‘Snowmelt’ – Marius Neset, London Sinfonietta


Snowmelt

IT ONLY REQUIRES the two-minute solo Prologue to this collection of new material by Marius Neset to be reminded of that first rush of excitement, experienced just a few short years ago, when his distinct, often otherworldly saxophonic approach blew away the senses.

Through the release of his most recent solo albums – BirdsLion and Pinball – a progressive, wider development of Neset’s compositional powers has become strikingly apparent; and now, this collaboration with the renowned London Sinfonietta and long-time jazz colleagues Ivo Neame (piano), Petter Eldh (double bass) and Anton Eger (drums) sees the Norwegian virtuoso realising what is described as his most ambitious, cherished and personal project to date.

Mainly comprising three extended works, the concept for the album was prompted by a 2013 Oslo Sinfonietta commission which Neset wrote for solo saxophone, chamber orchestra and five singers. Already possessing astonishing flair for constructing rhythmically challenging, larger-scale music (2014’s Lion was for jazz orchestra), that fifteen-minute piece spurred the saxophonist on to still greater things – the opportunity to meticulously through-compose, incorporating elements of improvisation, for the combined forces of small orchestra and his own quartet. He explains how working with the London Sinfonietta and their intuitive conductor, Geoffrey Paterson, took his ideas to another level, whilst Neame, Eldh and Eger are now so engaged with Neset’s rhythmical language that they “play it like it was the easiest thing in the world” (summoning incredulous shakes of the head from mere mortals!). Recorded in just two days, at London’s highly-regarded AIR Studios, the outcome is awe-inspiring.

Marius Neset’s contrasting, yet cohesive compositional flow is apparent in seven-movement Arches of Nature – a continuous, 25-minute suite which revels in his masterful orchestration. Appropriately chromatic and discordant, the Bartokian woodwind chatter of Sirens announces a recognisably boisterous sound world which offers a glimpse of how well Neset blends orchestra and quartet, whilst Acrobatics‘ audacious, high-wire tenor antics are heightened by rapidly swirling strings, shrill woodwind alarm, Anton Eger’s skittering percussion, and all manner of intricate details (John Orford’s babbling bassoon delightfully partnering Neset). Halting this intense animation with Janacek-style trumpet fanfare, the lofty arcs of Circles are characteristically traced by Neset’s soprano, sumptuously and emotionally filled out by swelling brass amidst its symphonic splendour; and Caves‘ jazz quartet energy is percussively accentuated by the leader’s gruff, popping tenor and remarkably fleet, exacting orchestration.

As this suite progresses, the sustained thread of Paradise showcases the many guises of Ivo Neame’s piano eloquence, his scampering bass figure especially attractive; romantically lyrical Rainbows unwinds into Getzian tenor-and-strings elegance (though there is never any doubting the saxophonist here); and impudent, showtime finale Pyramiden ripples to phantasmagorical, almost bewildering orchestration.

The Storm is Over further reveals the considered brilliance of this writing – a heavenly ‘land of Cockaigne’ which intriguingly fuses Mahlerian/Brucknerian depth and mystery with a reassuring dance-band warmth, traversed by Marius Neset’s luxurious, soaring and always affecting tenor melodies (so much detail to discover each time). And arguably the album’s main feature – introduced by another gloriously multiphonic solo sax display – Snowmelt brims with Nordic zeal as Neset’s quartet and the London Sinfonietta coalesce so immaculately. Listen closely to the the tonal balance… the orchestral weave… the rhythmic fire… the folksung inflection… the tear-inducing beauty… and, at that moment, there’s nothing creatively or heartwarmingly finer.

Released on 26 August 2016, Snowmelt is available from ACT Music. Promo video here.

