Sean Gibbs ‘When Can I See You Again?’ LP/CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

Sean Gibbs, trumpeter, composer and arranger, hails from Scotland and after cutting his teeth with the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, Gibbs ventured South to take up a place on the jazz course at the (now Royal) Birmingham Conservatoire. Whilst there he formed the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra and released his debut album with the orchestra in 2015. During his time in the City, he studied with fellow trumpeters Percy Pursglove and Richard Iles. He left Birmingham with a first-class honours degree in 2015. Now resident in London, his star is in the ascendant. Recordings under his own name include those for small groups and orchestra.

Sean is also a prolific composer and arranger with many works for big band under his belt. Here however he has chosen to feature his quintet comprising Riley Stone-Lonergan (tenor saxophone), Rob Brockway (piano), Calum Gourlay (bass) and Jay Davis (drums) and this is their debut album. A mighty fine offering it is too!

The repertoire consists of seven original compositions from Sean and as he says, the emphasis is on “lyrical melodies, hearty grooves and a deep connection to the blues.” The album opens with ‘Internal Conflict’. Here the rhythm section sets up the theme with a certain sense of urgency before the front-line enter with the theme statement this is followed with a declamatory solo from the leader and a serpentine outing from the saxophonist, the whole piece seeming to allude to the performer’s own internal conflict.

‘Happy Hour’ follows with the rhythm team again setting the tune up. The tempo here is more relaxed, with the melody statement holding the attention. This performance reminds me of some of the music of fellow Scottish trumpeter Colin Steele, sharing a similar joyfulness. Up next is ‘Mary’ a sumptuous ballad performance. The dedicatee is one special and lucky lady. After the delicate melody statement from Gibbs, we are treated to a wonderfully thoughtful bass solo which is perfectly in keeping with the overall feel of the composition. Gibbs playing calls to mind many of the trumpet greats of the past, particularly for me, Booker Little and Clifford Brown. ‘The Grand Parade’ recalls the best of the classic Blue Note albums. This is a swinging, melodic piece where each group member plays their part to perfection including a crisp drum feature towards the end of the piece. The mood changes again for ‘That’s Your Lot’ which has a mid-tempo melody and is sure to become a most welcome earworm. ‘Camperdown’ is an inspired mid-tempo blues-inflected tune. Was this inspired by the Country Park of Gibb’s homeland? If so, it is a place well worth a visit.

The set ends with the title track and another change of pace and it’s another melody that will remain with the listener long after hearing it, simply because it’s exquisite. Gibbs is playful on this one and the saxophonist is earnest. All-in-all, this is a triumph for Sean Gibbs and his men and is sure to be another successful addition to the Ubuntu Music roster. After hearing this you too will be asking ‘When Can I See You Again’? Hopefully, this will be soon; there was an album launch in London in August. In the meantime, get your fix of the Sean Gibbs quintet by listening to this accomplished album again and again……and again.

Alan Musson

Glenn Ferris Italian Quintet ‘Animal Love’ 2x180g Vinyl (SoundScapes Media Group) 4/5

‘Animal Love’ by the Glenn Ferris Italian Quintet sees itself receive the vinyl treatment courtesy of the comparatively new record label SoundScapes Media. Founded by Paul Freudenberg, SoundScapes Media by design has geared their releases towards the ongoing rise of vinyl connoisseurs around the world and have subsequently introduced projects – or reintroduced projects in some cases – to excited new audiences. With a series of excellent releases already under their belt including the reissue of pianist Greg Spero’s ‘Acoustic’ album originally released in 2011 with drummer Makaya McCraven and bassist Matt Ulery. And from even further back is Irving Bush’s ‘Trumpet and Drum’ which is compiled from original master tapes recorded in 1975 and 1976. Each of the SoundScapes releases to date have had very distinctive and unique stories to tell which takes us to trombonist Glenn Ferris.

