‘Soldiering On’ – The Dissolute Society

HATS OFF (bowler style, if you like) to trombonist Raph Clarkson and his eight-piece ensemble of musical mavericks in the creation of Soldiering On – a kaleidoscopic and often avant garde debut release from The Dissolute Society, with guests including Huw Warren (piano, accordion) and Mia Marlen Berg (vocals, effects).

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 11 May 2018 and available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp.

 

Fini Bearman vocals
Raph Clarkson trombone, vocals
Laura Jurd trumpet
Naomi Burrell violin
Zosia Jagodzinska cello
Gustav Clarkson viola
Phil Merriman keys, synth bass
Simon Roth drums
with special guests
Huw Warren piano, accordion
Mia Marlen Berg vocals, FX
Joshua Idehen vocals
Mike Soper trumpet

thedissolutesociety.com

Babel Label – BDV16145 (2018)

 

 

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‘Nocturnes and Visions’ – Huw Warren

Nocturnes_300dpi

THE PIANISTIC VOICE of Huw Warren has, over the years, been a source of joy. His discography alone points to an exploratory spirit whose expertise in coalescing jazz, classical and world music has illuminated so many projects – from Perfect Houseplants and Quercus to his own solo outings and ensembles, and as a major contributor to albums by June Tabor, Maria Pia de Vito and Christine Tobin. So when this particularly intimate and personal recording was first mooted, many months ago, its ‘wait in the wings’ was monitored with keen anticipation. 

Recorded in the Cardiff University Concert Hall, most of this album’s twelve pieces are Warren’s own compositions and, as such, might easily portray the mercurial beauty of his beloved North West Wales environs – steep, harshly angular slate panoramas of quarries contrasting with sparkling lynns which quietly nestle between soaring green valleys. Yet, typically, there are also infusions of South American vivacity, as well as English pastorale/salon music, flashes of prog rock and a reverence for J S Bach, with the feeling that it’ll take some, very enjoyable time to delve into all of their fine details.

In fact, it’s finesse which is the hallmark of Warren’s varied musical expressions, whatever the tempo. Hermeto Pascoal’s O Farol Que Nos Guia is lavished with both a grandeur and a lyricism which flows like a mountain stream, whilst Brazilian dance is celebrated in his own Against the Odds, full of memorable, ornamented melodies and leaping cacuriá-style rhythms. The pianist’s intriguing titles ( à la ‘Hundreds of Things a Boy Can Make’) continue with The Book of Strange New Things, a lush, mystical interlude leading to EE whose light-hearted elegance suggests Sir Edward Elgar’s cycling jaunts across the Malvern Hills – somehow Huw Warren’s chromatic melodies capture the essence of the composer’s genteel miniatures, but with a nod to his great symphonic works. And a six-minute interpretation of Bach’s Prelude No. 8 in E flat minor (BWV 853) (also recalling the Modern Jazz Quartet’s impression of the same) finds Warren romantically colouring each twilight line whilst teasing out those spine-tingling falling-bass phrases.

Brief, scree-sliding adventure Onwards and Sideways is reminiscent of both Ginastera and Keith Emerson; Dinorwig Dreams references the huge former quarry in Warren’s locale with bright, bustling activity and then quieter reflections of its past; and impressively darting tango, The Bulgarian Stretch, is a stand-out maelstrom of whirling high lines and Bachian glints. Rolling Fernhill feels like a jazz piano classic from a distant memory, its beautiful dancing tune complemented by lush, sunlit chords. There are two tender tributes – Up There (for much-missed pianist John Taylor) and Pure (dedicated to Warren’s brother-in-law), whilst, across eight minutes, the emotional rubato of Noturna (by Brazilian guitarist/composer, Guinga) is exquisitely felt – and received.

The title Nocturnes and Visions is spot on. Interpret these 53 minutes as a private piano performance to savour, to take to your heart… to imagine your own, individual landscapes. And I absolutely recommend the view.

Released on CD on 26 March 2018, as well as a digital download, and available from Bandcamp.

 

Huw Warren piano

huwwarren.co.uk

Maizeh Music – MM1805 (2018)

‘Nightfall’ – Quercus

Quercus_Nightfall

THE ORIGINAL Quercus album of 2013 – a live recording of a concert from several years earlier – was one of those musically defining moments where folk and jazz were both eloquently and movingly brought together. So this second release from vocalist June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy and pianist Huw Warren should surely delight the many who first rose to applaud the emergence of these already respected musicians as a trio. 

Initially, Nightfall does appear to be the anticipated, natural progression – why wouldn’t it? But as you allow yourself to take them to your heart, these eleven new expressions of songs (of traditional folk origin and from the likes of Bob Dylan and Stephen Sondheim / Leonard Bernstein) begin to surrender their emotional array of treasures; so much so that perhaps it even surpasses the attraction of that still much-played debut. Recorded in rural Somerset, this studio account loses nothing of Quercus’ perfect synergy as they again combine to present music from different sources with customary poise and attention to detail.

Ballamy’s instantly distinctive tenor sound, one of the most oratory in contemporary jazz (and still summoning the magic of his The Little Radio album with Stian Carstensen) is flawlessly matched to the rich, resonant voice of June Tabor, who has remained such a great ambassador of English folk music. And though Huw Warren is also known for his pianistic exuberance – as witnesses to the fervour of his Brazilian- or African-flavoured jazz performances will concur – here his ruminative and precise focus unwaveringly articulates Tabor’s poetic storytelling, where predominant themes of longing, love and loss are balanced with glimpses of light.

