‘Evidential’ – Mike Hobart Quintet

Evidential

THE LANDSCAPE of jazz is so incredibly broad these days, thriving on its increasing cross-pollination with other genres. But amidst all of that buzzing new invention, the excitement of horns-upfront post-bop still cuts through with arresting verve – and, in the case of Mike Hobart’s new quintet release, that’s certainly Evidential.

An unfettered spirit is apparent in tenor saxophonist Hobart’s solid performances here, presenting a sequence – which includes his own compositions – of traditional swing infused with contemporary textures/ideas. And what a band he’s assembled – trumpeter and flugelhornist Chris Lee (Pig Bag), pianist/keyboardist (and founder Jazz Warrior) Adrian Reid, double bassist Greg Gottlieb (Bahla), drummer Eric Ford (Partikel); and Danny Keane guests as pianist/composer on the title track.

The leader cites Miles Davis’ ’60s quintet (Shorter, Hancock, et al) as an early influence, and the spontaneous feel of this session captures something of that energy, with opening number Evidential lodging itself in a bold, bluesy groove which cheekily snaps into double time. There’s a real sense of a band working both cohesively and joyously: pliant, strutting bass; exuberant drums and piano/Rhodes; liberated tenor and trumpet solos/couplings, with Hobart’s hard-pushing improvisations of particular note – and at almost eleven minutes, this track never outstays its welcome.

Smouldering soulfully to Eric Ford’s steady rhythmic pulse, Rosie‘s midway modulation invites the most dreamy flugel and Rhodes episode, as well as (often the case on this recording) a memorable shared horn riff; and Bellies on the Roof‘s swinging vivacity might easily suggest Johnny Dankworth big band territory, Chris Lee’s shrill trumpet evoking Miles or Jon Faddis, and Hobart enjoying the time to shape his gruff yet lyrical lines. Chris Lee’s ballad Victory to the Underdog is characterised by the colourful, slow tremulant of Adrian Reid’s Rhodes until its underlying edginess breaks surface with a mischievous urgency which prompts tremendously gravelly scrawlings from Hobart’s tenor.

Maces Paces bubbles audaciously, like some retro TV theme with, once again, an irresistible momentum as Reid’s splendidly scampering clav/synth groove is shared by Chris Lee’s trumpet; and this kind of textural fluidity is central to the album’s attraction. Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes is luscious in this unhurried, late-night arrangement, affording lyrical openness in trumpet, sax and double bass soloing; then, closing Base to Bass teases with free expression before unleashing its driving energy – and full of the leader’s compositional twists and turns along unexpected alleyways, plus a wonderfully sly unison motto, it erupts into enthrallingly extemporised fireworks.

This CD has been spinning away for a few weeks now, and never fails to brighten the day with its high-spirited musicality!

Released on 15 February 2016, Evidential is available at Amazon, iTunes, etc.

 

Chris Lee trumpet, flugelhorn
Mike Hobart tenor saxophone
Adrian Reid piano, electric keyboards
Greg Gottlieb double bass
Eric Ford drums
with
Danny Keane piano, Fender Rhodes (title track)

mikehobartquintet

anotherworldmusic (2016)

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‘New World’ – Vitor Pereira Quintet

NewWorld

IT’S A PRETTY SAFE BET, heading-up a band with alto saxophonist Chris Williams and tenorist George Crowley, that creative sparks will fly. And sure enough, on Portuguese electric guitarist Vitor Pereira’s second quintet album, New World, the firmament is ablaze with deliciously unpredictable moves and blistering artistry. 

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…


George Crowley
tenor sax
Chris Williams alto sax
Dave Hamblett drums
Andrea Di Biase bass
Vitor Pereira guitar

vitorpereira.net

F-IRE presents – F-IRECD84 (2014)

‘Range’ – Pete McCann

Range

A FIRST LISTEN to the sparkling jazz-rock of guitarist Pete McCann may leave you pondering why, at least in the UK, his name is so unfamiliar. Respected as a first-call sideman on the New York scene, he has appeared on over 80 album recordings including those of Patti Austin, Curtis Stigers and the Mahavishnu Project; while in jazz his credentials include having worked alongside Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz and Brian Blade.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Pete McCann electric and acoustic guitars
John O’Gallagher alto sax
Henry Hey piano, Fender Rhodes, organ
Matt Clohesy acoustic and electric bass
Mark Ferber drums

petemccann.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4675 (2015)

‘Time Pieces’ – Kyle Eastwood

Kyle

OK… I need to cut to the chase…… this album has me in raptures!