 

Marius Neset tenor and soprano saxophones
Ivo Neame piano
Petter Eldh bass
Anton Eger drums

LONDON SINFONIETTA
Geoffrey Paterson conductor
Karen Jones flute, piccolo
Gareth Hulse oboe
Michael Whight clarinet, bass clarinet
John Orford bassoon
Michael Thompson horn
Torbjörn Hultmark trumpet
Byron Fulcher trombone
Jonathan Morton violin (principal 1st)
Miranda Fulleylove violin
Elizabeth Wexler violin
Joan Atherton violin (principal 2nd)
Hilaryjane Parker violin
Charlotte Reid violin
Roger Chase viola
Zoe Matthews viola
Richard Waters viola
Tim Gill cello
Adrian Bradbury cello
Markus van Horn contrabass

All music composed and arranged by Marius Neset
Produced by Marius Neset with Anton Eger

mariusneset.info

ACT Music – 9035-2 (2016)

‘ONE’ – Tim Garland

ONE

THE PROSPECT of a new Tim Garland album always raises the pulse… and unquestionably, ONE is no exception.

The saxophonist/composer has, through time and experience, become a treasured mainstay of the UK jazz scene – and his releases of the last couple of years (2014’s Songs to the North Sky and last year’s Return to the Fire) have certainly confirmed that status. The final track of the 2015 album – a recording which rekindled, on vinyl, the acoustic excitement of 1995’s Enter the Fire – featured both longtime collaborator Jason Rebello on Fender Rhodes and versatile guitarist Ant Law in a more electronic groove, presumably sparking the notion of a future project in similar vein.

Well, here it is, in all its splendid jazz-rock magnificence, completing the quartet with Asaf Sirkis (from Lighthouse Trio days) on drums and percussion, plus guests Hossam Ramzy (percussion) and Dionne Bennett (vocals). It’s a thriller of a masterpiece, pretty much from start to finish, with Tim Garland’s instantly-recognisable vibrato and commanding presence heading up a wondrous complexity of textural arrangements, sparkling rhythms and fabulous virtuosity. Garland was, notably, a key player in legendary prog rock and jazz drummer Bill Bruford’s Earthworks line-ups, and the influence of that sound world is frequently apparent in many of these nine original compositions. Indeed, a similar level of detail certainly keeps this album on loud ‘repeat’ in the car CD player (no track-jumping here!) – a recording which adroitly achieves a perfect synthesis of slick production and spontaneous, improvisatory performance.

Garland and colleagues ‘roadworked’ this material, whilst touring, to both hone and co-own the interpretations which made the final recording. Such acquired confidence is evident from the off, in Sama’i for Peace whose energetic and tricksy ten-beat pulse fuses Sirkis’ Middle Eastern colours, emphasised by Hossam Ramzy’s added percussion, with Genesis-like electronic keyboard and guitar sustenance; and Garland’s soprano exuberance seems to hit new heights. Bright New Year must be one of the most optimistic, blue-sky compositions heard in some time, its shimmering, folksy guitar and piano supporting Garland’s memorable, soaring melodies (Ant Law’s 12-string acoustic adding hard-edged urgency); and the burning drama of The Eternal Greeting demands focus as Garland’s deep tenor richness pirouettes with the gradually building instrumental weave.

Colours of Night ripples with Garland’s signature compositional riffs, echoing his jazz-fusion association with Chick Corea – and the depth of chordal Rhodes and guitar palettes ensure that this quartet always remains strong, without the need for a bassist. Here, Ant Law’s high electric guitar improvisations are both incisive and dextrous, whilst Zawinulesque keyboards and Sirkis’ remarkable konnakol voice send shivers up the spine – this is a band which continually seeks out new combinations to impressive effect. Prototype hits the King Crimson and Yes buttons with vigour, its flawless, percussive synchronisation and Law’s searing guitar recalling that first rush of hearing Robert Fripp or Steve Howe; and Gathering Dark‘s smouldering Mediterranean journey, featuring Jason Rebello’s typical elegant piano improvisation, is full of mercurial interest.

