Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Uriel Herman, Different Eyes, Ubuntu ***1/2

Featuring trumpeter Itamar Borochov whose mesmerising 'Abraham' is currently track of the week on marlbank and incredibly atmospheric on opener 'Jerusalem,' Different Eyes from Israeli pianist Uriel Herman includes a cover of the classic 'Nature …

Published: 10 Jul 2023. Updated: 12 months.

Featuring trumpeter Itamar Borochov whose mesmerising 'Abraham' is currently track of the week on marlbank and incredibly atmospheric on opener 'Jerusalem,' Different Eyes from Israeli pianist Uriel Herman includes a cover of the classic 'Nature Boy' again Borochov all over the piece while Herman takes a deftly passive role in accompaniment. And when the pianist eases into the melody it seems natural but then becomes more flamboyant - his inner Rachmaninoff emerges.

Michael Jordan tribute 'MJ' rolls in with more of a pastoral feel. And the whole album suddenly becomes more chamber jazz before taking a classical tilt at the beginning of 'Luiza' and later there is even more Romanticism when Herman shows his big technique paying homage to Chopin. Certainly the album is a showcase of extravagant and impressive ability. When it settles into subtler moments - 'Paris' is beautiful reminiscent of a Georges Delerue soundtrack a tiny bit - it is at its most convincing and powerful. The passages with Borochov are most satisfying. Flautist Uriel Weinberger also makes his presence felt admirably. An unlikely cover of Nirvana's 'Polly' from 1990s grunge classic Nevermind is also folded into the mix and works very well, a nod inescapably, it seems to us, to the long established Brad Mehldau playbook here in the approach looking to the rock and pop canon for an alternative point of departure and paradigm shift.

Tags: NEW in reviews

Fraser Fifield, Secret Path ***

Low whistle, keys and drums isn't a combination we have reviewed this year. Or last year for that matter either. The likelihood of another album of this kind landing in 2023 is fairly small although who can rule it out? You could, then, reasonably …

Published: 10 Jul 2023. Updated: 12 months.

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Low whistle, keys and drums isn't a combination we have reviewed this year. Or last year for that matter either. The likelihood of another album of this kind landing in 2023 is fairly small although who can rule it out? You could, then, reasonably enough claim that what whistler Fraser Fifield, keyboardist Paul Harrison - check Harrison on Debra Salem's evocative In A Sma Room (2021) - and drummer Tom Bancroft have combined to deliver on Secret Path is unique.

Emblematic of a rich vein that feeds into Scottish jazz - although really the jazz language here is mainly coloured by the chief musically lingual input which is far more pervasively traditional Scottish music - the influence of Scottish sounds that Fergus McCreadie tapped on albums like 2018's Turas is a factor in what makes music making north of the border a creative universe in itself.

Following busy tightly disciplined patterns of decorative flourishes and melodic runs, Bancroft, who was a significant influence in shaping Scottish jazz most particularly when he ran the Caber label in the 1990s, adds a lot of energy and guides the whistle line expertly. The quiet ache of 'A Day Like Any Other' is a highlight of these 8 very melodic pieces mainly written Fifield says in the notes as recently as December last year. The dervish quality you get on 'East of Leith' adds a dimension that looks far beyond Scotland and helps make the album outerfacing rather than being too parochial. Paul Harrison on Wurlitzer particularly on 'Falling Awake' adds another entry point (and provides one of the jazziest solos on 'A Day Like Any Other') and yet the tunes thrive most in the interplay between whistle and drums.

There is a lovely tone to the whistle in Fifield's hands. Also known as a fine bagpipe player and saxist Fifield gets over the fact that the instrument can't do big loudnesses or bend notes any way nearly as much as a saxophone can. And overblowing or deliberate false fingering can't work at all in the same way. Clearly a virtuoso, his mastery of the instrument shows. Bancroft's introductory bars solo at the beginning of 'Gita' add a new impetus while the ache of 'Waltzed In' changes the feel again and takes some of the heat out of a busy sound. There is a knowingness on 'Not This Nor That' which is another of the jazziest things here. Secret Path in the title refers to a spiritual self discovery treatise by Paul Brunton first published in 1934. Out now on digital formats for streaming and download