Rotem Sivan Trio ‘A New Dance’ (Fresh Sound New Talent) 5/5

rotem-sivan-trio2015 appears to be the year I am once again falling in love with guitar led jazz trios. There have been some wonderful releases so far, none more so than Lage Lund’s “Idlewild” released earlier this year. New York would seem to be the place to be at the moment. As with Lage Lund, Rotem Sivan is also based in the Big Apple, with the similarities not ending there. Both Lund and Rotem have worked with the excellent bass player Ben Street, and both guitarists share an understated, thoughtful style that simply oozes quality. On “A New Dance” Israeli born guitarist Rotem Sivan is joined by Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass and Colin Stranahan on drums. The trio have been performing in world class venues such as The Blue Note, Birdland and Smalls, as well as various festivals and clubs throughout Europe and the Americas. Together they deliver an engaging musical language that transcends cultural borders, presenting intricate musical ideas that are performed in an almost casual sounding, elegant and effortless way.
Sivan’s music draws on many influences, from jazz, classical and folk, all wonderfully integrated into his own unique sound. In bassist Cohen-Milo and drummer Stranahan he has two exemplary musicians providing not just the quintessential trio back-up, but intelligent and important contributions that add to the feel, tone, colour and texture of the music being performed. The album is made up of 10 tunes; 7 originals and 3 standards. From the opening bars of the title track “A New Dance”, the listener is drawn in by the free-flowing, hypnotic-like vibe being created. Sivan’s writing is mesmeric, filled with jazz-folk tinged melancholy and yet at the same time being awash with an uplifting warm and gentle positivity. The guitarist’s soloing is melodic and entertaining without ever becoming borishly overbearing. Thoughtful, intricate patterns are interspersed with beautifully constructed chord changes, the trio combining with a rare style and originality. “Sun and Stars” is a short yet affecting piece that could easily be a tune taken from the Nick Drake songbook. The Earl Brent- Matt Dennis composition “Angel Eyes” begins with a Pat Metheny-esque textural intro before launching into full flow which sees Sivan performing with an emotional strength and power, with more than a touch of the John Schofields about him. Cohen-Milo’s bass brings out the melody on this piece in some style. Colin Stranahan’s drumming is the key to “One For Aba”, with the guitar and bass combining beautifully on this archetypal trio piece. The original “Yam” takes the presence and feel of a Leonard Cohen tune and effortlessly twists its melancholic meanderings into a moving, melodic jazz-folk masterpiece. The touch and the feel of Sivan’s playing is understated brilliance. Reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s 1983 recording “Rejoicing” with Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden, “I Wish You Were Here” is the trio at their most sensitive, thoughtful and gently provocative. Monk’s “In Walked Bud” captures the spirit of the original tune with drums and bass building into a lush swing, allowing Sivan to at first hypnotise and then truly sparkle with some of the album’s strongest soloing. Stunning technique and virtuosity. There’s even time for the guitarist to change his guitar sound half way through into what could best be described as a harmonised Wurlitzer sound. There’s a distinct change of pace with “Almond Tree”, a beautifully delivered vocal track featuring the subtle voicings and harmonies of Daniel Wright. Then it’s back to the jazz for “Fingerpints”, The trio’s natural confidence there for all to witness with some outstanding interplay from the threesome. There’s even more variety added with the inclusion of guest tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur on the final track, Jule-Styne- Sammy Cahn’s “I Fall In Love Too Easily”. Personally I’m still in two minds as to the inclusion of this, and the aforementioned vocal track on the album. Whilst both pieces are incredibly good in their own right, there is doubt in my mind as to whether they sit comfortably with the balance of the rest of the album, especially when the vibe from the trio is so good in its own right. That’s a fairly minor concern though to be honest, as the music throughout “A New Dance” is impeccable. I’m particularly struck by Sivan’s originality, not just in his writing but also in his playing style. The combination of stunning technical ability mixed with an open ear for subtlety and grace makes for a highly rewarding listen. On this evidence the guitarist will go far, with the future of the guitar trio in safe and exciting hands thanks to yet another not-so-native New Yorker.

