#recentlistening – August 2019 (2 of 2)

Espen Berg Trio – Free to Play
Espen Berg, Bárður Reinert Poulsen, Simon Olderskog Albertsen 
Release date: 6 September 2019 (Odin Records)
propermusic.com/product-details/Espen-Berg-Trio-Free-To-Play-270001

Maria Chiara Argirò – Hidden Seas
Maria Chiara Argirò, Leïla Martial, Sam Rapley, Tal Janes, Andrea Di Biase, Gaspar Sena
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Cavalo Records)
mariachiaramusic.bandcamp.com/album/hidden-seas

João Lencastre’s Communion 3 – Song(s) of Hope
João Lencastre, Jacob Sacks, Eivind Opsvik
Release date: 20 September 2019 (Clean Feed)
joaolencastre.bandcamp.com/album/song-s-of-hope

Pigfoot – Pigfoot Shuffle
Chris Batchelor, James Allsopp, Liam Noble, Paul Clarvis
Release date: 6 September 2019 (Pokey Records)
chrisbatchelor.bandcamp.com/releases

Daniel Erdmann’s Velvet Revolution – Won’t Put No Flag Out
Daniel Erdmann, Théo Ceccaldi, Jim Hart
Release date: 13 September 2019 (BMC Records)
bmcrecords.hu/pages/frameset/index.php

Oddarrang – Hypermetros
Olavi Louhivuori, Osmo Ikonen, Ilmari Pohjola, Lasse Sakara, Lasse Lindgren
Release date: 27 September 2019 (Edition Records)
oddarrang.bandcamp.com/album/hypermetros

#recentlistening – June 2019 (1 of 2)

Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band – Begin Again
Fred Hersch, The WDR Big Band, arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza
Release date: 7 June 2019 (Palmetto Records)
propermusic.com

Tori Freestone Trio – El Mar de Nubes
Tori Freestone, Dave Manington, Tim Giles
Release date: 31 May 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
torifreestone.bandcamp.com

Liam Noble – The Long Game
Liam Noble, Tom Herbert, Seb Rochford
Release date: 7 June 2019 (Edition Records)
liamnoble.bandcamp.com

Dave Liebman ± Richie Beirach – Eternal Voices
Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach
Release date: 14 June 2019 (Jazzline)
propermusic.com

Kevin Holbrough – Influences
Kevin Holbrough, Dave Newton, Sebastian de Krom, Zoltan Dekany
Release date: 29 May 2019 (New Jazz Records)
newjazzrecords.bandcamp.com

Babelfish – Once Upon a Tide
Brigitte Beraha, Barry Green, Chris Laurence, Paul Clarvis
Release date: 29 June 2019 (Moletone Records)
amazon.co.uk [awaiting more links]

‘Chasing Rainbows’ – Babelfish

Babelfish

IN SO MANY WAYS, this feels like one of the most consummate and unswervingly original releases of the year to date.

Singer/songwriter Brigitte Beraha is distinct in jazz spheres for her venturous, artisan approach to music making, much in the same way as, say, Dame Cleo Laine and Annie Ross were in their heyday. For this second Babelfish quartet release, she again teams up with long-standing colleague Barry Green (piano), plus Chris Laurence (double bass) and Paul Clarvis (percussion), to offer an exquisite, acoustic collection of no less than sixteen numbers which explore “love in many different forms.”

Beraha and Green share writing credits on pieces which, along with a scattering of sensitive reinterpretations, glisten with clarity and emotion (whether lovelorn or in downright japery), all delivered with delightful unpredictability. And whilst the characteristic diversity of Brigitte Beraha’s vocalisations mostly take centre stage here, it’s the indubitable, intelligent connection between all four artists which creates this album’s magic.

Take, for example, Beraha’s opening composition, You, Me & The Rest of the World, which ripples with all the composure and stature of a Real Book classic, the lyric-inspired vocal phrases buoyed by deft bass and percussion and Barry Green’s high piano embellishment (certainly one of jazz’s most engagingly limpid pianists). The soft Brazilian sway of Caetano Veloso’s Michelangelo Antonioni is captured so rapturously, escalating into an impressive scat-like middle section from Beraha; and Your Turn To Ask parades Monkishly to Green’s piano before Beraha superbly embodies the level of exploratory dynamic range and creativity attributed to Dame Cleo.

A wondrously quirky thread of ‘confusion’ runs through the album, taking the form of four miniatures in which each musician improvises individually on the same mere fragment of a phrase before concluding in a final, quartet coming-together. All are fascinating in their own way, though arguably the most entertaining (perhaps even alarming on a first listen!) is Brigitte’s Confusion, Beraha’s faux frustrated laryngeal efforts eventually becoming clear; and even Paul Clarvis’s 24-second rhythmical snare interpretation is a treat.

