Paul Clarvis, Liam Noble, Cathy Jordan, Freight Train, Village Life ***

Song is as controversial a word as any. To the free improvising musician it is something of an irrelevance in some ways although like ships passing in the night it is often there somewhere on the horizon however much taken for granted. Beyond and …

Published: 8 Jan 2023. Updated: 19 days.

Song is as controversial a word as any. To the free improvising musician it is something of an irrelevance in some ways although like ships passing in the night it is often there somewhere on the horizon however much taken for granted.

Beyond and including the sometimes maligned other times beloved ''Great American Songbook'' so many ''songs'' whether actually sung or not are basic material for jazz players. After all a song is a tune with (or even without, when the word is used loosely as it often is) words.

Other songbooks barge their way in and the intermingling is always interesting actually sometimes far more especially when more recent material is involved and probably are more valid to musicians and listeners who do not live in the US and have no intimate connection with either old Broadway or jazz standards traditions. So, take someone who plays a Radiohead song or a Beatles song or even before jazz history an old folk song.

That's a long winded way in to this new album by Paul Clarvis, Cathy Jordan and Liam Noble. Clarvis' hook here given that there are some fine Mo Allison songs is that he used to play with the great singer and pianist; Jordan's is that she is an actual singer of actual songs and like Clarvis knows the Sligo scene very well, a small town in the north west of Ireland known for its excellent traditional Irish and jazz traditions (the latter shaped around a summer school and festival every July). Liam Noble knows song through work going back a few decades with Christine Tobin, another fine Irish singer who can merge the words of W. B. Yeats into jazz settings as easily as she can the music of Leonard Cohen.

Freight Train is an easy listen because the song choices are so attractive and varied. Jordan's voice works well (she's very different to Mary Coughlan who makes things even bluesier) even when Noble throws in some spiky chord choices you certainly won't hear on any pop song in the top 20 any day of the week ever.

The main trad Irish selection Dick Farrelly's ballad 'Isle of Innisfree' manages to avoid being twee which is one polar aspect inherent in the genre of some popular Irish tunes (the other being lament laden and pretty tragic - as in the tunes Brendan Gleeson's fiddler prefers in the brilliant new Martin McDonagh film The Banshees of Inisherin) but it does require a sweet tooth. And the almost singalong quality of the album is also controversial. Aren't you, serious jazzer, supposed to sit there quietly and not so much as mumble? So this isn't made for you. But once you get over yourself you may actually quite enjoy what the trio have cooked up here and are currently touring. All together an old fashioned sort of big tent curated album where so many disparate elements also spanning Nick Lowe to Leonard Bernstein rub along together just fine.

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Anders Jormin, Pasado en claro, ECM ***

A mysterious sounding record made in Gothenburg last year that really does not fall into any meaningful bracketing easily. While Swedish bassist Anders Jormin is a distinguished jazz player Pasado en claro isn't really a jazz release at all. The …

Published: 7 Jan 2023. Updated: 21 days.

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A mysterious sounding record made in Gothenburg last year that really does not fall into any meaningful bracketing easily. While Swedish bassist Anders Jormin is a distinguished jazz player Pasado en claro isn't really a jazz release at all. The approach instead factors in Swedish traditional music courtesy of singer and fiddler Lena Willemark and crosses continents to utilise the ancient sound of the koto played by Karin Nakagawa, the collective work of the quartet anchored unobtrusively by Swedish drummer Jon Fält, a player, who again like Jormin, has a fine jazz pedigree. The album puts the work of Mexican writer Octavio Paz (1914-1998) centrestage for the chief reason that the album title is the same as a long autobiographical poem by Paz. Willemark's voice is the real guide to the heart of the approach. And while the outcome is often cleansingly beautiful it may well prove most meaningful only from a Swedish folk perspective. Out on 20 January.

Jon Fält, Lena Willemark, Karin Nakagawa, Anders Jormin, photo: Magnus Bergström. 'Blue Lamp' is streaming

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