Mike Gates

Match & Fuse Festival


Powered by musician DIY, Match & Fuse has been blazing a trail across Europe since 2011. Ignoring borders of countries and genres, it’s all about the energy, edge, experimentation and roaring enthusiasm. Further to festivals in 2012 (London), 2013 (Oslo), 2014 (Rome and London), and 2015’s Warsaw festival, London’s East End hosts the biggest gathering yet between 15th and 17th October, bringing together an eclectic, exhilarating mix of 24 acts from around the world. Over 100 musicians are set to light up the East End – from UK, Latvia, Poland, France, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, Belgium and Slovenia.

Leafcutter John
Leafcutter John

Highlights include a new commission by Leafcutter John, new collaborations and premieres, album launches from Get The Blessing, Mopo and Alfie Ryner, along with what promises to be an incredible finale with over 100 musicians making up the Erik Tofte Match & Fuse Orchestra moving from their shows at each of the venues, to blow the celestial roof of Gillett Square Dalston, before partying commences with Soccer96 at The Vortex. Other bands featured during the festival include Blue-Eyed Hawk, Brass Mask, Alexander Hawkins, Interstatic and Strobes. Something for everyone here, from jazz, art-rock, electronica, hip-hop and electroacoustic, through to improv, beats, blues and hardcore rock.

Alexander Hawkins
Alexander Hawkins

Venues include Cafe Orto, Vortex, Rich Mix and Servants Jazz Quarters and tickets are available in various forms; at just £25.00 for a full festival pass which covers 3 nights and all venues, £15.00 wristband covering all venues for Saturday 17th, or individually with prices ranging from £9.00 to £16.00. For more information go to the website:

Blue Eyed Hawk
Blue Eyed Hawk

The fun and festivities kick off at The Vortex on Thursday 15th October from 7pm til late. The line-up features the art-rock, jazz/electronica of UK’s Blue-Eyed Hawk, the acoustic/electro energy of Polish outfit J=J, Finland’s Mopo and the freejazz, distorted rock of the Hungarian/Norweigan collective JU meets Moster. On Friday 16th October from 7pm til late Rich Mix hosts the premier of a new collaboration between Snack Family and Natali Abrahamsen Garner, the folk/punk/rock of Austria’s Attwenger, jazz trash from France’s Alfie Ryner and the UK’s very own Get The Blessing, performing at their only date in London this year and launching their much-anticipated 3rd album; Astronautilus. Saturday 17th October features 3 venues across the East End. The music begins at Cafe Orto from 7pm and features the premiere of a collaboration between The Jist and Rachel Musson, Laura Moody taking time out from touring with Bjork, the mercurial, imaginative jazz of Alexander Hawkins and a voice fest from Latvian musicians How Town. There’s also a new collaboration from Leafcutter John and Isabel Sorling and at midnight we get to hear the 1st part of the Erik Tofte Match & Fuse Orchestra. From 7.30pm at Servants Jazz Quarters there’s the incredible 8 piece horns and percussion of Brass Mask, the sonic landscapes of Interstatic, the mystic musical meanderings of Henning, a premiere and collaboration between Alice Zawadski, Kalevi Louhivuori and Alex Roth, all rounded off with the 2nd part of the Erik Tofte Match & Fuse Orchestra. From 8pm The Vortex brings us Kaja Draksker, a riveting pianist from Slovenia, hectic improv from The Great Harry Hillman, the UK’s Magnus Loom, the genre bending experimentation of Alarmist, big beats from The Strobes and the 3rd part of the Erik Tofte Match & Fuse Orchestra. Then at 12.15 all 3 parts of the orchestra come together in Gillett Square. The analogue synth vs live drum assault of Soccer96 round things off with a party upstairs at The Vortex from 12.30