Dionne Bennett’s smoky and earnest vocal adds weight to Garland’s lyrics in Pity the Poor Arms Dealer – a passionate protest song against arms profiteering (though amidst the album’s predominant, instrumental feel-good, it could seem a little incongruous). Foretold is reminiscent of Garland’s excellent Libra album, his multi-layered tenor combining with synthy washes and both Sirkis’ and Ramzy’s percussive elaborations; and to close, Youkay fizzes with the most delicious Weather Reportian fervour – quite possibly the album standout.

Succinctly… it’s difficult to recommend this album too highly.

Released on Edition Records, ONE is available as CD and high-quality download at Bandcamp.

 

Tim Garland soprano and tenor saxophones, additional keyboards and percussion
Asaf Sirkis drums, percussion, konnakol
Jason Rebello piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 organ, keyboards
Ant Law nylon string, 12 string, 8 string and semi-acoustic guitars
with guests
Hossam Ramzy doholla, Egyptian tabla, karkabu (tracks 1, 4 and 8)
Dionne Bennett vocals (track 7)

timgarland.com

Edition Records – EDN1072 (2016)

‘Flow’ – Ari Erev

Flow

THE MANY FACETS of contemporary jazz surprise and delight with their rich diversity; often the music can be groundbreaking, challenging, even abstruse. But once in a while, an artist shines with the unalloyed beauty, accessibility and blitheness of their approach.

Tel-Aviv-based pianist/composer Ari Erev’s third album completes a trilogy of themed releases. Following albums About Time and A Handful of Changes, new recording Flow explores the idea, as Erev explains, that “music consists of numerous different streams that have the same general direction and – especially with improvisation – never exactly repeat themselves”; another analogy is the “state of mind during which one is immersed in a continuous act of doing something, such as learning or creating, usually without even noticing the passage of time.”

Joining him throughout this session of mostly original compositions are Eli Magen (double bass) and Ron Almog (drums), whilst also adding to the Latin fervour of a number of tracks are soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen (brother of trumpeter Avishai) and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky. Erev cites Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba as an early influence, and his lyrical ways with melody and rhythm seem charmingly imbued with the festal expressions and strong musical identities of, say, Mexico, the Caribbean and South Africa.

Sunshiny samba tune Playful Moments is typical of the album’s relaxed vein, as Yuval Cohen’s soprano sax brightly expounds on Erev’s compositional mastery; and Jumping in the Water‘s memorable, chromatically-descending melodies possess a quiet sophistication – a fine, sonorous groove from Erev and bassist Magen, illuminated by Dobrecky’s glistening percussion. In trio format, the pianist’s writing is at least as inviting – gently-waltzing title track Flow pictorialises the album art/theme so clearly, and the subtle, tripping audacity of Erev’s modal explorations are a joy.

Amongst the pleasant fluidity of such tracks, it’s these details which catch the ear. What the Heart Sees resembles a much-loved standard, with Erev and Cohen each elaborating on its gently balladic melody; the delicate instrumental interplay in Debora Gurgel’s Domingo, across six minutes, is exquisite (Magen’s buoyant, cantabile momentum a noticeable feature); and the soprano tune in Treasures in Havana‘s cool, lilting, Cuban bossa is just as easily imaginable with tender, vocalised lyrics.

Latin Currents swirls and eddies excitedly to its vibrant sax and percussion animation; unexpectedly Mexican-tinged Gan Ha-Shikmim (The Sycamore Garden) – an old Israeli song – finds Erev as eloquent as ever in lush chordal sequences and whispy, high piano extemporisation; Continuance‘s bouncing, unison piano-and-bass riffs are airily optimistic; and the clarity of Erev’s arrangement of Fred Hersch’s Endless Stars, which closes the album, encapsulates the convivial atmospheres to be found across these sixty-eight minutes of joyous music.

Flow certainly seems to catch the summertime mood with finesse. Available as a digital download from Bandcamp and iTunes, or as CD from Amazon, CD Baby, etc.

