REVIEW: ‘Perihelion’ – Guido Spannocchi

COOL AS YOU LIKE, Viennese alto saxophonist Guido Spannocchi’s Perihelion (a title referencing the position in the orbit of a planet where it’s nearest to the sun) has ‘summer’ written all over it!

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 14 May 2021, Perihelion is available from Audioguido Records.

 

Jay Phelps trumpet
Guido Spannocchi alto saxophone
Sylvie Leys tenor saxophone
Robert Mitchell Wurlitzer, piano
Michelangelo Scandroolio double bass
Tristan Banks drums

Composed, arranged and produced by Guido Spannocchi

audioguido.com

Audioguido Records (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Pendulums’ – Andrew Woodhead

SUBTITLED Music for bellringers, improvisers & electronics, Andrew Woodhead’s Pendulums delivers, without doubt, one of the more unexpected and intriguing releases of the year – something which a random dive into its chiming and full-bodied complexities confirms.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 11 June 2021, available as CD, vinyl or digital download at Bandcamp.

 

Sam Wooster trumpet
Charlotte Keeffe trumpet
Sam Andreae alto saxophone
Lee Griffiths alto saxophone
Helen Pappioannou baritone saxophone
Alicia Gardener-Trejo baritone saxophone
Andrew Woodhead live electronics, compositions

Bellringers:
Tony Daw, Jonathan Thorne, Matthew King, Alex Frye
Graham Kelly, Ros Martin, Angie Wakefield, Richard Grimmett

Videos: Tolls/Waves, Changes

andrewwoodheadmusic.com

Leker – LEKCD001, LEKLP001 (2020)

REVIEW: ‘Hi Res Heart’ – Archer / Keeffe / Pyne

THE RESOURCEFULNESS and technical achievement in this trio recording, alone, tell an impressive tale. But, much more than that, the lockdown-enforced concept of collaborating at distance (due to the global pandemic) to shape a seamless melting pot of musical creativity has produced an enthralling home-studio performance of composed/free jazz.

Hi Res Heart is the collective work of saxophonist/woodwind player Martin Archer, trumpeter/flugelhornist Charlotte Keeffe and vibraphonist/percussionist Martin Pyne; and both the ingenuity of their experimental process and the resultant dialogue is quite remarkable. All twelve tracks are listed with a three-character code (e.g. a – p – k) which identifies their remote order of construction (in this case, Archer – Pyne – Keeffe), with each trio member writing and recording the foundations of four pieces. These are then elaborated on and completed by the remaining two players, in different sequences and layers. The breadth of the soundscapes is fascinating, not least because each instrumentalist brings to the project their own experiences and interests – for instance, Martin Archer specifically draws inspiration from the masters of the black 1970s American avant-garde scene (an area in which he says he feels like he is writing and playing his very best).

These 65 minutes feel very much a personal expedition for musicians and listener alike, their multifaceted evolution sure to elicit a multitude of responses. To the uninitiated, the oblique freedom at the heart of this album may initially seem bewildering, perhaps even cacophonous – and, at times, they wouldn’t be far wrong! But to listen closely and emotionally interact with it is experientially satisfying, only in a quite different sense to more straight-ahead jazz. From the rambunctious clamour of Silena’s Fire, through the almost New Orleansian stomp of Keeffe’s G.E.M. and sassy, percussive resonance of big-band-style Seduction Dance, to inebriated, comedic Jean, the trio build compelling, unpredictable mélanges of timbres and rhythms.

Raw, bluesy riffs and japes in Looking for Gene bring to mind Blakey Ridge’s famed Back Door, though threaded with fidgety vibraphone improvisations; and the ‘noir’ mood of June is disconcertingly peppered with abstract trumpet (often forced through the mouthpiece), toy piano and reedy, melodramatic phrases. Pyne’s Earth Memory takes on an eastern flavour, its descending and chromatic melodies hypnotically buoyed by his perpetual undercurrent of strong, weltering rhythms, while Sleep Uneasy’s didgeridoo-style drones, sputtering ‘duck calls’ and misterioso flute certainly wouldn’t provide the ideal background to slumber!

Over eleven minutes, Archer’s Song for Bobby Naughton interlaces tenor sax, bass clarinet and muted trumpet in a markedly free and pensive progression, the saxophonist’s rich extemporisations partnering well with Pyne’s sustained, chiming vibraphone. The brief, brash plod of The Story in the Mirror and cartoonish squeal of Tommy (both of which momentarily try their hand at swing) are irresistibly fun, while closing Dolly Grip disjointedly sallies back and forth with jocular high trumpet utterances, reedy interjections and erratic percussion towards a frenzied B movie conclusion.

