Cat with the knack - Cormac McCarthy

''Influential'' is a used and abused term. But no one bandies words idly around however when you use ''influential'' in the same sentence as ''Brad Mehldau'' and there is no avoiding the casting of such a giant shadow. Two deeply impressive …

Published: 11 Nov 2022. Updated: 21 days.

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''Influential'' is a used and abused term.

But no one bandies words idly around however when you use ''influential'' in the same sentence as ''Brad Mehldau'' and there is no avoiding the casting of such a giant shadow.

Two deeply impressive tracks by Irish pianist Cormac McCarthy make me voyage instantly to Mehldau whose Art of the Trio releases blew us away in the 1990s.

Shaping up to be the stand-out Irish jazz album of the year it's perfectly obvious the Corkonian McCarthy has already proved his discipleship to Mehldau's Highway Rider on Cottage Evolution.

McCarthy takes the style a long way further and grows with it to blossom as his own artist emerging from the chrysalis at last after a lot of heavy hints that he'd emerge so dazzlingly.

The solo tracks streaming ahead of On the Other Hand indicate a rare fluency and a humanistic warmth many clinical overly ponderous solo piano albums lack.

Few could even attempt ''to do'' a Mehldau and we are not suggesting that is what McCarthy is doing at all.

But what we are saying is that like every piece of music you enter someone's world as an inspiration. And that world here is Mehldau's shaped by bebop, Brahms, the blues, the freedom of improvisation and so much more in the circumnavigation.

Style adherence is like a saxophonist playing their own music but entering whether they are willing travellers or not the world of John Coltrane.

It's like osmosis - a three line whip in the direction of the music that is coming from deep within your soul. You are powerless to deny its siren call.

That sound says ''I belong here'' and is maybe more obvious to the listener than to the player at least at first.

MEHLDAU MOREISHNESS

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Look for Mehldau's highly confessional book Formation next year - ''There is no holding back''

Cormac McCarthy photo: Bandcamp. On the Other Hand is out on 9 December

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Bill Frisell, Four, Blue Note ****

In the last decade up to this brand new release out today guitarist Bill Frisell has put out at least nine albums under his own name shifting in the process from albums issued on Savoy and Tzadik to Sony's Okeh and ECM to Blue Note. The recent …

Published: 11 Nov 2022. Updated: 21 days.

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In the last decade up to this brand new release out today guitarist Bill Frisell has put out at least nine albums under his own name shifting in the process from albums issued on Savoy and Tzadik to Sony's Okeh and ECM to Blue Note. The recent Blue Note period has produced some of his finest records in years and that purple patch continues here again. Valentine released in 2020 was a trio; Four changes the band completely and ups the combination yep Sherlock to a quartet bringing in reedist Gregory Tardy (check out the saxophonist's excellent recent release Sufficient Grace). Tardy and Frisell recorded together on the 2019 Newvelle duo release More Than Enough also worth seeking out. Also here is the Dave Holland drummer Johnathan Blake whose own excellent Homeward Bound came out last year. And pianist Gerald Clayton whose Bells on Sound was a big highlight this year is an elegant presence - he and Frisell have played in the company of the iconic hippy jazz shaman Charles Lloyd down the years.

Compare 'Good Dog Happy Man' with its 1990s version - it's the title track of a 1999 Elektra Nonesuch album which was coated in Americana on an album that you could almost imagine yourself sat on a bale of hay in a barn listening with a stalk of grass in your mouth. 'The Pioneers' from the same album also gets a new treatment. Lonesome sax from Tardy takes on the melody instead of Frisell's homespun 1990s line and it sounds very different. On the 'Good Dog' track there is a woodwind-flavoured new innocence to the piece. And like so much here it is rendered concise and positive. 'Holiday' begun with Blake quite martial and disciplined also is half glass-full more than empty. And you get a Monk-like quirkiness somehow into the bargain that is so appealing and fits in with Frisell's often deadpan approach.

Another old Frisell piece 'Lookout for Hope' that goes even further back to the 1980s (it appeared in a cello-flavoured quartet album of the same name in 1988 on the ECM label) gets a refurbishment and in its laconic ease and again dusted down arrangement that eventally unfolds into a gem of a bass clairnet solo from Tardy there is a fantastic sense of overflowing grace. When you do travel back and lift up the stones of the old tunes and hear these interspersed with the new tunes and the new playing mates it seems paradoxically that time was not a factor then or now because Frisell's sound in its aching bluesy understated aura is still so firm a destination and as deeply satisfying and startlingly unique as ever.

Gregory Tardy above left, Gerald Clayton, Bill Frisell, Johnathan Blake.

Photo: Monica Jane Frisell