Basil Hodge, A Point of Reference, Zeal ***

Lightly swinging straightahead modern-mainstream jazz such as My Point of Reference often gets overlooked by its very nature. It is no longer flavour of the month. And so pianist Basil Hodge is still not that well-known beyond the cognoscenti of …

Published: 24 Dec 2021. Updated: 35 days.

Lightly swinging straightahead modern-mainstream jazz such as My Point of Reference often gets overlooked by its very nature. It is no longer flavour of the month. And so pianist Basil Hodge is still not that well-known beyond the cognoscenti of the style partly because of this. His discography includes the collectable 2003 release again on Zeal My Guardian Angel that includes the great UK drummer Seb Rochford in the band so it's always worth being alert when a new record of Hodge's comes along.

And yet it has been so long since the last one, 2009's Sound Reasoning. This sighting makes A Point of Reference notable and hopefully Hodge can gig it next year. Small point I'd query whether including however stately a version of 1940s classic 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' which can make a record dated unless it is radically refurbished in the arrangement is a good idea especially because it is played fairly straight here. That personal taste matter aside hard bop saxophonist Ed Jones, who was very well-known on the UK scene in the 1980s and 90s, makes his presence felt and plays well here while Winston Clifford heard this year impressively with Camilla George back in the summer steers the ship in a confident fashion. Clifford is a fine drummer whose profile unfathomably again isn't as high as it used to be. If you heard this band in a club in a relaxed setting you'd be delighted. But I'm not sure if its easy-going nature and Hodge is not a demonstrative player inclined to dare I say tinkle decorously more than most makes the transfer completely successfully to represent a challenging listening experience anyway. And yet there is plenty of musicianship to take in and tunes such as 'Back to Where It Came From' show a willingness to escape the comforting surrounds of melody and conventional paraphrase a bit more and experiment with metre partly enabled by Hodge when he switches to Rhodes. The bassist on the record is Oli Hayhurst and pick of the tracks are 'Common Ground' and the lilting 'Port Louis.'

Tags: Albums and EPs

Tim Berne and Gregg Belisle-Chi, Mars, Intakt ****

Gustav Mahler's observation that “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire” used as the epigraph to David Torn's liner note is stimulating. Rather than remnants or mellowness think 'Mars' as in part of Interstellar Space, …

Published: 23 Dec 2021. Updated: 36 days.

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Gustav Mahler's observation that “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire” used as the epigraph to David Torn's liner note is stimulating. Rather than remnants or mellowness think 'Mars' as in part of Interstellar Space, one of the greatest duo albums in existence, and perhaps in years to come this album with any luck will be seen as a duo classic of the 21st century. Of course there is no direct connection here (the style isn't ''multi-directional'') other than a shared planet plucked from the universe and both albums' avant farsightedness. Something of a shared aesthetic in a conjuring of the freedom principle however undoubtedly applies.

Alto colossus Tim Berne is on particularly contemplative form alongside relative unknown guitar dude Gregg Belisle-Chi who turns out to be a perfect Boswell to Berne's Dr Johnson given that there is almost a diary quality to the sense of sequential discipline and cryptic routine here building a monument of inter-relationship. Ornette Coleman-like rather than Coltranian throughout instinctively turn to 1996's Sound Museum: Three Women to retain a shred of the mood in breaks from listening. And also like honey to the bee begin on a ballad from Bern Nix album Alarms and Excursions for some fruitful if only partial sense of what Belisle-Chi is aiming at.

TBTB

On Mars the guitarist comps precisely, hugely obliquely, and dutifully on this album of Berne originals recorded back in the spring at a Woodstock studio in New York state. And because of this you can really hear Berne on this record as it is mostly taken at a steady adagio and like a harmony mechanic who has swallowed the manufacturer's manual Belisle-Chi tunes the Berne engine to the point where its hum catches at the right frequency and whirrs at precisely the correct revolution. Berne is serene in his characteristic ache and searing honesty beyond and above the chromaticism. Shredding isn't a thing at all and yet this is far from a mellow cop-out. The heat is an inner fire by the way to return to the Mahler starting point that Torn who mixed and mastered the album brought up. Over these infinite riches in a little room there is no need at all to rain on anyone's parade let alone Berne's bountiful 'Rose Bowl Charade.' Gregg Belisle-Chi, top left, and Tim Berne. Out on 21 January