 

Ari Erev piano
Eli Magen double bass
Ron Almog drums
with
Yuval Cohen soprano sax (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10)
Gilad Dobrecky percussion (tracks 1, 3, 5 and 10)

arierev.com

Acum – 889211-66857-1 (2016)

‘Twentysix Three’ – Aldevis Tibaldi, London Jazz Ensemble

Aldevis

THE COOL VERVE of Twentysix Three – a new sextet release from Italian saxophonist, composer and arranger Aldevis Tibaldi – is defined by a live studio spontaneity which harks back to classic recordings of the ’50s and ’60s.

Each of these twelve tracks (mostly originals, plus a clutch of arrangements) was captured in a single take on analogue equipment, bringing distinctive warmth and immediacy to this full and vibrant session. Based in London since 2004, Tibaldi boasts an eclectic CV, taking in rock, pop, fusion, world music and theatre – but here his heart is firmly set on an attractive, traditional approach to jazz in collaboration with the similarly high-spirited London Jazz Ensemble: John Eacott (trumpet, flugelhorn), Paul Taylor (trombone), Liam Dunachie (piano), Richard Sadler (double bass) and Chris Gale (drums).

Just a few bars of opener Hunting Goose are sufficient enticement, its honest, buoyant piano/bass/drums groove prompting paired trumpet and sax phrases, swaggering, muted trombone and the leader’s own sumptuous tenor extemporisations; and with pensive title track Twentysix Three following, Tibaldi’s compositional expertise becomes increasingly evident. Do Not Panic‘s lucidity (even though a trio outing) evokes a golden, late-’50s/early-’60s era of Dave Brubeck (Time Out/Time Further Out), as chirpy soprano sax melodies skip over the shuffling bass and drums of Richard Sadler and Chris Gale, whilst the full-on sextet fervour of A Gardenia in Dean Street is maintained by bright soloing and imaginative, lively groupings – and Liam Dunachie’s constant pianistic flair here, over the relentless rhythmic drive, is a joy.

At over an hour’s duration, this is an album which exudes jazz-club ‘feel good’, Dinner Jacket‘s strolling 12-bar ease reminiscent of late-night Oscar Peterson – especially with Dunachie’s considered, breathable piano touch, plus Tibaldi’s soft, Getzian lyricism – whilst the soft bed of airy, lilting bossa La Lunga Notte affords the saxophonist’s soprano particular freedom amongst rich horn clusters (and all so delectable). The leader’s tenor on this recording is especially attractive, even his bubbling improvisations possessing a warm richness – something demonstrated so well in Night Bus, a bristling excursion also featuring John Eacott’s fabulously fluid flugel passages which easily recall Freddie Hubbard.

Charles Mingus’ Weird Nightmare feels bluesy, and perhaps less creepy than the original, though soprano sax, malleted cymbals and mobile bass retain its mystery; and Tibaldi’s almost ‘trad jazz’ quickie Barrel Tree (sitting so well within this album’s final cluster of arrangements) resounds to gutsy trombone and raucous horn phrases. Like some slow, New Orleansean funeral march, Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy lurches markedly before Tibaldi embarks on one of his most satisfying tenor solos of the session – gritty, soaring, squeaking, tumbling, yet always melodic; and Paul Taylor ups the ante with deeply sneering wah-wah trombone – utterly wonderful! To close, the limpid sentimentality of Daniele Luttazzi’s Mi Place is beautifully measured; and Thelonious Monk’s typically brash We See is reimagined for trio, Tibaldi’s clipped soprano seemingly jesting with playful bass and drums.

Twentysix Three is pretty ‘unputdownable’, both in terms of its solid reference to tradition and the consistent joie de vivre displayed in these varied, single-take performances.

Released on 25 March 2016, the album is available in various formats from Galetone Records or directly, as CD, from Aldevis’ website.

 

Aldevis Tibaldi soprano and tenor saxophones
London Jazz Ensemble:
John Eacott trumpet, flugelhorn
Paul Taylor trombone
Liam Dunachie piano
Richard Sadler double bass
Chris Gale drums

aldevis.com

Galetone Records – GALETCD263 (2016)

‘Crimson!’ – Delta Saxophone Quartet with Gwilym Simcock

Crimson!

