‘Flow’ – Drifter

Drifter_Flow_300

“THE MUSIC means so much more now. Ten years ago, we were just playing tunes that we loved to play. Now the music comes from within us and somehow encapsulates the feelings of the last ten years.”

There’s a heartwarming sense of triumph and arrival which emanates from the backstory to those words from Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila. Early in the ‘noughties’, Tuomarila and his quartet were flying high and recording with Warner Jazz France (most notable, their excellent 2003 album 02) when suddenly the label shut down their jazz and classical department. Here was a prominent European jazz ensemble without the proverbial paddle… or so it seemed. In the intervening years, both Tuomarila and saxophonist Nicolas Kummert continued to independently develop their craft through regular touring, and perhaps there was an inevitability about them not just crossing paths in the future, but once again kindling the spark of their creativity.

Now, following Edition Records’ 2014 release of Alexi Tuomarila’s engaging trio album Seven Hills, and encouraged by Edition, the quartet have reconvened as Drifter; former members Tuomarila and Kummert join again with drummer Teun Verbruggen and welcome bassist Axel Gilain to the fold. There’s a smile-inducing mystique about this quartet’s combined output which can be difficult to nail. Certainly, the instrumentation is familiar – but perhaps the best explanation is that there is both strength and balance achieved through the co-leadership of pianist Tuomarila and saxophonist Kummert, buoyed by the varicoloured rhythmic skills of Verbruggen and Gilain. Persistent up-front soloing is not Drifter’s way.

From this near hour-long collection of eight originals, plus one arrangement, opener Crow Hill reveals the aforementioned parity as piano and sax become almost conjoined in the melodic spotlight; and when Tuomarila eloquently breaks loose, Kummert responds up through the gears, his verbal tone redolent of Joshua Redman or Mark Lockheart. Tuomarila’s dual trademark is found in The Elegist which grooves to his deep chordal impetus, yet also produces effortless high piano lines which sail as purely as fast-moving cirrus; and, taking Axel Gilain’s high ostinato bass hook plus Verbruggen’s bristling percussion, Harmattan provides greater extemporised freedom for piano and sax.

Drifter’s sound world is beautifully accessible, with the added complexion of a few vocal tracks (as in the 02 album’s Bone-Yard Jive). But rather than offering extensive lyricism, the quietly harmonic voices of Kummert and Gilain are employed more instrumentally through repeated phrases which, in Lighthouse, cleverly pictorialise its dark, lilting momentum (“I’m looking for a lighthouse”); and with more of a rock inflection than jazz, the effect is quite distinctive. Nothing Ever Lasts (music by Tuomarila, words by Gilain) feels particularly anthemic, its solid folksong-like motif carried through into a memorable vocal exultation, with Kummert’s sax hinting at Garbarek.

The grungy, wailing, jazz/blues of Breathing Out My Soul becomes knee-tappingly infectious. With only a simple, repeated, unison vocalisation of the title, a wonderfully pliant bass motif sets up stand-out piano from Tuomarila against the thrashing of Verbruggen’s kit; and enticing rhythmic changes invite Kummert’s sax to overflow in improvisation – quite unlike anything out there at present! Gilain’s Toueï is delightful as it gently pirouettes around the bass – and, as throughout the album, themes and rhythms regularly metamorphose with entertaining unexpectedness.

The concept of covering a rock/pop hit such as the The Police’s King of Pain might well come with a warning – but Tuomarila unlocks its hidden dance qualities so remarkably that it becomes its own idea, with the lyrics of Sting’s original soon forgotten amidst its driving energy. And to close, Vagabond combines the compositional Englishness of Tim Garland with Svensson-like piano explorations – a resounding, dizzying climax.

Alexi Tuomarila’s belief that this quartet’s re-emergence marks “the development of our friendship as a band and the greater sense of purpose we all have in our lives” is borne out in an exciting album which I’ve repeatedly enjoyed over the past few weeks.

Released on 17 July 2015, Flow is available at Bandcamp as download, CD or 140gm 12″ vinyl.