Born in Los Angeles in 1950, Ferris became smitten with the trombone from a very young age after seeing his uncle perform when he was eight years old. Having started playing with bands from a young age, as a session musician Ferris can cite having recorded or performed with some colossal names including Frank Zappa, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder – playing on the seminal ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ no less.

Keen to develop his sound further and commit to his long-standing affections for Europe, Ferris eventually settled in Paris in the early 1980s and continued to develop his résumé as a part of revered European artists and collectives including Youssou N’Dour and Michel Petrucciani.

‘Animal Love’ however sees Ferris taking centre stage and helming his own – Italian – quintet of celebrated musicians. Joining Ferris on trombone is Mirco Mariottini on clarinet and bass clarinet, guitarist Giulio Stracciati, bassist Franco Fabbrini and Paolo Corsi on drums.

While Ferris and company are able to create heartfelt and sublime ballads, like the Mirco Mariottini penned ‘Five in China’ or ‘When The Night Turns Into Day’ the real joy of the album is found when celebrating its liberated – dare I say, more feral – tendencies. The albums opening title track, for example, masterfully captures a real unbridled passion in its performance that is incredibly infectious. Perhaps my earlier “feral” comment is slightly inspired by the track’s opening mix of howls and barks interspersed with Ferris’ trombone before Fabbrini’s bass leads us more formally into our jungle adventure. ‘W Ernest’, the album closer, acts as the album’s book-end with another of the energetic compositions that really soars.

An artist with the musical legacy of Glenn Ferris is absolutely worthy of having his music honoured in this context. SoundSpecies, so early on their own path, have already amassed a series of great projects so we look forward to the future stories they’ll continue to help share.

Imran Mirza

Rasmus Holm Quartet ‘Fatamorgana’ LP (Gateway Music) 4/5

There’s a stark, beguiling beauty to trombonist Rasmus Holm’s new quartet recording. It’s something of a refreshing triumph actually. Who’d have thought it, a trombone-led quartet, without a melody/chord instrument. No piano, no guitar, just Holm’s trombone, Julius Gawlik’s tenor sax and clarinet, Thorbjørn Stefansson’s double bass, and Amund Kleppan’s drums. Having performed together for several years in and around Berlin’s fertile music scene, this quartet appears to have found something elemental, something organic, something rather special in the music they’re making.

There’s an experimental edge that runs through the whole session here, that’s sure enough. But what is surprising, given the musical diversity of the band, is how melodic and oddly accessible the music is. A feeling of togetherness permeates the entire album. An organic, earthy honesty catches the imagination with every listen. Rooted in the jazz tradition, “Fatamorgana” also includes elements inspired by bands such as Beach House and Black Dub. It’s the clearly defined sound though that shines through, laid-back yet precise, with a deliciously weird mix of folklorish melancholy and joy, often at the same time.

Gleefully intertwined folk-infused jazz melodies are at the heart of this recording. Holm’s trombone and Gawlik’s sax are like twin instruments, absolutely attuned to one another. Exhilarating harmonies and criss-crossed melodies breathe life into the wonderful compositions, the two lead instruments not only weaving unified magic but also breaking out individually to solo. And how they solo. It’s such a fresh, inspiring sound, exploratory yet musical in the best sense. Also, key to the overall sound of the album are the drums and bass. Such a cool, relaxed vibe is created by Stefansson and Kleppan, that one simply has to marvel at just how influential to the feel of the music they both are.

It is, for me, the innovative sonic musicality of the trombone and sax together that are the highlight of this album. There’s diversity and freedom in the arrangements and the playing that are exceptional. Several tracks, including “Kibera” and “TIO” are brilliant tunes, with such a rich, colourful tapestry of sound as the horns intertwine and unravel so effortlessly. Bare melody lines come to the fore on “The Man Behind The Hill” and “Euphony”, while the more traditional swing tune, “Bologna Nights” really gives room for improvisation and interaction between the musicians. On three tracks the band are joined by trumpet player Jonas Scheffler who has also worked with Rasmus Holm for a good number of years. And once again, it shows, with the same energised understanding helping the band work just as well as a quintet, still with time to breathe, a harmonious balance prevailing.