THE VERY THOUGHT might well make prog rock fans see red… but the connections with and reinterpretations of King Crimson in new piano and saxophone quartet work Crimson! are not as distant, nor as incongruous, as you may first imagine.

Delta Saxophone Quartet are immersed in commissioned, contemporary classical environments which include the typically propulsive music of Steve Martland, Steve Reich and Gavin Bryars, as well as the work of jazz composers such as Mike Westbrook; and they have previously arranged and recorded Soft Machine (their Aubade and Tale of Taliesin transcriptions – from original 1976 album Softs – are especially fascinating). But a chance encounter between pianist Gwilym Simcock and Delta’s baritone saxophonist Chris Caldwell (at the home ground of Stoke City FC, beloved of both musicians) netted this new project centred around seminal prog band King Crimson’s albums Starless and Bible Black, THRAK and Beat. A notable link for Simcock is that he joined the line-up of ex-Crimson drummer Bill Bruford’s Earthworks project, which included saxophonist Tim Garland (and I recall a live gig which certainly threw the pianist’s fledgling career into the spotlight).

So, how does a saxophone quartet (not just any old sax quartet, I might add) and a jazz pianist adapt, say, the dry vocals and punchy electric bass playing of John Wetton and specific guitar/electronics style of maestro Robert Fripp? Well, it’s quite a revelation, especially when it’s accepted that this is not a straight covers album – far from it. Recognising the powerful, unrelenting riffs and restless, dark colours associated with King Crimson, Gwilym set about identifying pieces which might best translate into this new arena, for quartet with or without piano, choosing to reimagine rather than copy. The key to its success has to be the combined vigour of all five players: Delta for their precision and dynamism; Simcock for his characteristically percussive, rhythmic energy across the piano keyboard.

As a prelude to five expansive arrangements, Simcock’s own A Kind of Red folds lyrical beauty and sprightliness into driving momentum, with upwardly spiralling soprano sax and leaping piano grooves cavorting together across lithe chordal sax textures (the writer alludes to the challenge of writing for only “four notes at any one time”); a masterly piece of contrapuntal composition thrown into sharp focus when the horns go it alone. Hitting the ground running, with recognisable shadowy mystery, Vrooom and Coda: Marine 475 swap the menacing Belew/Levin electric guitar/bass landscape for baritone-throbbing promenading and Simcock’s jazz inflections (with even a whiff of Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk); and the original wistful vocals of The Night Watch are translated into lush sax harmonies and buoyant piano, shifting in so many directions.

Dinosaur possesses an audacious swagger (Simcock particularly bluesy), as opposed to the urgent siren-like drive of the original, and portrays its central serenity quite magically; and Two Hands, quietly popping to mechanical sax ‘percussion’, feels so lyrically far-removed from Crimson territory, yet owns a delightful jazz delicacy. To close, perhaps the show-stopper – Starless and Bible Black‘s unmistakable The Great Deceiver at full tilt, reinterpreting the familiar ’70s electric riff and vocal with panache. OK, it’ll never replace the original, but that’s not the intention – its Crimsonesque verve, wailing sax improv and pianistic sparkle are infectious.

Whether or not you were ‘there’ through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Crimson! is a stylish and rattlingly good experience. Released on Basho Records on 26 February 2016, the album can be purchased from Jazz CDs.

 

Delta Saxophone Quartet:
Graeme Blevins soprano saxophone
Pete Whyman alto saxophone
Tim Holmes tenor saxophone
Chris Caldwell baritone saxophone
with
Gwilym Simcock pianoforte

deltasax.com
gwilymsimcock.com

Basho Records – SRCD 50-2 (2016)

 

‘Notes Are But Wind’ – Dino Betti van der Noot

NotesAreButWind

DINO BETTI VAN DER NOOT certainly likes to think big!

