Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Cloudmakers Trio, A Drop of Hope in the Ocean of Uncertainty, Whirlwind ****

Firstly, there's wonderful sound quality here - the work of Abbey Road engineer Sam Okell with a mix by Alex Bonney. The compositions of Jim Hart's are very expansive and orchestral if you like even when there are only four musicians involved. You …

Published: 14 Apr 2024. Updated: 59 days.

MJJHDS

Firstly, there's wonderful sound quality here - the work of Abbey Road engineer Sam Okell with a mix by Alex Bonney. The compositions of Jim Hart's are very expansive and orchestral if you like even when there are only four musicians involved. You get a very open, improvisatory almost experimental feel in passages most notably on 'An Ocean of Drops'. Other tracks have a taut, lean focus where Hart's vibes are hugely colouristic as on the elegy 'Dearly Departed' where Hart's work with Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese is a stealthy balladic act measured carefully by Michael Janisch's bass playing. The album is strongly electric enough given Janisch's use in addition to double bass of bass guitar and in addition to Genovese's use of grand piano additional resource in places of Prophet 6 synth, while Smith also makes judicious use of electronic percussion and Hart chooses to alter our own sense of relationship with his sound by using prepared vibes sometimes.

lg

Leo Genovese, photo: via Whirlwind

All these fine musicians don't need or more to the point crave praise because they have nothing to prove and follow successful careers where the work always does the talking. But whether opinion is even needed or not it's obviously a fine achievement for all the above reasons and more. A core band with a long pedigree enhanced by guests over the years who have included trumpeter Ralph Alessi and guitarist Hannes Riepler, it is remarkable that this Abbey Road Studio 3 recording was achieved only a month ago. And it's doubly refreshing that we can all hear it so soon after its creation. State of the art chamber jazz where the drums of Dave Smith take a back seat sometimes but are demonstrably there in key moments particularly vital in the choppy rhythmical mélange of 'Voodoo Grave.' Easily all in all Cloudmakers' best work yet.

Cloudmakers trio, l-r, top: Michael Janisch, Jim Hart, Dave Smith. Photos: press

Tags: Reviews

The radical trad of Swing You Sinners shunts out from the Brummie jazz sidings

Swing You Sinners l-r: Andrew Woodhead, Nick Jurd, George Crowley, Jeff Williams, Sam Wooster Just released: Swing You Sinners, Swing You Sinners, Leker ***1/2 Horses for courses the term ''trad jazz'' means different things to different …

Published: 14 Apr 2024. Updated: 2 months.

Next post

sys

Swing You Sinners l-r: Andrew Woodhead, Nick Jurd, George Crowley, Jeff Williams, Sam Wooster

Just released: Swing You Sinners, Swing You Sinners, Leker ***1/2

Horses for courses the term ''trad jazz'' means different things to different people. How long have you got? Recorded at the Spotted Dog pub in Birmingham's Digbeth last year tis trad but Swing Your Sinners does not function in a Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen 'Midnight in Moscow' sense at all (but, man, by all means rave on, Igor), and yet sharing some affinity given it channels early jazz, a sound eventually swept away by The Beatles after a few pop chart hits from Ball & Mr Acker Bilk in 1961 and 1962. As a quick aside even decades later if you happened to play a clarinet especially yer granny would insist for the obligatory party piece on a rendition of 'Stranger on the Shore' at family gatherings even though schools rarely taught jazz in the 1980s. But rather than as Acker did in playing a melody with a heavily vibrato laden individualised jazz inflection, existing on a different kind of jazz planet all these decades on this is ''radtrad'' (radical traditional) given the essential Swing You Sinners playfulness. Begin an album trotting to 'Minnie the Moocher,' however, the Cab Calloway smash that fans of The Blues Brothers will recall with affection when Cab himself did a turn on the 1980s film pretty much stealing the show, and you would be forgiven in thinking this is only a brisk stomp away from the world of that fabled band ''blowing Dixie double 4 time'' emblazoned on many a guitar head's imagination, the Sultans of Swing.

Heard in a half empty - competition in other places - Greenwich pub such love for the sake of playing had inspired Mark Knopfler to write his classic Dire Straits song recalled deliciously in the Straits bass guitarist John Illsley's wonderful memoir My Life in Dire Straits (Bantam Press, 2021). But there is a twist to what these newer Sinners get up to, deadly or otherwise. So 'The Old Man of the Mountain' takes a jaunty Calloway connection, for a fairly out-there spin and comes over pretty modern to these ears. No horses - if shopping for a complete cacophany, you may be disappointed to learn - were put down after this steeplechase of an album was run. And following their instincts more honoured in the breach than the observance over the jumps dare we use a banned word, some overly serious jazzers may blanch at ever resorting to tweezer out from their preferred dictionaries of obscurantism - fun.

The brainchild of Andrew Woodhead, a pianist out of the very large Brum jazz scene that oh from what we hear covers the canalside stylistically from the TDEishness of the free improviser scene that Woodhead also inhabits - memorialised for future perpetuity by Django Bates band the TDEs named after still active scene legend Tony Dudley-Evans - to the West Bromwich Albion loving Stoney Lane scene home in the catalogue to label artists sax stars Xhosa Cole and Trish Clowes.

These days it seems looking at gig listings that the quality place to be regularly is at the 1000 Trades venue who host the spectacularly umlauted Swedes Örjan Hultén Orion for instance this Friday night.

Birmingham

Viewed through a train window - approaching Birmingham: Jazz Utopia

Meanwhile back lapping up the Spotted Dog sonics of Swing You Sinners that makes this recording that bit more real a desire to return for some top jazz and of course a curry given the city is renowned for the balti intervenes. When the trumpet of Sam (no Bertie) Wooster role reversing to play Jeeves however to ''East Angular'' tenorist George Crowley comes in, thoughts even turn to Chris Batchelor a bit and Pigfoot specifically are inescapable.

Panning out, Pigfoot are certainly another cerebrally mischievous radtrad outfit in the same bracket as what we have here. They do the rounds pounding to the Paul Clarvis beat ever reliably. As for the Sinners who are ''inspired by the collectivism heard in the early jazz recordings of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Cab Calloway,'' the spiel in a band press release has it, with Woodhead, Wooster and Crowley of Can of Worms reputation, bassist Nick Jurd known for his work with Birmingham's own Soweto Kinch heard very convincingly on White Juju with Soweto and the LSO on the now 'Round Midnight presenter's major extended work for jazz quartet and symphony orchestra released in 2022.

Wooster was also certainly a boost within the completely different Young Pilgrims sound on the Brum band's oomph heavy opus We're Young Pilgrims tastily released in 2021.

Final introductions - completing the Sinners is the excellently loose Lee Konitz and Dave Liebman drummer Jeff Williams. Yes, we need to talk about Jeff and do regularly. He is married to the acclaimed We Need to Talk About Kevin author and part time controversalist Lionel Shriver - no stranger to a jazz club herself. Lionel's latest satire Mania is a tempting prospect. Tangents aside Jeff's sleuth like ferreting in the vaults to find a tape of himself In Duo with Lieb finally seeing the light of day back in baltic January was a veritable hot water bottle for the imagination. No frills nevertheless chills are guaranteed.

Hear Swing You Sinners at Cardiff spot The Flute and Tankard on 23 April; Vortex, London on the 24th; or in the Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space of Symphony Hall, Birmingham for a free gig in Brum at 5pm on the 25th.