Noah Stoneman, Mark Sanders, Caius Williams, Live at MAP ***1/2

The best known player is the most imaginative free-jazz drummer of his generation on the UK scene, Mark Sanders, who is always worth hearing. The pianist is only starting to get his name out but Noah Stoneman seemed the fully formed article …

Published: 11 Apr 2023. Updated: 10 months.

The best known player is the most imaginative free-jazz drummer of his generation on the UK scene, Mark Sanders, who is always worth hearing. The pianist is only starting to get his name out but Noah Stoneman seemed the fully formed article appearing with Xhosa Cole, Jay Phelps and Jim Bashford playing the Larry Young organ role on some Unity themed gigs a few years ago.

This live-in-north-London recording couldn't be more different given Live At MAP is free improv. And pretty compelling at that. Appearing at the up and coming jazz musician-friendly venue Kentish Town cafe spot MAP last October, the double bassist here is unknown to us but also in addition to Stoneman and Sanders makes a strong impression. This guy, Caius Williams, who has been gigging with the likes of Tom Challenger over the past year operates in a Henry Grimes state of mind. Zeroing in a bit more: Stoneman plays particularly on the 2nd of these fine improvisations like Craig Taborn and proves once again that he is one of the most exciting and technically gifted pianists to come along on the UK jazz scene since Kit Downes and gaves a further indication of his sheer versatility in addition to what we know of his playing so far.

Given the humble circumstances of both the way this recording is issued and the way it was recorded in non-fancy conditions (when there is a little speaking, the audio crumbles into mumbles and the way the clapping is recording is vicar tea party fare) just what Stoneman, Sanders and Williams might be able to do in a studio is a tantalising prospect. You might think seeing and hearing this on a sonics level: oh just a nothing-fancy live album, only on download and streaming for free - so what. But the pro side holds more water: no hype gets in the way. There isn't any imposed or wacky A&R thinking to mess with the players' minds. And there is mercifully not a hint of any nutty requirement to play some sort of parachuted-in inappropriate standard. What is here instead are four beefy improvisations all worthwhile - no vegetarian options are available - running in at some 17-19 minutes-long each. If new to Stoneman this recording may well make your day. Something of a Rorschach inkblot test of an outing - the artwork at the very least seems to be suggesting - but the only disorder is the welcome and stimulating right thinking fervour. Download the album here. Map Studio Cafe, photo: Twitter

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Playing the top EU clubs

Notable appearances include: Malika Tyrolien Unterfahrt Munich tonight Jacques Schwarz-Bart le duc des Lombards Paris Thursday Released last month what grabbed us most about The Harlem Suite early on in this homage to the New York city …

Published: 11 Apr 2023. Updated: 10 months.

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Notable appearances include:

Released last month what grabbed us most about The Harlem Suite early on in this homage to the New York city district framed by its interconnectedness with the Caribbean reliably inventive saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart excelled in the treatment of Herbie Hancock and Benny Maupin's 'Butterfly' that featured a fine vocal by Schwarz-Bart's fellow Guadeloupean the singer Malika Tirolien (playing Munich tonight) known for her work with Snarky Puppy. Schwarz-Bart known for his explorations of Gwoka and voodoo musical cultures who has a very emotive flexible inflection to his sound also tackles John Coltrane's 'Equinox' in the record and puts his own spin on the classic to make it a stately 'Equivox'.

Last month's Sure of You a duo album from the Glasgow torch singer Georgia Cécile and pianist Fraser Urquhart isn't zip-a-dee-doo-dah at all. Bernstein show song 'Lucky To Be Me' is lovingly treated and Urquhart's often hidden in plain sight accompaniment is best heard in the way he introduces Bobby Troup's 'Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring,' the B side of Jimmie Rodgers 1957 hit, 'Honeycomb'. His version seems so cheesy nowadays but Cécile's definitely isn't. The most recent song covered here was Gregory Porter's 'Modern Day Apprentice' which was on 2020's All Rise and again you obtain a gospelly sensation through and through. Most unexpected choice of all was Estonian holy minimalist composer Arvo Pärt's 'My Heart's In The Highlands' setting of lyrics by Robert Burns, the clear big Scottish statement. If anything Sure of You is deeper into jazz and even more convincing than Only The Lover Sings although there is nothing here that matches the extraordinary impact of 'Harpoon' on that earlier album.

FURTHER AHEAD
  • Nicole Mitchell and Ballake Sissoke Fasching Stockholm Tuesday 18 April

  • Nicole Mitchell and Mark Sanders Casa del Jazz Rome Friday 21 April

  • Lee Meehan Quartet Arthur's Dublin Sunday 23 April

Georgia Cécile, photo: press, plays Paris on Saturday night