‘Finding Home’ – Kate Williams’ Four Plus Three meets Georgia Mancio

‘SECRET, SILENT MOMENTS. Sweet, familiar voices. Colour into colour. Wonder into wonder. Beautiful traces play inside my mind.’

Those words from the coda of Finding Home’s final track, lovingly referencing those who have gone before us, also speak to me of the imaginative approach to this meticulous and poignant collaboration between Kate Williams’ Four Plus Three (the strings of The Guastalla Quartet alongside her piano trio with Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ingamells) and vocalist Georgia Mancio.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 1 June 2019 and available from georgiamancio.com

 

Kate Williams piano, arrangements
Georgia Mancio voice
John Garner violin
Marie Schreer violin – featured on The Key
Francis Gallagher viola
Sergio Serra cello
Oli Hayhurst bass
David Ingamells drums
John Williams guitar – on Caminando, Caminando and We Walk (Slow Dawn)

Illustration by Alban Low

kate-williams-quartet.com
georgiamancio.com

KW Jazz – kwjazz002 (2019)

‘Minor Moments’ (EP) – Laura Zakian

LONDON-BASED JAZZ VOCALIST and educator Laura Zakian has released four solo albums to date, the most recent – 2014’s Songs for Modern Lovers – including in its line-up pianist Steve Lodder, double bassist Simon Thorpe, drummer Nic France and baritone saxophonist Paul Bartholomew. For new project and EP release Minor Moments she returns with that same quartet – but, notably, it marks her creative collaboration with vibraphonist, percussionist and composer Martin Pyne.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 13 May 2019, the EP is available at Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes, etc.

 

Laura Zakian voice, lyrics
Steve Lodder piano
Simon Thorpe bass
Nic France drums
Paul Bartholomew baritone saxophone
Martin Pyne percussion, composition

laurazakian.com
tallguyrecords.com

Tall Guy Records (2019)

‘Variety of Rhythm’ – Samuel Hällkvist

AN ENTICING, evolving experience which exhibits tremors of 1970s progressive formats, exploratory Swedish electric guitarist Samuel Hällkvist returns with immersive instrumental soundscape Variety of Rhythm.

His Variety of Loud and Variety of Live releases, of 2012 and 2015 respectively, revealed a musician with a singularly experimental vision for composition, instrumentation and improvisation; and he continues to garner respect across music’s cross-pollenating rock, electronica and jazz boundaries, from Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and ex-Japan keyboardist Richard Barbieri to trumpeter Yazz Ahmed (who reciprocally invited Hällkvist to appear on her recent release La Saboteuse).

Over the course of this continuous suite of almost 45 minutes, Hällkvist collaborates with a dozen musicians – including renowned US guitarist David Torn – through separately-recorded, differing scales of ensemble (in Japan, Portugal, New York, Paris, Belgium and Scandinavia), drawing mind and soul into a fluctuating landscape of sound which prompts the listener to contribute through their imagination. Hällkvist typically becomes part of the whole, integrating his processed guitar through a labyrinth of industrially cinematic drama, repetitively clanging timbres and almost dystopian sustained resonances – yet rather than creating an abstract mishmash, these carefully-woven ideas and illusions gradually become powerfully compelling, especially once they establish themselves in the psyche.

Timed, named waymarkers offer a clue to a conceptual, rock-solid framework interspersed with improvisational interludes (Hällkvist elaborating on the technical and structural aspects here), though the entirety of the work can easily be appreciated from a purely creative, openly-receptive standpoint. Double Adagio‘s rippling, wailing fuzz-guitar wall is propelled by time-shifting voice-and-glockenspiel-like tones, whereas as the more grungy trudge of nine-minute Tete-a-Tete / Blivet progresses into heavy metal, tinged with Steve Reichian attacca strings and ominously soaring guitar. David Torn’s expansive Huly Marga features his searching low-distorted guitar extemporisations against an electronic landscape reminiscent of Pink Floyd or late EST, whilst the extraordinary cross-rhythmic complexity of The Necker Cube, with oriental overtones, spills into subway-sax frenzy, movie-mystery malleted percussion and climactic, grooving grandeur.

