‘A Magic Life’ – Alison Rayner Quintet

arq

A CELEBRATION of life itself, British double bassist and composer Alison Rayner’s second quintet album was, she recounts, inspired by two happenings: “…the loss of a friend last year, who wrote her own epitaph about how magic her life had been; then a chance encounter with a young boy, who asked me ‘Is music stronger than magic?’ I replied, ‘To me, music is a merging of magic and logic.’ These events set me on a course of thinking about connections between memory, mortality, magic – and music.”

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Alison Rayner double bass
Buster Birch drums, percussion
Deirdre Cartwright guitar
Diane McLoughlin tenor and soprano saxophones
Steve Lodder piano

blowthefuse.com

Blow the Fuse Records – BTF1613CD (2016)

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‘While We Still Can’ – Johnny Hunter Quartet

WhileWeStillCan

JOHNNY HUNTER is featuring with increasing prominence across North West England’s jazz scene… and for very good reason. The drummer/composer contributes to a number of mainstream and avant garde bands – especially in Manchester and Liverpool – including Blind Monk Trio, Marley Chingus and his own reggae/dub sextet Skamel, as well as working with artists such as Adam Fairhall, Martin Archer and Nat Birchall.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available, as CD or download, from Bandcamp.

 

Johnny Hunter drums, compositions
Ben Watte tenor saxophone
Graham South trumpet
Stewart Wilson double bass

Illustration by Angela Guyton

Efpi Records – FP024 (2016)

‘The Hidden Notes – Spirit of Adventure’ – John Martin

JohnMartin

CHARTING the lesser-known seas of saxophone multiphonics, this 2CD quintet release from John Martin is defined by its title – a spirited voyage of adventure in search of ‘the hidden notes’.

Martin explains that, around ten years ago whilst practicing, he discovered that the tenor sax had the potential to produce multiple overtones and textures; and for the past few years, he has set out to explore jazz in this context, developing a system to tempt out these “rather shy and often badly behaved notes.” Joining him on this recording are Ralph Wyld (vibraphone), Rob Updegraff (electric guitar), Tim Fairhall (double bass) and Tim Giles (drums).

Over ninety minutes, the vibe is of accessible post-bop jazz – yet, as with any expedition into unfamiliar territory, it can take a while to settle into the newness of the polyphonic experience. So the saxophone delivery might initially be difficult to fathom, as these ‘three-dimensional’ sounds are coaxed out of the instrument, with some more effective than others (first reactions, in places, might incorrectly suggest a lack of technique!). But Martin goes all out for experimentation, injecting his ten original compositions (plus three preludes) and otherwise full, clear, instrumental timbre with surprising piquancy.

Both the writing and the performances throughout are slick, the broad expanse of many of the tracks appearing to create an openness amongst the five musicians. The opening theme of Heptopia, for example, is so melodically warm, riding the gentle waves of Rob Updegraff’s luscious chords and Ralph Wyld’s bejewelled vibraphone; and often – as here and in Spirit of Adventure – this combination creates the kind of sweet repetition enjoyed in the music of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong or even Steve Reich. There’s much to excite, from Tick Tock‘s perky buoyancy, threaded with individual improv artistry, to swinging Folklore and Giant’s Stomp, both shot through with Martin’s gruff, harmonic clusters and richly-phrased soloing.

Pentacision – a sixteen-minute odyssey in two parts – ripples with episode after episode, as if traversing oceanic swells and reaching contrasting, breezeless conditions (the tricksy time signature riffs are pleasingly memorable). Eddies features more of Martin’s hypnotic riffs, which are especially effective here as the crescendoing and decrescendoing overtone patterns almost suggest a Doppler shift; and the joyous swing of The Optimistic Pessimist, bookended by more extreme tonal caws, is enriched by the saxophonist’s careful, melodic use of his system.

Employing an individual technique which might easily have been the ‘elephant in the studio’, John Martin’s release is full of engaging, jazz vibrancy – an expansive journey spangled with unexpected musical glints and refractions. A beautiful, dreamlike cover illustration, too, from Ellen Tovey.

