Dave Liebman ± Richie Beirach ‘Eternal Voices’ 2CD (Jazzline) 5/5

Sometimes the fusion of jazz with classical music can result in the bite being taken out of both genres. Over the years there have been many examples of such an unhappy union. However, there have been some attempts that have proved to be more successful. Gunther Schuller coined the term “Third Stream” almost sixty years ago when he drew together jazz luminaries of the time Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans and Jim Hall and paired them with the Contemporary String Quartet for the album ‘Jazz Abstractions’. Earlier, in 1957, the arch-serialist Milton Babbitt produced ‘All Set’ for a jazz ensemble that included Charles Mingus and Bill Evans and which was dedicated to Gunther Schuller. However, the piece that many think of as perhaps the first melding of jazz with classical music came in 1945 when Igor Stravinsky wrote the ‘Ebony Concerto’ for clarinettist Woody Herman. This was merely Stravinsky’s impression of jazz and there is not a moment of improvisation in the score.

More recently, Uri Caine has made great creative use of the possibilities afforded by reflecting upon the classical repertoire through a jazz lens. In 2017 pianist Bill Cunliffe released ‘BACHanalia’ and fellow pianist Brad Mehldau released ‘After Bach’ in 2018. July this year will see the release by British saxophonist Mark Lockheart of a collection of English church music. The latest in a long line of such musical fusions is this offering from Liebman and Beirach. New York saxophonist Liebman began taking classical piano lessons at the age of nine and by the time he was twelve was already working to master the saxophone. He credits seeing John Coltrane performing live at many venues around New York City as the starting point of a life-long affinity with jazz. Liebman was later to work in the group of one-time Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones.

The saxophonist’s association with pianist Beirach dates back to the early 1970s when they formed the group Lookout Farm, recording for the famed ECM label and A&M Records and undertaking tours of the U.S., Canada, India, Japan and Europe. Later they began working as a duo and in 1981 formed the group Quest. Beirach, also a native of New York, studied jazz and classical music. Both men have studied with the legendary jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. His piano style shows the influence of Art Tatum, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea and is also informed by his earlier classical training. Our intrepid duo first recorded together in 1975 on the album ‘Forgotten Fantasies’ which saw the saxophonist employing the then fashionable echoplex and phase shifter to add a new dimension to his prowess on the saxophone.

The current album is an altogether different affair, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of these two meeting, playing and recording music together. This two-CD set consists of seventeen masterpieces of classical music opening with a very delicate interpretation of Mozart’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 23, 2nd Movement’ and continues with pieces by Beethoven, Bach, Faure and Scriabin amongst others together with one piece each from both performers. The second disk is devoted to interpretations of various string quartets by Bartok and displays Liebman’s tenor saxophone in all its glory. The pianist references Bartok as a major influence on his language of modern jazz piano. It is impossible to pick musical highlights from this recording as each piece brings its own special gifts. The piano, as one would expect, is beautifully recorded and Liebman is especially effective on soprano saxophone. In addition to his customary tenor saxophone, we also get to hear C-flute. The recordings were all done in a studio in an old house in the forest of Zerkall near Nideggen, Germany. Beirach contributes an informative and detailed booklet note.

Don’t be at all concerned if you are not familiar with all of the original source material from which these improvisations are constructed, just simply sit back and enjoy the music. This is clearly a labour of love for the performers and is truly life-enhancing for the listener.

Alan Musson

Various ‘Colombian Soul Compiled by Bagar aka Tricky D’ CD (BBE Music) 4/5

Dean Bagar, aka Tricky D, a Croatian born DJ living in Colombia, had a very specific vision when compiling Colombian Soul; to introduce audiences to the “softer, smoother side to Colombia’s music that most of us never get to hear”. Colombia is a hotbed of cultural creation. Many of the artists we know who are on the cutting edge of musical innovation come from Colombia. So I was really excited when Colombian Soul hit my inbox. Tricky D did a great job of balancing some of the heavy hitters like System Solar, Cerrero and Romperayo, with lesser-known artists like El Leopardo and Radio Rebelde Soundsystem.