Samuel Hällkvist’s maverick, detoured pathways create intrigue, and might initially overwhelm; but put through a responsive sound system, these three-dimensional worlds render in vivid full colour – the excellent concentric/segmented cover graphic points the way!

Released on 13 October 2017, Variety of Rhythm can be purchased digitally at Bandcamp, and is due to be available in gatefold CD format from Discovery Records and Amazon.

 

Samuel Hällkvist guitar
Dick Lövgren bass
David Torn guitar
Liesbeth Lambrecht violin
Qarin Wikström voice
Knut Finsrud drums
Pete Drungle keys
Yasuhiro Yoshigaki drums
Kumiko Takara mallet percussion
Paulo Chagas sax, flute
Silvia Corda various objects
Adriano Orru bass
Katrine Amsler edit, sound design

Mixed by August Wanngren

samuelhallkvist.com
varietyof.com

BoogiePost Recordings – BPCD024 (2017)

‘Unit[e]’ – Alexander Hawkins (2CD)

Alexander Hawkins —Double CD Digipak-v1.3

BEHIND THAT intensely black, nondescript cover… well, perhaps even the initiated might only hazard a guess at the mercurial ninety minutes of original music presented in this double CD – Unit[e] – from Oxford-based pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins.

Previous albums such as Song Singular, Step Wide, Step Deep and Alexander Hawkins Trio have identified a distinctly explorative musician whose avant garde approach to jazz and improvisation is fed by many influences, suggesting the left-field vociferations of Ornette Coleman or Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and most certainly the classic, genteel swing of Duke Ellington (Hawkins describes The Duke as possibly the most basic element of his DNA). The recording is split into two sessions – the sextet of CD1, [C]ALL; the larger ensemble of CD2, HEAR[T] (personnel listed below) – and Hawkins refers to his use of square brackets in each piece’s title as an intentional ‘add or subtract a letter’ couplet device, for example: [W]here (‘here’ is one answer to ‘where’) and [S]how (‘show’ is one answer to ‘how’).

The seven tracks of [C]ALL find Hawkins’ piano in dialogue with violin, guitar, bass clarinet/tenor sax, double bass and drums – and an overarching reference to jazz tradition seems infused throughout, opening with For the People‘s perpetual, blustering, unison riff which invites Tom Skinner’s excited percussion and Shabaka Hutchings’ characteristic tenor squawks, as well as contrastingly mellow electric guitar lines from Otto Fischer. [C]all (parts 1 and 2) stomp proudly to an unusually beautiful, almost naive dance groove (in the right mood, a wonderfully cacophonous seven minutes to get into); and overlapping instrumental voices in [T]each ruminate freely to Hawkins’ sparky, leaping piano before eventually and quietly admitting defeat. The heritage jazz foundation of Hawkins’ work becomes more prominent in [K]now, where ‘MC’ Otto Fischer delivers his calmative, abstract narrative over an oblique lounge ensemble (the Ellington link accentuated by Hawkins’ delicious, semitonal chords). The fiddle and double bass of Dylan Bates and Neil Charles, in [W]here, introduce searching guitar and bass clarinet improvisations over angular piano and drums; and [S]how‘s relative spaciousness seems to beckon the listener inside, to join its subterranean roaming.

With Hawkins directing from the piano, HEAR[T]‘s thirteen-piece ensemble treads a freer, less structural path through five tracks which frequently groan and exclaim with a bewildering mesh of sounds. [Forge[t] is boisterous, irascible and anarchic, whilst the palpable trad swing of fifteen-minute-plus See[k] > Hear[t] includes splendid horn combinations and distressed flute, underpinned by Stephen Davis’ colourful percussion and enhanced by intriguing live electronics (a multifaceted experience worth staying with!). Idea[l]’s pandemonium recalls the cosmic, orchestral colour of David Bedford’s ‘Star’s End’; the awakening of [Sun[g] > Star[k] might summon Aaron Copland’s broad, restful landscapes (and its crescendoing trumpet-led progression perhaps akin to his ‘Rodeo’); and title track Unit[e]‘s nebulous instrumentation, carried on thinly-sustained strings, hints at dark-sky activity, complete with effusive, empyrean swing-band celebration.

