Harish Raghavan, In Tense, Whirlwind ****

Even better than before under his own steam US double bassist Harish Raghavan a child of the 1980s who made his name with the great trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and showed a glimpse of what he could himself do as a leader on the slightly overcooked …

Published: 29 Jul 2022. Updated: 12 days.

Even better than before under his own steam US double bassist Harish Raghavan a child of the 1980s who made his name with the great trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and showed a glimpse of what he could himself do as a leader on the slightly overcooked but still highly listenable-to Calls For Action here on an album of his own originals along with vibist Joel Ross prominent on the title track, guitarist Charles Altura, drummer Eric Harland and saxist-EWI player Morgan Guerin.

Recorded in a New York studio at the end of 2021 metrically advanced ('Circus Music') mood convincing - whether brooding on the title track, tender on 'Eight-Thirteen' or bustling in the faster passages sprinkled throughout - In Tense works as a bass statement particularly 's2020' but it is the context within group interplay that really matters not solo grandstanding. The interplay with Ross and collective endeavour are some of the most significant aspects of a fine record. The heads are beautifully voiced.

While Calls for Action was challenging and fairly satisfying this is more nuanced and the writing is far more direct. As a multi-hyphenate small group post-bop-slash-jazzrock-&-beyond statement In Tense remaps a sound that has been around since at least the 1980s mainly championed by Dave Holland and later Chris Potter but remains more state of the art than a stuck for inspiration glare in the rear view mirror of any description in Raghavan's rendering. The apocalyptic reach of the impact of the arc of any number of pieces but achieved most on 'Ama' also lifts the album to a new level where the music certainly moves us most.

Out today

More reading and listening - see the updated marlbank best of the year list as In Tense makes the 10

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Tags: reviews

Micah Thomas, Over the Rainbow, LP 3 45/Diggers Factory Records ***

Valse Sinistre is one of the year's best records so far and here's the Freedom of Ideas pianist Micah Thomas from the marvellous Billy Drummond record on the classic Harold Arlen ballad 'Over the Rainbow' drawn from Thomas' upcoming Piano Solo. A …

Published: 28 Jul 2022. Updated: 3 days.

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Valse Sinistre is one of the year's best records so far and here's the Freedom of Ideas pianist Micah Thomas from the marvellous Billy Drummond record on the classic Harold Arlen ballad 'Over the Rainbow' drawn from Thomas' upcoming Piano Solo.

A standard that you are more or less guaranteed to hear on a regular basis when jazz musicians honed in the classic traditions of the Great American Songbook are gathered together, on recent form Thomas has suddenly accelerated into the A league artistically on the basis of just these recordings and not to forget his dazzling album Tide going back further.

As to why he's so special the study of touch is part of it and for the fact that you can't just say he is a stylist. I hear shards of Fred Hersch perhaps only. Thomas manages to make the ballad timeless without being at all rinky dink and takes the melody for a walk on less travelled paths without being obscurantist.

From Piano Solo a 2020 recording made in Brooklyn's Big Orange Sheep studio out on LP 3 45/Diggers Factory Records on 15 September the ultimate test is to listen in all trepidation to it against Keith Jarrett's version on La Scala (released by ECM in 1997).

There is deft reharmonisation in the Thomasian changes of tempo, echoes of the Harlem renaissance perhaps a little Willie 'The Lion' Smith somehow and ideas in parenthesis snuck in organically and more. Maybe only the unique stillness that Jarrett solely is privy to the entry code for and knows how to uniquely alchemise is absent.

For its in the moment feel, sweep of historical perspective, tenderness and more beyond pure virtuosity Thomas' nevertheless stacks up extremely well.

We are not saying Thomas is the next Keith Jarrett or sounds anything like him. But you have to marvel at what he does here journeying to the heart of the melody like Jarrett and few others can do and realise that in tandem with the key role Thomas plays within the fabric of Valse Sinistre what a significant future the American surely has if the right dice fall into his lap somehow. You still may not know his name. But for how long that will be the case the odds are dramatically shortening. SG

Detail from the Piano Solo art, above

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