Tommy Andrews quintet, The Crux, Jellymould Jazz ***1/2
An album that doesn’t overstay its welcome: Tommy Andrews knows how to translate the notes-on-the-page aspect of composition to performance without something somehow being lost in the process. Here with a talented band of improvisers who clearly gel, alto saxophonist Andrews joined by Dixie Ticklers guitarist Nick Costley-White, pianist Rick Simpson, Riff Raff bassist Dave Manington, and Yatra drummer Dave Hamblett, ‘crux’, the ‘heart or core of something’, Andrews explains in his sleeve note just one of the meanings he draws on, as well as the Latin for cross, and more arcanely the hardest part of a rock climb, the album was recorded in London in the summer of 2013. Andrews’ tunes offer urban grit down a path at least partially trodden by MBASE and maths-jazz bands yet unsentimental bittersweet pastoralism also surfaces probably where the heart of the music really lies. Costley-White on his breaks and rhythmic excursions navigates territory a little familiar from Phil Robson’s imaginative acoustic approach over the years as Manington and Hamblett create plenty of room for guitar and sax to bounce off. Andrews has an edge to his playing, a little like Martin Speake, and is an intuitive improviser again like Speake, and his writing integrates group interplay with soloistic space so instinctively. Cerebral jazz that keeps you listening to reach the heart of the matter just as you guess Andrews intends. SG The Tommy Andrews quintet play the Forge, London on 17 June; and the Riverhouse, Walton-on-Thames on 27 June. The Crux is released on 30 June
Haunting, a numinous lilt to the singer’s voice establishes itself and in tandem with trumpeter Arve Henriksen who has one of the most unique playing timbres in contemporary music (let alone jazz because it is jazz yet folk but not folk eastern yet Nordic in sensibility and inspiration) Pilgrim is a welcome turn of the wheel for ACT a label synonymous since the 1990s with the enduring musical contribution of EST.
Patchy as a label in recent years since the departure of Vijay Iyer for ECM and reliant more on family acts that the Siggi Loch directed label is famously supportive and nurturing of plus the international success of Youn Sun Nah, Janne Mark may not have very wide appeal beyond Europe and many jazz fans will be puzzled by her modern approach and inferred religiosity tempered by a syncretism of pop-like carefully emergent melodies and Americana. However that puzzlement will recede and turn into an enchantment.