It’s taken a while. Bass player Greg Cordez had the tracks recorded a year ago we were hearing, having herded the frighteningly busy team of Jake McMurchie (tenor sax), Nick Malcom (trumpet), Jim Blomfield (piano) and Mark Whitlam (drums) into the studio. The occasional teaser has appeared on his website but now Paper Crane is released on Ninety and Nine records and the artefact is here, the CD cover artfully designed to look like it might have been recovered from a batch of a 1000 Paper Cranes and the quintet were at The Hen and Chicken on Sunday to launch it.
But first that CD: If an un-rushed build-up to the release was a deliberate strategy to stoke tension and anticipation, it mirrors much of the music on the compelling recording. A throbbing, repeated bass note launches Real and Imagined, Brown Bear begins with a lightly stepping repeating motif, piano and bass spelling it out, 8’23” with chiming piano chords, Black Bear arrives through clattering percussion and an insistent piano note. Each time, layers accrete and momentum builds as the piano binds things to together and the horns conjure affecting, slow moving melody lines. No need to rush. As these pieces reach their climax there’s a powerful emotional charge. There’s plenty of scope for soloing to grow out of the ensemble playing. Shcrodinger vs Cat with a thumping rock vibe and Up Quark with its rolling, propulsive momentum really build up a head of steam. Ballad November is a lyrical song, Malcolm’s keening trumpet sculpting beautiful lines over the cycling harmony. There’s a coherent musical vision running through the set, providing a frame for these formidable musicians to really sing and stretch.
If the recorded music draws the listener in and holds them, the live experience added another dimension. As carefully constructed as these compositions are, the repeated figures and riffs and driving grooves seemed to liberate McMurchie and Malcom further, Brown Bear stimulating a volcanic solo from McMurchie and Malcolm really letting fly on Blood Orange, a rare imported tune. Blomfield cut loose on 8’23” spiralling off into a solo piano interlude now rhapsodic now an eruption of two fisted rhythm, exploiting all the piano’s quirks.
They launched this music in style with a few ‘new’ ones from the Cordez pen whetting our appetite for more recorded output to come. No need to rush. The steady evolution will be compulsory viewing. Cordez himself supplied one the moments of the evening as he and Blomfield played All That Is as a duo, the bass channeling Charlie Haden with a sonorous melody and singing harmony from the piano.
A delight of an album, a fabulous gig.