A name perhaps unfamiliar to UK audiences, the veteran Italian composer and bandleader has made his mark, especially over the last decade, with a string of bold orchestral jazz releases (most recently 2011’s September’s New Moon and 2013’s Stuff Dreams Are Made On) which might best be compared to the work of Gil Evans or Gunther Schuller.

For latest album Notes Are But Wind, he quotes a line from Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ – “A man may break a word with you, sir, and words are but wind” – to convey the notion of a cause disappearing without trace, yet the effect left either visible or as a vivid memory. The concept is vaguely symphonic in its compositional scale – a twenty-piece orchestra (predominantly brass and reeds) interpreting van der Noot’s five expansive, individually titled movements across a full hour; and the composer has specifically sought to integrate the sounds of different ages and cultures by giving improvisational freedom to instruments including the clarsach harp (of Medieval Gaelic association), the dizi (a Chinese transverse flute), didgeridoo and jazz violin.

Though contemporary jazz audiences may be less attuned to such breadth, Dino Betti’s imaginings throughout this recording are arguably his most accessible yet. He frequently elicits the high drama of theatrical or movie soundtracks through the dynamism of his orchestra, evidenced in title track Notes Are But Wind, whose mysterious, breathy dizi tones herald gritty, chromatic violin extemporisations over a solid battery of horns. The extent of van der Noot’s seemingly through-composed music (this opener at fifteen minutes’ length) clearly provides space for open contemplation as well as biting, electric bass-driven excitation – and the fluctuation of moods here may well imply that earlier ’cause and effect’ reference. Often there are protracted meanderings around a theme, creating shifting atmospheres and textures (as opposed to complex, changing rhythms and melodies); but, nevertheless, the detail in the arrangements can be entrancing.

A synthy backwash introduces Memories from a Silent Nebula (developed from a composition of 1987, inspired by a fragment of a Gregorian Magnificat), its amorphous, mystical timbres building to big band grandeur overlayed with cacophonous free jazz improvisation; and whilst brash In the Deep Bosom of the Ocean could easily resemble the revelry of New Orleans street jazz, its mournful fanfare and discordant disintegration is intended to highlight the plight of Mediterranean refugees seeking a better life (a comparison which seems slightly at odds with the arrangement’s exhilaration – but perhaps that’s the point).

The brassy ebullience of Midwinter Sunshine (another 1987 reworking) is infectious, as blistering trombone, trumpet and sax solos, buoyed by clanging percussion and vibes, feasibly evoke bustling cityscapes – likely to be one of the most dazzling, frenetic, full-on episodes you’ll hear all year! To close, a heartfelt tribute to Italian pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini, who passed away in 2014 – a piece whose sorrowful ruminations might hint at Philip Glass’s ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ symphonies, evolving into a triumphal climax heightened by wide violin portamenti/glissandi before a suitably reverential departure.

Voted ‘Italian Album of the Year 2015′ in Musica Jazz magazine’s annual critics’ poll, Notes Are But Wind possesses a grand and distinctive jazz spirit which is difficult to ignore.

Available from online retailers, including StradivariusAmazon and iTunes.

 

Dino Betti van der Noot director, composer

The orchestra:
Gianpiero LoBello, Alberto Mandarini, Daniele Moretto, Alberto Capra trumpets, flugelhorns
Luca Begonia, Stefano Calcagno, Enrico Allevena trombones
Gianfranco Marchesi bass trombone
Sandro Cerino dizi, flute, alto flute, didgeridoo, bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Francesco Bianchi clarinet, alto saxophone
Giulio Visibelli flute, alto flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Claudio Tripoli flute, tenor saxophone
Gilberto Tarocco alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone
Luca Gusella vibraphone
Emanuele Parrini violin
Niccolò Cattaneo keyboards
Vincenzo Zitello clarsach harp
Gianluca Alberti electric bass
Stefano Bertoli, Tiziano Tononi drums, percussion

Stradivarius – STR 57915 (2015)