The first three songs emphasize the voices of women. In fact, women’s voices are present throughout Colombian Soul. This feels really important. Particularly “Cuando Canto Grito”, produced by Llorona Records’ Cerrero and featuring the voice of Lucía Pulido. The song is intimate yet so powerful, an idea echoed in the lyrics. It’s hard to express in words what that means, “when I sing I yell” but it is one of the most powerful sentences in any song I’ve heard in the last few years. And the way Pulido sings it, with such soft power, reaches deep into your core.

Tricky D is tapping into a very important movement happening in Colombia and echoing throughout Latin America, the mixture of roots music and electronic production. It could be argued this movement began in Colombia with Sidestepper in the early 2000s and it certainly came to prominence with Colombia’s Bomba Estereo. This movement is typically very upbeat and meant to move your body. While there is a lot of well-deserved hype about the high-energy sounds, Tricky D has smoothly manoeuvred around the typical sounds of “electro-folklore” to bring us a gentler sound. It’s very obvious that Tricky D has a deep understanding of the nuances and beauty that exist in Colombian music. It’s apparent that he took great care in his selections for the album, creating a true experience for us as we progress from one song to the next.

Other notable tracks include “Adios Morena” by Esteban Copete, a head bobbing song thick with dubby percussion sure to be stuck in your head in the absolute best way. “El Leopardo”, by El Leopardo, moves the way a cat does when it’s on the prowl. The song sounds like you are a leopard stalking the jungle looking for the nearest dancefloor. Dragao’s “Cumbia Lobina” which features powerhouse Nidia Gongora fills your ears with a psychedelic mix of bass and horns brimming with soul. That is what Tricky D has done so well with Colombian Soul. While the songs he’s chosen are meant to be smoother and slower than what might come to mind when we think of Colombian music, the songs are all grooves, you still want to move to them because you feel them in your body. Within these twenty songs, Tricky D has masterfully captured the Colombian Soul.

Molly Gallegos

Timeless Allstars ‘At Onkel PÖ’s Carnegie Hall / Hamburg 1982’ 2LP/CD (Jazzline) 4/5

The Timeless Allstars concert at Hamburg’s Onkel PÖ’s venue was originally taped for the German radio station NDR and thanks to the Jazzline label and some valuable archived concert tapes, this previously unreleased recording sees a welcome release, put together with stylish presentation and packaged as one CD which includes a 12 page booklet or 2LP vinyl format.

The Timeless Allstars sextet were named after the Dutch label, Timeless, and feature a distinguished line up of jazz musicians with Buster Williams [bass], Billy Higgins [drums], Cedar Walton [piano], Harold Land [Tenor Saxophone], Curtis Fuller [Trombone] and Bobby Hutcherson [Vibraphone].

For this 1982 concert performance, the stellar group decided on four lengthy compositions which perfectly allow the space to accommodate each composition to gently unfold whilst allowing room for the soloists and development of each composition.

The original and progressive style of bassist Buster Williams can be heard on many classic jazz albums dating back to the 1960s, with lengthy stints alongside the Jazz Crusaders on such albums as ‘Lighthouse 68’ and ‘Uh Huh’, as well as valuable collaborations alongside countless figures including Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. He also featured as part of the Mwandishi Sextet, who were regarded among the finest jazz-rock and pop-tinged units of all time. His composition ‘Tokudo’ lifts off in a swinging fashion with Curtis Fuller sparking off Billy Higgins’ uptempo ride cymbal tempo with some sharp shifting uplifting notes before Bobby Hutcherson and Harold Land takes the stage. The composition stretches out over 19 minutes and also features a highly inventive 3-minute solo by Billy Higgins to round off the proceedings. The composition has a slight air of Thelonius Monk coming through.

