Sutures and Stitches
Whirlwind Recordings ****
Mentored by Quincy Jones and Jimmy Cobb, London-based drummer Howell’s quintet debut comes a few years on from his having been diagnosed with a rare brain malformation that required rounds of neurosurgery the scars he bears explaining the title of the album. All the compositions apart from the lovely standard ‘Dear Old Stockholm’ that Stan Getz and the late Bengt Hallberg made famous are by the Wallingford-born player. Some of his tunes were actually written while Howell was in hospital recovering from surgery.
Joined by Trinity College of Music graduate trumpeter Mark Perry, Partikel’s Duncan Eagles and Max Luthert, on tenor saxophone and bass respectively, plus pianist Matt Robinson (who produces one of the album’s best moments in his solo on ‘For Anya’), the compositions are a contemporary reading of post-Blakey hard bop, and Howell’s style a pacey, pulsing busy marshalling of his band a nuanced take on Spin Marvel drummer Martin France’s approach a little as well as owing a debt to the supreme musicianship of Jimmy Cobb. Trumpeter Perry has a heart-on-sleeve dimension to his playing and sounds as if his influences begin with someone like Kenny Dorham or Clifford Brown and stretch right up to Kenny Wheeler, that's quite a reach; while Eagles, one of the most exciting tenor saxophonists to appear on the UK scene since Denys Baptiste first emerged, meshes well with Perry in the front line. The album is very well sequenced and the drama builds with a big peak reached on ‘A World Apart’ the longest and best track on a remarkable and highly promising first album. Stephen Graham
Released on 23 September
Howell plays Bradford Jazz Club, Bradford (4 October); Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft (6 Oct); The Lescar, Sheffield (9 Oct); Whirlwind Festival, Kings Place, London (10 Oct); Watermill Jazz, Dorking (17 Oct); Bebop Club, Bristol (18 Oct); The Bent Brief, Southampton (20 Oct); Spotted Dog, Birmingham (22 Oct); Fleece Jazz, Leavenheath (25 Oct); Jazz in the Round, the Cockpit, London (28 Oct); Dempsey’s, Cardiff (29 Oct); Terry O’Toole Theatre, Lincoln (13 November); Sound Cellar, Poole (21 Nov); Splinter Jazz, Bridge Hotel, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (24 Nov); Parr Jazz, Parr Street Studios, Liverpool (26 Nov); and 606, London (3 December).