Malcolm Strachan, Point of No Return, Haggis Records ***1/2

Convincing is a factor that you don't often think about. But when you believe in a certain sound, it might only take a few seconds, then bingo. That point here does not take long to arrive. Perhaps it is the confidence. And certainly there is a …

Published: 10 Jan 2023. Updated: 19 days.

Convincing is a factor that you don't often think about. But when you believe in a certain sound, it might only take a few seconds, then bingo. That point here does not take long to arrive. Perhaps it is the confidence. And certainly there is a deserved pride here that translates into something.

Trumpeter Malcolm Strachan is usually heard in a funk setting with the Haggis Horns and if you are a Corinne Bailey Rae fan you will know that the Scot is on the 2006 smash hit 'Put Your Records On'. Here the Leeds scenester goes strictly jazz, influenced by Freddie Hubbard and CTI, specifically hard bop teetering in a soulful direction with some great percussion at the bottom of it all, very tightly blended horns and yes strings ('The Last Goodbye,' 'Elaine' most obviously) but it's the riff/groove foundations and the quality of the tunes that really impress. Certainly a vintage reverie more than a period piece is part of the formula. And you obtain the galloping swagger even of acid jazz era Britjazz bravado on top of far older crate digging even embedded within the Horace Silver-esque dash of 'Cut to the Chase' that gives the metrical design of it all a heat. Solos are pretty truncated, maybe a little too much at times, it's more about the head and the way the whole thing is resolved via careful extemporisation and attention to the core of the tune to hand.

Strachan's first album as a leader About Time appeared almost 3 years ago just as Lockdown hit.

One clever touch is the way Jo Harrop's voice singing wordless lyrics tucked inside an instrumental blend is used very subtly a few times to give literally an extra voicing. A tiny break out passage on 'The Wanderer' has future loop written all over it.

With Strachan, whose sound is reminiscent of Belfast player Linley Hamilton, who also acknowledges the Freddie Hubbard influence in his playing, on the record are Haggis Horns saxist/flautist Atholl Ransome, pianist George Cooper also from the Horns, trombonist Danny Barley, bassist Courtny Tomas who goes into a 'Love Supreme'-type riff to usher in 'Soul Trip', Haggis Horns drummer Erroll Rollins plus percussionist Sam Bell and strings by Richard Curran. Pick of the whole thing? 'Maybe Next Time' right at the end which has a really convincing, that word again without wishing to harp on, melody that the simmering production knows what to do with. That final point and something so many jazz albums lack, the sonic dressing makes a difference, the dynamic levels particularly suit lounge and evening home listening (without being at all cheesy easy) and the ordering of tracks certainly mucho continuous play. Out on 27 January. 'Cut to the Chase' is streaming

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Christoph Irniger & Pilgrim, Ghost Cat, Intakt ***

There's something very elemental about this recording. Full of clean, sleek lines, big bold saxophone playing and firm harmonic and rhythmic support that allows the piano playing of Stefan Aeby to break free and for the drumming lines of Michael …

Published: 9 Jan 2023. Updated: 19 days.

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There's something very elemental about this recording. Full of clean, sleek lines, big bold saxophone playing and firm harmonic and rhythmic support that allows the piano playing of Stefan Aeby to break free and for the drumming lines of Michael Stulz to seem so independent on 'Marvel' there is a real sense of outstanding flow. You wonder if this sheer effort can be maintained. Aeby's solution is a spiky chopped rhythmical onslaught on 'Seven Down Eight Up' where the whole band even saxist Christoph Irniger in the set-up become a sized up percussive unit. A studio recording made last spring in Lugano the Swiss quintet pivot meaningfully from the free-ish spiritual domain to a chugging rockist counter intuitive burst sometimes the latter sense provided by guitarist Dave Gisler's Marc Ribot like sense of upsetting the apple cart.

The title track has a serenity that this record is not afraid to delve into. Mostly Irniger's tunes this experienced band delivers in carving out a sense beyond what you might expect even when you think that you can read their moves and the Charles Lloyd-like turn of events on 'Calling the Spirits' is a pleasant surprise. Bassist Raffaele Bossard's composition towards the end is perhaps too tentative but 'Walking With Dinosaurs' completing an album that never outstays its welcome which Bossard leads off certainly isn't and the more extrovert this band prove as here the more successful the record ultimately becomes. Worth your while - Pilgrim are so much better than when they released Crosswinds. Out on 20 January.

'Marvel' and 'Ghost Cat' are streaming ahead of release.