#recentlistening – May 2019

Jonny Mansfield – Elftet
Ella Hohnen-Ford, James Davison, Tom Smith, George Millard, Rory Ingham, Dominic Ingham, Laura Armstrong, Oliver Mason, Jonny Mansfield, Will Harris, Boz Martin-Jones + guests Chris Potter, Gareth Lockrane and Kit Downes
Release date: 21 June 2019 (Edition Records)
jonnymansfield.bandcamp.com

Partisans – Nit De Nit
Phil Robson, Julian Siegel, Thaddeus Kelly, Gene Calderazzo
Release date: 17 May 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
partisansjazz.bandcamp.com

Shez Raja – Journey to Shambhala
Shez Raja, Trilok Gurtu, Wayne Krantz, Monika Lidke, Chris Nickolls, Pascal Roggen, Alex Stanford, Vasilis Xenopoulos
Release date: 17 May 2019 (Raja Records)
shezraja.com

Leïla Martial – Baa Box – Warm Canto
Leïla Martial, Eric Perez, Pierre Tereygeol
Release date: 24 May 2019 (Laborie Jazz)
leilamartial.com / laboriejazz.fr

Gabriel Grossi Quintet – #motion
Gabriel Grossi, Sergio Coelho, Eduardo Farias, André Vasconcellos, Rafael Barata + special guests Mauricio Einhorn and Hermeto Pascoal
Release date: 28 June 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
gabrielgrossi.bandcamp.com

Mark Lockheart and Roger Sayer – Salvator Mundi
Mark Lockheart & Roger Sayer
Release date: 5 July 2019 (Edition Records)
mark lockheart.bandcamp.com

‘The Cut Off Point’ – Phil Robson

PhilRobson

THE THREE MASKED MEN were spotted last year on a visit to one of Phil Robson’s favourite UK haunts – the Players Theatre, Davenham, Cheshire. In its most intimate of surroundings, the guitarist and his colleagues (sans disguise!) entertained a rapt audience with new music destined for this debut organ trio release, The Cut Off Point. Small venue, big vibe.

An influential figure on the British contemporary jazz scene (and one quarter of seminal jazz/rockers Partisans), Phil Robson has long been a fan of the organ trio – and, citing Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery amongst his influences, he has harboured a desire to write and perform in this format. As with any trio, the exposure requires nerve and intuition to ignite the creative spark… oh, and the opportunity to work with seasoned pros – in Robson’s case, here, with Ross Stanley (Hammond organ) and Gene Calderazzo (drums).

The impact of the organ trio is instant. Without bass or piano, it’s the huge physical and audible presence of the Hammond B-3 that takes centre stage – and Ross Stanley’s is as authentic as they come, complete with separate, whirring tone cabinet. Robson and drummer Calderazzo go back many years, especially through their work with Partisans, and therefore have a ready-made connection which is clearly evident.

With seven of the eight tracks penned by Robson, his opener, Thief, reveals the classic organ trio groove – guitar and keyboard melodies deftly gryrating and intertwining, buoyed by Calderazzo’s irresistible, carefully-weighted, toe-tapping rhythms; and with Stanley in charge of pedal-board bass, the organ-and-guitar flexibility of combining or alternating sustained chordal colour with brisk upfront soloing is a great feature, captured particularly well in bustling Second Thoughts. The trio’s retro interpretation of David Liebman’s Dimi and the Blue Men bleeps and echoes in hyperspace before landing on craggy Jeff Beck terrain, Calderazzo particularly eloquent in his snare detail.

Snappy organ and guitar lines are shared in Vintage Vista, its rapid intensity inviting terrific soloing all round (again, its Calderazzo that steals the show – how I’d love to hear that drum track in isolation!). Dedicated to the late Kenny Wheeler, Astral‘s floating, undulating soundworld is redolent of Zawinul’s In a Silent Way and Metheny’s Sirabhorn, whilst pleasingly jarring title track The Cut Off Point buzzes to Robson’s hard-edged, John Scofield-like effects and restless group improvisation. One of Robson’s older, unrecorded tunes, Berlin, swings airily to his light and apparently effortless exploration of the fingerboard; and, to finish, Ming the Merciless deep-grooves to crunchy guitar’n’Hammond chords and infectious bluesy soloing.