Martin Archer references US trumpeter Leo Smith’s trio of the late 1970s (with Dwight Andrews and Bobby Naughton) in terms of matching its instrumentation. But considering music’s development in the forty-plus years since, and the unique, combined influences on Archer / Keeffe / Pyne, it doesn’t feel outrageous to suggest Hi Res Heart offers an even greater attraction. That they produced it all ‘down the wire‘ seals it.

Released on 4 May 2021 and available as CD or download from Discus Music or Bandcamp.

 

Martin Archer sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass harmonica, flute, electronics
Charlotte Keeffe trumpet, flugelhorn
Martin Pyne vibraphone, drum set, percussion, toy piano

Cover art by Silena

Discus Music – 108CD (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Cwmwl Tystion / Witness’ – Cwmwl Tystion / Witness

THE IDENTITY and landscape of Wales is steeped in historical, political and cultural significance, something which composer and trumpeter Tomos Williams seeks to explore and interpret through his experimental project Cwmwl Tystion (‘Witness’ or, literally, ‘Cloud of Witnesses’, quoted from 20th century poet Waldo Williams’ ‘What is Man?’).

Cardiff-based Tomos Williams also leads folk/jazz outfit Burum and ‘Indo-Welsh’ band Khamira; but this more exploratory, frequently free-jazz suite stems from his desire to “create a piece that both celebrated and questioned the idea of Welshness and referenced notable events in Welsh history.” The democratically-spirited sextet – with Francesca Simmons (violin, saw), Rhodri Davies (harp, electronics), Huw V Williams (bass) and Mark O’Connor (drums) – also features acclaimed pianist Huw Warren; and for this live recording, captured both in Swansea and London, the performances were accompanied by the animated visuals of Simon Proffitt.

Seven movements indeed identify specific inspirations from Williams’ homeland, opening with a suitably expansive depiction of Mynyddoedd Cymru (Mountains of Wales). From rugged Snowdonia in the north to the vast, southerly sprawl of the Brecon Beacons, the majesty of Wales’ geographical wonders is illustrated through austere, ascending motifs and fierce, whirling, climatic expressions. Across more than twenty minutes, its episodic breadth and saturation is initially whelming – yet the relentless progression can also be breathtaking, its many textures including Rhodri Davies’ Jimmy Page-like electronically-manipulated harp. Welsh folk tune Glyn Tawe is beautifully interpreted by violin and piano – a plaintive melody, heard on the wind, that brings to mind Sir Edward Elgar’s useful, distant-song encounter in Llangranog – but it also seems to have a troubled soul (Elgar again!), Francesca Simmons’ ‘flattened’ string improvisations so gorgeously bittersweet.

The fascinating and well-documented connection of popular African-American baritone Paul Robeson with Welsh mining communities is remembered in Paul Robeson ac Eisteddfod y Glowyr 1957 (Paul Robeson and the Miners’ Eisteddfod 1957). This brashly jazz-swinging commemoration vigorously flashes with harp and piano, and the effect of a classic horn section from the duality of trumpet and violin is quite something. The anger of Llyfrau Gleision 1847 (the disparaging 19th century enquiry into the state of education in Wales) is communicated through urgent rhythms, crashing ‘guitar’, impassioned trumpet improv and the curious waver of a saw, while Huw Warren‘s unbridled mastery (both inside and outside the piano frame) is just glorious.

Quoting a triad of Welsh folk songs, the restless angst of Pa Beth yw Cenedl? (What is a Nation?) develops apace, Warren’s intense soloing white-hot against the throng of thrashing percussion and tumultuous bass. Tryweryn 1965 recalls the controversial flooding of valley village Capel Celyn to create a reservoir for Liverpool’s water supply, sparking huge local and political unrest, now belied by its quiet beauty. Williams illustrates these contrasts with sparky, disoriented figures and an elegant though wistful violin tune. Closing Pa Beth yw Dyn? (What is Man?) – the source of the project’s title – transforms discordancy into a verdant, straightahead-jazz celebration of Cymru, dominated by Huw Warren’s elegant pianism.

Peeling back the layers of this performance – excellently recorded, live – and either learning of or reacquainting oneself with the extraordinary history and breathtaking landscape of this nation, the creativity of Tomos Williams and his sextet becomes increasingly meaningful. A truly effective and important melding of message and music.

Released on 5 March 2021, Cwmwl Tystion / Witness is available from tycerddshop.com, iTunes and Amazon.