On Berrow Sands‘ warning of the perils of the Bristol Channel are elucidated by Tabor’s siren-like lament (reminiscent of her Ashore album), the haunting repetition of ‘Away, keep away, the gulls do cry…’ affirmed by Warren’s ominous, perpetual currents and darkly-plumbed depths. Reinterpreted strains of Auld Lang Syne paint Robert Burns’ familiar words with subdued melancholy; and Iain Ballamy’s subtle control which, throughout this session, can enter and recede almost imperceptibly, is so intelligently shaped. His more obvious lyricism can be heard intertwining with Tabor’s heartfelt four-line stanzas in 19th Century folk tale The Irish Girl and the evocative, sunset hues of The Shepherd and His Dog, whilst Emmeline – Ballamy’s own instrumental, shared with Warren – tumbles with sweet, open innocence.

An especially bluesy rendition of You Don’t Know What Love Is aches to June Tabor’s rubato enunciation, inviting breathy improvisations from Ballamy; the singer’s tormented narrative in traditional folk song The Manchester Angel is particularly compelling; and Huw Warren’s piano-and-soprano sax instrumental Christchurch possesses a wistful elegance. In that vein, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright is almost unrecognisable in a superbly resigned reinvention of Bob Dylan’s sparse guitar-and-vocal original, Tabor’s subtle, conversational inflections bringing the lyric to life over Huw Warren’s deliciously chromatic gospel accompaniment. Both pianist and saxophonist charmingly ornament the blithe poetry of Dorset gypsy song The Cuckoo; and Sondheim/Bernstein favourite Somewhere, maybe more than ever, has the power to echo our ever-present feelings of despair and hope, Iain Ballamy’s luscious tenor spirit suggesting a pathway to the latter.

This is a recording which, to quote Sondheim, needs ‘a time, a place’. Ascend a tor or a ‘moel’ with Nightfall in your ears – and for a mountain-top experience like no other, it’s up there… somewhere.

Released on 28 April 2017 and available from ECM, Amazon, iTunes, record stores, etc.

 

June Tabor voice
Iain Ballamy tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Huw Warren piano

topicrecords.co.uk/junetabor
ballamy.com
huwwarren.com

ECM Records – 574 3078 (ECM 2522) (2017)

‘Hon’ – Huw V Williams

Hon

This…… THIIIIIIISSSS [waves CD sleeve]…… is worth your attention!

Hon (the Welsh translation of ‘This’, inspired by a somewhat abrasive poem of the same name by T H Parry-Williams) is the striking debut album from double bassist and composer Huw V Williams; a contemporary jazz release whose brash delivery and left-field instrumental sparkle catches the ear and won’t let go.

Hailing from Bangor, North Wales (on the beautiful Menai Straits), and a 2012 graduate of the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama (first class honours), Williams relocated to London to embark on his career. And now, teaming up with the irrepressible jazz energy of Laura Jurd (trumpet), Alam Nathoo (tenor sax), Elliot Galvin (accordion, piano) and Pete Ibbetson (drums), the bassist unleashes a quintet recording of original material defined by unfettered invention and clamorous beauty. In fact, he declares his enthusiasm for this music, describing it as emanating from “the mixing pot of all your history, so this is just as much about a teenage rock phase in North Wales as a mid-twenties free jazz phase in London.”

Recorded on the periphery of Snowdonia, the eight studio tracks of Hon transmit a certain wild freedom. From the crackle of Skardu’s Missing, with its mischievous trumpet and tenor phrases and dissonant shards of prepared piano, to 06/01/14‘s anarchic, undulating bass landscape (almost electric in its execution), there are surprises around each corner (including elephantine shrieks from Jurd’s bell and typically boisterous, percussive crashes from Pete Ibbetson). Elliot Galvin’s individualistic piano imprint on the UK jazz scene has been a breath of fresh air; yet it’s that same oblique approach to accordion, here, which colours this line-up so differently, offering glissandi, sustained chordal meshes and impertinent solo lines throughout fast-walking-bass Slumps.

Rotten Apple Boughs‘ trumpet-and-accordion melancholy (almost New Orleansean, at times, in its inebriated, flutter-tongued abandon) is perpetuated by dark-clouded unrestraint in the form of jangling percussion, intense bass and mysterious accordion; and retro-detective soundtrack Mugs babbles its way through a relatively simple motif, the solid rock propulsion crescendoing up through saturated waves of wonderful, tenor-screeching mayhem. The deeply-beaten groove of title track Hon is cleverly built out of Williams’ intertwined electronic crackling and harmonic arco bell peals, opening into a rollicking episode which pulsates with horns and tremulant Hammond; and it’s to be hoped that the disembodied clunks and scrapes of Retrogressive Shredfest – five minutes stuffed full of fascinating, unpredictable shocks – don’t turn up on your iPod Shuffle as you walk the Llanberis Pass after dark!

Bonus trio track, Glyn – an 11-minute live recording from Brecon Jazz Festival (video here) – features acclaimed North Wales pianist/composer and Williams’ longtime mentor Huw Warren (also producer of this album). With Jim Black’s impressive density at the drums, it’s a smouldering, building anthem which showcases the bassist’s particularly resonant, improvisational technique – and a towering conclusion to a box of continually unfurling delights.

Released on the Chaos Collective label on 26 February 2016, Hon is available as CD or high quality download at Bandcamp.

 

Huw V Williams double bass
Laura Jurd trumpet
Alam Nathoo tenor saxophone
Elliot Galvin accordion, piano
Peter Ibbetson drums
with
Huw Warren piano (bonus track)
Jim Black drums (bonus track)

huwvwilliams.com

Chaos Collective – CC005 (2016)