Simon Spiess Quiet Tree, Euphorbia, Intakt ***1/2

Certainly I wasn't expecting what's on Euphorbia - it's as chill-out a record as the defiantly avant-garde label Intakt has issued in a while (if ever) and this imaginative work from the Swiss trio of saxophonist Simon Spiess, pianist Marc Méan …

Published: 21 Jan 2024. Updated: 37 days.

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Certainly I wasn't expecting what's on Euphorbia - it's as chill-out a record as the defiantly avant-garde label Intakt has issued in a while (if ever) and this imaginative work from the Swiss trio of saxophonist Simon Spiess, pianist Marc Méan and drummer Jonas Ruther who emerge in the press shot above as if they are on the set of I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! is just as far away from the noisier end of the avant-garde spectrum as it is a conventional jazz release. Not a single beat is swung by the way or old jazz standard hinted at - it's not that kind of record although sometimes you get a blue - erm bleu, never bleurgh - note or two. I wouldn't see the recording, which was made in a Berne studio in 2022 with the involvement of British jazzer Dan Nicholls on synths in the mix and heavy on the production side, as a generic this or that at all. Even one of those voguish sleep apps would probably like the vibe here (especially on the snoozesome final track). The opening rough and ready sax statement on 'Bleu foncé' makes us think of something you'd hear on an Alabaster DePlume record. Not an unpleasant listen at all - quite quirky in a way - and certainly the inscrutable sort of thing even the Toblergnomes of Zurich may well value perhaps for its occasionally yummy soft chocolatey centres. SG

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Lynne Arriale trio, Being Human, Challenge ****

Not out for a while yet but dear marlbank reader you need to know about Being Human in good time, easily the most outstanding album we have heard recently and an album that we have been playing all the time since first getting an early copy 10 days …

Published: 21 Jan 2024. Updated: 37 days.

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Not out for a while yet but dear marlbank reader you need to know about Being Human in good time, easily the most outstanding album we have heard recently and an album that we have been playing all the time since first getting an early copy 10 days ago. This is pianist-composer Lynne Arriale’s 17th album, she has always been a revered figure among piano jazz fans but has never received the sort of wider acclaim beyond these intimate circles that make her name instantly familiar which is a mystery. This suite of 10 original compositions and the atmosphere of this record may change that. They represent the better side of human life acts of passion, courage, conviction, love, persistence, heart, etc dedicated to figures who have inspired American pianist Arriale including Greta Thunberg, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai soul. Joined by bassist Alon Near (hear him to best effect on the Jarrettonian 'Heart') and drummer Lukasz Zyta there's a lot of grandeur in the chordal architecture of the pieces led off by the epic 'Courage'. Arriale beyond sheer technique finds the, if you like, spiritual Bill Evans parts of the keyboard few can ever unlock and so you get on 'Love' a luminous dreamworld that recalls just what Evans was able to achieve (the piece is reprised at the end with dubbed-in choral vocal effects). There is an anthemic sense too to this fine record and you get that on the sturdy, hooky, motifs of 'Faith'. There's room for some experimentation which crops up on 'Curiosity' and, live, surely this piece has room to be developed a whole deal. And on Being Human too there is room for a more down home sense on 'Soul' while 'Persistance' is more driving and finds a McCoy Tyner sense of strength to the projection of the piece. Later 'Joy' summons thoughts of the passion of an Abdullah Ibrahim foray at the keys. All in all then a very special kind of record that summons all the resources that Arriale has at her disposal, from composition to performance, deep immersion in the language of jazz piano and a trio that allows everything, beat, groove and pulse, to break through and shine.

Out on 1 March. Lynne Arriale, photo: Joe Montezinos. The Lynne Arriale Trio are in London on 8 and 9 April for dates at Pizza Express Jazz Club