#recentlistening – September 2019 (1 of 3)

e.s.t – e.s.t.live in Gothenburg (2CD)
Esbjörn Svensson, Dan Berglund, Magnus Öström
Release date: 25 October 2019 (ACT Music)
www.actmusic.com/en/Artists/Esbjoern-Svensson-Trio-e.s.t./e.s.t.-live-in-Gothenburg/e.s.t.-live-in-Gothenburg-CD

Aki Rissanen – Art in Motion
Aki Rissanen, Antti Lötjönen, Teppo Mäkynen
Release date: 13 September 2019 (Edition Records)
akirissanen.bandcamp.com/album/art-in-motion

John Pearce – Just Friends
John Pearce, David Newton, Will Harris, Ian Matthews
Release date: 18 September 2019
johnpearce.bandcamp.com/album/just-friends

Mette Juul – Change
Mette Juul, Lars Danielsson, Ulf Wakenius, Heine Hansen, Gilad Hekselman, Per Møllehøj
Release date: 6 September 2019 (Universal Music)
mette-juul.com/music/

Kjetil Mulelid Trio – What You Thought Was Home
Kjetil Mulelid, Bjørn Marius Hegge, Andreas Winther
Release date: 30 August 2019 (Rune Grammofon)
runegrammofon.com/artists/kjetil-mulelid-trio/rcd2208-kjetil-mulelid-trio-what-you-thought-was-home-cd-lp/

Tonbruket – Masters of Fog
Dan Berglund, Johan Lindström, Martin Hederos, Andreas Werliin
Release date: 27 September 2019 (ACT Music)
actmusic.com/en/Artists/Tonbruket/Masters-of-Fog/Masters-of-Fog-CD

#recentlistening – May 2019

Jonny Mansfield – Elftet
Ella Hohnen-Ford, James Davison, Tom Smith, George Millard, Rory Ingham, Dominic Ingham, Laura Armstrong, Oliver Mason, Jonny Mansfield, Will Harris, Boz Martin-Jones + guests Chris Potter, Gareth Lockrane and Kit Downes
Release date: 21 June 2019 (Edition Records)
jonnymansfield.bandcamp.com

Partisans – Nit De Nit
Phil Robson, Julian Siegel, Thaddeus Kelly, Gene Calderazzo
Release date: 17 May 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
partisansjazz.bandcamp.com

Shez Raja – Journey to Shambhala
Shez Raja, Trilok Gurtu, Wayne Krantz, Monika Lidke, Chris Nickolls, Pascal Roggen, Alex Stanford, Vasilis Xenopoulos
Release date: 17 May 2019 (Raja Records)
shezraja.com

Leïla Martial – Baa Box – Warm Canto
Leïla Martial, Eric Perez, Pierre Tereygeol
Release date: 24 May 2019 (Laborie Jazz)
leilamartial.com / laboriejazz.fr

Gabriel Grossi Quintet – #motion
Gabriel Grossi, Sergio Coelho, Eduardo Farias, André Vasconcellos, Rafael Barata + special guests Mauricio Einhorn and Hermeto Pascoal
Release date: 28 June 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings)
gabrielgrossi.bandcamp.com

Mark Lockheart and Roger Sayer – Salvator Mundi
Mark Lockheart & Roger Sayer
Release date: 5 July 2019 (Edition Records)
mark lockheart.bandcamp.com

‘Weather Warning’ – Kevin Figes Quartet / ‘Time Being’ – Kevin Figes Octet

WeatherWarning_TimeBeing

EUREKA! That moment when, after weeks of listening, an album (or two, in this case) smacks you between the ears and becomes your unputdownable ‘jam’! 

There’s an osmotic attraction to Kevin Figes’ music. It possesses remarkable creative breadth, taking in fusion, post-bop and contemporary abstraction… and gradually seeps into the consciousness until it won’t let go.

For these two simultaneously-released albums – Weather Warning (quartet, augmented) and Time Being (octet) – the saxophonist/flautist/composer assembles a fine collective of fellow Bristol-based musicians (listed in full, below); and characterised by addictive, rhythmically-energised horn riffs and Rhodes/Prophet textures, often blended with retro-tinged wordless vocals and occasional, wistful flute, Figes and colleagues paint shifting, vibrant canvases of ‘colorfield’ sound which become increasingly engaging.

Weather Warning‘s sparky title track hints at the joys to come, Jim Blomfield’s synth and Rhodes combining with Mark Whitlam’s outrageously offbeat rhythmic patterns to underpin the superb, sputtering duo of Figes and trumpeter Nick Malcolm. It somehow recalls the wonder of 12″ vinyl discoveries of the ’70s – that time of poring over luxurious gatefold album sleeves; yet Figes’ writing sparkles brightly in today’s musical landscape. There is so much to enthuse about here, from the swinging, melodic, double-sax immediacy of Empathy, and Birdsong‘s improvised vocal and instrumental chattering, to the sublime, often spacial beauty of Fall Apart; and alto/tenor/trumpet Horn Improvisation‘s invention compellingly bridges contemporary classical and jazz. Figes is a consummate saxophonist, his excursions both eloquent and endlessly imaginative; but his delicate mastery of the flute in quartet piece For Cathy is at least as effective as it charmingly weaves around piano ostinati and subtle bass and drums.

