Emma Johnson's Gravy Boat, Northern Flame ***1/2

On tour at the moment Leeds saxophonist Emma Johnson, inspired by stories of Northern women, stakes her claim as a composer just as much as an instrumentalist here - this studio album recorded in Wales has a sound that factors in strong guitar from …

Published: 26 Nov 2023. Updated: 3 months.

On tour at the moment Leeds saxophonist Emma Johnson, inspired by stories of Northern women, stakes her claim as a composer just as much as an instrumentalist here - this studio album recorded in Wales has a sound that factors in strong guitar from Fergus Vickers and a solidly grounded rhythm section in which Richard Jones on piano nudges the often wistful and poignantly bittersweet material into spaces you wouldn't expect the direction to be. Johnson's themes are stately and weighty, an anthemic feeling coming through as the ideas coalesce into a group sound.

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Yuhan Su, Liberated Gesture, Sunnyside ***1/2

A new name to us in New York Taiwanese vibist composer Yuhan Su although this is not a debut. Nevertheless Liberated Gesture remains a case when band members have higher profiles than their leader, particularly fine pianist Matt Mitchell here …

Published: 26 Nov 2023. Updated: 3 months.

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A new name to us in New York Taiwanese vibist composer Yuhan Su although this is not a debut. Nevertheless Liberated Gesture remains a case when band members have higher profiles than their leader, particularly fine pianist Matt Mitchell here (known for his work with Tim Berne), and typically a spiky foil to any lead instrument. On opener 'Hi-Tech Pros and Cons' both Mitchell and Su provide choppy, insistent, support to saxist Caroline Davis.

It's the best track actually - the whole affair comprised of tunes written in Paris, Taiwan and Paris the Su approach is quite avant-garde but there is also a firm discipline and chromatic strength to the tunes. With the serious 'Liberated Gesture' suite at its core and inspirations including Joan Didion elsewhere - there's even a poetry recitation from Davis at one point - the ensemble is completed by busy bassist Marty Kenney who does sterling work and by that fine drummer known for his work with Chris Potter, Dan Weiss, who turns up the heat when needed.