More recently, his Crosscurrents Trio performances with percussionist Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Chris Potter revealed a wonderful camaraderie that enfolded the most glorious acoustic sounds, followed-up by an album – Good Hope. Now, moving on from that 2019 release, Dave Holland extends his association with Edition Records in Another Land – a striking gear-shift of a project with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire.

Those mostly familiar with the veteran bassist’s upright stance alongside his full-bodied or Czech Eaze instruments will, here, instantly identify a quite different environment as a number of the album’s dynamic jazz-rock grooves are driven by electric bass, tuning into the fervid invention and tracery of Eubanks, plus Calvaire’s vehement, often thunderous presence behind the kit. Describing the live shows that informed this New York studio recording, Holland relates that once their continuous set began, they rarely stopped. That sense of being deep within the groove is palpable here, and totally infectious. Indeed, the fullness, equality and adaptability of this trio’s sound is pivotal across 68 minutes which feel like they could run and run.

Funk-laden Grave Walker mixes up 7/8 beats with mellow, shuffling riffs, Eubanks completely at one with his crunching, pitch-bent rhythms and improvised melodies; and the exchange of knowing nods and smiles can easily be envisaged throughout its propulsive yet precise course. 20 20, too, ripples with purpose, Holland’s double-bass euphony just as integrated with the exciting, Jimi Hendrixian blues/rock of Eubanks as its more subdued sequences – again, this cohesive triumvirate turns out so many variations and moods within a single number. Holland’s alternating trip-up figure sets up elegant title track Another Land, whose bossa-suggested gyrations provide space to illuminate detail; and the bassist’s Quiet Fire is reimagined, pared down in a sensitive and enchanting solo guitar arrangement.

Back on the groove trail, the ‘playground chant’ of Calvaire’s South American-hued Gentle Warrior is a delight as it proceeds towards Holland’s tireless, rhythmic soloing and an audacious, scratchy feature from Eubanks. For rock energy and complexity, the guitarist’s Mashup takes some beating, its velocity prompting an amazing, collaborative saturation of ideas; and hearing Holland’s electric bass meshing with Eubanks’ tones is just stunning – conceivably it enjoys considerable development in a live setting. Ice-cool bass and guitar licks/improv in Passing Time drift blithely, supported by crisp, percussive colour, while Holland provides The Village’s deep, blue bass as Eubanks chromatically ascends (with fabulous fretboard and pedal techniques) to the crackling accompaniment of Calvaire. Closing, the guitarist leads his soulfully smooth Bring It Back Home with an unashamedly ostentatious swagger.

Always progressive in both outlook and his support of new talent, now in his mid-seventies, Dave Holland has created a zestful trio partnership whose classy, full-on grooving is repeatedly a joy to get into.

Released on 28 May 2021, Another Land is available in various formats at Edition Records.

 

Dave Holland bass, bass guitar
Kevin Eubanks guitar
Obed Calvaire drums

daveholland.com

Edition Records – EDN1172 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘After The Real Thing’ – Roy Mor

THE EVOCATIVE STRAINS of the oud were the immediate allure of this attractive debut recording, as leader, by Israeli pianist Roy Mor.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 21 May 2021 at Ubuntu Music and available from Proper Music, Amazon, etc.

 

Roy Mor piano, Fender Rhodes
with
Amos Hoffman oud, guitar
Myles Sloniker bass
Itay Morchi drums
Davy Lazar flugelhorn
Marty Kenney bass
Peter Traunmueller drums
Joel Kruzic bass
Jeremy Dutton drums

roymormusic.com

Ubuntu Music – UBU0081 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Second Lives’ – Graham Costello’s STRATA

“SONICALLY, this is a fully analogue record – a computer hasn’t touched it. You hear full takes, and practically zero overdubs.”

Since Strata, his debut release of 2017, Glaswegian drummer/composer Graham Costello (a first-class graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) has been honing his craft; in particular, developing this intensive, progressive band with tenor saxophonist Harry Weir, trombonist Liam Shortall, pianist Fergus McCreadie, guitarist Joe Williamson and electric bassist Mark Hendry. That first, self-released step into a polyrhythmic jazz/rock/minimalist environment, followed by 2019’s Obelisk, has clearly spurred this sextet on to greater heights. The drummer’s ‘live in studio’ approach to capturing it all in full flight (quoted above and qualified by “You hear everything – squeaks, room sounds, pedal clicks”) perhaps bears the most immediate comparison with the ‘real-time process music’ of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, though with more of a funk/soul vibe.

