‘Wildflower’ – Wild Flower Sextet

Wildflower

THE HIGH praise I can bestow on saxophonist Matt Anderson is that, on his equally-balanced collection of interpretations and new compositions inspired by jazz icon Wayne Shorter, I genuinely need to refer to the credits to check the provenance of each of the eight extensive numbers!

The Wild Flower Sextet takes its name from Shorter’s piece of the same name – from much-lauded 1966 album Speak No Evil – and comprises Anderson (tenor sax), Laura Jurd (trumpet), Alex Munk (guitar), Jamil Sherriff (piano), Sam Vicary (double bass) and Sam Gardner (drums).

From the very first bars of Anderson’s confident opener, Blues for Wayne, there’s a discernible Jazz Messengers buoyancy to this debut album recording which quickly identifies the tightness of his ensemble; and whilst keeping alive the tradition of joyous, swinging mainstream jazz, this relatively young personnel – including the spirited playing of guitarist Alex Munk – injects Anderson’s and Shorter’s writing with considerable pizazz. The leader’s own tenor is commanding both in its resonance and uninhibitedness, rallying his players to a full and fluent sound which exudes real enjoyment.

Another of Matt Anderson’s originals, Sfumato, struts its stuff with all the familiarity of an established ’60s standard (reminiscences of Johnny Dankworth not far off) thanks to memorable trumpet and tenor lines, as well as pacey guitar improvisation. But it must take a certain amount of fearlessness to approach the venerable music of Wayne Shorter. Nonetheless, the sextet’s reading of Masqualero feels impressively unrestrained, allowing efflorescent freedom of expression; and the combination of Laura Jurd’s blazing trumpet and Munk’s wailing guitar over Jamil Sheriff’s Rhodes, all to the bass and drums turbulence of Sam Vicary and Sam Gardner, provides the exciting edginess of experimental fusion.

Burning Man again indicates Anderson’s prowess as a writer – a beautifully melodic retro bossa with a roaming spirit as free as a wildflower meadow, creating shifting sweeps of colour (so much fine detailing here from all players, including the effective simplicity of unison piano and guitar lines). The broad canvas of J.G., at over nine minutes’ duration, finds the sextet in a wonderfully ebullient frame of mind – one of those atmospheres to simply ease back into as it scales luscious semitonal chord progressions, featuring delicious solos from Jurd and Anderson; and, with an introductory inertia magically evoking the memory of Weather Report, Wayne Shorter’s Fall beautifully treads the fine line between freedom and structure over complex, constantly ticking drums and cymbals from Gardner (Munk’s involvement a reminder of WR’s final release, This Is This, with Carlos Santana guesting).

Two further Shorter tunes complete the album. Three Clowns (from Weather Report’s popular Black Market) is strangely unfamiliar, devoid of Joe Zawinul’s trademark keyboards, but compelling to hear Anderson’s relaxed Shorteresque melodies instead; and the joyous Lester Left Town (from Messenger days, circa 1960) is brought bang up to date in a fabulously audacious shifting-tempi arrangement, Sam Gardner’s presence at the kit especially imposing (Mr Blakey would surely approve!).

Released on 9 March 2015 on the Jellymould Jazz label, Wildflower is as fresh and imaginative as they come – this sextet deserves to flourish.

 

Matt Anderson tenor saxophone
Laura Jurd trumpet
Alex Munk electric guitar
Jamil Sheriff piano
Sam Vicary double bass
Sam Gardner drums

matt-anderson.org.uk

Jellymould Jazz – JJ017 (2014)

‘Cerca’ – Paragon

paragon

IF IT ISN’T already impressive that this quartet recorded new album Cerca over just two days – in Cologne, around their touring schedule – the resulting studio capture of ten exciting new compositions is nothing short of brilliant.

Paragon have been on the scene for a decade, releasing two previous albums in that time (amongst numerous other projects), forging a distinctive fusion of instrumental jazz and blues imbued with a profusion of world and retro influences. Sharing writing credits here are saxophonist Peter Ehwald and pianist Arthur Lea, with Matthias Nowak (bass) and Jon Scott (drums) completing the Anglo-German line-up.

