Ilmiliekki Quartet, 'Aila,' (single) WeJazz ****

The latest pre-release track 'Aila' from the upcoming Ilmiliekki Quartet is marlbank's track of the week for 13-19 December. It's always an event when a European group of this magnitude and reputation releases an album and both this track and the …

Published: 13 Dec 2021. Updated: 8 months.

The latest pre-release track 'Aila' from the upcoming Ilmiliekki Quartet is marlbank's track of the week for 13-19 December. It's always an event when a European group of this magnitude and reputation releases an album and both this track and the earlier 'Follow the Damn Breadcrumbs' transport us to their best work 2003's March of the Alpha Males.

Since then both the Finnish band's world class trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and drummer Olavi Louhivuori have established meaningful names for themselves internationally but it's when they play together under this group banner with pianist Tuomo Prättälä and bassist Antti Lötjönen that they are most in their element and soar to another level.

On 'Aila' which emotionally pushes heightened raw, tragic, dramatic buttons there is an epic majesty to their playing and Pohjola in his stark and extraordinary refurbishment of the Finnish pop band Karina's song finds a place a world away from the eerie atmosphere conjured creepily in the original. The IQ test result here achieves veritable Mensa proportions of engagement in the reconstruction and delivery of the song. Ilmiliekki Quartet itself is released on the WeJazz Records label on 11 February.

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Meg Bird, Girls Like Lions, Own label ****

Who's breaking through most as a jazz singer from the next generation? Step forward Meg Bird who stands more than a chance if tracks such as 'Not Yet a Lion,' a deft conversation between initially bass-and-voice and even more convincingly the …

Published: 12 Dec 2021. Updated: 8 months.

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Who's breaking through most as a jazz singer from the next generation? Step forward Meg Bird who stands more than a chance if tracks such as 'Not Yet a Lion,' a deft conversation between initially bass-and-voice and even more convincingly the singer's interplay with Alexandra Ridout on trumpet, are typical.

And so the whole thing proves on this first foray of a statement of intent produced by the acclaimed classic jazz singer Claire Martin there's a confidence and understated swagger here on Betty Carter's 'Droppin' Things' which opens proceedings. The album title is inspired by a poem of Elisabeth Hewer's.

Londoner Bird attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduating with a top class degree last year and here she is accompanied discreetly by pianist Jay Verma, bassist Seth Tackaberry, as mentioned earlier trumpeter Alex Ridout and drummer Harry Ling. The album includes a bull's eye of a choice in Carla Bley's 'Permanent Wave' and an understated, almost deadpan, version of Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy After all These Years' which works.

More razzle-dazzle at least as far as it gets anywhere on the album is Bird's version of Bob Merrill and Jule Styne Funny Girl song 'Don't Rain on My Parade'. But Bird, who reminds me a little of Polly Gibbons when she was first starting out, seems more at home when the atmosphere is more melancholic. That's when the Bley treatment inures itself most of all. The singer's own 'Reason to Return' is nimble and exultant and allows Bird to find parts of her register that we hadn't heard at least thus far on the album.

Pick of all for me is the version of 'When Sunny Gets Blue,' the Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal song first introduced by Johnny Mathis with Ray Conniff and His Orchestra in 1956. Bird's treatment of Showboat song 'Nobody Else But Me' also has a winning skip to it. So, a textbook way all in all to introduce yourself to the jazz-listening public particularly the subset hard wired to anything touched by the Great American Songbook. New classic jazz singers as accomplished as Bird obviously is already don't come along every day of the week. SG

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