The beloved compositions of Cedar Walton have been in many an esteemed jazz musicians repertoire and it’s fitting that this live performance should feature his majestic composition ‘Clockwise’. Other notable albums that included this beautiful piece include Bobby Hutcherson’s 1979 ‘Conception’ album and Billy Higgins’ debut album ‘Soweto’ from the same year. The shifting patterns and beautifully crafted textures prevail throughout the 20-minute long track and it’s worth noting that the composition was also included on the Timeless Allstars live album ‘It’s Timeless’ in 1982, recorded in a much shorter form for their performance at the Keystone Korner in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Cedar Walton’s ‘Eastern Rebellion’ album remains a favourite album from his career and also features Billy Higgins on drums.

Victor Young and Ned Washington’s ‘s late 1940’s composition ‘My Foolish Heart’ was accentuated by many jazz artists including Bill Evans and Carmen Mcrae who both elevated the late-night contemplative moody piece from the Great American Songbook and propelled it through the years with their own unique style and interpretation. Bobby Hutcherson takes it a step further here weaving a beautiful palette of harmony that is at once complex and yet rich in texture and inventiveness. The compositions tempo lifts and briefly opens up in the middle before settling back down as Bobby Hutcherson adds more layers of embracing sound to finish off this exquisite composition. His many great albums show a wide-ranging approach that developed and ventured towards the adventurous experimental side of jazz alongside such great musicians as Andrew Hil, Eric Dolphy and many more. He recorded over 20 albums for the esteemed Blue Note label of which many are highly regarded as pinnacles within the catalogue.

Leading West Coast saxophonist, Harold Land, brings his driving uptempo post-bop composition ‘Mapenzi’ to the fray with some great solos and supporting work throughout, especially from Billy Higgins who adds an incredible range of sounds and changes that really add something special to this track, which lasts over 20 minutes. The drummer’s hard bop touch lends itself to the solid punchy tones of Harold Land. The lyrical sparse lightness provided by Cedar Walton and Bobby Hutcherson acts as a perfect counterweight for both Curtis Fuller and Harold Land’s deep notes. Harold Land recorded many great albums under his own name and featured on over 9 Bobby Hutcherson albums for Blue Note. Check out ‘The Peace-Maker’ album amongst other great works including ‘The Fox’.

The title of Allstars is definitely apt for this set of musicians who are all masters within their respective fields and the understanding between each musician brings together a magical collective sound full of warmth and dynamic understanding. It’s a special album that will grow with each listen and the group’s affinity with all the compositions is clearly evident as the enjoyment and composure reins supreme throughout.

Mark Savva

Brandee Younger ‘Soul Awakening’ CD (Self-released) 5/5

‘Soul Awakening’ is the brand new sophomore album release from classically trained harpist Brandee Younger.

With each passing year, the Hempstead, New York, native seems to see her star increasingly rise – having graduated from the University of Hartford and New York University with degrees in Harp Performance and Music Performance and Composition respectively, Younger has gone on to adapt and hone her skills by recording and performing with jazz heavyweights including saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Marcus Strickland, and pianist Robert Glasper. Conversely, Younger’s talents have also managed to permeate more commercial realms through varied appearances on projects by R&B singer Cassie, rapper Common and singer/songwriter John Legend. Even earlier this year, her work on ‘Constellate’ by long-time collaborators Tensei breathed remarkable life into the awesome single ‘Liquid Tongues’.

Such is Younger’s inimitable touch that a slot on Revive Music’s all-star project ‘Supreme Sonacy’ in 2015 was more than justified and saw her majestical playing share billing with names Marc Cary, Ray Angry and Keyon Harrold, and subsequently went on to spawn the creation of her debut full-length ‘Wax and Wane’ the following year.