Key to the band’s individuality are the remarkably varicoloured textures and effects shaped by Lea’s Fender Rhodes – and immediately it’s Lea and his own Cerca de Ti that glistens with keyboard sparkle to the recognisable spiky drum signature of Jon Scott (as heard in Kairos 4tet, Dice Factory, Monocled Man, etc.). Matthias Nowak’s bass grooves are resonant and melodic, frequently doubling Lea’s phrases, and there’s an appealing, brisk confidence to Ehwald’s alto – it’s a boisterous opener, evidencing the band’s cohesion and like-mindedness. East to West and the later North to South are miniatures from Ehwald’s pen whose explorations are more spacial, the latter gradually teasing and accelerating its way with great alto grit towards a Soft Machine-like wah-wahed Rhodes riff. Unsurprisingly, Delhi Belly swirls animatedly to bhangra-style motifs in which Ehwald luxuriates, Lea contributing progressively flamboyant glissandi and tremulant gyrations; Nowak’s bass is always beautifully prominent and inventive (no mere support), and Scott never disappoints, constantly shifting emphases and pulling new tricks out of the stick bag.

Ehwald’s Bohdan is a firecracker of a tune, snapping and changing course at every opportunity, featuring his extended, fluid sax runs coupled with bluesy piano from Lea who also switches into sputtering, echoic prog. jazz electronics over intense bass and drums; and whilst there’s a clear sense of written structure, the band always bubbles assuredly with improvisatory freedom – a real pleasure to hear. Arco bass introduces the quietly unsettled, irregular pulse of Glory, a nevertheless beautifully-weighted piece which features Ehwald upfront in soft, reflective and slightly melancholy vein; and the following ’60s-suggested Blue Eyes White Dragon provides contrast with its chirpy shared sax/Rhodes melodies over an infectiously shuffling rhythm, Lea’s sustained Rhodes daring to masquerade as a Hammond – ‘love it!

Fat Pig‘s title perhaps belies the sumptuousness of its nature, Peter Ehwald’s laid-right-back tenor and Arthur Lea’s classic Rhodes timbre wallowing splendidly in an intriguing, shimmering undercurrent of double bass, cymbals and hard snare/toms – another of the manifold sound worlds this quartet can conjure. At times, mysterious and questioning, Linguine moves with ease and, featuring fine extended soloing from both Ehwald and Lea, hangs together superbly in its subtly NYC way. Similarly, the Ballade which closes the album is perfectly realised, the eloquent bass solo of Nowak complementing the soft, Paul Desmond-like characteristics of Ehwald’s balladic playing – and with that quintessential Rhodes ambience… all is well.

Released in the UK on 13 October 2014 by Jellymould Jazz, Cerca comes from a band who are, indeed, a paragon of contemporary jazz excellence – one foot in the tradition, the other pushing forward with the combined fervour and eclecticism of their experiences. This is very much a repeat-player, and I suspect they are thrilling to catch ‘live’ (UK dates below).

 

Peter Ehwald saxophones
Jon Scott drums
Arthur Lea Fender Rhodes
Matthias Nowak double bass

2014 UK tour dates
28 October: Schmazz, Jazz Café, Newcastle
30 October: The Spin @ The Wheatsheaf, Oxford
31 October: LAUNCH – The Crypt, London
02 November: Milestones Jazz Club, Hotel Hatfield, Lowestoft
03 November: Jazz Café, Clifford Arms, Teignmouth
04 November: Jazz Club, Western Hotel, St Ives

paragonlikesyou.com

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ014 (2014)

‘The Crux’ – Tommy Andrews Quintet

TheCrux

DEBUT JAZZ RELEASES never cease to engender a particular brand of eager anticipation – new names, fresh experiences and a portal on this thriving and constantly evolving genre. Firmly adding to that same excitement is the name of emerging reedsman Tommy Andrews and this fine new quintet album, The Crux.

