‘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)

‘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)

 

‘Hon’ – Huw V Williams

Hon

This…… THIIIIIIISSSS [waves CD sleeve]…… is worth your attention!

Hon (the Welsh translation of ‘This’, inspired by a somewhat abrasive poem of the same name by T H Parry-Williams) is the striking debut album from double bassist and composer Huw V Williams; a contemporary jazz release whose brash delivery and left-field instrumental sparkle catches the ear and won’t let go.

Hailing from Bangor, North Wales (on the beautiful Menai Straits), and a 2012 graduate of the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama (first class honours), Williams relocated to London to embark on his career. And now, teaming up with the irrepressible jazz energy of Laura Jurd (trumpet), Alam Nathoo (tenor sax), Elliot Galvin (accordion, piano) and Pete Ibbetson (drums), the bassist unleashes a quintet recording of original material defined by unfettered invention and clamorous beauty. In fact, he declares his enthusiasm for this music, describing it as emanating from “the mixing pot of all your history, so this is just as much about a teenage rock phase in North Wales as a mid-twenties free jazz phase in London.”

Recorded on the periphery of Snowdonia, the eight studio tracks of Hon transmit a certain wild freedom. From the crackle of Skardu’s Missing, with its mischievous trumpet and tenor phrases and dissonant shards of prepared piano, to 06/01/14‘s anarchic, undulating bass landscape (almost electric in its execution), there are surprises around each corner (including elephantine shrieks from Jurd’s bell and typically boisterous, percussive crashes from Pete Ibbetson). Elliot Galvin’s individualistic piano imprint on the UK jazz scene has been a breath of fresh air; yet it’s that same oblique approach to accordion, here, which colours this line-up so differently, offering glissandi, sustained chordal meshes and impertinent solo lines throughout fast-walking-bass Slumps.

Rotten Apple Boughs‘ trumpet-and-accordion melancholy (almost New Orleansean, at times, in its inebriated, flutter-tongued abandon) is perpetuated by dark-clouded unrestraint in the form of jangling percussion, intense bass and mysterious accordion; and retro-detective soundtrack Mugs babbles its way through a relatively simple motif, the solid rock propulsion crescendoing up through saturated waves of wonderful, tenor-screeching mayhem. The deeply-beaten groove of title track Hon is cleverly built out of Williams’ intertwined electronic crackling and harmonic arco bell peals, opening into a rollicking episode which pulsates with horns and tremulant Hammond; and it’s to be hoped that the disembodied clunks and scrapes of Retrogressive Shredfest – five minutes stuffed full of fascinating, unpredictable shocks – don’t turn up on your iPod Shuffle as you walk the Llanberis Pass after dark!

Bonus trio track, Glyn – an 11-minute live recording from Brecon Jazz Festival (video here) – features acclaimed North Wales pianist/composer and Williams’ longtime mentor Huw Warren (also producer of this album). With Jim Black’s impressive density at the drums, it’s a smouldering, building anthem which showcases the bassist’s particularly resonant, improvisational technique – and a towering conclusion to a box of continually unfurling delights.

Released on the Chaos Collective label on 26 February 2016, Hon is available as CD or high quality download at Bandcamp.

 

Huw V Williams double bass
Laura Jurd trumpet
Alam Nathoo tenor saxophone
Elliot Galvin accordion, piano
Peter Ibbetson drums
with
Huw Warren piano (bonus track)
Jim Black drums (bonus track)

huwvwilliams.com

Chaos Collective – CC005 (2016)

‘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)

‘Stardust’ – Stan Sulzmann, Nikki Iles

Stardust

IN MANY WAYS – and in the right, focused moment – the carefree eloquence and clear conversational flow of new duo album Stardust speaks volumes about the absolute empathy and trust shared by two stellar British jazz performers.

Career highlights, to date, of saxophonist Stan Sulzmann and longtime friend and colleague pianist Nikki Iles might keep you Googling and scrolling for some time. But here, all of that glittering experience is channelled into the most intimate of musical environments – an unadorned, hour-plus dialogue between tenor sax and piano. And it’s beautiful.

Sulzmann and Iles each offer one original work, with their compositional ‘guests’ including Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin, Burt Bacharach; and, above all, it’s the improvisational and harmonic elegance – frequently illuminating familiar, timeless melodies across acres of space – which is to be revelled in.

Classic Body & Soul is wonderfully luxurious here, with Stan’s rich tenor momentarily having us believe he’s also picked up alto or clarinet, such is the diversity of his range and timbres. Gershwin’s impassioned, drawling My Man’s Gone Now (from Porgy & Bess) is translated into a more measured blues as Sulzmann’s extemporisations cascade down through Iles’ delicious major/minor chords, characteristic sequences of fourths and delicate high lines; and initially echoing the restrained wistfulness of Bill Evans, Young and Foolish increasingly sparkles to Stan’s mellifluous tenor invention, as does the irrepressible optimism of I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry (away from the sentimentality of its Sinatra/Riddle association). And this nine-track treasury can also dance, with Jerome Kern’s Nobody Else But Me putting on a sprightly, swinging show.

Sulzmann’s references to Evans’ Some Other Time and Peace Piece can be heard in Nikki’s Corner – an affectionate, buoyant tribute to his pianist; and Iles reciprocates with Under The Canopy (from The Printmakers’ Westerly release of 2015), its warm, falling and rising melodies inviting Sulzmann to glide broadly and effortlessly across the pianist’s gentlest of samba rhythms. A perhaps lesser-known Bacharach tune, You’ll Never Get To Heaven, unveils its lyrical beauty with an especially limpid piano interlude; and the concluding title track arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael couldn’t be more lucid, delicate or assured.

Stardust is not so much a meteor shower spectacular, but rather a delightfully reassuring, crystal-encrusted, dark-sky panoply. And as you fix your attention, it magically reveals subtler, coruscating constellations.

Released on 25 January 2016. Available from Jellymould Jazz, record stores and online retailers.

 

Stan Sulzmann tenor saxophone
Nikki Iles piano

stansulzmann.co.uk
nikkiiles.co.uk

Jellymould Jazz – JM-JJ020 (2015)