And while ‘Supreme Sonacy’ officially serves as the sequel to that album, ‘Soul Awakening’ is actually that project’s predecessor having been recorded in 2012. Much like ‘Wax and Wane’ having been produced by a colossal name in saxophonist Casey Benjamin, ‘Soul Awakening’ sees Brandee enlist talent of an equal stature with bassist Dezron Douglas leading the way with a project structured around a core unit of long-time collaborators and members of the Brandee Younger 4tet including drummer E.J. Strickland (David Gilmore, Manuel Valera), saxophonists Chelsea Baratz (Trevor Lawrence Jr, Gordon Chambers) and Stacy Dillard (Theo Croker, Willie Jones III) and Douglas himself on bass. Big names including trumpeter Sean Jones guests on ‘Respected Destroyer’ while Ravi Coltrane features on ‘Love’s Prayer’ and the album’s opening number – which also boasts the distinction of being the project’s exquisite highlight – ‘Soulris’.

‘Lindalee’ marks another incredible high as does the appearance of vocalist Niia Bertino on the imaginative reinterpretation of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Save The Children’ (from his seminal ‘What’s Going On’ album, 1971). It does leave the notion that Niia’s contribution to at least one further track would have been welcome and should you, like me, be inclined to hear just that little more from the Younger/Niia collaboration then I’d urge you to check out Younger’s 2011 four-track EP ‘Prelude’ available through her Bandcamp page as well.

Brandee Younger has always managed to introduce dynamic textures and new dimensions to the music she guests on, which is simple to ascertain seeing as how in-demand her skills are. Hearing her magic play out over the course of ‘Soul Awakening’, playing host to a close-knit circle of musicians, is always going to be a real treat.

Imran Mirza

High Risk ‘High Risk’ LP (Jazzaggression) 3/5

Catch it quick as this super rare gem via the specialist Finnish Jazz label, Jazzaggression, is set to disappear quickly and already the 500 copies are dwindling. Originally recorded in California back in 1974, the album never saw the light of day and not many people knew of its existence until the deep investigations by the labels detectives found this spiritual leaning jazz gem. Previous to this album came a limited edition 7″ release on the same label back in 2016, which featured two tracks from this album; the A-side was a shortened 5-minute version of what is probably the highlight of the album, ‘Common Woman’. The music and social commentary gently unfold over 16 minutes taking you on a revealing journey with tempered percussion and space for the words to breathe and resonate. Vocalist Virginia Rubino’s delivery is slightly reminiscent to that of fellow poet Sarah Fabio Webster and the words spring with might and fortitude from the book ‘The Work of a Common Woman: The Collected Poetry of Judy Grahn 1964-1977’. It really is a captivating and insightful track.

High Risk are an all-female band stemming from California, featuring Virginia Rubino (of BeBe K’Roche fame) on keys, Cyndy ”Cynth” Mason Fitzpatrick (currently found over at Flute Medicine) on saxes and flute, Bobi Jackson on bass and Sandy Ajida on percussion.

Bobbi Jackson’s song, ‘Degradation’, is another highlight from this album with a strong message and a similar sound to that of ‘People Make The World Go Round’ with sparse percussion and keys adding weight to the message. Spoken word at its best.

The classically trained all-female group bring together a superb album with elements of folk, jazz, blues and Latin adding to the socio-political overtones which shine a light on the early 1970s and its relationship with female spirituality and equality. The album also features liner-notes by Poet and author, Judy Grahn, and comes sealed in American style paste-on cover and with lyrics and poster inside.

Mark Savva

Gábor Csordás / Noriaki Hosoya / Marty Risemberg ‘Swansong’ CD (Hunnia) 3/5

Originally conceived almost 10 years ago, “Swansong” brings together three musicians from 3 continents: renowned Hungarian pianist Gábor Csordás, Japanese bassist Noriaki Hosoya and Washington-based drummer Marty Risemberg. Recorded in Budapest and featuring compositions from Csordás and Hosoya, their style resembles music often heard on European labels such as ECM and ACT, with a strong sense of melody and lyrical improvisation.

