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: 2 years.

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

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2019 Highlight: Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

The Gordian Knot by the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band proved session players heaven: the sort of band that should not by rights exist any more and would not if it were not for the movies. Includes a tribute to Tower of Power, plenty of samba …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 19 months.

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The Gordian Knot by the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band proved session players heaven: the sort of band that should not by rights exist any more and would not if it were not for the movies.

Includes a tribute to Tower of Power, plenty of samba grooves, lots of odd time signatures for Goodwin's film work factored in and then there is 'Sunset and Vine' featuring Kevin Axt, bass, Gordon Goodwin, piano, Andy Martin, trombone… one of the many overall pleasures of what is a very fine album.

Goodwin notes: ''I wrote this song in the style of West Coast Jazz of the 1950s and named it after a particularly famous intersection in Hollywood, CA.''

If you are a big band agnostic you may well discover a faith in the genre for the very first time given the skill and sheer joy of this album that has a real personality to the writing. SG