- Hits: 1244
There’s an exacting tart quality to Alex Munk’s guitar as the opening notes of Flying Machines cascade.
The band have been together for a few years and are led by Munk, with Matt Robinson on piano/keyboards, Conor Chaplin, formerly of World Service Project, on electric bass and Dave Hamblett on drums completing the personnel.
The intricately woven blend the four have come up with has plenty of rough, salty edges. And while there’s more than enough motion and energy elsewhere, ‘As Long as It Lasts’ and ‘First Breath’ show the band’s more tender side while ‘Emotional Math Metal’ is a bravura statement full of tech-like geekiness. Not a million miles away from The Impossible Gentlemen in core ingredients, although Munk is closer to someone like Ant Law in his sound than Mike Walker, there’s plenty of promise here. But I’m not sure if the tunes stand out particularly well even though they are easy to admire in terms of sheer craft and soloing prowess.
As a debut it’s mature and sophisticated, more for the head than the heart, and I suppose one of the best things about their jazz-rock sound is the way it doesn’t fit any off the shelf template. All in all, a lot to build on by a band you hope can grow and grow on the seeds laid down here.
- Hits: 1044
There’s a soft bluesy rustle to the beginning of veteran Danish pianist Ole Matthiessen’s latest album, I suppose the spirit of Swedish pianist Bengt Hallberg isn’t too distant on opener ‘Love Song,’ the melancholic trumpet of Henrik Bolberg a throwback to the heyday of modal jazz adding an irresistible flavour.
Matthiesen has been around for ages and knows this kind of music inside out: there’s no hurry, no panic, the windswept tenor of Bob Rockwell somehow reassuring and safe. All the tunes are the pianist’s and they all have a beginning, middle and end in the best traditions of jazz storytelling. He taps into a McCoy Tyner style on ‘Augustaften i Tivoli’ with drummer Ole Streenberg tapping along manfully, the atmosphere straight out of the 1960s or some long forgotten cellar, a late night session just getting under way.
With nods to Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane along the way there’s an easy facility and expert grasp of the material from the quintet (Danish bass star Jesper Lundgaard is here to complete the quintet). OK, you might think there isn't much original here but that’s not the point which is rather to conjure and bask in a bygone music the whole thing played with a lot of love and respect.
Released on 30 October
- Hits: 937
Norah Jones was always ‘near jazz’ and then she was pop and country and now she’s moving ever closer to where she started out. There’s a smouldering, classic old school atmosphere to the album, the songs take it slow, ‘Burn’ and ‘Tragedy’ moody and blue to begin with. But as ever atmosphere transcends notions of pure genre.
If you want to make a great jazz vocals album you have to come up with the melodies. ‘Flipside,’ the third track, has more of a driving feel but the song comes across a little bland and that’s something the album has to desperately avoid and in the main does. But there are no really great songs here either lyrically or in terms of melody. It’s just rather nice, a fuzzy kind of feeling that Norah Jones and this kind of jazz inculcates.
Recorded with the very non-bland Wayne Shorter, fellow Blue Note artist, making an appearance as a badge of honour for Jones, Wayne’s drummer Brian Blade and bassist John Patitucci and another Blue Note artist in organist Lonnie Smith, the album has middle of the road stamped all over it, and there’s even a nod to her country interests on ‘Don’t Be Denied’ a song that doesn’t fit so well.
As for the title track it stands out beyond genre again something Jones in her career to date has been adept at doing. The version of Horace Silver’s ‘Peace’ and Ellington’s ‘Fleurette Africaine,’ with Jones’ hauntingly low humming and a highly effective mournful Wayne Shorter contribution adding character to the latter, are probably where a lot of jazz fans will tune in to first and in all fairness Jones injects the right sort of feel and pace in both of these stand-outs.
An album I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of in the coming months and one that has garnered a lot of publicity in the last few weeks. It’s not a terrific album but it ticks a lot of boxes and will draw a lot of non-jazz listeners in for a quick look around but possibly equally rapid getaway.