Mike Gates

Gold of My Own ‘Mondo Romance’ (Fish Legs) 3/5

gold-of-my-ownGold of My Own are a relatively new soul based outfit, comprising of musician and producer Chris Pedley (previously of The Baker Brothers), and vocalist Vanessa Freeman – with Vanessa providing vocals to some previous Baker Brothers’ material. But with this release, rather than creating a straight ahead soul/funk album, Gold of My Own have incorporated other influences as it does possess a slightly leftfield quality but still maintaining a strong soul and funk foundation. Apparently, this collaboration began much earlier in both their respective careers but was shelved due to other musical commitments.
The album itself comprises of eight vocal based tracks and four additional instrumentals, with both Chris and Vanessa writing the album. Unsurprisingly, it does have a certain ‘London’ sound and attitude that you probably would expect, with touches of broken beat, D&B and dare I say it, acid jazz influences a la Brand New Heavies. I enjoyed the rawness of some of the songs which keep the album contemporary, including the head nodding ‘Words Are Not Enough’, the bouncy ‘Welcome To My World’ and ‘Forever Love’ with its chopped up, creaky piano sample and staccato drum rhythms. I actually would have liked the featured instrumentals to be full vocal tracks, as they would have provided some interesting platforms for Vanessa, with ‘All Came Good’ and ‘We Are One’ both having a certain cinematic quality to them.

As one would expect, Vanessa’s vocals are impeccable, and being a fan of Vanessa’s work since the early 2000s with Reel People, Phil Asher and her many features and collaborations, having an album like this was always going to be enjoyable. Perhaps with the band performing around the UK and with the album also released in Japan, GOMO could develop into a solid live act as the musicianship is strong and the songs are performance and dance floor friendly. Nonetheless, the current climate for UK-based soul and funk bands is probably not at its highest – although its influence is far reaching. But maybe Gold of My Own with their slightly different approach to the soul genre with their use of jazz samples, drum programming and interesting arrangements, could develop into an interesting addition to the soul/funk canon. We shall wait and see.

Damian Wilkes

Eyes Of A Blue Dog ‘Hamartia’ (Private Press) 3/5

eyes-of-a-blue-dogTaking its title from an Ancient Greek word meaning error of judgement, or moral mistake, “Hamartia” is the second album by this Anglo-Norweigan trio. Trumpeter Rory Simmons, vocalist and lyricist Elisabeth Nygaard and drummer/sound creator Terje Evensen have put together a poppier, more song based album this time round, compared to their first release, 2012’s “Rise”. The band’s title is borrowed from a short story of the same name by novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and not unlike the great writer’s literature this is a brooding, sometimes gently, sometimes powerfully burning affair, in this case punctuated with a heady mix of pop, rock and electronica. Special guests on this session include Tim Harries on bass, Paloma Deike on violin, Guillimots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield and former Fringe Magnetic band member Natalie Rozario on cello.
First off, this is not a jazz album by any stretch of the imagination. If we must give it a label then I guess pop/electronica would sum it up nicely. However, as is often the case, there is much more to it than that. There is a warm atmosphere throughout the recording, created by Evensen’s lush soundscapes, with broken beats, and some lovely jazz/folk influenced melodies from both vocalist Nygaard and trumpeter Simmons. For me personally, I much prefer the more atmospheric tracks with a thoughtful, quirkier edge to them, than the more straight-ahead pop/rock tunes. Although the rockier tunes may appeal to a larger market, they lack the subtlety and beauty created by the dreamier, contemplative pieces. The trio are far from alone here, walking a tightrope on that difficult path between integrity and commerciality. A prime example of this would be the opening track “Spin Me”. Nygaard’s vocals are provocative and beautifully delivered, but seem to lose their relevance somewhat in the haze of the tune itself. It reminded me of the way I felt when hearing the more recent releases by Zero7; their first couple of albums being a superb mix of electronica, jazz and melodic pop, compared to the more recent efforts that sound “chart-driven” and formulaically pop based. There’s a definite influence of Bjork in Nygaard’s vocal style, more prevalent perhaps on the slower pieces, with well thought-out lyrics. Excellent arrangements add a certain class to the proceedings and the trio obviously share a close connection, creating a natural ambience from the music they make. Although the album is largely song based, there are some wonderful instrumental cuts hiding away in there. They may be short and sweet but Simmons is in his element here, washing our worries away with his deft, multi-layered trumpet playing. Music to lose yourself in, creative and elegant. “Vicario Square” and “Luminescence” both invoke thoughts of Nils Petter Molvaer, produced with skill and dexterity. One of my favourite tracks is “Before The Night Ends”, which features Fyfe Dangerfield duetting with Elisabeth Nygaard. It has that gentle, haunting, Civil Wars feel to it, a beautifully constructed piece of music that provides one of the rarer moments of pure emotion on the album. I also particularly enjoyed the cool groove of “Unhappy Mondays” and the deeper, darker, overtones heard on “Drug I can’t deny.”