There’s a sense of spirited adventure throughout this album, perhaps enriched by the long-term friendship of the three musicians, and the pleasure in finally getting to record together what is their debut album as a trio.

It matters not that the trio’s influences are certainly varied, with Csordás’ classical upbringing sitting comfortably alongside Risemberg’s Cuban roots and Hosoya’s Berklee-educated beginnings. Everything gels nicely with a wide range of ideas playing out across the album, with melody, groove and adventure spearheading the trio’s effervescent sound.

As the opening tune “Birdseye” develops, I am immediately reminded of Keith Jarrett’s classic album “My Song”. And I do keep coming back to this as the album continues, with several tunes sharing a similar sense of the uplifting joy that came with Jarrett’s European Quartet recording. If melody is the key to this first tune, there’s more of a lyrical expressiveness reminiscent of Esbjorn Svensson on the second piece “Breaking Through”, with, as the title suggests, a groove-fuelled blues vibe breaking through in the second half of the tune. “Turbulence” is perhaps one of the more original pieces on the album, with gorgeous chords and rhythms intertwining as each member of the trio gets to showcase their skills. “The Panda March” sparkles with its luminescent melody, an engaging wistful piece that makes me think of the Japanese pianist Ryo Fukui. There’s room for some lively soloing on the more straight-ahead jazz numbers “Trapped Light” and “Painting With Two Colours”, the latter benefiting from its bluesy nature. “Cradle Me” is a reflective piece that swells with emotion, whilst “Play” fully engages the listener with an early EST-like style of composition. “Koletzki” is one of my favourite tracks on the album, with its vibe more reminiscent of an exploratory Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnette track where they explore a groove and take it on to wherever it may go. The session closes with “If Ever”, a fully immersive tune that brings the recording to an uplifting end.

Fans of piano-led jazz trios will like this album as there is indeed a lot to like. Whilst it might not set the world on fire in terms of originality, it does succeed on many levels and is, ultimately, a very enjoyable listen.

Mike Gates

Black Flower ‘Future Flora’ LP/CD (Sdban) 3/5

‘Future Flora’ is the third album from Black Flower, a fusion quintet based in Belgium. Its music is a bass heavy instrumental hybrid of dub, jazz and rock incorporating various traditional or folk styles. ‘Future Flora’, as described by bandleader, saxophonist and composer Nathan Daems, ‘is a metaphor for the importance of feeding and watering powerful and revolutionary ideas and initiatives that can save our world. You can compare it with plants that fight between the paving stones of the city for their future. These “urban warriors” need water to survive and grow. Their future and ours depends entirely on how we look at the plant world’

‘Early Days of Space Travel Pt. 2’ is a promising start to the set. A horn drone gives way to driving bass reminiscent of 80s ska revivalists and ethereal liquid horns before dropping into a heavily-effected space bass solo. The horns are joyous but there’s also pleasing slight menace. The mix feels primal and ancient. ‘Maloya Bud’ sets off with a slower bass line. Hypnotic serpentine horns weaving in and around the dubby groove. ‘Hora de Aksum’ is introduced by the folky saxophone melody and jaunty bursts of keyboard emphasising the syncopated rhythm. The horns explore the theme established by the sax motif. ‘Clap Hands’ reassuringly begins with the sound of hands clapping! The insistent rhythm section quickly locks into an energetic groove. It is probably the most direct track of these tunes and is very danceable. For ‘Ohm Eye’, the swirling keyboard-led wash is the platform for the blissful flutes. Its stillness is wondrously beautiful. The strident bass lines return to provide the backbone for the sub-reggae feel of ‘Ankor Wat’. The album closes with the striking grandeur of ‘Future Flora’. The epic title track begins with solo saxophone hinting toward the motifs to follow. The main theme is a swirling melody line of various horns over a consistent groove. As the bass builds towards the end accompanied by wah-wah stabs and ascending horns, it is strangely reminiscent of one of Isaac Hayes’ classic symphonic soul workouts in full flow before the conclusive return to the theme.