The most surprising credit here is Aaron Copland’s… but, the lofty and intense beauty of this piano/vocal arrangement of Heart, We Will Forget Him (from Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson) genuinely shadows the more familiar classical soprano reading; and somehow it segues naturally into a breezy rendition of I’m Always Chasing Rainbows (that strange mix of Chopin, Vaudeville and Judy Garland!). Following is an attractive, bass-bubbling arrangement of traditional song Down by the Salley Gardens, its introductory combination of piano ostinati and percussion curiously resembling the timbres of a hang drum, as Beraha delivers folk-song purity and soaring improvisation.

A dramatic Edith Piaf-like preamble to Nuit Blanche evolves into a delicate display of Beraha’s voice as instrument, her wordless extemporisations seemingly effortless; and the weighty piano-and-voice simplicity of A Story Ends (another of the singer’s originals) is reminiscent of Norma Winstone’s fine work with Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier. Barry Green’s compositions Knocked Knees and Stubble Rash are rather endearing – melodically bright, with harmonic and rhythmic twists, the four ‘voices’ match so well. And, before that impudent, closing Confusion, Beraha’s own Unspoken only confirms her bejewelled magnificence in “the cycle of life” of contemporary jazz vocalists.

Released on 27 April 2015, Chasing Rainbows is easily a five-star album, and not to be missed. Available from Amazon and all good jazz retailers.

 

Brigitte Beraha voice
Barry Green piano
Chris Laurence double bass
Paul Clarvis percussion

brigitteberaha.com
moletone.com

Moletone Records – Moletone 006 (2015)

’21st Century Acid Trad’ – Pigfoot

Pigfoot cover

THERE’S A REAL KICK to this debut album from Pigfoot. Not content with trotting out faithful, modest versions of 1920s and ’30s jazz standards, this acoustic ‘trad. quartet’ scratches at their familiar surface to explore – as the title hints – surprisingly gritty, off-the-wall interpretations of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, and so on.

Founded in 2013, it turns out that Pigfoot’s anarchic line-up is an exciting who’s-who of contemporary jazz innovators – trumpeter (and founder member of Loose Tubes) Chris Batchelor; tubist Oren Marshall (to be found alongside Shabaka Hutchings in Sons of Kemet); that most influential and imaginative of pianists, Liam Noble; and drummer Paul Clarvis (find me a more expansive CV!).

It’s quite possible to imagine the odd incredulous snipe at their brash, seemingly-irreverent approach – perhaps whispers of ‘king’s new clothes’ or Bonzo Dog references (remember their wonderfully mocking late ’60s parody, Jazz (Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold)?). But peel back the layers (see cover art), and there’s an unabashed and, I sense, affectionate desire to render these classic tunes in outlandish textures and colours to bring a freshness to them – and with that unexpectedness, they become increasingly absorbing. Indeed, I am now at the stage with this live recording – from London’s Vortex Jazz Club – that it’s difficult to eject it from the car CD player, such is the adroitness, humour and downright feel-good of these eight extended tracks.

Spencer Williams’ Basin Street Blues maintains its New Orleans origins, yet Liam Noble’s dissonant chords and Paul Clarvis’s deliberate, almost bumbling drum rhythms give it a fascinating edge. 12th Street Rag is positively outrageous with its haphazard tempi, although Oren Marshall’s steady, plodding tuba (plus a few liberties and a blustering solo) keeps some semblance of order, Chris Batchelor blasting melodies in various keys – perfect (or, happily, ‘imperfect’!). Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz rattles along impetuously, the improvisations becoming more and more jaunty and extreme until, ultimately, triple time breaks helplessly and wonderfully into Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour. Tennessee Waltz eases the pace, Batchelor stating its deep southern spiritual tune which Noble then carries away to extemporise in typically jarred invention (it works so well against fluttering drums and drawling tuba).

Gospel pairing Just a Closer Walk with Thee and His Eye is on the Sparrow teases with a fairly straight rendition, Batchelor’s bright trumpet melody eventually signalling disorder which includes a belting, bluesy tuba solo – and Clarvis takes full advantage of the mayhem before the four conclude ‘repentantly’. Pigfoot clearly revel in the Duke Ellington favourite Mood Indigo, disassembling it with ease, but never straying completely from its familiarity; Batchelor’s impressive muted and spurting trumpet techniques are a key feature. And there’s more than a touch of mischief to Sidney Bechet’s tangoing Petite Fleur – but the experience of these guys is evident as they hold it together with various random acts of rebellion.

1920s standard Nobody Knows You When You’re Down is a closing show-stealer. Batchelor’s forlorn, inebriated trumpet (“Once I lived the life of a millionaire, spendin’ my money, I didn’t care”) sets up this beautifully bold ten-minute slow blues, the quartet presenting a typically audacious and stoic response to its original themes of prosperity fail. The conviction and, yes, humour in this performance (especially Oren Marshall’s tuba) provides a suitably profuse conclusion to these fifty entertaining minutes of ‘acid trad’.

Released on 31 March 2014, with the quartet touring in the Autumn, this is a rollickingly great experience to seek out – it certainly brings a smile to my face. In fact, I happily concur with Bessie Smith – ‘Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer)’!


Chris Batchelor
trumpet
Oren Marshall tuba
Liam Noble piano
Paul Clarvis drums

Village Life – 131112VL (2014)