‘Sutures and Stitches’ – Ollie Howell

OllieHowell_Sutures

WHEN A DEBUT ALBUM sounds this good (correction: this spectacular), you simply cannot ignore it! Relatively new to British and international jazz audiences, drummer and composer Ollie Howell’s first release comes as something of a revelation.

The initially curious title, ‘Sutures and Stitches’, soon becomes clear as Howell openly shares his recent history of numerous neurosurgeries and, importantly, his determination to take the positive from these experiences and channel them musically. Indeed, this collection of self-penned post-bop originals (plus an arrangement of Dear Old Stockholm) is a remarkably confident and mature first release, boasting a strong personnel: Mark Perry (trumpet), Duncan Eagles (tenor sax), Max Luthert (double bass) and Matt Robinson (piano). With endorsements from renowned drummer Jimmy Cobb (“He’s loaded with talent!”) and music legend Quincy Jones (describing Howell as “an unbelievable drummer. So creative I couldn’t believe it. This kid is a 360-degree beautiful young cat that I believe has what it takes to make a life out of music.”), this is surely a great curtain-raiser to a glittering career to come.

Later On opens the album with aplomb, Howell instantly displaying his crisp and direct attention to compositional and drumming detail, Robinson hitting the advance button for Perry and Eagles to take flight with characteristic shared brilliance. There’s a cordial spirit to the lively Beyond, its opening unison melody feeling welcomingly familiar, soon stepping up a gear for a terrific tenor solo, Robinson’s accomplished piano then driving on and on to a cross-rhythmical hand-clap/percussion conclusion.

Short solo intros from each band member precede five of the tracks – not mere fillers, but concise lead-ins to the pieces which follow, beginning with Howell himself on rapid, perfectly-tuned toms, ahead of So Close, So Far. With its finely-balanced sound, and possible imaginings of a big band arrangement, Perry’s assured flutter-tongueing blazes high above the tight ensemble accompaniment. Lively miniature, Angry Skies, leads to Perry’s melancholy trumpet intro to 19th Day, a wistful tune beautifully carried by Eagles’ rich tenor, partnering with Perry to great effect. At almost nine minutes, A World Apart is a great centrepiece to showcase the raw, combined talent of this quintet – Howell skilfully directs the band to reach for that higher rhythmic, melodic and improvisational plane… result: success!

Max Luthert’s sonorous bass intro to For Anya is a worthy preamble to its delicate bass- and piano-led dedication. They finds Ollie Howell on fine form, bringing shape to Perry’s and Eagles’ searching solos, Luthert again with a lyrical bass addition. Eagles’ brief sax intro takes us into the gorgeously introspective Two Sides, tenor and piano creating between them such an appealing dialogue. Traditional tune Dear Old Stockholm receives a feisty arrangement, all players pushing at its animated energy. Howell’s drum display is so dynamic, so exact, whilst Robinson and Luthert perpetuate the heady groove. Finally, a particularly limpid piano intro leads to A Hollow Victory, Eagles’ and Perry’s unanimous melody giving way to their own thoughtful solos – a gentler, considered finale to a superbly creative and rounded album.

Released by Whirlwind on 23 September 2013, Howell is touring ‘Sutures and Stitches’ until 3 December – and one can imagine (or, better still, experience) live pyrotechnics of the highest order! Details and samples here.


Ollie Howell
drums/compositions  olliehowell.com
Mark Perry trumpet  markperrymusic.com
Duncan Eagles tenor saxophone  duncaneagles.com
Max Luthert double bass  maxluthertcouk
Matt Robinson piano  mattrobinsonmusic.com

Sleeve design and illustration by Alban Low  artofjazz.blogspot.co.uk

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4636 (2013)

‘Road Ahead’ – Mark Perry / Duncan Eagles Quintet

RoadAhead

GREAT TO FIND this big league seven-piece from London’s flourishing contemporary jazz scene recording together, presenting a set of ten colourful, original compositions (first aired at 2012’s London Jazz Festival) by leaders Mark Perry and Duncan Eagles. 

Having already established themselves as versatile instrumentalists in a variety of ensembles and projects, trumpeter Perry and tenorist Eagles bring together an accomplished ensemble who, together, produce a satisfyingly full sound – Gareth Lockrane on flutes, Sam Leak at the piano, double bassist Max Luthert and drummer Chris Nickolls, plus the wordless vocals of Ona Onabule.

Flip of a Coin provides the heads-up on the intent of this quintet line-up, Sam Leak the pacemaker with a determined piano rhythm, Luthert and Nickolls maintaining the steady but solid energy. Onabule’s vocals enhance the sustained frontline of trumpet and tenor before Perry and Eagles head off to solo spiritedly. Mark Perry’s delivery is undubitably incisive, complemented by Eagles’ rich and fluid explorations – certainly an in-form partnership. In the upbeat Chord Game, Sam Leak demonstrates the clear, spacial and considered piano technique which makes his own album recordings so appealing; and Perry and Eagles freely bounce ideas off each other. Easy-going Shawty and the still mellower Forever make good use of Onabule’s soulful voice, Eagles’ solo tenor in the latter just sublime. Barters Band raises a smile, Gareth Lockrane’s lithe flute the key to its chirpy ’70s sitcom’ flavour – the rhythm section ticks along amiably, a great foundation for Leak’s clean solo lines and fleetly-placed chords, whilst Perry and Eagles dance closely to Lockrane’s tune.

The tempered, late-night feel of Wray Common is perfect for Onabule’s subtle vocal additions, Luthert’s lyrical yet precise bass pairing well with Leak’s pianistic clarity, and trumpet and sax soporifically intertwining. In contrast, the agitated G.T. (a tribute to American saxophonist Gary Thomas) finds Eagles and Perry soloing grittily against a mysterious piano, bass and drums riff (great animation from Chris Nickolls) which offers more than a hint of ‘TV detective’!

Perry’s expressive, plaintive solo trumpet opens mid-tempo title track Road Ahead which affords Sam Leak the freedom to roam (and rather elegantly at that). One Last Kiss is beautifully poised, Lockrane and Onabule again adding their individual character to this very attractive, breezy number. With an element of emotional longing, and drawing this entertaining album to a close, Remember features softer, slurred tones from Mark Perry, velvety bass flute from Gareth Lockrane, and fine ensemble playing all round.

Launching ‘Road Ahead’ at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, on 17th November (as part of the 2013 London Jazz Festival), and releasing 2nd December, the quintet are set to tour in Spring 2014. Promo video, SoundCloud samples and more information here.


Mark Perry
Trumpet  markperrymusic.com
Duncan Eagles Saxophones  duncaneagles.co.uk
Gareth Lockrane Flutes  garethlockrane.com
Sam Leak Piano  samleak.com
Max Luthert Double bass  maxluthert.co.uk
Chris Nickolls Drums
Ola Onabule Vocals  ona-onabule.co.uk

Sleeve design and illustration by Alban Low

F-ire – F-IRECD 65 (2013)