I’ve reviewed a few CDs for London Jazz News over the last couple of months. A bit of personal archiving here then with links and one (or two) liners.
Seamus Blake: A double review of releases featuring the sax polymath. Superconductor interweaves lush string arrangements with an electric band, Blake’s writing and playing cover multiple bases. Bridges finds Blake guesting with a Norwegian band. Tasty European flavoured jazz with more great blowing. The review is here.
Martin Pyne: A solo, freely improvised set on vibraphone inspired by tales of faeries. Plenty to enchant here, it takes the listener to a quiet place. Review here.
Arne Torvik: More Nordic fare from a pianist based in Molde (of international jazz fest fame). Review here
Dave Jones: A breezy, swinging set from the Cardiff pianist with a storming quartet (expanded at times with a bit of overdubbing to allow Ashley John Long to play bass AND vibes… yup, that’s two CDs with vibes on this month). Review here
Looking back at CDs I’ve listened to recently for review on London Jazz News, I notice that trios have been figuring of late. I mentioned Michelson Morley in a previous post and review here, since then the three I’ve reviewed have all been trios. Maybe the reason I hadn’t particularly noticed was because they are all so different. Tenor player Melissa Aldana‘s Crash Trio (review here) and pianist Andrew McCormack‘s First Light (review here) were both recorded in New York and are both firmly rooted stylistically in that city’s rich, still evolving sound. Both leaders have migrated there, McCormack from these shores and Aldana from Chile. They are great albums of mainly originals and sound so different. Aldana is a still recent Berklee graduate but has somehow absorbed and made her own the influence of all the great tenor masters she’s listened to and studied with (Lovano and Rollins loom large). Andrew McCormack’s lovely touch and fluent melodic playing are always a delight and his writing shines here too, an ear for melody threaded through plenty of driving swing. Two top class trio albums.
My third trio, Busnoys‘ Weaving the Spell is a different proposition (review here) but no less beguiling. Led by vibes player Martin Pyne, the references and inspirations are broader and quirkier. Its a little gem of an album packed with melody, surprises and adventurous collective improvisation. This album illustrates how much can be suggested and evoked by not playing and sometimes, just two well chosen sounds. Its an approach shared by Michelson Morley (my plus one of course). Both these albums were recorded in Bristol at Jim Barr‘s JnJ studios. Co- incidence? Maybe, but two treats for your ears nevertheless.
Here’s another in my fairly occasional series of reflections on a recording as opposed to a live gig. This times it’s the new album by Busnoys for the fairly random reason of having shared a car journey recently with drummer Trevor Davies. This is an intriguing trio comprising Martin Pyne, vibes and percussionist with Trevor and Jeff Spencer on bass guitar.
It’s a quirky little gem of an album by turns spooky, moody and sparky with a couple of beautifully rendered hymn like ballads giving some moments of repose. Martin Pyne composes most of the eleven pieces. The episodic opener, Walking on the Devils Ground, gives a taster of the elements deployed throughout the album; a long atmospheric opening making maximum use of the wow, flutter and distortion of the vibes gives way to an assertively stated repeated pattern on vibes over an attractive angular bass riff, building up to an intense climax before dissolving away. The allusions to minimalist like patterns over different rhythmic grooves recur elsewhere on the album each time with a different flavour; The pattern on ‘Daph and Chlo on the wobbly bridge’ has an oriental feel to it until the rolling 12/8 groove gives it the sound of modal jazz standard whilst the slower moving title piece retains a haunting atmosphere. The perkily swinging and monkish ‘Over and Over’ and playful oom…Pah (the latter with Pete Judge guesting on trumpet) sound as if they might have been played with a glint in the eye. A highlight is the lovely ballad A stillness at Appotomax; Pyne allows the tune to ring, the unforced groove with the band giving it momentum and a natural swell as he embellishes. ‘For Ed’ with Trevor and Martin locking percussive horns provides as musical and melodic a drum/ percussion workout as you’ll hear in a while. The principal animatuear in terms of writing, Martin Pyne, reveals wide ranging interests embracing 20th century classical music as well as jazz with a particular fondness for 60’s icons with similarly open minds like Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell. The charm of Pyne’s writing and arranging and the performance of this band is that it brings all those interests together to make a coherent and distinctive sound. The band’s mutual empathy and hair trigger responsiveness create an absorbing, entertaining and affecting world, an experience that will only heightened by live performance.
A bit of bloggers block and a life/ work takeover have kept me quiet for the last few weeks. Happily the music has played on, and we have even caught some of it so here’s a few fleeting thoughts about a few of gigs. Clare Teal at Komedia was great fun. Somehow the arranging and performance of her band sound like a big band even when there are only four of them. MD Grant Windsor seems to have cajoled her into singing more overt pop covers: Van Morrison, Annie Lennox and even Snow patrol songs find there way in. There’s not loads of improvisation, just cracking arrangements a blistering rythmn section, Clare’s ‘Victoria Wood does jazz’ banter between songs and some hair tingling moments courtesy of those famous larynx. Unfailingly entertaining. Martin Pyne at St. James Wine Vaults with the Jazz house trio was a different but no less absorbing gig. Guy Harrup on guitar replaced Vyv and an intriguing medley of tunes emerged. Pyne is a percussionist as well as vibes player and has a penchant for abstraction and adventurous improv groups. This was a standards set with a few less well know anthemic pop tunes in there, so some of his more off-centre inclinations were held in check. A good smattering of monk revealed a delight in quirky rhythms and oblique motifs and I found his soloing really compelling because of that. Our most recent excursion was to see Tim Richards’ trio at Chapel arts. This is still a nice space. The sound was good and the team at Chapel Arts proud of the new Yamaha grand on the stage (I wouldn’t have gone for brown though!). Tim Richards has been established on the British jazz scene for over 20 years, a journey that started in the South West and a young Andy Sheppard played in one of the bands. Shockingly I’ve never seen him play. The selections were from his own recent repertoire and whether drawing on classic tunes or his own compositions there’s a very direct assertive feel to his playing, frequently drawing on a bluesy language. This was swinging, rolling music with a heart – tempting to slap the ‘hard bop’ label on it. There were some nice arrangements of tunes using riffs and bass pedal notes to propel melodies and generate a bit of suspense. An enjoyable gig bring energy to a thoroughly jazzy vibe.