Initial sampling from The Power of the Spirit is a strikingly soulful live taste of Isaiah J. Thompson

On the straightahead radar looking ahead our choice today of a track to dive into is by a player who fans of UK pianist Peter Edwards will certainly be at home with - the American pianist and surely a major star in the making Isaiah J. Thompson …

Published: 2 Feb 2023. Updated: 13 months.

Isaiah_Thompson-Paolo-Soriani_fma On the straightahead radar looking ahead our choice today of a track to dive into is by a player who fans of UK pianist Peter Edwards will certainly be at home with - the American pianist and surely a major star in the making Isaiah J. Thompson whose 'The IT Department' from Blue Engine release The Power of the Spirit is required listening. IT stands for the pianist's initials. The album is out on St Patrick's day. Blue Engine is the label of Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra who will appear in London this summer at the Barbican on 9 July. Nearly 11 minutes long it's a soulful romping tour de force complete with fine tenor work from Julian Lee and springy declarative bass from Philip Norris while the drum lines certainly land the feel of the piece rhythmically in the Jeff Tain Watts domain. The Peter Edwards comparison stands tall both in the way Thompson comps, slams hard when he needs to and solos with originality and a heat to the touch on the original piece written by the Julliard educated Thompson and members of his band. Isaiah J. Thompson, photo: Steinway

  • 'The IT Department' is the marlbank track of the week

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Wolfgang Haffner, Silent World, ACT ***1/2

Not everybody by a long chalk outside Germany and specialist circles has heard of Wolfgang Haffner such is the insularity of different European jazz scenes let alone globally. But if you have followed the drummer's career for any length of time and …

Published: 2 Feb 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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Not everybody by a long chalk outside Germany and specialist circles has heard of Wolfgang Haffner such is the insularity of different European jazz scenes let alone globally. But if you have followed the drummer's career for any length of time and keep abreast of new jazz releases generally especially led by drummers you will know that Haffner is an exemplar for the state of mainstream European jazz today and his sound is beautifully captured here on this his Lockdown era record. But there is more to Silent World than meets the ear at the heart of the perfect technical swung groove he creates stroke after stroke and subtle dink after dink. Haffner has a very sweet tooth for a melody and there is a craft in the old fashioned melodic sweep he conjures on a tune like 'Rise and Fall'. I found the melody of 'Hope' a little twee but there is far more here to like than run away from. Starry guests include saxophonist Bill Evans, the ex Miles saxist's fellow fusioneer Mitchel Forman, glamorous celeb trumpeter Till Brönner on the dreamily super poignant tune 'The Peace Inside' when things go a little smooth and Sting collaborator Dominic Miller. Haffner can cook up a groove from the simplest of ingredients and say tilting to New Orleans on 'Yoyo' adds a life to what he's thinking about. And even when there is a pretty melody and this album - which sweeps us back to the 1980s in terms of the soft balladic emphasis that you often found in the pop music of the day - is full of them. The main pianist here is Simon Oslender with bass duties mainly going to Thomas Stieger. Silent World was recorded in Bonn last year.

All the tunes are Haffner's and it is perfectly clear that he is a fine writer, the tunes quite pastel and autumnal figuratively speaking. I liked 'Faro' best. This track with Miller scores for the Gil Evans-like space conjured in the arranging and production and the melancholic Sebastian Studnitzky trumpet line. Every jazz drummer needs to listen to Haffner - it's better than any textbook and picks up the slack where Steve Gadd last left off. If you appreciate strong melody and a grown up emotional sense at play in the writing and execution of the substantial material on display than Silent World is recommendable too. SG

Wolfgang Haffner, photo: Lena Semmelroggen/ACT