 

Alexi Tuomarila piano
Nicolas Kummert saxophone, vocals
Axel Gilain double bass, vocals
Teun Verbruggen drums

Edition Records – EDN1059 (2015)

‘And suddenly, evening’ – Mike Collins

MikeCollins

THOSE fortunate enough to have viewed the gentle illumination of the city once known as Aquae Sulis, at dusk from higher ground, might easily concur that this new quartet release, And suddenly, evening, offers a fittingly elegant soundtrack.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Mike Collins piano
Lee Goodall saxophones
Ashley-John Long bass
Greg White drums

mikecollinstrio.com

Suitpieces Records – spr0002 (2015)

‘Swamp’ – Partisans

swamp

CREDITED as movers and shakers in gritty, groundbreaking jazz since the late ’90s – with four previous albums to their name – Partisans now come together for their first release in five years… and it’s certainly a bold, renewed statement of intent.

The all-star line-up – Phil Robson (guitar), Julian Siegel (saxes and clarinets), Thaddeus Kelly (electric bass) and Gene Calderazzo (drums) – approaches these eight originals with customary verve. Robson and Siegel equally split writing duties, yet there’s also a strong emphasis on intuitively-developed, rock-grooved improvisation within the quartet – and the overall balance of this set, recorded within just 48 hours, is quite remarkable.

Near-nine-minute Overview indeed reveals much about a band who have recorded and toured together for almost two decades, Siegel’s initial sunshiny jazz groove widening into freer discovery over thunderous bass and drum energy, and clearly demonstrating a sense of collaborative purpose. The impudent one-note motif of opener Flip The Sneck introduces a boisterousness which is irresistible; the Sowetan feel of Robson’s open guitar and Kelly’s rolling baseline sets up a great platform for Siegel’s rich, elaborate tenor searchings and Robson’s sustained rocky lead, Calderazzo obviously revelling in its energy. And Low Glow‘s catchy, mid-tempo 5/4 guitar’n’bass riff suggests earlier John Scofield, with Robson and Siegel sharing bright, intertwining melodies.

Phil Robson’s title track, Swamp, forays darkly into more experimental territory (’70s prog. jazz style). Sinewy sax lines creep through eerie wah-wah chords and electronic spatters until Kelly and Calderazzo inject a brilliantly rumbling, clattering rockiness over which Robson’s effected guitar growls and whistles until a sudden gear-shift invites Siegel to solo over a cheeky disco groove – splendid stuff! Veto swings attractively to Calderazzo’s hi-hat and ride, as well as Robson’s mellow chordal clusters (heard to great to effect in his organ trio), but all the while it has that appealingly unpredictable touch of Partisans questioning; and Siegel sails broadly and elegantly on tenor.

The relative simplicity of Thin Man (Siegel opening on bass clarinet) is a delight, such is its buoyancy and cohesiveness which is due, in part, to Thad Kelly’s underpinning electric bass plus Gene Calderazzo’s ticking precision and embellishment. A final fast swinger, Mickey, finds the quartet in scintillating form, Phil Robson relishing the opportunity to gambol rapidly across the fretboard, Siegel joining in unison as well as extemporising colourfully; and Icicle Architects closes the show in more pensive vein, though its slower folksongy clarinet meanderings eventually open out into an animated, earthy, deep-reed conclusion.

These guys still love what they do together, kicking at the boundaries with a combined wealth of experience – and it shows. Swamp is pretty unputdownable!

Releasing on 22 September 2014, mini-documentary, samples and purchasing options can be found on Whirlwind’s dedicated album page – tour details below.

 

Julian Siegel saxophones and clarinets
Phil Robson guitar
Thaddeus Kelly electric bass
Gene Calderazzo drums

2014 tour dates
29 September: LAUNCH – Jazz in the Round, Cockpit Theatre, London
10 October: The Verdict, Brighton
11 October: Marsden Jazz Festival
23 October: Jazz Lines at Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
31 October: Fleece Jazz, Stoke by Nayland
05 November: The Y Theatre, Leicester
14 November: The Victory Club, Cheltenham
20 November: Seven Jazz at Chapel Allerton, Leeds
21 November: The Vortex, London (London Jazz Festival)

partisans.org.uk

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4657 (2014)