Whilst “Fatamorgana” deviates somewhat from the rhythmic norms, it sounds as if it was always meant to be. The structure and harmonies of the compositions seem to reassure the listener, allowing a warm feeling of familiarity as the album progresses. The tunes evolve in a very natural way, with subtle nuances and playful moods making me smile as I allow myself to fall deeper and deeper into the band’s gentle, inventive, creative spell.

Mike Gates

Donald Edwards Quintet ‘The Color Of US Suite’ CD (Criss Cross Jazz) 4/5

‘The Color Of US Suite’ is a powerful political statement yet subtle in its presentation. It’s pitched to the ‘gutbucket enthusiast’ but also aims to be ‘intriguing for the highbrow aficionado’. Either category of listener will be able to find a way into this music as it’s beautiful enough to keep drawing you back. Drummer and composer Edwards has been making albums since the mid-nineties, originally playing on the Louisiana jazz scene he’s now New York-based.

‘Little Hopes’ is the album’s opener, it begins with the Southern tradition of the clarion drum call. Narrated by the drummer’s young daughter, Sophia Edwards or ‘uttered through the vessel of a father’s pride and joy’ as the album notes put it. She narrates the pledge of allegiance and also describes ‘a rainbow of friends’ who also make that pledge. She asks ‘I love us, does the US love me?’ As she speaks Abraham Burton’s sax repeats a four-note motif inspired by a device used by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. to give cadence to his speeches. ‘Everyday we come together to unite and start each day with respect for all’ Sophia continues. I half expected the album to go on to demolish these youthful hopes and aspirations but it’s a much less cynical and more subtle record than that. The suite follows a pattern exploring the colours of the US flag in three instrumental pieces and then goes on to explore the colour of the nation in three further tracks entitled ‘Black’, ‘Brown’ and ‘Tan’. These contain a more obviously political narration but at the same time maintain a sense of optimism and hope for the future.

‘Red’ according to Edwards aims to answer the question ‘can we reimagine our world anew where the social contract is honoured and reinforced through individual expressions of freedom?’ The answer is apparently a resounding ‘yes’. The tune has an uptempo sax melody and an insistent piano phrase. Coltrane of the mid-sixties is brought to mind, the guitar sound also has echoes of that era. It’s possible to absorb the political message and simultaneously enjoy the beauty of the tune.
‘White’ follows in a similar vein, but with a more mournful melody that laments ‘the American descendants of slavery whose bodies were plundered to build the wealth of a nation.’ Abraham Burton’s sax aims to ‘explore expressions of freedom’ and he certainly builds a level of intensity into his soloing.
‘Blue’ showcases the lightness of touch and subtlety drummer Edwards is capable of. The melody momentarily quotes Parker and ‘wants to swing’. Ben Wolf’s bass is kept very busy and combined with Anthony Wonsey’s piano energises these three tunes and references jazz of the past but in a contemporary context.

Then we get onto the colours of the nation with ‘Introduction to Black’ a complex drum pattern over a melancholic sax then settles into the heavy groove of ‘Black’, there’s some strident soloing from Burton as the piece builds in intensity and his sax really takes off. It’s accompanied by some involved and rock-inflected guitar work by David Gilmore.
‘Brown’ sees Wolf’s bass offer a low key introduction before we’re treated to an innovative combination of guitar feedback from Gilmore combined with Coltrane-like soloing from Burton on tenor.
‘Tan’ is a passionate chant by Frank Lacy, ‘freedom, democracy, equality’ he repeats, it’s brief but no less powerful for that. The last couple of tunes are ‘Finding Beauty’ which is perfectly described by its title and finally, we come full circle with ‘Hurricane Sophia’ a homage to the youthful energy and vitality of Edwards’ daughter.

