Julian Argüelles, Circularity, Cam Jazz

From 2014. This feels like a moment. Birmingham-born Argüelles, 48, who made his name in the 1990s with albums such as Home Truths and Scapes plays tenor and soprano saxophones here joined by pianist and Cam Jazz label mate John Taylor, bass don …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 5 months.

From 2014. This feels like a moment. Birmingham-born Argüelles, 48, who made his name in the 1990s with albums such as Home Truths and Scapes plays tenor and soprano saxophones here joined by pianist and Cam Jazz label mate John Taylor, bass don Dave Holland, and Spin Marvel drummer Martin France for an acoustic set comprised of original Argüelles material specially written for the quartet.

A member of Loose Tubes from 1985-89, Argüelles joins the reformed band playing baritone sax in the line-up for festival and club dates in the spring. Circularity, don’t be misled, is a serious but not a starkly ascetic album as it’s full of some very strong and forceful playing from Argüelles that does not tackle texture as much as deliver line after line of gutsy and demanding intervallic explorations.

There’s nothing fragile about the saxophone lines and France, on an anthemic Ballamy-esque tune such as ‘A Lifelong Moment’, has to practically restrain his three other colleagues champing at the bit from just going too far and spiralling out of control. That’s at the end of the album but it begins with the wonderful funky springy bass of Dave Holland on ‘Triality’ where there’s momentum in abundance. Recorded last summer in Sussex all the pieces have a certain intensity to them, nothing is cut and dried about the themes, and they feel as if there’s a highly evolving thought process at play, say in the piano introduction of Taylor’s on ‘Lardy Dardy’, later Argüelles shimmeringly compulsive on soprano saxophone; or what about the “unsquare dance” feel of the title track itself? Brian Morton in the notes draws comparison persuasively in Argüelles’ approach to the style of Joe Henderson and like Henderson Argüelles is able to reach deep into the spiritual core of the material to hand, and on a slow pensive ballad such as ‘A Simple Question’ this aspect of what is an excellent record is most striking. SG

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Julian Argüelles, Tetra, Whirlwind Recordings

From 2015. On tremendous form over the last few years – I’m thinking of Circularity primarily, last year’s fine quartet album which also featured the presence of Dave Holland, but not forgetting the more recent South-African-themed big band affair …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 5 months.

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From 2015. On tremendous form over the last few years – I’m thinking of Circularity primarily, last year’s fine quartet album which also featured the presence of Dave Holland, but not forgetting the more recent South-African-themed big band affair Let It Be Told into the bargain – saxophonist Julian Argüelles also part of the reformed Loose Tubes, has, if anything, gone one better playing a blinder with Tetra. It’s easily one of his best albums in a substantial discography to date and I’d go further: you’ll struggle to find a better jazz album released in 2015 anywhere than this.

The band is incredibly strong and united under one banner (Argüelles is joined by pianist Kit Downes, bassist Sam Lasserson and drummer James Maddren) the leader fashioning a definitive sounding tenor and soprano saxophone sound that hovers somewhere close to the mood of Jan Garbarek at his most majestic. There’s a terse no nonsense side to Argüelles’ soloing, all ECM-like cool and tranquil but capable too of an explosively cathartic letting-go.

All his own tunes, with one based on Spanish folk songs, there’s an engaging directness about the material and no matter how convoluted the improvisations become there’s always a sense that Argüelles is communicating intimately with the listener, pianist Downes’ advanced unsettling harmonic underlay giving every melodic scrap nuance, the drama deepened by frothing rhythm and ingenious beat from Maddren and Lasserson.

Recorded in York in January last year in just one day the album is simply presented, the CD nestling inside a simple cardboard sleeve sporting the picture of the band you see at the top of this review taken by photographer Monika Jakubowska. The presentation betrays no clue as to the huge power rising from the quartet at all times when you put the CD on. An excellent album that deserves to be widely heard. SG