As ‘Ratzo’ shouts at the close, “We got an album”. Yep, they sure have!

The Cut Off Point is released by Whirlwind on 18 May 2015 – further information, audio samples and purchasing can be found here.

 

Phil Robson electric guitar
Ross Stanley Hammond organ
Gene Calderazzo drums

philrobson.net

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4672 (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)

‘Halftime’ – Rachael Cohen

RachaelCohen

THERE IS SOMETHING rather kick-off-your-shoes warm and inviting about this new quartet release from saxophonist and composer Rachael Cohen. With a beautifully rounded, gentle vibrato alto tone (think Getz, Desmond or, currently, Ben van Gelder) and the assured mellowness of Phil Robson’s guitar, the whole ten-track programme presents a particularly fine debut.

Alluding to the world of sport – “the idea of half-time in a sports game, of pausing for thought and considering your next move” – ‘Halftime’ is an album of impressive Cohen originals (plus Ornette Coleman’s Just For You). Bassist Calum Gourlay and James Bashford on drums complete the line-up – and the four hit it off perfectly, creating a particularly satisfying cohesion and balance. Originally hailing from the far-north-easterly Shetland Islands and already with an impressive jazz pedigree, Cohen exudes a freedom of spirit which inhabits both her writing and playing – quite a breath of fresh of air. A prime example is Rise and Fall of SC, a breezy descending-bass number in which Rachael’s melodious sax dances fancifully, eventually giving way to Robson who shares the same airiness. Preceding this, the seven-minute Groove Envy is more driven and freely felt, Robson offering a pleasingly crunchy dissonance as well as bright soloing, Gourlay and Bashford controlling well its catchy, triplet-heavy rhythm.

A sublime ‘halftime’ sax/guitar/bass miniature, Intermission, leads to the blithe and chirpy Riggins, Higgins?, drums, bass and chordal guitar supplying an appealing, repetitive ground for the nimble, confident alto and guitar soloing. In Window Watcher, Cohen’s inquiring sax is pitched against the mystery of Robson’s close chord clusters and Gourlay’s tiptoeing bass before a fast-paced central section snaps into action, guitar and bass delectably scampering and falling over each other. Album opener, The Manor, is beautifully buoyant, Bashford’s precise snare and cymbals maintaining lightness throughout and the alto melodies so affable; and Cohen’s interpretation of Just For You offers a touch more momentum than Coleman’s original, but still ‘lays back’ to Gourlay’s cool, walking bass and Robson’s ornamentation.

In the amiable, tuneful Ask Me Later, Rachael’s alto lead is so velvety – and the piece’s winsome rhythmic and chromatic motifs, along with Gourlay’s lucid bass soloing, give the impression of a standard that’s been around for years. Free Speech reveals a harder-edged improvisational aspect of the quartet’s playing – and, though brief, it perhaps suggests a development for ‘album no.2’ with obvious communication between the players, yet an exciting taste of spontaneity (Bashford’s ringing cymbal a great touch). Softly-brushed Full Time certainly brings a hankering for extra time – a gorgeous final number underpinned by Phil Robson’s genial guitar accompaniment.

Apparently, Rachael Cohen is Whirlwind’s first female leader ‘signing’ – expect to see plenty more classy ‘first team’ performances in the future!

Released on 18 November 2013, details, video and audio samples can be found here.


Rachael Cohen
alto sax  rachaelcohenmusic.com
Phil Robson guitar  philrobson.net
Calum Gourlay bass  whirlwindrecordings.com/calum-gourlay/
James Bashford drums  jimbashford.co.uk

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4644 (2013)