New release Time Pieces, from multi-bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood, fizzes to the joyous hard-bop spirit of the classic 50s/60s Blue Note era. And, interspersed with a couple of vibrant interpretations (Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver), it’s the pacey, original compositions here which beam particularly brightly. Long-term colleagues Andrew McCormack (piano) and Quentin Collins (trumpet, flugelhorn) are joined by Brandon Allen (saxes) and Ernesto Simpson (drums) in a quintet which is slick and intuitive, yet still coruscates excitingly throughout these ten numbers.

The make-up of Kyle’s jazz identity runs deep (as eldest son of legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood, the annual family outing to Monterey Jazz Festival would introduce him early on, and backstage, to greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald), and so his own music is imbued with that same vitality and passion. Take, for example, fast-swinging Caipirinha which opens the set, its Brazilian flavours coloured by Eastwood’s bass extemporisations – walk into a live room with this blazing, and I swear you wouldn’t glance once at your smartphone or contemplate leaving, such is the verve served up equally by all members of the band!

Horace Silver’s Blowin’ the Blues Away rattles along breathlessly to dazzling trumpet and tenor improv, plus typically effervescent piano from the brilliant Andrew McCormack; and a beautifully contemporary reading of Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance (from Maiden Voyage) is illuminated by Eastwood’s melodic fretless bass, with Quentin Collins’ flugelhorn phrasings so pleasingly reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard. Prosecco Smile seems to be Hancock-inspired, rocking out to the tight, zingy fourths of trumpet and tenor, as well as Eastwood’s upright bass dexterity; and McCormack’s Vista burns slowly and mysteriously, its steady, crescendoing expansion allowing space for thoughtful soloing.

A mark of genius comes in the leader’s Peace of Silver, in memory of Horace Silver who passed away at the time of these sessions. Rather than an elegy, it suitably honours the great man’s memory and musical character in sprightly ’60s-feel, 5/8-dominated style (though also with a sensitive solo middle section from pianist McCormack, which seems to pay personal homage) – all in all, with an overriding feeling of ‘jazz standard’, it’s a winner.

Easily imaginable as a Kenny Wheeler big band arrangement, Incantation‘s ominousness is perpetuated by an ostinato piano-and-bass undercurrent, precisely embellished by Ernesto Simpson’s percussion; and, reminded of Eastwood’s accomplishments with big-screen soundtracks, the balm-like oriental solitude of his piano and fretless bass arrangement from movie Letters from Iwo Jima is quietly affecting. Nostalgique reflects wistfully with breathy flugel and sax against delicately picked electric bass and decorative piano before breezy closer Bullet Train swings with all the stature and vigour of a Johnny Dankworth special.

Released on 20 April 2015, Time Pieces is ‘up there’ with the best. Touring this Spring/Summer, including four nights (20-23 May) at Ronnie Scott’s, London, the album is available from JazzVillage (check out the samples there), iTunes and all good jazz retailers.

 

Kyle Eastwood electric, acoustic and fretless electric basses
Brandon Allen tenor and soprano saxes
Quentin Collins trumpet, flugelhorn
Andrew McCormack piano
Ernesto Simpson drums

kyleeastwood.com

JazzVillage (Harmonia Mundi) – SP JV 9570034 (2015)

‘Into View’ – Paul Riley Quintet

IntoView

A DEBUT RELEASE that has magnetised my attention over the past few weeks, young London-based saxophonist and composer Paul Riley’s quintet album, Into View, possesses a certain blue-sky luminosity which seems to combine the spirit of West Coast jazz with a cool, precise, English sensibility.

Riley’s companions on this recording are already familiar names on the circuit – Ant Law (guitar), Mitch Jones (piano), Matt Ridley (double bass), Dave Hamblett (drums) – and together they forge a compelling set of eleven original numbers which sparkle equally to tightly-scored and broadly-improvised episodes. Riley and Law solo upfront, as well as frequently sharing extended, rapid-fire unison lines, within a musical landscape which might suggest a blend of early Moutin Reunion Quartet, Kairos 4tet and John McLaughlin – yet this new band already demonstrates the potential to flourish under its own identity, due to Riley’s compositional strength and instrumental steadfastness.

