Birmingham born and raised, multi-instrumentalist/composer Mike Fletcher has established an impressive reputation since graduating from the city’s Conservatoire in 2005. He has led a number of ensembles, from trio to big band, quietly but steadfastly gaining respect and appreciation throughout Europe. For his trio on “Vuelta”, he brings together London born bassist Olie Brice and Ohio born drummer Jeff Williams. Brice and Williams each have a formidable CV, having worked with Paul Dunmall, Ken Vandermark, Mark Sanders and Dave Liebman, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, and Joe Lovano respectively. This trio has a distinctive earthy sound as they draw inspiration from combining the jazz tradition with a free, contemporary approach to improvisation. Fletcher plays a variety of reeds, but the prominent instrument employed on “Vuelta” is the rarely heard C melody saxophone. The resulting sound lies somewhere between an alto and a tenor sax, perhaps an alto with a deeper, more guttural sound would be more accurate. “Vuelta” – Spanish for “return”, explores themes of experience and emotion and there is a meditative, atmospheric feel throughout the recording. The trio combine with a natural ease as they improvise in and around Fletcher’s multi-faceted melodies. This is thoughtful jazz performed with a rare class and sincerity. The album opens with “Aire” which was composed by the sea in Spain. As with most of Fletcher’s compositions here, it is slightly introspective yet manages to give a freedom and space, allowing for a lightness of touch from all three musicians. “Her Grace”, an homage to the late Alice Coltrane, offers a gentle outpouring of imagination, with its cool, calm musings. “A Dino” was written as a tribute to Argentinian bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi. Fletcher switches to the flute for this tune and the resulting textures achieved by the trio are quite beautiful. The colourful, more upbeat “Fletcher’s Walk” lifts the tempo a few notches, giving the performers chance to shine as if answering a question to Fletcher’s enquiring lines. The vibrancy of the trio positively sparkles on “In Memorium”, and the quirkier, melodic “Perhaps Sing A Song” engages the threesome in full flow as Williams and Brice lay down the platform for Fletcher’s meandering sax. “Home” lets the musicians breath as they intertwine and weave around each other’s ideas with pleasurable skill. The album closes with “Savour”, a more reflective piece and a fitting end to the session.
Released on the innovative Birmingham label, Stoney Lane Records, “Vuelta” partly came to fruition thanks to Mike Fletcher’s involvement as part of the pan-European ECHO Rising Stars Programme. This includes the trio’s participation in touring and performing at some of the best concert halls throughout Europe. The tour has taken in venues across Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Hungary.
Here are the remaining dates/venues:
13th May 2015: Town Hall, Birmingham, UK.
16th May 2015: Gulbenkian Musica, Lisbon, Portugal.
30th May 2015: Kings Place, London, UK.