Themes of evolution, heritage, stoicism and inner challenge (look deeper into that cover ‘icon’) permeate these eleven compositions/improvisations, with discoveries about Costello’s extended, Burmese-Indian family especially inspiring the creativity. Fronted by richly powerful tenor sax and trombone, though clearly driven by the leader’s fervent, metrical energy, STRATA as a unit are tight, uncompromising and dynamic – something initially belied by the ambient-piano awakening of အစ (translated from Burmese as ‘beginning’). Recurring motifs strongly inform their overriding energy, exemplified by Eudaimonia which thrives on a blistering wall of approaching/receding horns and pyrotechnic percussion, and continued in torrid, sax-squealing Legion (Costello’s flamboyance at the kit, here, is on another level).

Certainly there are oases of calm, as in Satie-suggested Iris led by McCreadie’s restrained, echoic piano; or Williamson’s notable pitch-bent guitar that paints an unsettling, industrial landscape in Snowbird; and Circularity’s repose summons the slowly-shifting figures of John Ellis and The Cinematic Orchestra. But STRATA’s trademark thunder is unquestionably ‘main feature’, the rasping horns and full-band saturation of The Colossus crescendoing and thrashing to fever pitch, while the brisk momentum of bass-babbling Impetu is carried by relentless piano figures, its boldness momentarily side-stepping into calypso. The pulsating, upward trajectory of Arrowhead creates an exciting, almost menacing three minutes (a double or triple extension to its development can be imagined), closely followed by the John Adams-reminiscent propulsion of Ataraxia – crashing, riffing… and anything but tranquil! To close, the band’s ruminative title track seemingly connects with the earlier-mentioned themes, its cyclical piano and meditational effects perhaps impressing continuity of ‘family’.

Graham Costello’s STRATA have, so far, furrowed their particular groove with panache, character and honesty; and that foundational principle of artistic realism delivers a ‘wow factor’ in this album which will undoubtedly translate explosively into eventual live performance. Advancing the band’s compositional style and sound may be their next challenge – but they’ll be up for it!

Co-produced and engineered by the legendary Hugh Padgham, Second Lives is released on 7 May 2021 and available as CD, vinyl and digital download at Bandcamp.

 

Graham Costello drums, composition
Harry Weir tenor saxophone
Liam Shortall trombone
Fergus McCreadie piano
Joe Williamson guitar
Mark Hendry electric bass

Cover image by Bernadette Kellermann and Graham Costello

Videos: Eudaimonia, Legion, Circularity, Impetu, Live in concert (2018)

grahamcostello.com
gcstrata.net

Gearbox Records – GB1566CD (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Turn Out The Stars – The Music of Bill Evans’ – Pinheiro – Ineke – Cavalli

BILL EVANS (1929 – 1980) and the piano. Inextricably connected, or so it would seem. But this new recording from Portuguese guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro, Dutch drummer Eric Ineke and Italian double bassist Massimo Cavalli takes us along different avenues to explore a number of the revered pianist’s creations, alongside works by Michel Legrand and Leonard Bernstein.

Individually, the members of ‘Pinheiro – Ineke – Cavalli’ have built long-ranging careers and discographies – see links below. Together, they share a number of recordings, including 2018’s Triplicity and ensemble releases such as Is Seeing Believing? (a quintet with saxophonist David Liebman and pianist Mário Laginh) and Lisbon Sunset (a collection of jazz, poetry and improvisation with poet Barry Wallenstein, pianist Luís Barrigas and drummer Jorge Moniz).

In truth, guitar encounters with Bill Evans’ catalogue have happened before, including John McLaughlin’s ambient-styled acoustic album of 1993; and Evans recorded with both Kenny Burrell and Jim Hall, the latter in duo albums Undercurrent and Intermodulation. Through the timbres and dynamics available to this particular trio, six of the pianist’s compositions are texturally and rhythmically refashioned in a collaboration that might cursorily be catalogued ‘easy-listening jazz guitar trio’. But, speaking from experience, these are precise interactions which benefit from a greater focus to appreciate their inner workings.

Peri’s Scope launches the main programme of Evans interpretations, the original‘s piano-trio jauntiness translating into a fleet, foursquare expedition that ripples with crisp percussion, fast-walking bass and the lissome extemporisations of guitarist Pinheiro. There’s a similar twist of momentum for Very Early (from Evans’ ‘Moon Beams’ album with Chuck Israels and Paul Motian) where its lazy, hazy demeanour is alternatively painted in lighter, gossamer shades – the sense of ‘conversation’ even more palpable as the trio members share ideas and encourage snippets of arco bass, percussive sparkle and melodic freedom. Perhaps even more interesting is how they convey Interplay (fronted by Freddie Hubbard and Jim Hall in Evans’ bustling early-Sixties recording) as a blithe amble, nevertheless kept on its toes by the crackle of Ineke’s teasing snare offbeats.