Opening outlines the quintet’s clear, measured articulation before launching into the energetic, controlled propulsion of Spindrift which flows melodically to bustling solos from Riley, Law and Mitch Jones; and, following, the elegance of title track Into View is conveyed through Paul Riley’s smooth, dry, Getzian alto, buoyed by an infectious piano/bass/drum riff. Song for Laura subtly charms with a relaxed, fluent, soprano sax demeanour reminiscent of Tim Garland’s work; and Outlaw is a stand-out, its rippling groove showcasing Ant Law’s remarkable invention and dexterity through an attractive Santana/McLaughlin tone – the whole thing just flies!

Wistful and carefree, Another Summer relaxes to the delicacy of sustained sax and bass solos, whilst sprightly Underhand perpetuates the cloudless feel-good as Riley’s grittier alto pushes the envelope a little higher (a sign, perhaps, of greater freedoms to come). Brisk waltz Gamelas possesses a searching soprano melody and aura worthy of TV drama titles, Jones’ decorative piano chromatics especially impressive here; and the more shadowy aspect of Riley’s writing continues with the more introverted Looking Back. Ahead of Closing (a reflective tailpiece), The Way Home darts to more of those audaciously-extended, shared unison or harmonised lines from Riley and Law – and whilst there may be some sense of repetition of earlier material, it nonetheless tumbles over itself in unbridled enthusiasm.

Released on 6 April 2015, Into View is a fine and promising debut, displaying a fervour which is difficult to ignore. Available from Jellymould Jazz.

 

Paul Riley alto and soprano saxophones
Ant Law guitar
Mitch Jones piano
Matt Ridley double bass
Dave Hamblett drums

paulrileysax.com

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ018 (2014)

‘Can of Worms’ – George Crowley

CanOfWorms

Y’SEE WHAT ‘APPENS when y’open a Can of Worms?!…

Overflowing with writhing, jostling spontaneity, but with sufficient compositional structure to keep a lid on things, London-based saxophonist George Crowley’s new two-tenor quintet recording is a veritable powerhouse of creativity. His debut release, Paper Universe (Whirlwind, 2011), remains long in the memory as a jazz quartet recording of mature, unfettered exploration. Now, together with sparring tenor partner, the ever-chipper Tom Challenger, he constructs the formidable and foreceful front line of an energetic five-piece completed by Dan Nicholls (piano/Wurlitzer), Sam Lasserson (double bass) and Jon Scott (drums).

Crowley reveals that this band came into being for the purposes of a 2013 live gig, leading to the desire to develop and document the project’s clear success in a studio album – a shrewd and worthwhile decision, given the resulting sense of excitement, anarchy and strong musicality on show here. As composer of all seven substantial pieces, the leader never settles for the obvious, nor any half measures – he and his colleagues go all out for unwavering improvisation whilst recognising the strength of tight ensemble playing. And it’s fabulously earthy, ‘unputdownable’ stuff.

The Opener‘s agitated ten-minute expanse bristles to Jon Scott’s trademark clattering-yet-incisive drum rhythms, bolstered by Sam Lasserson’s babbling bass and Dan Nicholls’ typically brash, animated piano; and in amongst all this, tenorists Crowley and Challenger (one in each ear!) breathlessly duel it out – the combination of the written and the abstract quite thrilling. Nicholls’ uneasy ‘music box’ Wurlitzer announces Whirl, a broad, impudent affair featuring Challenger’s gruffness and Crowley’s screeching – yet the precise framework is always apparent.

Ubiquitous Up Tune in 3, with tricksily-timed sax riffs, is certainly ‘up’, and it’s a tribute to the directness of the engineering/mixing that its raw, live feel translates so well into recorded sound. The jarring major/minor blues of Rum Paunch is a joy, the two tenors either in unison (or thereabouts) or otherwise taunting each other, whilst Nicholls’ sneering, rippling piano almost encourages them in their outrageous discord.