It would be foolish to ignore the political message in the music but it’s played in such a way as to allow us, listeners, to enjoy the sounds while absorbing it incrementally and on our own terms.

James Read

Graham Collier ‘British Conversations’ 2LP/CD (My Only Desire) 4/5

As I write this at least a third of us Brits are either talking about the weather, have already done so or are about to do so. The weather is, officially, more important to us than drinking tea, queuing or apologising unnecessarily. It’s debatable though whether the weather is more important than this Graham Collier ‘lost work’ from 1975, commissioned by Sveriges Radio and performed by their big band with trumpeter Harry Beckett and guitarist Ed Speight guesting. Released by London’s My Only Desire Records, ‘British Conversations’ focuses on our favourite, seemingly throwaway but deeply socially coded, subject matter. It’s a hippest of the hippest big band jazz, consisting of five movements that tell well-worn stories of wet dogs chasing cats as watchful shepherds delight at their tasty, mackerel topped, pea soup supper.

“Red Sky In The Morning” awakens us with only a mild portence. It’s too graceful, gliding and groovy to be doomy. The band effortlessly soars over countryside and lake, until halting for bass, drum and Beckett to get a touch funky. Speight’s viscous, gravy sound pours over the popping, prodding bass before Beckett and the band return with a moving Sketches of Northumberland bit.

The lyrical, balladic “Clear Moon” shines inspirational blue light, encouraging us to conjure stories, maybe romantic, maybe not, maybe journeys of self, maybe not. It’s a heart-touching, swelling/releasing six and a half minutes of caring about something or someone. Simple, impactful layered harmonies come and go and you feel better for having felt them.
Something’s coming and it’s coming soon warns “Halo Around The Sun”. Solo trumpet alarm is called before a Tropeau Bleu riff, hip cymbal riding and that warm big band sliding and gliding. An exuberant triple trumpet conversation warbles on as the band makes for a progressively thicker vibe.

Atmospheric and abstract, slow and considered, “Red Sky At Night” is an open space with no restricting time or structure. Silhouettes and shadows are projected as single or grouped, instruments briefly, yet persistently, visit; never staying long enough to form a pulse or pattern. Delicately naggingly memorable.

Georg Riedel’s adroit double bass leads “Mackerel Sky” into its pulsing, nodding blues. Speight stamps his overdrive and solos long time, his squared-off gravy now lumpy, giving it an incongruous psych edge as the band, seemingly unaware, undulates with an almost neck-snapping swing. A broken and loose Egil Johansen drum solo is then ended by a furiously joyous, rapid Riedel peppered bop.

‘British Conversations’ is beautiful. It’s touching and tender. There’s a British noir aesthetic; a Geordie Gil Evans-Axelrod. It gets pretty damned heavy (special shout to Stefan Brolund on bass) but there’s always a deft sensitivity. It’s hip but focuses less on the material, less on the spectacle of hip and more on atmosphere and warm emotion. And as Autumn brings its brown chill I’ll look forward to wrapping myself in that warmth. And if there’s a red sky, maybe I’ll eat some shepherd’s pie while listening.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s been an absolutely shocking summer here in Oxon. Dismal. How’s it been with you?

Ian Ward

Blue Dream ‘Trip To LA’ 180g Vinyl (Tangential Music) 4/5

‘Trip to LA’ is the new album release Andy Compton who partners with Irantzu Pujadas and Brad Kent to continue their work under the guise of Blue Dream.

As described via his Bandcamp page, the Bristol-based Andy Compton can lay claim to helming over 40 albums and nearly 150 EPs with projects boasting his indelible touch across a wide range of collaborations and guises.