Alexander Hawkins’ creativity may be challenging… but his jazz credentials and true, unfettered expression make it one hell of a ride!

Released on 7 July 2017, Unit[e] is available as a double CD from Discovery Records or digital download from Bandcamp.

 

CD1: [C]ALL
Dylan Bates
violin
Neil Charles double bass
Otto Fischer
guitar, voice
Alexander Hawkins
piano
Shabaka Hutchings bass clarinet, tenor saxophone
Tom Skinner drums

CD2: HEAR[T]
James Arben flute, tenor saxophone
Dylan Bates violin
Neil Charles double bass
Stephen Davis drums, percussion
Otto Fischer guitar
Alexander Hawkins piano, conductor
Laura Jurd trumpet
Julie Kjær flute, alto flute, alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Nick Malcolm trumpet, flugelhorn
Hannah Marshall cello
Percy Pursglove trumpet, double bass
Alex Ward clarinet
Matthew Wright live electronics

alexanderhawkinsmusic.com

Self-released – AH1002/3 (2017)

‘Nightfall’ – Quercus

Quercus_Nightfall

THE ORIGINAL Quercus album of 2013 – a live recording of a concert from several years earlier – was one of those musically defining moments where folk and jazz were both eloquently and movingly brought together. So this second release from vocalist June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy and pianist Huw Warren should surely delight the many who first rose to applaud the emergence of these already respected musicians as a trio. 

Initially, Nightfall does appear to be the anticipated, natural progression – why wouldn’t it? But as you allow yourself to take them to your heart, these eleven new expressions of songs (of traditional folk origin and from the likes of Bob Dylan and Stephen Sondheim / Leonard Bernstein) begin to surrender their emotional array of treasures; so much so that perhaps it even surpasses the attraction of that still much-played debut. Recorded in rural Somerset, this studio account loses nothing of Quercus’ perfect synergy as they again combine to present music from different sources with customary poise and attention to detail.

Ballamy’s instantly distinctive tenor sound, one of the most oratory in contemporary jazz (and still summoning the magic of his The Little Radio album with Stian Carstensen) is flawlessly matched to the rich, resonant voice of June Tabor, who has remained such a great ambassador of English folk music. And though Huw Warren is also known for his pianistic exuberance – as witnesses to the fervour of his Brazilian- or African-flavoured jazz performances will concur – here his ruminative and precise focus unwaveringly articulates Tabor’s poetic storytelling, where predominant themes of longing, love and loss are balanced with glimpses of light.

On Berrow Sands‘ warning of the perils of the Bristol Channel are elucidated by Tabor’s siren-like lament (reminiscent of her Ashore album), the haunting repetition of ‘Away, keep away, the gulls do cry…’ affirmed by Warren’s ominous, perpetual currents and darkly-plumbed depths. Reinterpreted strains of Auld Lang Syne paint Robert Burns’ familiar words with subdued melancholy; and Iain Ballamy’s subtle control which, throughout this session, can enter and recede almost imperceptibly, is so intelligently shaped. His more obvious lyricism can be heard intertwining with Tabor’s heartfelt four-line stanzas in 19th Century folk tale The Irish Girl and the evocative, sunset hues of The Shepherd and His Dog, whilst Emmeline – Ballamy’s own instrumental, shared with Warren – tumbles with sweet, open innocence.

