Harry Baker is one of Sheku Kanneh-Mason's collaborators on the star classical cellist's new album - Song

At the Vortex last year - the Harry Baker trio. Photo: marlbank Jazz pianist Harry Baker is one of Sheku Kanneh-Mason's collaborators on the classical cellist's new album Song to be released by Decca on 9 September Universal's online publicity …

Published: 26 Jul 2022. Updated: 15 days.

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At the Vortex last year - the Harry Baker trio. Photo: marlbank

Jazz pianist Harry Baker is one of Sheku Kanneh-Mason's collaborators on the classical cellist's new album Song to be released by Decca on 9 September

Universal's online publicity journal udiscovermusic quotes Sheku on his collaboration with Baker on tracks such as 'Lullaby for Kamila' explaining a bit more:

“On this album, I was working with Harry Baker, who is mostly a jazz pianist. We met at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, so I’ve known him for a long time and we’ve done concerts together, including improvisation. It’s been a fascinating process.”

Speaking about the 'Lullaby for Kamila' piece the cellist says “we took the tune and then improvised freely around the structure, melody and harmony. We just did complete takes and I picked our favourite one.”

We can't share that track just yet but for now listen to an incredible arrangement for five cellos of Bach's 'Come Sweet Death also drawn from Song.

Back in the autumn we caught a performance by a new name to us at that time Baker and his trio

Here's the piece again from October:

So which were the more interesting parts of the first house set from newcomers the Harry Baker trio: the originals or ''the standards part'' as pianist Baker described the latter? That's not an easy question to answer. Let's defer. Because both certainly had their merits and this was a great introduction to a new trio in front of a typically alert Vortex listening audience. Baker has a stellar academic classical background from his time at Oxford University and at the Royal Academy of Music, his style a little Nikki Iles-like certainly towards the beginning and throughout he was strong on detail and showed a lot of flair in his soloing, the building blocks of the tunes largely modal and modernistic.

Double bassist Will Sach who also studied at the Royal Academy of Music upped the ante in terms of soloing later, a double bassist who comes over like a new Dave Holland in the making and was here just as impressive as when first heard by marlbank live at Kentish Town venue the Oxford with trumpeter Alex Ridout back in the summer. When the trio grooved usually the sound percolated up from the bass beat and McLoughlin then ran with it. There were different elements to the originals: the writing of Baker on the one hand, the Gwilym Simcock-esque 'Beyond the Smog' the pick, and the very different style (far more involved and less dreamy) from drummer Oren McLoughlin out of Chetham's and the Royal Academy of Music whose homage to the German twin of his hometown Glossop, Bad Vilbel, imagines a lively contrast to the frustration of home ''where nothing happens''. He also spoke to the audience engagingly if briefly as most of the tune announcements were by Baker. Of the covers the trio's take on John Scofield's 'Meant to Be' worked best, McLoughlin whose role came to the fore quite like Bill Stewart on the 1991-released Blue Note record. Perhaps the trio's future is to explore 1990s jazz even more because this worked well. They also did an easy-to-digest version by contrast of far more recent indie band Big Thief's 'U.F.O.F'. That was the biggest surprise of what was a vivid snapshot of a talented new trio at work.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason photo: Ollie Ali/Decca Classics

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Fergus McCreadie and Joy Crookes among nominated acts up for a Mercury

Announced today Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie has been nominated for this year's Mercury for his trio record Forest Floor. A similar record to Cairn also on the Edition label the release that really made the jazz world sit up and take note of …

Published: 26 Jul 2022. Updated: 15 days.

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Announced today Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie has been nominated for this year's Mercury for his trio record Forest Floor.

A similar record to Cairn also on the Edition label the release that really made the jazz world sit up and take note of the McCreadie trio. And once again the result has that bustle and tumult, touches of Scottish folk, and a certain poeticism that made that record work so so well and make this trio one of the UK's most notable in many years. The trio wrap themselves snugly round the fertile piano lines and you get an undeniable sense of optimism in some of the record's best moments. Drummer Stephen Henderson comes into his own on 'Landslide' and here you get a sense of the power that is always possible when the trio break free while bassist David Bowden's solo.

Read a live review of McCreadie from 2018 before he broke through

We liked Joy Crookes' Skin (Insanity/Sony) also nominated a good deal. When a singer with a jazz voice essentially emerges through pop marketing and a hefty push immediately into the mainstream as what has happened with Londoner Irish-Bangladeshi singer Joy Crookes sometimes jazz fans don't know about it for a while and have to play catch up or just deny what is happening because it's not a direct route from the obvious jazz clubs and labels. That was what we wrote at the time of release Skin isn't a purist record at all and there is plenty here that has nothing to do with an exact jazz affinity (although it's foolish to prescribe this too closely as some do). 'Poison' starts like a light and frothy jazz number with a keyboard line that's like a Billy Taylor riff and it's probably the closest to what you'll hear a jazz singer do these days. Crookes sounds a little like Amy Winehouse, a little like Julia Biel. She has the sassiness of Jasmine Power too. The horns on 'When You Were Mine' are certainly jazz and the songs throughout ooze sensuality in a setting that is big city Generation Z and one that chimes with young London jazz and the new acts out there who are shaking things up. There's a confessional feel to the intimacy and an honesty that makes Crookes seem real.

'Unlearn You' is a powerful ballad that certainly can work on a jazz level bathed in strings and poignant and the way Crookes' mezzo can leap up to a glassy soprano peak is impressive. Crookes does swagger well and you get a flailing confidence on 'Feet Don't Fail Me Now' that harnesses a retro sense to propel the thing forward but does not distract. 'Wild Jasmine' again makes me think of Julia Biel a bit with the guitar opening and Julia's selfsame ability to twist and turn a line and a lick to her advantage. Title track 'Skin' again does quietness so well, it's like a Kinks song on one level and there is that Ray Davies-like classic intimacy in a lot of what Crookes does. The jazz quietness is one of the most impressive things about the album and 'Power' seems to go even more late-night and personal, the piano line almost melting to nothing while 'Theek Ache' at the end is a soul flourish. Like the direction of the lift on the '19th floor' Crookes is going straight up. What an exhilarating and so satisfying ride this all is.

A jazz act still hasn't won the award in all these years. Will this year be a first? Don't hold your breath. Our money's on Self Esteem and the brilliant Prioritise Pleasure.

Fergus McCreadie, top

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