Aside from his already considerable musical accomplishments, Andrews is a keen rock climber and reflects something of that activity’s challenge and patient attainment in an invigorating, eclectic approach to writing and performance, his extended through-composed works also providing the freedoms of open, developing improvisation. Joining him on the ascent are energetic pianist Rick Simpson, acclaimed bassist Dave Manington (Loop Collective, e17) and popular mainstay drummer Dave Hamblett, as well as guitarist Nick Costley-White who contributes impressive prog rock urgency and delicacy to this collection of seven originals by the saxophonist.

From the ominous preludial lyricism of Sirens into the upbeat sureness of The Crux, this quintet quickly outlines its intent of considered and collaborative creativity. Indeed, Andrews is a strong altoist who clearly ignites confidence in his equally ambitious ensemble, the effect frequently cinematic in its boldness. The brief, dreamy shimmerings of Crystal Car, with finely-spun guitar chords, afford Andrews the space to hit the heights of his range to the water-droplet piano of Rick Simpson, leading to the eight-minute Mr. Skinny Legs – and the jocose title here perhaps belies both the beauty and drive of this compelling, intensifying piece (references to elevation never far off). Team spirit shines through the precise arrangement, as do the shared melodies and solo work of Costley-White and Andrews against a pleasingly undulating bassline from Manington.

L.H.B. displays a real sense of originality, Simpson’s mysteriously inquiring chromaticism against clarinet and guitar suggesting dark crevasses, though still hanging on to positivity, and Costley-White’s rising, echoic guitar wash fascinatingly reminiscent of early Genesis (Steve Hackett, ‘Watcher of the Skies’, etc.). Hamblett and Simpson emphasise the four-square rock drive before pacing-up the tempo into dazzling sunlight, Andrews glorious in his soaring extemporisations and concluding on an abrupt high – summit reached, and beautifully portrayed. Subtitled Sirens Pt II, Toscana floats and glimmers to a steady Philip Glass-like pulse of arpeggioed piano, guitar and clarinet, eventually thinning and dissolving into the cirrus atmosphere – quite magical. And to close, quite possibly the pinnacle of the assembled tracks – Steep. Hamblett and Manington provide its complex, propulsive energy, sparking the best from Andrews, Costley-White and Simpson. The vibe is infectious… spirited piano and unison guitar and sax lines making way for the leader’s aqueous soloing which cries out for extended, dramatic development in a live setting.

Released on 30 June 2014 by Jellymould Jazz, The Crux is a skilled and mature offering from the Tommy Andrews Quintet – subtly rock-infused contemporary jazz, with the promise of still greater heights to be scaled. Further information, promo video and audio clips available here.

 

Tommy Andrews alto sax and clarinet
Nick Costley-White guitars
Rick Simpson piano
Dave Manington double bass
Dave Hamblett drums

tommyandrews.co.uk

Jellymould Jazz – JJ015 (2014)

‘Urban Novel’ – Kristian Borring

Kristian

THERE’S a sophisticated vein of cool confidence running through this new Jellymould Jazz release from Danish electric guitarist Kristian Borring who employs varying trio, quartet and quintet groupings to interpret eight original compositions inspired by the metropolitanism of London (where Borring resides) and its current, bustling jazz scene. 

Fellow urbanites are the fascinatingly jagged-yet-melodic pianist Arthur Lea, master drummer Jon Scott (Kairos 4tet, Dice Factory, Monocled Man) and Irish bassist Mick Coady (whose own Synergy recorded the impressive Nine Tales of the Pendulum, released last year on Jellymould), plus the illuminant vibraphone of much-in-demand Jim Hart. It’s evident from the outset that Borring’s writing encourages a collaborative approach amongst this personnel, rather than assuming an over-inflated guitar lead. In fact, a key strength of this follow-up to 2011’s Nausicaa is the seamlessness of the written and the improvised, the latter frequently dovetailing into rhythmically complex episodes with imperturbable composure.