An especially bluesy rendition of You Don’t Know What Love Is aches to June Tabor’s rubato enunciation, inviting breathy improvisations from Ballamy; the singer’s tormented narrative in traditional folk song The Manchester Angel is particularly compelling; and Huw Warren’s piano-and-soprano sax instrumental Christchurch possesses a wistful elegance. In that vein, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright is almost unrecognisable in a superbly resigned reinvention of Bob Dylan’s sparse guitar-and-vocal original, Tabor’s subtle, conversational inflections bringing the lyric to life over Huw Warren’s deliciously chromatic gospel accompaniment. Both pianist and saxophonist charmingly ornament the blithe poetry of Dorset gypsy song The Cuckoo; and Sondheim/Bernstein favourite Somewhere, maybe more than ever, has the power to echo our ever-present feelings of despair and hope, Iain Ballamy’s luscious tenor spirit suggesting a pathway to the latter.

This is a recording which, to quote Sondheim, needs ‘a time, a place’. Ascend a tor or a ‘moel’ with Nightfall in your ears – and for a mountain-top experience like no other, it’s up there… somewhere.

Released on 28 April 2017 and available from ECM, Amazon, iTunes, record stores, etc.

 

June Tabor voice
Iain Ballamy tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Huw Warren piano

topicrecords.co.uk/junetabor
ballamy.com
huwwarren.com

ECM Records – 574 3078 (ECM 2522) (2017)

‘Signals’ – Sue Rynhart

mrsuesue_002_cd_artwork_updated

“STAND UP, MAKE IT HAPPEN, live your precious life, stay on your path and lose your way

It only took a few short excerpts to be drawn into the magic of Dublin-based vocalist and songwriter Sue Rynhart’s twelve-track album Signals. A collection of jazz-inflected folk compositions, it continues the partnership with Dan Bodwell established in 2014’s debut release Crossings. The revelation is that the perceived acoustic simplicity of voice and double bass actually presents such a richness of unpredictable artistry, with Rynhart’s imaginative and individualistic approach perhaps comparable to Björk and Lauren Kinsella, and her synergy with the multi-faceted technique of Bodwell endlessly compelling (so much so that a shiver of emotional pleasure is never far away).

Melding melodic Irish folk tradition and enigmatic poetry with oblique, atmospheric twists, the duo radiates a beautiful, contemporary freedom of spirit. Rynhart’s pure, dextrous voice communicates her original writing in a personal, storytelling way that suggests it simply wells up from inside and demands to be heard, whilst Bodwell’s pizzicato-dancing bass is able to shift into arco lyricism and mystery. Descending-bass jazz number Be Content has a catchy familiarity, whilst smouldering Foxed couples a subtle, thrummed bass groove with Rynhart’s wide, enquiring phrases (“Oh little red fox I know you’ve been there, but today your coat looks brighter than a gemstone rare”). Dramatic whisperings and close-to-the bridge bass creaks in The Tree precede a plaintive annunciation which becomes elaborated with wisps of choral psalmody and the classically-interpreted folk of E J Moeran or Vaughan Williams; Little Sparrow‘s autumnal melancholy is simple and tender; and The Coldest Month‘s openness lilts with harmonic bass colour.

Closely layered vocals in Compassion are extraordinarily intricate, and haunting harmonies in a new interpretation of In Dulci Jubilo (with multi-instrumentalist guest Francesco Turrisi providing drum rhythm) suggest the period work of Trio Mediaeval. A contemporary edge is maintained by the dark, arco bass and fluid vocalisations of In Between, accentuated by Rynhart’s persistent mbira chimes; and Black as the Crow Flies (“Twinkle twinkle are your eyes tonight, black as the crow flies on a new moon and never went home”) stands out with its hushed tones and an especially captivating, pliant bass motif from Bodwell. Sue Rynhart paints so vividly with words and music, the repeated phrases of solo piece Summer Bell offering an impression of distant peals across endless fields; Turrisi’s baroque-ornamented then rock-grooving lute in Silliest Game perfectly complements the elegant, bittersweetness of this new Irish folk song; and Wall, Wall, Another Wall closes with a dreamy overlay of speech and floating, sung phrases.

Signals is different… original… and enchantingly transports us to another place. “Lose your way and I’ll follow you.”

Released on 28 April 2017 and available as CD or vinyl from Sue Rynhart’s website, or as a digital download from Amazon or iTunes.