It’s difficult to imagine that most enduring of Bill Evans ballads, Waltz for Debby, away from the master’s sublime, mellow pianism – but the trio treat it with reverence, Pinheiro’s elegant chordal shapes carrying it through into a newfound, joyful and almost pirouetting waltz brimming with sprightly extemporisation. Turn Out the Stars (later Evans) and Time Remembered are merged into a ten-minute-plus reading that, depending on your view, either becomes an immersive discovery or can dissolve into the background; either way, its eventual development into freer territory is attractive as Pinheiro’s use of overlaid, sustained effects is matched by bass and drum turbulence.

Bookending the Evans revisitations are two evergreens of stage and screen, once recorded by the pianist – Michel Legrand’s You Must Believe in Spring (from 1967 French movie ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’) and Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Time (from the 1944 musical ‘On the Town’). Divorced from its romantic piano (and orchestral) origins, the Legrand enjoys its unexpected excursion into a Sixties-pop-riff kinda groove; and Bernstein’s sentimental classic – recorded by Tony Bennett and Evansis ‘vocalised’ here by subtly pedalled guitar.

Though completely accessible, it may take a while to get deeper under the skin of Turn Out the Stars – but ‘Pinheiro – Ineke – Cavalli’ have both the integrity and the charm to enable us to catch these classics in refreshing, new light.

Released on 30 April 20211 and available from Challenge Records and Proper Music.

 

Ricardo Pinheiro guitar
Eric Ineke drums
Massimo Cavalli double bass

ricardopinheiro.com
ericineke.com
massimocavalli.com

Challenge Records – CR73523 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘One From Brooklyn’ – Matt Clark Three

FROM BRIGHTON to Brooklyn in thirty minutes, guitarist/bassist Matt Clark has fashioned, in this lockdown-enforced, home-studio creation, a sidewalking soundtrack influenced by his recollections of New York and Chicago, where he experienced first-hand their avant-garde jazz scenes.

A retro-styled album cover and name – the Matt Clark Three – finds him assembling a mid-grooving sequence of numbers which draws on his affinity with lo-fi samples/loops, jazz and blues, experimental and electronic music. Now based on England’s south-east coast, some 35 years in (and out of) the business included his formation of Leicester-based psychedelic rockers Cardboard, as well as undertaking various solo projects; and this recording’s guests, Mark Wilson (double bass) and Darren Beckett (drums), have worked with Underhood and Madeleine Peyroux respectively.

Across seven tracks, the guitarist creates an ambulatory soundscape evoking big-city panoramas, twilit vistas and populational bustle; and the mellow, pitch-bent tones he elicits from a rebuilt Fender Jaguar also add a dash of raw, Sixties-pop colour. However you view sampled sounds, Clark’s creative adeptness in this field is obvious, and clearly integral to his intentions. Opening Gambit’s nonchalant, bass-figured strut seemingly takes in a nearby jazz club’s smoky, muted trumpet improvisation before this almost cinematographic, urban exploration progresses with bluesy, cool-as-you-like partners Two Hours This Side and Two Hours That Side (the latter, journeying down electric rails to alight at the next subway station).

Other facets of these instrumental perspectives suggest alternative rock, punk and minimalism, Exit Kennedy’s crackling progression (with a violin-like motif reminiscent of Penguin Cafe) even invoking the steam-filled thoroughfares of Philip Glass’s ‘Low Symphony’, three-dimensionalised with public-address echoes and travelling chatter. In Hey Queens, a street-corner saxophonist connects with the prominent, purposeful gait of bass and guitar, the location enhanced by siren wails and passing dialogue – effectively, on these foursquare Manhattan journeys, Clark is recalling the atmospheres he absorbed. Swinging Melancholia is peppered with impressionistic electronic communications; and in Last Lost, his blithe guitar lines are appealingly underpinned by a scratchy, worn piano ground harking back to archive jazz recordings, though carried on a strong, slouchy drum rhythm.

Like so many of us over the past year, Matt Clark’s half-hour sojourn takes solace from revisiting, in his imagination, a significant place – and he invites us along for the ride. Don’t forget your root beer and Ray-Bans.

Released on 2 April 2021, One From Brooklyn is available as a digital album at Bandcamp.

 

Matt Clark guitars, bass guitar, samples
Mark Wilson double bass
Darren Beckett drums

mattclarkmusic.co.uk

Matt Clark Music – MCM0020 (2021)