From the gentle swing of opening number Hipster and the pacier Number Junky (both chiming with the close-knit perambulations of Borring and Hart) to the snappy drive of Equilbrium (in which Lea’s piano increasingly impresses both with hard chordal rhythm and deft soloing), there is much here to savour. Borring’s style occasionally, and happily, echoes that of seminal Dutch guitarist Jan Akkerman, with sustained, pitch-bent phrases and unexpected harmonic directions (there’s a touch, too, of Metheny). The guitar, bass and drums gem Arcade Coffee Shop is a particular highlight, displaying wonderfully accomplished interaction amongst the trio; and vibraphone is the key to the mystery of Kasper (In Darkness), Borring partnering Jim Hart’s runs against the superbly deliberate chordal stabs and percussive invention of Lea and Scott.

Quartet title number Urban Novel conjures the heat haze of a cityscape, Borring gliding high over the brake-hiss of Jon Scott’s cymbals and low hubbub of Mick Coady’s bass, and then providing subtly-chorused chords behind Lea’s bright piano extemporisations – imaginative picture-painting, tightly arranged… yet suggesting much freedom within. Out-and-out swinger Hidden Corners glistens with Kristian Borring’s unwavering soloing which eventually invites characteristically colourful, resonant percussion from Scott; and a piano-less quartet brings a different, mellow conclusion to the album, Hart and Borring eloquently combining in Weltall.

Released on 2 June 2014, and with Autumn tour dates on the horizon, this is the perfect opportunity to catch a rising name on the UK contemporary jazz scene. For further information and purchasing, visit Jellymould Jazz.

 

Kristian Borring guitar
Arthur Lea piano
Mick Coady bass
Jon Scott drums
Jim Hart vibes

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ016 (2014)

‘Nine Tales of the Pendulum’ – Mick Coady’s Synergy featuring David Binney

Pendulum

INITIALLY LAUNCHED towards the end of 2012, this excellent album from Mick Coady’s Synergy is now being re-released, this time in conjunction with a short UK tour, and then into Holland.

Coady assembles a great quintet to unlock the potential of these nine originals, and the players interact very much as a cohesive ensemble throughout – venturesome soloing, yet always an ear for overall colour and balance. The Irishman is a familiar presence on the London jazz circuit (bassist for Pete King and a host of visiting artists, as well as a founder member of the Loop Collective) – but here, for his first album, he reveals his prowess in creating intoxicating compositions (seven of the nine) for the estimable company of David Binney (alto), Michael Buckley (tenor), Ivo Neame (piano) and Sean Carpio (drums).

There is immediacy, solidity and verve to proceedings, typified by the driving pace of opening number, ‘Autumn’, Binney making his mark with unwavering, increasing vigour, the band matching him all the way; and Buckley offering only brief tenor respite in this magnetic, bubbling start. The anarchic saxophones of ‘Enemies of Order’ duel it out over Carpio’s exuberant rhythm before Neame and Coady enter the fray with their suitably brisk piano and bass display. The space of David Binney’s pegged-back ‘Real Ballad’ is delectable, alto and tenor fusing beautifully over the intertwining sonorous bass and searching piano improvisation – and such beguiling, sublime tenor soloing from Buckley.

‘Naturally Liberating Molecules’ communicates the band members’ empathy with each other; Carpio, Coady and Neame set up a mesmerising rhythm of intent which is the perfect vehicle for Binney and Buckley to accept the organic freedom the title suggests – hard-edged, growling and wailing tenor making this highlight bristle with excitement! Mick Coady takes the opportunity, in ’64 Claudio Coello’, to enhance mellifluous, combined sax lines before demonstrating his own instrumental lyricism. And from the pen of Ivo Neame comes the resolute ‘Unseen Coracle’ (from Neame’s current octet album, ‘Yatra’), his skilful writing and soloing illustrating why he is one of British jazz’s brightest and most versatile pianist/composers.

Further into the album, the 12-minute ‘Abyss’ is a darker affair, slow-burning, affording the quintet an expanse in which to breathe and explore ideas. ‘Beginning’ is strong on melodies, Buckley and Neame taking the lead assuredly, Coady and Carpio maintaining its strong impetus; and, finally, the enticing swing of ‘Skimpy’ provides an entertainingly lively play-out, refusing to adhere to the suggestion of its meagre title!