 

Sue Rynhart voice, mbira, recorders, zither
Dan Bodwell double bass
with
Francesco Turrisi lute, medieval drum

suerynhart.com

mrsuesue Records – MRSUESUE 002 (2017)

‘Songbook’ – Georgia Mancio & Alan Broadbent

Songbook

THOSE MOMENTS when, no matter how much of a lifetime’s river of music has passed under the bridge, the eyes involuntarily well up and an electrical impulse charges down the spine… they can only be the sign of something artistically and emotionally significant.

A project which originated in 2013 and has since toured a number of times, Songbook is the work of double Grammy award-winning pianist, composer and arranger Alan Broadbent and sublime vocalist and lyricist Georgia Mancio. A chanced-upon opportunity to perform together, as a duo, blossomed into a magical songwriting collaboration, with Broadbent revealing more and more of his existing instrumental compositions for Mancio to complete with imaginative, poetic storytelling. Their mutual enthusiasm for Great American Songbook writers such as Rodgers and Hart cemented a creative, thematic empathy which shapes this album of twelve new songs with unique beauty and warmth – so much so that, consequently, each one has a ‘timeless standard’ identity redolent of, say, Cole Porter or Jerome Kern.

Supported by the subtly-nuanced and precise rhythm section of double bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm, the finesse of Broadbent’s piano and Mancio’s immaculately controlled voice sparkle throughout with expressions of joy, humour, tenderness and melancholy. Alan Broadbent’s lush arrangements (having worked on a larger scale over the decades with the likes of Irene Kral, Woody Herman, Natalie Cole and Diana Krall) are just as eloquent in this chamber setting.

Georgia Mancio enfolds each episode of this collection with both technical security and, just as importantly, an obvious affection. She possesses one of the most inviting, endearing voices on the current scene, illuminating The Journey Home‘s soft swing with clarity and elegance, then adding pizzazz to shuffling bossa tune Someone’s Sun; and Broadbent’s chordal and melodic deftness complements the vocal shaping magnificently. The Last Goodbye – the first composition presented to Mancio – is brightly wistful, as is Cherry Tree which charmingly portrays the tapestry of life (reflected in Simon Manfield’s front and back cover illustrations, and also in Alan Broadbent’s exquisite ornamentation). Each track becomes a favourite, Small Wonder‘s succinct lyrics making way for blue-sky piano trio delicacy; and One for Bud celebrates a passion for Bud Powell with a brisk be-bop delivery from Mancio which would be at home in any classic song-and-dance movie (“I went to work – 9 to 5. I concentrated on the boss and his jive. His patter and zeal held no inch of appeal compared to Bud.”).

Hide Me From the Moonlight‘s emotional weight is superb, its descending/ascending chromatics and tenuti making it a romantic stand-out. Heartwarming, ‘Que Sera, Sera’-style Forever is Mancio’s playful take on life, concluding with “One day you find that you have all the answers but nobody asks you the questions”; and ease-back Close to the Moon might easily have been in Sinatra’s repertoire. Where the Soft Winds Blow blithely sails to a memorable melody written by a 17-year-old Alan Broadbent; chattering calypso Just Like a Child‘s slick, rhythmic vocal could be central to a much-loved musical; and serene Lullaby for MM (Broadbent, here, writing to Mancio’s personal dedication to her late father) somehow evokes the touching reminiscences of Michel Legrand.

There’s the sense of an hour standing still with this recording (skilfully produced by Andrew Cleyndert), such is its affecting dedication to craft – and certainly a highlight of 2017 so far. As just one of many attractive lines states: “I see life through your eyes and take first prize”.

Released on 23 April 2017, Songbook is available from Georgia Mancio’s website and Amazon.

 

Georgia Mancio voice, lyrics
Alan Broadbent piano, music
Oli Hayhurst double bass
Dave Ohm drums, percussion

georgiamancio.com
alanbroadbent.com

Roomspin Records – 1923 (2017)