Michael Feinberg, Blues Variant, Criss Cross ***1/2

Sick of the airy Nordic approach when there is about as much atmosphere as a game of snooker on the moon? Fear not. There is nothing wishy washy about the title track - jousting saxes, ''stuff your minimal no chord change pastoralism'' it is as if …

Published: 6 Jan 2023. Updated: 22 days.

Sick of the airy Nordic approach when there is about as much atmosphere as a game of snooker on the moon? Fear not. There is nothing wishy washy about the title track - jousting saxes, ''stuff your minimal no chord change pastoralism'' it is as if to say.

When double bassist Michael Feinberg by contrast on 'Saqqara' opens up more airy space there is a sense of drama conveyed via the introduction of flute in the mix and then cross rhythms from Nasheet Waits percolating and simmering. It's quite the intervention. 'High or Booze' has a handsome initial line that is the most convincing lead line of the whole album. The Rhodes electric piano touches from Leo Genovese when they come add new welcome colour.

Blues Variant covers Herbie Hancock's 'Eye of the Hurricane' which is a good choice given that there are few covers around these days. Oh, a cover of the 1965 released Maiden Voyage classic hasn't registered with us much since Boris Kozlov's 2016 version on his swinging guitar flavoured Conversations at the Well. The Feinberg band's treatment is in terms of gutsiness and mobility far preferable to a night on the tundra. And yet it's not at all heritage ''night-in-Tunisia'' terrain either that the band land on while retaining a bebop flavour as roux. Saxist Noah Preminger and the great Dave Liebman bounce off each other enjoyably in the band sound, think the flicker of an animated movie as timbral layers and the tartness and savouriness of sharps and flats make the ensemble lines characterful at pace.

Feinberg draws to mind the example of Michael Janisch who has done so much on the London scene to raise the standards of the often neglected advanced hard and post-bop community to stop that scene becoming its own worst enemy or too disillusioned and worse cut off from a 21st century reality believing its own press in its own muso bubble.

If you are a bass player listen to Feinberg on what is a veritable étude 'Improvisation (for Leslie)' at the end that isn't as indulgent as it could have been and above all shows Feinberg's incredible tonal command and melodic grasp.

Out today

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Michael Feinberg photo: publicity shot plays the Vortex with Preminger included in the band, later in the year this spring on 26 May

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Frederik Köster and die Verwandlung, Stufen, Traumton ***

Quite apocalyptic sounding, stark and yet more broadly meaningful in places this quartet album from German trumpeter (and singer) Frederik Köster with his band die Verwandlung - ''the transformation'' - (pianist Sebastian Sternal, bassist Joscha …

Published: 6 Jan 2023. Updated: 23 days.

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Quite apocalyptic sounding, stark and yet more broadly meaningful in places this quartet album from German trumpeter (and singer) Frederik Köster with his band die Verwandlung - ''the transformation'' - (pianist Sebastian Sternal, bassist Joscha Oetz, drumer Jonas Burgwinkel) is an earnest listen. Sternal's contribution particularly is very listenable to and certainly its modernistic serious atmosphere is also worth the time.

New to the band? Begin with 2020's more serene Golden Age.

The weak track on the new release is the doleful vocal 'Further in the Summer' a number that seemed an interruption in the run of tracks. But otherwise the rest of the often balladic instrumentals hang together fairly well. And yet the compositions could do with a greater variety of mood - 'Road Trip,' with a sort of Balkan rhythmic lilt to it, shows however that the band can be bravura exciting at a pinch as well as delve introspectively which tends to be their default emotion elsewhere. Köster is reminiscent a little of UK trumpeter Henry Spencer whose essential sound relates more to Anthem period Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (Christian Scott), not so much the more multi-faceted Köster. Stufen (''Phases'') is out on 27 January.

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