‘Too Much Love’ – Euan Burton

too-much-love

A STRONG SENSE of yearning and heart-on-sleeve emotion, imbued with the plaintiveness of traditional folksong, are the predominant characteristics flowing from this appealing new jazz quartet release by Scottish composer and bassist Euan Burton. Indeed, Burton’s album title, Too Much Love, reflects a concept built around the idea of people’s mistakes arising from “misplaced love or having so much love that they don’t know how to deal with it and channel it properly.” 

The sequence of seven self-penned numbers seems to suggest thematic progression (not unlike the bassist’s 2012 album, Occurrences), offering the impression of storytelling throughout its engaging thirty-five minutes; and the empathetic response to his writing – by turns homey and exhilarating – is delivered by longstanding Glaswegian compatriots Adam Jackson (alto sax), Tom Gibbs (piano) and Alyn Cosker (drums and cymbals). Euan Burton’s creative identity is his distinctive fusion of through-composition and a trust in individual improvisation – this is no straight saxophone-led foursome banging out my-turn-next riffs to a predictable formula, but rather a close ensemble who appear to spark off each other, in the moment, to bring immediacy and freshness to melodies which remain wholly accessible.

Two opening tracks perfectly illustrate Burton’s approach: Prelude – a wistful, open weave of tunes effortlessly shared and developed between the players; and This World – a delightfully buoyant folksy creation (perhaps it’s the honest, fluid alto sax of Jackson that intimates the pastoral hallmarks of 20th Century British clarinet concerti). Pianist Tom Gibbs appears to be one of Scottish jazz’s best-kept secrets (his own Fear of Flying album, with Euan Burton as bassist, is a particularly memorable release from 2012), and here, in Burton’s quartet, his adaptable creative presence is very much in evidence. The romantic breadth of Rhapsody finds him switching, midway, from grandiose chordal embellishment to a compulsively perky groove propelled by Burton’s bass and the assertive intricacies of Alyn Cosker’s drums and cymbals (at nine minutes, clearly a performance that revels in its breathing space).

Subtle contentment in All That Is Left (with a melody so clear, it could easily be sung to words) is exemplified by the lyricism of Jackson’s alto which eloquently shapes every phrase over the sustained rubato of Gibbs’ piano, with bass and drums in delicate support. Krakow is embraced joyously, Gibbs flamboyantly breaking free in characteristic piano style as Jackson grittily contributes to its countryfied ebullience; and Fading Memories, the most freely improvised-sounding piece on the album, reveals much about these players’ interaction as Cosker’s persistent percussive pulse encourages extemporisation out of Jackson’s bluesy riff – a tantalising glimpse, perhaps, of how they can push and extend the thread of an idea outwards in a live setting. To close, title track Too Much Love briefly reprises the longing of earlier numbers before celebrating more profusely the quartet’s undoubted connection with this music, Jackson and Gibbs finally resting the theme with charming Scottish folksong simplicity.

Released on Whirlwind Recordings, further information, audio samples, promo video and purchasing can be found here.

 

Euan Burton bass
Adam Jackson alto saxophone
Tom Gibbs piano
Alyn Cosker drums and cymbals

euanburton.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4662 (2014)

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‘Groove or Die’ – Paul Jackson Trio

PaulJackson

THIS MUST surely be one of the most addictive jazz/funk/soul grooves of the year! As a founding member of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters – and having forged, over the years, strong associations with musical dignitaries such as Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Sonny Rollins and George Benson – California-born Paul Jackson remains one of the most influential and revered electric bass players around.

Now, featuring Xantoné Blacq (keys, vocals) and Tony Match (drums), the seasoned bassist and vocalist brings all of his musical wisdom and showmanship to this trio’s debut release, Groove or Die – and, with a decision on that title choice obvious, the resulting tracklist of ten original numbers becomes increasingly compelling. It’s said that once you’re in the right groove, you don’t wanna come out – and here’s proof from a slick triumvirate whose saturation of sound easily exceeds its number.

Take opener Groove, for example, which is immediately set up with an irresistible major/minor ground for Jackson’s fulsome, gritty voice (imagine an intoxicating blend of Clapton and Tom Jones!) plus solid background harmonies. The bass tempo erupts halfway through, Blacq’s sizzling Rhodes rising magnificently through an electronics forcefield, and Tony Match’s flamboyancy at the kit quite mesmeric. Everything coolly strides the sidewalk to Blacq’s upbeat, loftier-range vocoder lines, Jackson’s bass delivering looping high-fretboard riffs as well as that all-important rasping momentum. Doleful and slow-burning, Pain is curiously reminiscent of late ’70s chart hits such as Float On, though with greater profundity; and the vocalised (almost Methenyesque) instrumental Slick It that follows is compelling in its pithy burst of energy.