One of the main tenets of the Black Flower project appears to be an exploration of folk and traditional musical flavours to incorporate into its heavy rhythmic dubby template. This is admirable but perhaps sometimes it is a distraction to the process of producing coherent and distinctive tracks. While I enjoyed listening to this album, it has hardly left a lasting impression on me. However, there are a few really tasty tracks and some true moments of excellence on this album. I can recommend giving it a spin.

Kevin Ward

Areni Agbabian ‘Bloom’ CD (ECM) 4/5

Californian born vocalist/pianist/composer Areni Agbabian came to international attention with the groups of Tigran Hamasyan. For “Bloom”, her ECM debut, together with percussionist Nicolas Stocker, she draws deeply upon her Armenian heritage, reinterpreting sacred hymns, traditional tales and folk melodies, interspersed with her own evocative compositions.

The music throughout “Bloom” is sparse yet engaging. There’s a spiritual feel and timeless clarity that ensues, creating a menagerie of mindful sound, deep and affecting. Stocker’s contribution is more than mere back-up, it is fully integrated and totally at one with Agbabian’s contemplative music. With the use of a full palette of percussive instruments, Stocker enriches the mood and atmosphere with a sense of understanding and meaning.

There are some truly gorgeous melodies to be heard on this album. None more so than on the trio of tunes “Petal One”, “Petal Two” and “Full Bloom”, their haunting beauty glowing with an aural and emotional purity that’s characteristic of Agbabian’s music. Her vocals are indeed like the petals of a flower coming into bloom; awakening a spirit from within that flourishes in a full array of colour and texture.

Throughout this album, a sense of yearning makes itself felt, strikingly so on the composer’s own deeply introspective songs “Patience” and “Mother”, as well as in the Armenian sacred hymn “Anganim Arachi Ko.” The album flows from one piece into another, with all of the tunes sharing a genetic connection that allows the listener to become completely immersed in the music from start to finish.

It’s lovely to listen to an album that feels so completely natural and unpretentious. It’s clear for all to hear that this deceptively simple music is from the heart, with the combinations of acoustic piano, voice and percussive instruments working wonderfully well together. It’s a little like a Zen painting, where an artist’s lifetime of study is played out and revealed in one seemingly simple, poignant brush-stroke. All of life is summed up in that one moment.

Mike Gates

Medbøe | Halle | Malling ‘Hvor En Var Baen’ 10″ (Copperfly) 3/5

Atmospheric instrumental album ‘Hvor En Var Baen’ by Medbøe/Halle/Malling is solemn Folk presented in a contemporary Jazz trio setting by Norwegian electric guitarist Haftor Medbøe, Danish double bassist Eva Malling and Norwegian trumpeter Gunnar Halle.

The songs are new interpretations of music which were put to the words of Danish poet Martin N Hansen in the early part of the 20th century. Though Hansen’s poetry is little known in the English-speaking world, it has been described as nostalgic and bucolic, inspired by a great love for the rural Danish island of Als where he lived.

On ‘Æ Nynner En Vis’ Haftor delicately swells his guitar volume to mimic the bowing of a fiddle player, his every note deliberated and with the lack of percussion the music creates a sense of freedom and innocence.

Halle’s breathy trumpet on the dream-like track ‘Hvor En Var Baen’ is superb and feels primal and transcendental. Effects are gently incorporated to add other-worldly reverb and unusual oscillations which steadily bring the sound into focus.

Like sketches or movements from a classical suite, the tunes are brief while encapsulating some spirited melodies which are played with sensitivity and restraint. With none surpassing four minutes, the pieces don’t over-stay their welcome. ‘Jeg Går I Grønne Enge’ feels ancient like a cautionary folk tale with a lyrical melody not too dissimilar to our very own folksong: ‘Greensleeves’.