Whether it be via the eclectic, digital funk of The Rurals, Compton’s pairing with the Dutch flautist and jazz musician, Han Litz, his work as part of the South African collective Sowetan Onesteps or one of the many releases under his own name – be it as Andy Compton or as simply COMPTON which is the moniker you’ll find his defining nu-jazz meets soulful house masterpiece ‘COMPTON’s Soul’ attributed to.

Blue Dream affords the producer and musician another in a seemingly endless series of opportunities to continue exploring the possibilities of music within the soulful house and future soul aesthetic. And for this Blue Dream excursion, Compton has found himself the perfect travel companions in musician Brad Kent and vocalist Irantzu Pujadas. With the trio’s debut album ‘California Dreaming’ having been released in late-2018, the group’s blend of nu-soul, R&B and chillout was nicely realised through their introductory project and now finds that groundwork developing into exciting new areas. Irantzu’s sublime vocal still finds itself perfectly at home over the accompanying lush soundscapes which were initially brought to life following a trip by the team to Kent’s studio to bask in his array of vintage analogue synth instruments.

It’s actually a set-up perhaps more akin to the array of funk and soul purists like Brooklyn’s Daptone and Dala Records or the UK’s ATA Records who shun digital and contemporary recording techniques in favour of those authentic-sounding recreations of a classic and bygone era. Much of what you hear from Blue Dream however you’d be forgiven for expecting it to be the result of state-of-the-art studio wizardry as opposed to the “dusty old drum machines”.

The Roy Ayers-esque sonics of ‘I Wanna Go Home’ delivers as one of the early album highlights as does the more scattered production of ‘You Want Me Back’. The dreamy ‘Blue Moon’ serves as another strong contribution to the album boasting the tiniest tease of a classic Terry Lewis & Jimmy Jam composition perhaps as a starting point.

Citing Compton’s approach to music-making as prolific seems almost limiting – there would have to be an entirely new term to surmise his staggering musical output and as I write this, there may be a further five completely different projects in the works but whatever Compton does have planned up his proverbial sleeve, there’s the hope that there’ll be another trip to LA at some point down the line.

Imran Mirza

Adrien Chicot ‘Babyland’ CD (Gaya Music Production) 4/5

French pianist and composer Adrien Chicot has a style that captivates me as a listener. Originally self-taught from childhood, he has gone on to study at IACP, a school headed up by the Belmondo Brothers, with the pianist successfully imposing himself as one of the leading players in the birth of a new generation of fine, young jazz musicians. Both his 2017 trio release, “Playing In The Dark” and 2018’s “City Walk” were excellent albums, showcasing Chicot’s original, enchanting style to wonderful effect. “Babyland” is the ambitious follow-up to those releases, with the composer opening out the soundscapes of his music to a quintet setting. Joining the pianist are saxophonist Ricardo Izquierdo, trumpeter Julien Alour, bassist Sylvain Romano, and drummer Antoine Paganotti.

Exploring for the first time the music of a quintet, Chicot conceived the music of “Babyland” by intelligently integrating parts for the brass instruments. There’s still the same refreshing and intuitive feel to his music, it is just a broader spectrum of sound than when working with his trio. On the eight original compositions, multiple climates, tones and textures are interspersed with lyrical and rhythmic themes, creating a very cool dynamic for all of the musicians to explore.

Chicot’s music is exhilaratingly expressive, none more so than on the album opener “Now!”. There’s a natural flow to this tune, met with a singularly unabashed musical force, one that blows me away with its classic yet modern making of a brand new, contemporary jazz standard. It’s bang on the money, brilliant writing, arranging and performing. “Cala Carbo” enjoys a distinct Latin feel, with its light, airy melodies punctuated by the splendid unity of the horns. Chicot switches from acoustic piano to Fender Rhodes for this tune, and it works particularly well here. The longest track of the album “Birth” is more exploratory and essentially quirky. Best described as a mini-suite, this tune changes in pace and mood from start to finish, with some interesting twists and turns along the way. “Meeting with Fred” feels somehow familiar, the intuitive playing from piano, bass and drums especially noticeable. Back to the wonderful brass for the intriguingly titled “The Rooster In The Hat Is Watching TV”. Lovely, silky-smooth arrangements allow the two horn players to show their class. The short piano solo “Sunlight”, expressive and alluring, leads us into another jazz standard in the making “Brain Eaters”. It’s like discovering a famous, classic Blue Note tune you’ve never heard before. The final piece “Low Latency” once more showcases Chicot’s intriguing, compelling compositional style.