All in all an enjoyable album, but for this listener if the focus leaned more towards the eclectic, slightly more experimental side, it would be all the better for it. I couldn’t help thinking of another band whilst listening to this… A band that also integrates electronica, trumpet and vocals; Blue-Eyed Hawk. Their stunning 2014 debut “Under The Moon” (Edition Records) perhaps provides a good example of how a clear musical vision can work so well. “Hamartia” doesn’t quite rise to those heights, but it is well worth checking out and there will undoubtedly be many people who enjoy the pop/rock elements of the album more than I do.

Mike Gates

V/A ‘Turtle Records: Pioneering British Jazz 1970-1971’ 3CD (RPM) 5/5

turtle-recordsOccasionally one has the ambiguous pleasure of realising that something you felt was at least fairly justifiable is regarded in other quarters as an outright myth – or, to be precise, ‘one of the most consistently perpetuated falsehoods of postwar cultural history’, which is going some when you’re talking about the minority pursuit known as British jazz. The falsehood in question, identified by a very respectable fellow contributor to august organ The Wire, is the idea that in the 1960s ‘UK jazz entered a golden age in which British musicians found a voice that was somehow distinctly British.’ The release that prompted the observation was RPM 3CD Turtle Records: Pioneering British Jazz 1970-1971, and the point being made was that the music it re-releases wasn’t really pioneering anything. Rather, the albums contained in the set were pretty much in line with earlier US sounds – John Taylor’s Pause, and Think Again sounding mostly like mid-1960s Blue Note, and Mike Osborne’s Outback recalling the so-called New Thing, but nearly a decade after the fact. Howard Riley’s Flight, the most out date and thus in its own Little Theatre-ish way the most orthodox when hindsight is employed, is given a pass.

In fairness, Pause, and Think Again is indeed redolent of the best mid period Blue Notes, with both the arrangements and the self-taught Taylor’s vamping on numbers like ‘Pause’ having a very strong flavour of Maiden Voyage-era Hancock. That said, it also contains wilder elements such as the tumultuous ‘Awakening/Eye to Eye’, which takes off in a much freer direction, and the delicate closer, ‘Interlude/Soft Winds’, which is graced by a typically ethereal vocal from the inimitable Norma Winstone. It is a beautiful set throughout, one of the cleanest and most focussed sessions in the style – there is a good reason why it has long been a revered and sought after title among collectors of British jazz, so this is a very welcome reissue.

Outback and Flight are different kettles of fish entirely. Flight is a wholly open and exploratory session, a spirited and thoughtful conversation between Riley, Barry Guy and Tony Oxley whose rather dark palette in places suddenly coalesces into passages of aching lyricism, as in ‘Two Ballads: For Lesley/For Sue’. But of the three recordings, Outback is the real gem – though it is less a diamond, more a heavy uncut chunk of some dark and unknown mineral: a raggedly glittering geode of a set, fractured by Osborne’s keening alto, tumbled and knocked by Harry Miller and Louis Moholo.

Organised around a South African core of Miller, Moholo and Chris McGregor, whose intensity is offset by Harry Beckett, it was long the one of the only places on record to hear McGregor in a small group setting after the mould of the Blue Notes – with Miller replacing Dyani, there’s a sense in which Beckett has the Mongezi Feza role, with Osborne in for Pukwana. From the point of view of tracing the development of that unique group of South African masters, it is a valuable stepping stone between Very Urgent and the first Brotherhood of Breath recordings, and is accordingly dramatic.

That aspect is fascinating, but in truth this is Osborne’s party – tense, searching, garrulous and somewhat freaky, Outback is a great place to hear him stretch out in less austere conditions than those of the Trio dates with Moholo and Miller. Cushioned and channelled by McGregor, and intelligently supported by the ever-reliable Beckett, Outback is one of his most affecting and impressive recordings.

The cataract of Caribbean, African and British sentiments means that the deep sensibilities of a date like this in fact owe little but a formal hat-tip to American music (and I’d venture the same is true of a lot of the best and most typically British UK jazz). Deep roots of feeling and experience are being tapped, and Osborne’s was one of the few British voices that could truly speak in the tongues that could translate them freely. To return to our earlier theme, the New Thing warmed over this is not: all the messages are different, and the formal language is wholly recoded. If one is looking for a distinctly British sound, one could hardly do better than to start right here.