‘Nine Tales of the Pendulum’ (released 1 October 2013) deserves to be listened to closely and repeatedly – turn it up loud and you’re right there with them!


ALBUM PERSONNEL

Mick Coady Bass
David Binney Alto Saxophone
Michael Buckley Tenor Saxophone
Ivo Neame Piano
Sean Carpio Drums

LIVE PERSONNEL & DATES

Mick Coady Bass
David Binney Alto Saxophone
Julian Arguelles Tenor Saxophone
Ivo Neame Piano
James Maddren Drums

11 October 2013: Symphony Hall, Birmingham
13 October 2013: Marsden Jazz Festival
15 October 2013: Con Cellar Bar, London
17 October 2013: Band On The Wall, Manchester
18 October 2013: Denhaag, Holland

http://www.jellymouldjazz.net/releases/nine-tales-of-the-pendulum/

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ008 (2012/13)

‘Qualia’ – Henrik Jensen’s Followed by Thirteen

Qualia

IT’S A PLEASURE to hear a new quartet release that’s bristling with such obvious vitality and ebullience! Danish bassist and composer Henrik Jensen presents a debut album of ten jazz originals, with compatriot Esben Tjalve at the piano, American trumpeter Andre Canniere and popular British drummer Peter Ibbetson.

Jensen has spent the last few years playing for a variety of artists, but now focuses his creativity on leading and writing for this four-piece which he calls Followed by Thirteen. The album’s title, Qualia, is defined as “an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us; the way things seem to us.”

Andre Canniere is already known to audiences for his own driving jazz/rock fusion group, but here we discover his more acoustic persona with a technique which is clean and fluent, either at full throttle or when more reflective. At times, his pairing with Jensen is reminiscent of American bassist/composer Ben Allison and trumpeter Ron Horton, though clearly both here express their own individual and appealing characteristics.

Esben Tjalve has a beguiling pianistic style, the opening The Post Office inviting and delivering more than a hint of Thelonious Monk (perhaps even Ellington), courtesy of his fun, even brazen, melodic and improvisatory lead – a great, smile-raising lightness of touch. Pete Ibbetson displays a reliable sense of momentum here, similarly keeping things breezy with brushes and cymbals. The slower-paced The Milden Hall Museum (one of a number of tracks with intriguing, Google-prompting titles!) sees Tjalve and Jensen soloing skilfully around a memorable trumpet hook from Canniere. Dog of the Day returns the band to swing mode, all personnel evidently and brightly demonstrating their affinity with each other (as does Hep Hep, later on in the programme).

And so the album continues, with delight after delight being conjured. A Wave Goodbye sets up an entrancing, slightly disquieting Avishai-like bass and drum groove – a great vehicle for Canniere and Tjalve to roam free, whilst also playing off each other very effectively. City Fox‘s lively pace is addictive (and over all too quickly!), but then gives way to the quirky, twisting bassline of Landmarks where Tjalve and Canniere need no encouragement to follow suit with the freedom to explore, Ibbetson arrestingly and shimmeringly entertaining! Beautifully lyrical, Schmetteling reveals the quartet’s mastery of space, with Jensen soloing so eloquently; and finally, the moving, piano-led Mum Melody honours the album’s dedicatee, Henrik’s mother, and provides another opportunity for his bass to sing.

The recording is favourably direct, with an almost ‘captured live’ feel, helping to make the connection between band and listener. Jellymould Jazz are building their relatively new catalogue with some fine albums, and it’s certainly worth bookmarking their website to keep an eye on their output with releases of this high calibre.

Qualia – certainly distinctive in quality – is on general release from 29 July 2013, following a press launch of 18 July.

 

Andre Canniere trumpet
Henrik Jensen double bass
Esben Tjalve piano
Pete Ibbetson drums

henrik-jensen.com

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ013 (2013)