Tomos Williams trumpet, compositions
Francesca Simmons violin, saw
Rhodri Davies harp, electronics
Huw Warren piano
Huw V Williams bass
Mark O’Connor drums
with
Simon Proffitt live visuals

Videos: Mynyddoedd Cymru and Tryweryn 1965

Introductory YouTube video
Tomos Williams at khamira.net
tycerdd.org

Tŷ Cerdd Records – TCR029 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘The New Cool’ – David Helbock

DAVID HELBOCK is clearly a guy who is difficult to pigeonhole, his Random Control Trio project, for example, often involving a complex array of instruments on stage to present his own music and almost comedic reinterpretations at the edge of unpredictability.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 26 March 2021 and available in CD and vinyl formats at ACT Music.

 

David Helbock piano
Sebastian Studnitzky trumpet
Arne Jansen guitar

Cover art: Violet Blue Monk – Ugo Rondinone, painted cast bronze, 2020

davidhelbock.com

ACT Music – 9927-2 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Uma Elmo’ – Jakob Bro, Arve Henriksen, Jorge Rossy

SLOW-BURNING, ruminative, even introspective, Uma Elmo is an intriguing new collaboration between electric guitarist Jakob Bro, trumpeter Arve Henriksen and drummer Jorge Rossy.

Danish-born Bro’s original compositions are true to the elevated spirit of ECM Records, this being his fifth album as leader for the label. Recorded in the late summer of 2020, when the increasing tremors of a virus-torn world had already begun to shake the foundations of artists’ livelihoods, this esteemed trio entered the studio with respected engineer Stefano Amerio to produce an hour of both abstract and melodic sounds which, Bro says, reflect (as always) what is going on around them. The album title doesn’t require translation – it’s simply derived from the middle names of the guitarist’s two young children, with much of this music apparently composed around his newborn son’s naps.

The name of Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen is familiar to many through ECM recordings which have included his own Cartography (2008) as well those of Tigran Hamasyan, Trygve Seim and Trio Mediaeval; and Spanish drummer Jorge Rossy has worked with a long catalogue of jazz luminaries such as Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and Wayne Shorter. Bro himself formerly played in Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band and was a member of Tomasz Stanko’s Dark Eyes Quintet.

It’s fair to say that these shifting, minimal landscapes won’t realise their potential if only allowed cursory attention. Conscious immersion is key to the listening experience – and then the effect, though low in dynamic or compositional variance, progressively rewarding.

Reconstructing a Dream (previously recorded many years ago with Paul Motian) heralds the focused landscapes the trio inhabit in a shadowy, sustained episode. Reminiscent at times of Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Part 1)’,  it develops texturally and dynamically, Henriksen’s simple improvisations becoming more complex over turbulent drumming and overdriven guitar and electronics. To Stanko, dedicated to the late Polish trumpeter, finds the guitarist’s clear, lapping accompaniment (redolent of ‘Spanish Romance’ – Sor, et al.) wistfully supporting Henriksen’s dry, breathy improvisations; and Rossy’s sparse colouring around the kit is especially effective.

The more one listens, the more the detail emerges. Beautiful Day’s gong-like effects and tunnelled echoes underpin busy percussion as Henriksen’s inquisitive and increasingly agitated lines explore a piece which curiously belies its title. In Morning Song, an aubade of gently burbling electronics and cymbals uplift soft, sunrise trumpet and guitar melodies that attractively rise and then fall to earth (its later variation, though, appears so subtle that a more contrasting take would have been welcome). Across eleven-minute Housework, Arve Henriksen’s effected, rasping trumpet produces low-register impressions reminiscent of the baritone sax of John Surman before its pellucid ‘after the rain’ atmospheres are suffused with heavier, prog-style guitar.

In spacial Music for Black Pigeons (titled by and dedicated to the memory of another of Bro’s musical associates, saxophonist Lee Konitz), Henriksen’s high, muted melodies possess a beguiling vocal quality, their electronically intervallic mystery also suggesting Debussy’s ‘Syrinx’. Sound Flower slowly unfurls to Bro’s calmative, rippling guitar effects, its sense of measured expectation highlighted by cymbal flashes and aspirational trumpet phrases; and Henriksen’s beautiful, melodic falling pairs in Slaraffenland (again associated with Paul Motian) offer a freeform mood of fragile optimism.

Expressing that hope, the quietly persuasive meanderings of Bro, Henriksen and Rossy can be a balm to the soul – if given space and time.

Released on 19 February 2021, Uma Elmo is available from ECM Records and Proper Music.

 

Jakob Bro guitar
Arve Henriksen trumpet, piccolo trumpet
Jorge Rossy drums

jakobbro.com
arvehenriksen.com
jorgerossy.com

ECM Records – ECM 2702 (2021)