The octet project throws the vocal contributions of Emily Wright and Cathy Jones to the fore, album Time Being resounding to the fascinating, close harmonic meld of saxes and voices over a fervent, piano-driven rhythm section (there is certainly chemistry at work here, not least because Wright, Harris, Whitlam and Malcolm are all close collaborators in vocal/instrumental jazz outfit Moonlight Saving Time). Again, a title track with memorable licks, pressing momentum and rich solo improvisation is followed by changing panoramas: Pastoral Scenes is coloured gracefully by the adept, interlocking vocals of Wright and Jones (at times, redolent of Kenny Wheeler’s compositions), and the urgent electric piano and sax groove of The Point deliciously bounces to Will Harris’s electric bass. It’s all classy stuff, often with a rough-hewn streak and frequently on the edge of unpredictability – Petit Plaits, in particular, is a masterpiece of unbridled energy, maximising the density of the band line-up; and Loft Space‘s extended adventures certainly aren’t alone in bringing on the desire to witness this ensemble perform live.

Released on 10 April 2016, Weather Warning and Time Being are available directly from Pig Records. Recommending one above the other, though, is virtually impossible – both are British jazz gems, and have long stayed in the car CD player!

 

‘WEATHER WARNING’
Kevin Figes
 alto saxophone, flute
Jim Blomfield piano, Rhodes, Prophet 5
Will Harris bass
Mark Whitlam drums
with
Nick Malcolm trumpet (tracks 1, 6 and 7)
Nick Dover tenor saxophone (tracks 3, 5, 6 and 7)
Emily Wright vocals (tracks 3 and 6)
Cathy Jones vocals (tracks 3 and 6)

Pig Records – PIG:08 (2016)

 

‘TIME BEING’
Kevin Figes 
alto saxophone
Nick Dover
 tenor saxophone
Emily Wright
 vocals
Cathy Jones
 vocals
Jim Blomfield
 piano
Will Harris
 bass
Mark Whitlam
 drums
Lloyd Haines
 drums

Pig Records – PIG:07 (2016)

 

kevinfiges.co.uk

‘Meeting at Night’ – Moonlight Saving Time

MST_300

THE HIGH TINGLE FACTOR created by a significant arrival on the British contemporary jazz scene is always rather special… and very much the case with Bristol-based Moonlight Saving Time.

Taking their name from a quaint 1930s love song favoured by American jazz vocalist/pianist Blossom Dearie, this quintet first demanded my attention a couple of years ago at Manchester Jazz Festival. As they launched into their opening number, from an early five-track EP, there was the sense of a defining moment as the charismatic presence of singer Emily Wright illuminated front-of-stage with her particularly expressive, silken storytelling. Yet this is only part of the story, for MST’s distinction is its ability to combine Wright’s eloquence with a seriously creative team of improvising instrumentalists – trumpeter Nick Malcolm, pianist Dale Hambridge, double bassist Will Harris and drummer Mark Whitlam.

Consequently, debut album Meeting at Night rejoices in an elegant synthesis of memorably original song, fine arrangement and crackling jazz extemporisation – a varietal, near-50-minute sequence which balances emotive atmospheres with sprightly charm. Frequently, the impression is of a gradual unfolding, with musical delights around each corner (rather than gleaning all there is to know inside the first minute), which surely is key to the band’s compelling performance here.

The elegantly flowing, layered vocals of Emily Wright are revealed in bassist Will Harris’s opener Clouds, as it rolls and tumbles to snappy rhythms, bright piano runs and peppy trumpet lines, bringing the swift realisation of a new sound world. Title track Meeting at Night (the words of Robert Browning set to music by Wright and Harris) possesses a delicious vocal and instrumental unpredictability, with Emily Wright’s clear annunciation and theatrical delivery reminiscent of Cleo Laine or Annie Ross; and saxophonist Jason Yarde guests alongside trumpeter Nick Malcolm to infuse the number with improvisational high jinx.

Lush harmonies in Will Harris’s brief Trio introduces the gorgeously lilting Silence is Here – again co-written by Harris and Wright, it shimmers to the purity of that unmistakable voice and the band’s dynamic ebb and flow, including effective multi-layered trumpet textures. One of the album’s surprises is pianist Dale Hambridge’s arrangement of great British composer John Ireland’s Sea Fever which, removed from its original baritone voice setting and offered to Emily Wright, retains all of its strong, evocative yearning. And following, Hambridge’s own Desire for Nothing Known dreamily waltzes to memorable vocal harmonisations and the pianist’s elegant elaborations, Mark Whitlam’s sparky percussion driving it on into greater complexity (and quite unlike anything on the current jazz scene).

Jason Yarde features again in Nick Malcolm’s Views (a sumptuous development of a track from his own album Beyond These Voices), which floats to typically imaginative alto sax; and the tight, wordless vocals of Emily Wright, particularly when fused into sax and trumpet, become redolent of Norma Winstone’s earlier work with Kenny Wheeler. A Calvin Harris song – I’m Not Alone – is pure magic in MST’s hands; with an initial vocal folksiness (accompanied by Will Harris’s gently chordal and percussive accompaniment), it dissolves into the most ravishing, memorable ballad, mirroring the album art’s coastal longing – and thanks to Malcolm’s inventive trumpet, underpinned by Dan Moore’s Hammond and the drum precision of Mark Whitlam, it never descends into mawkishness. From My Window (courtesy of another current songwriting talent, Jamie Doe) shuffles to echoic vocals and Hambridge’s electric piano, embellished by the trumpet’s curious seagull cries; and from the pen of Emily Wright, closing track Arthur’s Dance possesses a sense of joyous journeying, its breeziness suggesting radio-play potential.

A fine recording from a band with a great future, from both compositional and performance perspectives, Meeting at Night is already (in this final quarter of the year) prompting thoughts of the year’s best album releases. Released on 2 October 2015, it’s available in CD and digital formats from Bandcamp, as well as from online retailers and record stores.

 

Emily Wright vocals
Nick Malcolm trumpet
Dale Hambridge piano
Will Harris double bass
Mark Whitlam drums
with
Jason Yarde alto sax
Dan Moore Hammond organ

moonlightsavingtime.co.uk

MSTCD002 (2015)