Hard-swinging but nevertheless anarchic I’m Not Here To Reinvent The Wheel rolls deliciously to Lasserson and Scott’s fast pace, the reedsmen clearly revelling in its abandon (confirmed by the group cackles that follow its abrupt finish!). Terminal shuffles mysteriously to Scott’s intricacy at the kit and Nicholls’ magnificent Wurlitzer weavings, Lasserson’s relentless bass underpinning the broadness of the tenors’ extemporisations – such a glorious (and at times, cheeky) sound world; and, to close, T-Leaf rumbles particularly freely, though the fractured improvisations finally come together in absolute unanimity… lid well and truly sealed!

A triumph for George Crowley and his team. Released on 23 March 2015, further information, audio samples, promo video and purchasing can be found at Whirlwind.

 

George Crowley tenor saxophone
Tom Challenger tenor saxophone
Dan Nicholls piano/Wurlitzer
Sam Lasserson double bass
Jon Scott drums

georgecrowleymusic.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4666 (2015)

‘Memory Palace’ – Szandra Szoke Quintet

SzandraSzoke

PULLING at the heartstrings and setting the pulse racing with gleaming musicianship, Szandra Szoke’s Memory Palace is a debut release of palpable intimacy and powerful emotion.

A jazz quintet album with the Hungarian singer/songwriter at its heart (rather than vocalist and supporting quartet), the majority of these nine expansive numbers are penned by Szoke and her influential pianist Gabor Cseke; the line-up completed by Istvan Fekete (trumpet), Peter Olah (bass) and Csaba Pusztai (drums, percussion). Immediate impressions are of deep, poetic lyricism expressed not only by Szoke’s lissome tones (articulated with crisp English diction alongside mother tongue), but also through the sensitive, varietal interpretation of her instrumentalists – a potent and alluring combination.

Szoke’s mature, impassioned delivery brings the songs to life with memorable melodic catches and smouldering phrases, as in opening number Monochrome. It’s notable how naturally all five musicians blend, such is their attention to dynamics and detailing; and the piano dexterity of Gabor Cseke, including snappy improvised runs reminiscent of Esbjörn Svensson, is a delight throughout. Much of the music is characterised by unexpected dramatic shifts – sometimes in skilfully pirouetting vocals, at other times with a fervent bass-end piano ostinato – typified by propulsive Wanderlust. Wool smoulders to Cseke’s dark piano and Pusztai’s atmospheric udu-led percussion, creating an open canvas for Szoke’s questioning lyrics (“Do you think of me like wool, so safe and warm, embracing you from the cold?”) and the roaming, Paolo Fresu-like muted trumpet of Istvan Fekete.

In Between The Lines‘ storytelling is set up on a terrifically edgy 7/4 beat, its inventive, unpredictable twists and turns throughout never allowing the song to reveal all of its secrets until the close (a great songwriting attribute frequently employed on this album); and Whitewater tumbles over another of those irresistible piano bass riffs, taken downstream by double bassist Peter Olah, and featuring beautifully paired vocal and trumpet lines. A deft duo interpretation of Gyémánt (music by Gyorgy Pribil) swings delicately, revealing Olah’s solid double bass precision whilst Szandra Szoke’s breathier non-English vocal is comparable to that of Anglo-Swedish singer Emilia Mårtensson.

With a mellow, easy-going flow, title track Memory Palace is a sure favourite – and, again, the melding of voice and virtuosic instrumental playing feels entirely organic (this is quite a band!). The wistful, heart-stealing emotion of Zöld (translated as ‘green’ and based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s ‘Romance Sonámbulo’) is another highlight, its deep sense of longing so exquisitely and broadly portrayed; and seamlessly tailpiecing the recording, Now Sleeps illuminates the words of Tennyson’s sonnet ‘Now sleeps the crimson petal’ through gossamer voice and piano.

Szoke’s website quotation – “Each song is a mirror-image; if you take a glance at it… it grabs hold of you and won’t let go” – couldn’t be more true. Since arriving from Budapest, Memory Palace has moved, charmed and repeatedly called me back for more. It may well have the same effect on you.

Released on Hunnia Records and available at iTunes, etc., check out the title track video, amongst others, at the dedicated YouTube Channel.

 

Szandra Szoke vocals
Gabor Cseke piano
Istvan Fekete trumpet
Peter Olah double bass
Csaba Pusztai drums, percussion

szandraszoke.com

Hunnia Records – HRCD1410 (2014)