Pablo Held, Embracing You, Hopalit ****

Regarding the marlbank new album-of-the-week for 4-10 October: on hearing one track 'Adagio For Nobler Toners' back in July we knew that there was some magic in the air and so it proves hearing the whole work following release a few days ago. …

Published: 3 Oct 2021. Updated: 19 days.

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Regarding the marlbank new album-of-the-week for 4-10 October: on hearing one track 'Adagio For Nobler Toners' back in July we knew that there was some magic in the air and so it proves hearing the whole work following release a few days ago. German pianist Pablo Held is one of Europe's finest improvisers and here on this latest album chooses mellotron, synths and celesta for additional texture. Drawing on 8 originals, including the 'Adagio' that makes use of a mellotron, he adds his stamp to pieces by Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter and John Taylor, recording the studio album in Cologne in 2020 and 2021.

Held was taught by revered English pianist and composer Taylor who died in 2015 and Held chooses to cover the ballad 'The Bowl Song' (Rosslyn, ECM, 2003). There's a grandeur to the veritably orchestrated 'Memorabilia' and an expansiveness that Held shares, along with a jaw-dropping technique, with say that other superlative European, the Welsh-born Berlin resident these days, Gwilym Simcock.

'Ruby, My Dear' is so fluent and loving. Held original 'Chronic Romantic' collapses the German's formidable classical sensibility into a workable framework for compositional exploration. Push come to shove the version of Wayne Shorter's 'Face on the Barroom Floor' (which was on Weather Report's Sportin' Life, Columbia, 1985) is the track to turn to most of the covers for its sheer poeticism. Held original 'Private Eye Blue' is an instant classic for its concision and cryptic, harmonic, development. Highly original as an entire entity given the atmospherics of the mellotron, synths, celesta and subtle overdubs in places the album's dazzling pianism nonetheless grab us by the scruff of the neck. Or might that even be more the triumph of the beautiful song of life that sings inside Held that must out and squeezes even harder?

Tags: Albums

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Where Rivers Meet ***

How curious and ''big band'' even the most avant-garde jazz is recalibrated to on Where Rivers Meet. But that's part of the point. Whether it's Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, Anthony Braxton or Albert Ayler and there are new orchestrations of work …

Published: 2 Oct 2021. Updated: 25 days.

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How curious and ''big band'' even the most avant-garde jazz is recalibrated to on Where Rivers Meet. But that's part of the point. Whether it's Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, Anthony Braxton or Albert Ayler and there are new orchestrations of work by all these saxophonic titans of the avant-garde here on this St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh 2021 SNJO recording. Their styles are rendered accessible, dare I say ''middle-of-the-road'', big band? Yes, do dare. Although the album's lack of edge is a flaw given the nature of a lot of the music interpreted after all, if you ever find listening to Anthony Braxton daunting, there is a useful way into his music that among the treatments orchestrator Paul Harrison has carefully channelled as if an exercise in decoding and blended with the SNJO's own signature flavours mapped out from the beat of Calum Gourlay down to the last dot. And this great orchestra, thriving-on-a-Smith, as ever is in a unity like one instrument. An astonishing year for Scottish jazz on numerous recordings. And 'When the Saints' pops up let's mark and celebrate that phenomenon. Stephen Graham