There’s a fresh spark that ignites my listening passion as I play this album. Adrien Chicot continues to delight with his wonderful style and musical charisma. Yes, actually, that’s what this music has more than anything else; charisma. The pianist’s characterful and skilful arrangements make the whole thing work well as a darn good jazz quintet. Excellent performances from all make this a lovely album to listen to and enjoy.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Adrien Chicot ‘City Walk’ CD (Gaya Music Production) 5/5
Adrien Chicot ‘Playing in the Dark’ CD (Gaya Music Productions) 5/5

Kyle Shepherd ‘After The Night, The Day Will Surely Come’ 180g Vinyl (Matsuli Music) 5/5

I’ve been following Kyle Shepherd’s career ever since I heard one track off his first album ‘Fine Art’ about a decade ago on BBC Radio in the UK. For some reason that’s the closest he’s come to the UK although he has played in Europe – mainly in Switzerland and also in Japan and in Africa. That he hasn’t reached the UK is an oversight by many as he is easily as interesting and technically proficient player and composer as those younger generation pianists from South Africa like Bokani Dyer and others who have visited these shores.

This recording, his seventh, is intriguing for a number of reasons; it’s his first on vinyl – unusual for Matsuli to take a new recording to their catalogue as their output has been one of reissuing classic material from the archives. And there are other connections too. As well as being an accomplished jazz pianist, Kyle has in recent years also become a successful film score writer and this recording is similarly programmatic in nature being on vinyl two extended 20-minute or so tracks encompassing a number of his tunes and also improvised sections.

On digital, although still separate tracks they fit together smoothly to create one 45 minute suite – when I spoke to Kyle (for an upcoming ukvibe interview) he confirm he had indeed recorded the music in one uninterrupted set. He also said that his idea of vinyl meant the need for the music he recorded to be edited down to 45 minutes to fit the restrictions on vinyl. Kyle is nonetheless delighted with the finished result.

Being a solo piano recording, this programmatic approach does of course have echoes of Abdullah Ibrahim and his predilection in solo concerts to run his material into long evocative sets. Kyle is no copyist but does reference the South African jazz tradition and roots in his work. He was a student of the great Zim Ngqawana and that first album included tracks like Zimology and A.I. (for Abdullah Ibrahim).

Of course, South African jazz does not stand alone and has older and continuing links to jazz in the US, the UK, Europe and elsewhere. So, the first section of the first Side is ‘For Keith’, a delicate and poignant improvised elegy to that other great pianist, Keith Jarrett, who has sadly and recently had to stop performing because of two strokes.

The rest of Side A are re-interpretations of tracks from his previous albums ‘Desert Monk; Reinvention/Johannesburg’ (both on Dream State); ‘Sweet Zim Suite’, ‘Coleen’s Rose’ (A Portrait of Home) and ‘Buddy’s Well of Beauty’ (South African History IX).

The music flows imperceptibly through those tunes with beautiful timing, rolling chords and for ‘Sweet Zim Suite’ and ‘Colleen’s Rose’, in particular, showcasing affecting and moving melodies. Coline’s Rose as it is spelt on the original recording is dedicated to Coline Williams and Robbie Waterwich who died in an anti-apartheid action in July 1989. You can find more information and the significance of the Rose here: www.sahistory.org.za/people/coline-williams

Side B again starts with a new melody, ‘Dazuifu’, which is named after a peaceful Zen garden that Kyle has visited on his many trips to Japan. Then we move through more reinterpreted tracks ‘Cry of the Lonely’ (FineArt), ‘Desert Monk II’ and ‘Zikr’ (Both Dream State). ‘Zikr’, which has Eastern overtones, has passages that sound like a prepared piano or the use of reaching into the strings. And then that slightly abrupt and hanging ending edit has you wanting more.