The Hidden Notes – Spirit of Adventure is available from F-IRE.com and John Martin’s website. More information at thehiddennotes.com.

 

John Martin tenor saxophone
Rob Updegraff electric guitar
Ralph Wyld vibraphone
Tim Fairhall double bass
Tim Giles drums

Illustration by Ellen Tovey

thehiddennotes.com
johnnoblemartin.com

F-IRE Presents – F-IRE CD 92 (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)

‘Sun Blowing’ – Danielsson Neset Lund

Sun Blowing

SUN BLOWING is an album which quite simply screams (or whispers) empathy, communication and extreme musicality. Recorded live in the studio within six hours, mostly as first takes and with minimal post-production intervention, this beautifully captured moment in time is the work of three masters of their craft – Marius Neset (tenor saxophone), Lars Danielsson (double bass) and Morten Lund (drums).

Born out of a three-way conversation on a train and the subsequent offer of a free day in Copenhagen’s Millfactory Studios, despite having never played together as a trio, Lund explains his fundamental reasoning for this project: “The saxophone/bass/drums trio gives space and freedom. I felt that the three of us had the same passion for trusting the moment.” So, with an agreement to proceed “with as little preparation as possible” – and an invitation to ACT Music’s MD, Siggi Loch, to record the session – it now stands as a fascinating record of their encounter.

Saxophonist Neset is, by instrumental nature, chief melodicist here – and his own albums over the past few years (including Birds, Lion and Pinball) have chronicled the extraordinary, upward trajectory of his relatively early career. But, importantly, this is an entirely democratic coming-together, typified by Lars Danielsson’s single-take opener Little Jump which, with its relentless, bluesy swing, apparently set the tone for all that was to follow.

Title track Sun Blowing‘s simmering, Bachian overtones are gently carried on an echoic mist, and Morten Lund’s folksong-like Up North dances to his vigorous percussion as Neset and Danielsson overflow with babbling enthusiasm. Neset’s penchant for reflecting the vast, open landscapes of his Scandinavian homeland are evident in nine-minute Salme, his unmistakably broad, inflected tenor phrases eventually widening into cascading, descending-bass exuberance before a calm evocation of sundown; and perhaps the trio’s shared musical traditions are evidenced in blithe, airy promenade Folksong.

At this stage, one has to remember that the evolution of these pieces is largely uncontrived, and certainly free-spirited, though Evening Song for B‘s serene, collected majesty never breathes a note of indecision; and Danielsson’s familiar, vocalised bass glides across the merest hint of electronic rebound, as it does in Don Grolnick’s The Cost of Living – another sea of tranquillity which, later, remarkably snaps into choppy, typically hard-pushed tenor from Neset over crackling bass and drum turbulence.

Marius Neset describes this recording’s intentional unpreparedness as being quite different to his usual approach – yet, referring to Danielsson’s sunny, azure-skied Blå, he simply states, “It felt like home.” Succinctly, that is the overriding, oxymoronic pleasure of this album – a natural balance of spontaneous, on-the-edge improvisation characterised by a delicate, secure sense of ‘home’.

Released in the UK on 29 April 2016, Sun Blowing is available from ACT Music.

 

Marius Neset tenor saxophone  mariusneset.info
Lars Danielsson bass  lars-danielsson.com
Morten Lund drums

 

ACT Music – 9821-2 (2016)

‘Sure Will Hold a Boat’ – Graeme Wilson Quartet

GraemeWilson

SURE ENOUGH, it’s a quirky, kite-flying album cover… but the eight-or-so finely tuned ‘tentacles’ behind saxophonist Graeme Wilson’s new quartet release, Sure Will Hold a Boat, deliver over sixty minutes of bubbling, accessible and original contemporary jazz.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

Available from Jazz CDs.

 

Graeme Wilson tenor saxophone
Paul Edis piano
Andy Champion double bass
Adam Sinclair drums

Pleasureland Records – GBWQ002 (2016)

‘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)