- Hits: 1120
Change of tack here for trad trumpeter Peter Horsfall (Kansas Smitty’s, Basin Street Brawlers) as he supplements his formidable mastery of his instrument with vocals on an EP of four songs.
The songs are silky smooth and are a throwback to the 1930s and 40s, a kind of a sweet innocence prevailing.
While the songs are Horsfall’s he has also collaborated on the last one, ‘Cupid’s Arrows and Bow,' with cabaret singer Barb Jungr.
The EP is so brief it’s hard to gain the full picture. But the title track is the song that sticks in the mind most, with is lulling soft questioning and subtle phrasing.
Horsfall is with a small group (David Archer on guitar, Joe Webb, piano, and Dave O'Brien, bass) who provide gentle backing throughout; and it will be interesting how much his taste for vocals develops. But for me trumpet is still king with this talented player, the vocals a bit of a seductive diversion, for now at least.
- Hits: 746
The debut album of Devon-raised, Birmingham Conservatoire-educated guitarist Ben Lee, In the Tree covers a lot of territory, flavoured by the frequent clashes of guitar with the trombone of Richard Foote the five-piece has a modernistic small group chamber sensibility that draws on a whole mixbag of jazz and rock.
At its jazziest the organ swells of David Ferris give the ensemble plenty of motion and excitement and alto saxist Chris Young is a stimulating presence throughout. There are however some strange choices peppered about too it must be said. Whistling on ‘In the Tree’ I’m afraid wasn’t the greatest of brainwaves; and the gauche vocal on ‘Skateboarding on my Own’ again doesn’t add much. Put these gaffes down to experience.
Elsewhere there are flickers of great promise and drummer Euan Palmer injects plenty of spirit. Lee seems a little stuck in the middle between his jazz and rock influences and you get the feeling that he’d really just like to let rip fully but this setting doesn’t really allow him that opportunity.
Released on 21 October
- Hits: 766
A pulsing, busily rhythmic opening kicks off Klammer, new this week from pianist Rick Simpson here with a lively band featuring saxophonists Michael Chillingworth and George Crowley, vibist Ralph Wyld, Empirical bassist Tom Farmer, and drummer Dave Hamblett.
Playing Simpson’s own highly intricate tunes there’s a quizzical and playful almost funky side to second tune ‘Beware of Gabriel Garrick Imitators,’ and overall a serious, mathematical method in the way the band operates.
London-based Simpson graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2008 and likes to mix things up here whether on piano, Fender Rhodes or Wurlitzer, and there’s an open eared sense of mischief at play and plenty of energy and power in the band’s attitude, a focus on through-composition and complexity.
I don’t think you’ll emerge from listening to the record whistling any of Simpson’s tunes, it’s not that kind of material, but you’ll probably appreciate the sense of craft and skill at play from all concerned. A new name to me, it will be interesting to see how his writing develops in the years to come after this promising release.
- Hits: 811
Irish traditional music has been dusted down and reinvented by a new generation of musicians, many of them schooled in a range of other musics including jazz.
Ensemble Ériu are at the forefront of this new wave. Featuring jazz bassist Neil O’Loghlen, picking up flute on a few pieces, Jack Talty on concertina, Maeve O’Hara on marimba, Matthew Berrill on clarinet, Matthew Jacobson on drums (again a player who has a strong jazz pedigree with the band Redivider), Jeremy Spencer on fiddle, and Patrick Groenland on guitar, their self titled debut released in 2013 had a larger personnel playing mainly traditional pieces that were recorded in two studios in County Clare and which build from the engine room of chamber music and structured experimentation around the shell of strong motifs or phrases. The Ensemble utilise traditional Irish metrical forms that operate episodically sometimes in orthodox ways but also move some distance from pure forms via unusual instrumentation, with marimba voicings, for instance, adding to the instrumental palette.
This time recording in County Galway over a couple of days of the autumn of 2015 the largely traditional pieces were arranged by O’Loghlen and have a serene almost zen like strictness to their structure.The title is an Old Irish word used to describe inspiration, creativity, and prophetic knowledge and the ensemble are well worth your own kind of inspired discovering.
- Hits: 519