This is an excellent and mature recording that will benefit from much re-listening and given that Matsuli is a joint SA/UK outfit and the distributors are London’s Honest Jon’s Records I hope that this might mean that Kyle will finally be able to play some UK gigs. And if he does, Covid willing, I will be one of the first in the queue for tickets.

Release schedule: Digital 1st September 2021 with Vinyl due 11th October 2021. Purchase link here

Brian Homer

Horace Tapscott Sextet ‘Dial ‘B’ For Barbra’ 2LP (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

After his seminal ensemble albums by the Pan-Afrikan People’s Arkestra around 1978-79, Horace Tapscott recorded the more swinging straight ahead album‘‘Dial B for Barbra’. Released through Nimbus West in 1981, the album is much less complex than some of his larger works, reconnecting his roots and influences and incorporating them within his avant-garde leanings. Traces of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and other early musical luminaries can be heard throughout this exceptional album, but there’s no doubt those influences are always being filtered through the artistry of Horace Tapscott and the sextet.

Pure Pleasure Records have added two tracks to the album and changed the presentation from a single to a double gatefold album with added sleevenotes. Featured alongside Horace Tapscott on the piano are Gary Bias on alto and soprano saxophone, Roberto Miranda on bass, Everett Brown Jr. on drums, Reggie Bullen on trumpet and Sabir Matteen on tenor saxophone.

Both Horace Tapscott and Roberto Miguel Miranda were an integral part of the labels roster, outlook and direction, bringing together musicians with a serious dedication to not just the art but the important grassroots work that was so important for the community of L.A. They were true influencers, musicians and teachers. All the musicians who featured on this album were an integral part of a much bigger social movement that supported and harnessed creativity from within the community. As with all the Horace Tapscott releases, ‘Dial B for Barbra’ beautifully captures the collective spirit and individual creativity.

A prominent member of the Union Of God’s Musicians And Artists Ascension (UGMAA), Horace Tapscott brought a real community spirit to his music and yet again this important album highlights the depth and soul within the music. The album is a real work of art and the 19 minutes ‘Dem Folks’ hooks you in straight away. The pianist/composer was known to be inspired by the style of Thelonious Monk, and it seems clearly evident with his approach and originality on Linda Hill’s 19-minute composition. The infectious building harmonic structures feature those same percussive odd timed vamps as Thelonious Monk, which keeps a sense of anticipation and framework for the free-spirited soloing by Gary Bias, Sabir Matteen and Reggie Bullen.

The nod to Miles Davis’ classic standard ‘Milestones’ is evident on the upbeat swinging ‘Lately’s Solo’ with Horace Tapscott, Everett Brown Jr, and Roberto Miranda’s distinctive bass sounds underpinning the flying colours of Gary Bias, Sabir Matteen and Reggie Bullen. The unique relationship between bassist Roberto Miranda and Horace Tapscott is evident on this and every track on the album. The bass violin gives a unique sound that complements Horace Tapscott’s depth and style.

‘Dial B For Barbra’ is yet another superb album from the L.A based musician/educator for the Nimbus West label.

