I’m still catching up with 2016’s recorded largesse as 2017 rolls on. These two excellent albums are wildly different but give a flavour of the diverse creativity honed and unleashed by now well established jazz programmes at top music colleges. Drummer Silk hails from Scotland originally but went to Birmingham, whilst pianist Dominic Marshall went to Leeds before migrating to Holland for further study.
Marshall’s latest recording Triolithic, released towards the end of last year, finds him reunited for half the dozen tracks with fellow Leeds alumni Sam Vicary on bass and Sam Gardner on drums. The rest are recorded with regular collaborator Jamie Peet on drums and Glenn Gaddum Jr on bass. There are plenty sources of inspiration blended into Marshall’s playing and writing but the lodestar is the blending of melodic lines, jazz drenched harmony, fluid improvising and the beats of hiphop. It’s territory he’s been exploring for a while, but this collection has the assured feel of an artist confident in his own voice. A liquid groove may never be far away but different atmosphere’s are conjured up with a playful hook from the synth on 80 Campbell Road, a dark modal work out on Deku Street with Jarret-like spiraling invention. Blue Lotus takes off with dazzling counterpoint. The pieces evolve and the developments suggest little stories. This is music that draws on influences and makes something fresh from them.
Jonthan Silk‘s Fragment is another set of original music, but using an altogether different palette. Silk has written for a big band augmented by a 13 piece string section. He’s put his studies with Vince Mendoza and Maria Schneider to good use creating sweeping, dynamic pieces. Some, like Introduction, Prelude, Reflection are very short setting us up for more prolonged development. After swelling strings, the trumpet entrance on Introduction is a catch the breath moment before Buchaille kicks in, layers build up and solos swoop over stabbing interjections from the ensemble. The title track Fragment is high octane, burning improv over a rocky clatter. Fool’s Paradise’s succession of episodes uses the full range of the the band building to a climax, the trumpet section soaring over a clamorous sax solo before calm descends. There’s some glorious playing from individuals and the whole ensemble. This is a notable achievement and too many strings to count added to the bow of Birmingham’s Stoney Lane Records who put this one out.
If 2017’s crop of recordings produces many like these two, it will be a very good year.
February may be one too many months of winter, but as well as my birthday to brighten it up, there’s been plenty of great live and recorded jazz. Nailsea, just south of Bristol is hardly off the beaten track, but a small effort is required to search out the recently restored and managed by a trust Tithe Barn, now a focus for all sorts of creative pursuits including an occasional series of jazz gigs. When I spotted Dominic Marshall was their latest booking, the effort promised to be richly rewarded. His 2014 album Spirit Speech (reviewed here ) revealed a singular musician exploring territory deploying a fluent and expressive use of harmony and improvisation combined with rhythms, grooves and compositional ideas that echo the world of hip hop and beats. The live set with former college mates Sam Gardner on drums and Sam Vicary on bass (these two were in Bristol earlier in the month with the Wildflower Sextet) was in the same territory, but a largely new set of material. It was an absorbing two sets. The jigsaw like meshing of looping riffs and themes from the piano with bass and drums provided the building blocks for compositions that morphed from one mood to the next. The intensity was built as often through repetition and exploration of one of those elements as from more conventional soloing, although there were some dazzling workouts over cycling sequences, especially in the second set. It may not have been the Nailsea audience’s usual fare, but they recognised a good thing when they saw it and cheered the trio to the barn’s medieval rafters.
There’s been some enjoyable music in the speakers during February. Jacky Terrasson’s new release Take This on Impulse! has loads of great moments, my review for London Jazz is here . Having caught Vein at St. George’s back in December, their forthcoming album was a delicious prospect. Catching one of their live dates later in the year may not be easy (there are just a few spread around the country) but will be a real treat. The London Jazz News Review for that on is here. And now March is here and in these parts, half the area’s population of musicians will be hanging out at Bristol’s Colston Hall for the Jazz and Blues festival next weekend (6/7/8 March), helpfully previewed by Charley Dunlap on Listomania. See you there.
Conjunto Gringo with the final blast of the foyer programme at Bristol Jazz&Blues
If John Fordham can do a ‘month in jazz’ round up, then why not me. I notice its literally a month since I last posted here, but that’s not because ears have been sealed. Far from it. Aside from total immersion in the Jazz and Blues fest of which more in a moment, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to a few new recordings having started reviewing a few for LondonJazz News. This month its been relatively young emerging talent I’ve listened to in the shape of Norwegian tenor saxophonist Hans Paulsberg, British pianist Peter Edwards and Brit but based now in Amsterdam pianist (and grew up in Wiltshire) Dominic Marshall; reviews here, here and here respectively. Dominic Marshall in particular is one to watch. The main event of course was last weekend’s Jazz and Blues festival (although top notch gigs have been coming thick and fast either side. Jon Turney somehow seems to manage to alert us to most of them). I’ve reviewed the festival headline programme for a certain indispensible jazz publication, I think it will be the May issue (out towards the end of April!) in which that appears, so won’t say too much about that. But like everyone else whose posted, tweeted, facebooked and generally emoted, all I can say is wow! There’s just the sneaking feeling that for anyone who went, it was the foyer wot stole the show.
If your entire weekend was spent soaking up the non-stop roster of bands on the free-stage and nodding to the sounds seamlessly inserted in breaks by local legend DJ Tony Clark, maybe hanging on until the regular bands morphed into the jam sessions later in the evening, then chances are you’d have had a natter with just about everyone you know on the local scene, seen some extraordinary music and got a good impression of the what people thought of the gigs in the two halls as the crowds ebbed and flowed. If you’d wondered why there was so much dancing going on, maybe it was because Friday night’s swing dance with the Bruce/Ilett Big Band seemed to set the tone and give everyone license to appreciate the music in whatever way they felt like. Another really special occasion and definitely the highlight of my month.