African percussion break Nuru precedes a real showstopper of a performance from Xantoné Blacq – What You’re Talkin’ ‘Bout. Unabashedly Stevie Wonder-like in its soulful, molten vocal and animated keyboard approach, the rhythm section’s entrance encourages Blacq to climb to the most astonishing falsetto pitch. And Jackson’s heartfelt crooning in Midnight is a Lonely Heart informs its slow bluesyness, with tightly-meshed background vocals and Blacq’s soaring embellishments adding layer after layer of textures.

Tiptoe Through The Ghetto, introduced by a brilliant Stanley Clarke-like harmonic-bass riff, bustles with impassioned verve. Suggesting, Earth Wind & Fire and Zawinul/Weather Report, the colourful percussive impetus of Tony Match is key to the thrill of it all – and with that seductive Rhodes, it’s got to be a live showstopper. Bringing the album to a close, the wide-open feel-good is confirmed in the jauntiness of People Cry, followed by short, Santana-like bookend, Die.

Some of the stateside vocal lines might initially appear clichéd to an audience this side of the ‘Pond’, but my belief is that it’s all part of the charm of Groove or Die – that and the downright ardent musicality this team exudes. As Match explains: “The trio is like a family; we support each other, we create and share ideas together. I can feel a unique energy and vibration in our music.” And that’s certainly palpable.

Released on 3 November 2014, and launching at The Hideaway, London, on 14 November, visit Whirlwind’s album page for details, videos and samples. Get your groove thang… ohwwwn!

 

Paul Jackson vocals, electric bass, background vocals
Xantoné Blacq vocals, background vocals, keyboards, talk box, percussion
Tony Match drums, percussion

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4656 (2014)

‘The New Straight Ahead’ – NYSQ (New York Standards Quartet)

NYSQ

THESE GUYS just wanna have fun!… and how clearly that message is conveyed, from the amiable tenor/piano intro and throughout The New Straight Ahead. Taking on ‘the jazz standards’ and setting them off in all kinds of new directions – avoiding the cracks and potholes of mediocrity and tedium – is no mean feat. But, on this joyous Whirlwind debut, the NYSQ (New York Standards Quartet) possess experience and passion, in spades, to carry it off.

Although a clear and immediate studio recording, the mood here is one of stumbling in off the street to find the most gloriously-ebullient four-piece at full tilt, buying a beer or two and waiting to discover which unlikely jazz avenue is traversed next. And up on stage, bringing this affectionate, colorised journey to life, are renowned musicians Tim Armacost (saxes), David Berkman (piano), Daiki Yasukagawa (bass) and Gene Jackson (drums).

Take, for example, It Don’t Mean a Thing which, contrary to the sentiment of the original lyric, finds a new spirit when taken on a surprisingly different rhythmic path. Both the dissective reworking and Tim Armacost’s soprano resemble the inquiring artistry of Wayne Shorter, Ellington’s original rapid swing smoothed into a broader, more leisurely, but still upbeat tempo. Evergreen (or browny orange) Autumn Leaves opens in familiar enough territory, but then takes off apace to Armacost’s liquid tenor, the band audaciously dipping in and out of 7/8 with palpable glee. Daiki Yasukagawa’s perfectly pliant bass sets up a boisterous interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s The Maze which bristles to a fervid bass and drum propulsion, with scintillating solo displays both from ‘Dexter’ Armacost and David Berkman at the piano.

Delightfully lush chords introduce When You Wish Upon a Star – mellow Scott Hamilton-style meanderings on the classic Disney tune of Harline/Washington; Remember finds Armacost in a perky Stan Getz state of mind, its assured, effervescent pulse courtesy of Gene Jackson’s flamboyance at the kit; and the piano quirkiness of Thelonious Monk’s Misterioso is embraced by Berkman, with Armacost’s sax offering an added dimension. Ah-leu-cha is one of the stand-outs of the album, a near-eight-minute offering which carries Charlie Parker’s original along on a wave of soprano-infused energy; and, in contrast, beautifully lyrical tenor improvisations on Jobim’s Zingaro relax to a gently shimmering South American piano and percussion sundown.

Released on 22 July 2014, this fourth NYSQ release warmly demonstrates how adaptable, in qualified hands, such old favourites can be… and it’s a great vibe to return to again and again. The band are clearly proud of their current eight years together, touring internationally, and happy to quote a Tokyo nightclub listener’s compliment: “I can hear each guy doing his own thing, but you’re doing it together”.

Visit the album page at Whirlwind for more information, promo video and purchasing.

 

Tim Armacost tenor and soprano saxophones
David Berkman piano
Daiki Yasukagawa double bass
Gene Jackson drums

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4654 (2104)