The song forms are varied in rigidity, some like ‘Pær Kresjen’ has the trio playing off each other in something closer to Free Jazz, while the same clarity and balance – as on more conservative tunes – remains intact.

When Eva’s unassuming bass comes into the fore during ‘Madeleine’, it’s a welcome – if a little fleeting- interlude from the languid guitar and trumpet. It would have been nice to have some more opportunities to hear Eva’s playing to give more shades and greater contrasting shifts in dynamics, as what we do hear from her is stylistically more direct.

‘Som Sang I Juninætter’ centres upon the guitar of Haftor which is beautifully harmonised and arranged, suggesting the influence of maestro Bill Frisell. Like the album as a whole, this pensive track feels personal and human, an act of meditation for artist and listener alike.

Fred Neighbour

Read also:
Haftor Medbøe | Jacob Karlzon 10″ (Copperfly) 4/5

Andrew McCormack ‘Graviton: The Calling’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

Now as a member of Ubuntu Music’s official roster, Andrew McCormack releases his brand new album ‘The Calling’ backed by his Graviton ensemble.

Since McCormack’s debut in 2006 with ‘Telescope’ on Dune Records, the pianist and producer has forged ahead accumulating a stunning array of accolades and achievements in the process: further projects included ‘First Light’ on Edition Records (2014), ‘Graviton’ on Jazz Village in 2017, his duo project with saxophonist Jason Yarde (performing as McCormack & Yarde Duo), serving as a long-time member of bassist Kyle Eastwood’s band, creating film scores for Hollywood director Clint Eastwood films ‘Flags Of Our Fathers’ and ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’, production for Ubuntu saxophonist Camilla George’s 2018 release ‘The People Could Fly’… It’s as awe-inspiring a resume as anyone could amass.

… Which leads us to 2019’s inspirational concept project, ‘The Calling’. While still a follow-up to the previous ‘Graviton’ album release, members of the band’s touring line-up now secure their spots for ‘The Calling’ with such prominent British talent including saxophone by Josh Arcoleo (The James Taylor Quartet, XOA), drums by Joshua Blackmore (Floating Points, Troyka) and electric bass by Tom Herbert (Toshio Matsuura Group, Portico Quartet). The line-up is completed by Ubuntu label-mate and the artist with the distinction of the label’s debut album release in 2015 – ‘Nice To Meet You’ (of which McCormack was a part of) – Noemi Nuti. And while Nuti’s talents were present on ‘Graviton’ as harpist for several of the album’s songs, the multi-talented artist now finds herself promoted to lead vocalist on ‘The Calling’.

McCormack’s limitless talents are really put to the test this time around with the incredible ambition of ‘The Calling’ which aims to represent the archetypal monomyth, perhaps better referred to as “the hero’s journey”. And just as Professor of Literature, Joseph Campbell’s theories were famously outlined over ten steps, McCormack et al deliver ten tracks charting their very own captivating adventure – from the trepidation of ‘Crossing the Threshold’ to the unease and despair of ‘Belly Of The Whale’ and the triumphant ‘Returning’.

Founded by Martin Hummel and Ubuntu trumpeter/producer Quentin Collins, “ubuntu” itself is an ancient African word meaning “I am because we are”. Since its inception, the label’s ethos has been about “bringing quality, accessible jazz and related music genres to increasingly wider audiences”. And with a slew of Ubuntu releases over the last four years, they’re doing that. Really well. But at the very least, with ‘The Calling’, they told a great story.

13 June – Album launch at The Vortex, London
28 June – The Crypt, London (solo support for the Larry Bartley Group)
1 July – NQ Jazz, Manchester
2 July – Flute and Tankard, Cardiff
1 August – 606 Club, London

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Andrew McCormack ‘Graviton’ LP/CD (Jazz Village) 3/5
Andrew McCormack Trio ‘Live in London’ (Edition) 4/5

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