‘Points of View’ – The Bannau Trio

BannauTrio

THIS IS SUCH a delightful, engaging and original release from a trio of top-class British musicians – the result, apparently, of a meeting and conversation between musical minds somewhere across the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, between Haiti and Barbados!

Welsh-born singer Nia Lynn joins forces with British jazz’s foremost flautist Gareth Lockrane and in-demand pianist (and organist) Ross Stanley to provide a release of diverse interpretations of songs by leading writers, along with a clutch of originals from Lynn herself. Audience applause comes as something of a surprise, as both performance and production values are outstanding, belying the fact that this is a live concert recording (from The Forge, London). The grouping of voice, piano and flute may seem out of the ordinary in a contemporary jazz context, but the invention and musicality is of such a high standard that it compels the listener to hang on to every nuance and detail. Nia Lynn, a familiar name on the London jazz circuit, possesses a voice of remarkable dexterity and contrast – by turns, mellow and effusive – perfectly suited, with something of a folk influence, to the open instrumentation and creative ambience of flute and piano.

To begin, Ralph Towner’s Renewal finds Lynn’s wordless vocals perfectly matching the rhythm of Lockrane, Stanley providing simple chordal and solo momentum – a beautiful balance from all three. Tom Waits’ writing is frequently a source of choice for jazz vocalists, and here, in Soldier’s Things, Lynn excels in her expressive qualities against sumptuous piano accompaniment and hard, breathy flute. The magical luminosity of Lynn’s own Linger allows both Stanley and Lockrane the opportunity to elaborate, leading to Nikki Iles’ Upon the Hill, Nia Lynn joined vocally by national jazz treasure Norma Winstone to express its tangible, emotional yearning. Two Points of View finds Lynn sharing writing credits with Gwilym Simcock, Lockrane’s low, reflective flute utterly charming.

Once again, voice and flute pair up instrumentally to great effect in John Lee’s bluesy piano-led Harriet before launching into an exquisite reading of Newley & Bricusse’s Who Can I Turn To – such a lyrically spellbinding vocal from Nia Lynn. Lonely Ghosts, an original of Lynn’s, continues the feel-good, whilst Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Time is sensitively delivered, illuminating the romantic lyrics of Betty Comden and Adolf Green – and a shining example of the delicate poise of and understanding between these three musicians (‘Bannau’ being the Welsh translation of ‘beacon’). Concluding the set, Nia Lynn’s nine-minute Precious is a breezy illustration of her impressive vocal dynamics, Lockrane and Stanley clearly enjoying its freedom.

An album of unexpected pleasure, ‘Points of View’ was launched at September 2013’s inaugural Whirlwind Festival, and a 2014 tour is planned. Promo video here.


Nia Lynn
Voice  nialynn.com
Gareth Lockrane Flute  GarethLockrane.com
Ross Stanley Piano

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4645 (2013)

‘Entertaining Tyrants’ – Compassionate Dictatorship

CompassionD

COMPASSIONATE DICTATORSHIP have been playing together for around six years, recording twice before (‘Coup d’Etat’ and ‘Cash Cows’). ‘Entertaining Tyrants’, however, is the quartet’s first release with progressive young British label, Jellymould Jazz, consolidating their already distinctive sound.

The personnel is outstanding – Tori Freestone (tenor sax), Jez Franks (guitar), Jasper Høiby (double bass), James Maddren (drums) – and, between them, this esteemed line-up create a powerful yet beautifully crafted set of nine Franks and/or Freestone compositions, all presented with an impressive display of mutual understanding, collaboration and musicianship. The melodic pairing is excellent: Freestone’s characteristic tenor delivery, in turns both mellifluous and gritty; Franks slickly switching from bright solo cadences to lush chord progressions.

Having listened over and over to ‘Tyrants’ (released 29 April 2013), this is a classic example of what I happily refer to as a ‘jazz treasure chest’. Opening the lid, it’s obvious straightaway that there is much inside to delight – deeper inspection, though, fascinatingly reveals greater ‘jewels’ as they very gradually come to the surface. And what a hoard!…

‘Anger Management’, with its sarcastic opening tenor call and sneering guitar replies, immediately provides a curiously-appealing, edgy tension. The energy here is wonderful, as is the terrific interplay between these close musical minds – and what sounds like a free-for-all is, in fact, a masterclass in control and shared voice. ‘In the Chophouse’ displays smart improvisation, as well as delicate guitar washes. ‘Bubble and Squeak’s momentum is skilfully carried by Jasper Høiby’s fluent bass and James Maddren’s incisive rhythm; calm is briefly restored with the lofty ‘Sit Tight’.

Changing tempi and close sax/guitar work are a feature of the attractive ‘Universal 4’, with Høiby’s recognisably colourful lines breaking through and Maddren setting an intricately shimmering pace. On ‘Ratios’, the guitar lays down a gentler pulse for Freestone to solo over, with Franks also contributing flowing improvisation. ‘Pottering Around’ is a standout, the tenor’s initial plaintive sound encouraging the group to freely exchange ideas (it’s lovely stuff) before gleefully breaking into a great guitar-driven groove with a mischievous ascending, spiralling tenor catch, Høiby and Maddren again a class act with their tight rhythmic contribution. A sense of anarchy (and fun!) pervades ‘Precious’, Freestone contrasting hard-pushing screeches with beautifully sonorous low-register passages, whilst ‘Loop’ closes the album with a mellow, perhaps slightly dark, serenity.

The quartet’s recorded sound, thanks to Nic Taylor and Dominic Sales, is crisp and clean, giving the listener a satisfyingly close experience, as well as a longing to witness, first hand, their exciting live chemistry! Good to see, then, that the Dictatorship have issued an accompanying tour schedule (with more dates to be added):

11 May 2013: Skein Jazz, Norway
23 May 2013: Hebden Bridge, UK
2 June 2013: Colchester Arts, UK
3 June 2013: Sela Bar, Leeds, UK
11 June: The Spin, Oxford, UK
1 September 2013: Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft, UK
17 November 2013: Teignmouth Jazz Festival, UK

A great album to get inside – highly recommended.

 

http://www.jellymouldjazz.net/releases/compassionate-dictatorship-entertaining-tyrants/
http://www.compassionatedictatorship.co.uk/

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ011 (2013)