Mark Jones

Read aslo:
Horace Tapscott ‘Live at Lobero, Vol. 2’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5
Horace Tapscott ‘Live at Lobero’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5
Horace Tapscott Conducting The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ‘Flight 17’ LP (Outernational Sounds) 5/5
Horace Tapscott with the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ‘Live At I.U.C.C.’ LP (Outernational Sounds) 5/5
Horace Tapscott Conducting The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ‘The Call’ LP (Outernational Sounds) 5/5

Tumi Árnason ‘Hlýnun’ 2LP (Reykjavík Record Shop) 5/5

Let’s begin with a question. Can the place you are from define you? In character, in conscience, in persona? I’d say yes, for sure – at the very least in the lives we lead and the music we make. I know very little about Iceland. My knowledge of this intriguing country is embarrassingly limited to random thoughts, people and pictures I have seen on TV. And then there’s Björk, of course, who I fell in love with many years ago. So why is it that I think Icelandic saxophonist/composer Tumi Árnason’s musical identity is forged from his surroundings? I really don’t know the answer but it obviously has something to do with the music I’m listening to here. All I can say is that this was one of my first impressions when listening to the adventurous, spellbinding, almost mystical music performed on this album. Maybe it’s the imagery that Árnason’s music creates in my mind. Can music be visual? Again, I would say yes, of course. The sounds I am hearing transport me to another place, a palette of many colours blending together, offerings of pictures to view in a gallery. But it’s more than that. These pictures are like dreams, moving in and out of focus. Some are like natural elements, coming together perfectly to live in harmony. Others are more like oil and water, refusing to mix, challenging and then repelling one another and once more going their separate ways. This is the musical landscape of “Hlýnun”.

There is an identity to Árnason’s music that is steadfast. His writing is uncompromising, experimental and tantalisingly unique. Once the spell is cast, it won’t let go. Deeper and deeper I fall from the glimmering, glacial rock-face, plummeting down through the half-frozen waters, fighting for breath as I rise once more, taking in a new horizon in my mind’s eye. It’s a primordial thing. Echoes of a distant life surrounding me. Birth, rebirth, life and death. A universe spinning on its axis, flooding my mind with random imagery from who knows where who knows when. And then I refocus, as steadily all reflections subside as I draw closer to the elemental, ever-changing nucleus.

“Hlýnun” – which translates as “Warming”, is an album that addresses our current existential threat, the climate crisis, through free jazz and experimental improvisation. It invites the listener into a dynamic ecosystem. Saxophonist/composer Tumi Árnason, with bassist Skúli Sverrisson, drummer Magnús Trygvason Eliassen, and keyboardist Magnús Jóhann Ragnarsson, use their instruments to orbit one another, trade ideas and create vital soundscapes. A living multiplicity that grows and flourishes, gains balance but is threatened by an ever-advancing hegemony. Songs of extinct birds are unveiled through melodies and a requiem for life itself bursts out of the organ. Man’s systematic and mechanical thinking haunts the work, rousing intensities and endangering its unity. The ecosystem regresses and becomes an apocalyptic ambience, hiss, then silence.

This is not necessarily the easiest music I will listen to this year. But if ever the music reflected perfectly the source of its inspiration, then this is it. It has its lighter moments, but the overall mood is sombre, as Árnason’s magnum opus challenges the listener to involve themselves in his journey. Fully immersive and compellingly brilliant, “Hlýnun” is a true work of art.

If you are thinking of delving deep into the wonders of this recording, I highly recommend you look at purchasing the very, very special vinyl edition. It is, quite simply, stunningly beautiful. The record is pressed by RPM Records in Denmark on a double 180g white marbled vinyl made from recycled materials. The sound is incredible. The ‘Poster Style” sleeve wraps around the vinyl and opens out to reveal six 12” sections on both sides, giving a total of twelve printed panels. The artwork design by Elín Edda Þorsteinsdóttir and Íbbagoggur, with front cover art by Þorsteinn Cameron, complements the music perfectly. The litho printed covers were made in Iceland and include scores, texts and poems by Brynja Hjálmsdóttir and Tómas Ævar Ólafsson. The overall package is one of the best I have ever seen produced anywhere in the world. The music and the product combined make for an incredibly visceral, rewarding experience.

Mike Gates

Astral Travelling Since 1993