Francis Gooding

Géraud Portal + Etienne Déconfin

New album most worthy of your attentions.

Ben Solomon – tenor sax
Kush Abadey – drums
Etienne Déconfin – piano
Géraud Portal – bass

‘Brothers’ is the next stage after the release of Géraud Portal’s Fort Greene Story. A result of a trip to New York in 2013 to the home of the legendary bassist Bill Lee. Géraud Portal and Etienne Déconfin joined like-minded jazz musicians, including saxophonists Lee Arnold and Ben Solomon. Fort Greene Story was born out of this stay in the heart of New York and the special atmosphere of the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. The energy provided by this first experience has allowed Gerald Portal and Etienne Déconfin to work on ‘Brothers’

“The starting point of each song is an emotion, related to one or more persons.”

‘Brothers’ expresses the notion of fraternity, of sharing between musicians and listeners.

Loose Tubes ‘Arriving’ (Lost Marble) 4/5

loose-tubesIt may come as a surprise to some to learn that Loose Tubes were a relatively short-lived formation functioning between 1984 and 1990 before splitting up and going separate ways. This new release both celebrates the classic years with nine tracks from a memorable live recording in 1990 at Ronnie Scotts and adds to it with an additional three pieces from a reformed band which also performed live at venerable London jazz institution as part of a BBC Radio 3 live jazz performance in 2014. Interestingly, while the dates are separated by some twenty-five years, they are remarkably similar in tone.
Compositionally, keyboardist Django Bates contributes five original pieces with other members of the band, weighing in with the other six. Loose Tubes have always championed the more left side of jazz with plenty of other influences tossed into the eclectic stew and for many this is part of their charm. The influence of 1970s fusion and Weather Report in particular is evident on an Eddie Parker composition, ‘Children’s Game’, with funky bass while Bates’ soloing takes on board the lineage of Joe Zawinul. There is a waltz-like feel on drums to the opener, ‘Armchair’, that showcases the fine clarinet work of Dai Pritchard and provides a tiny insight into how Steve Lacy might have sounded with a big band. Middle Eastern flavours permeate the slightly off beat ‘The wolf’s dream and the wild eye’ with interesting drum beats and brass band that have something of a New Orleans flavour. A more reposing piece, ‘A’ features Bates on acoustic piano and the orchestrations are straight out of the Gil Evans school with trumpet solo sounding like this is a Miles-Evans tribute of sorts. For the title track, the old school trombone solo, akin to a funeral march in New Orleans, contrasts with the modern drum beat. In general, the older pieces are more convincing than the later ones, but the near nine and a half minute staccato feel of ‘As I was saying’ stands out for its funky bras whereas ‘Creeper’ simply sounds out of synch and ‘Eden Express’ a little too speeded up for these ears. No Steve Argüelles is featured on any of the performances.

The re-assembled band will be performing at select venues in late September including an appearance at the Herefordshire Jazz Festival and a tenure at Ronnie Scott’s between 23 and 26 September. This excellent live recording merely serves to whet the appetite for those imminent performances and is dedicate to the memory of founding club co-owners Ronnie Scott and Pete King.

Tim Stenhouse


With Love From Liverpool

A massive fundraising concert hosted by award-winning British comic, John Bishop, is to be held at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday 19th September, 2015.

Leaders, musicians and businesses alike from across the city have rallied together to host this one-off concert in an urgent bid to support the desperate plight of thousands of refugee families fleeing from war. All proceeds raised will be donated to British Red Cross.

The current musical line-up includes The Farm, OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), John Power and members of CAST, Space, The Icicle Works and Sense of Sound. Further artists are to be confirmed in the coming days.

Tickets cost £25 (inclusive of £1.50 booking fee), and are available from or by calling 0844 8000 400 and will be available on 9th September, 2015 from 9am.

John Bishop, the much-loved Liverpool comedian, will be hosting the concert alongside legendary BBC Radio 2 broadcaster, Janice Long.

John Bishop, comedian, said:

“When Joe asked me I was delighted to say yes, the plight of the refugees is heartbreaking and what we are seeing on our screens is something that moves us all. This City has always helped those in need and the money raised will come from the heart of this City with love, it will be a great night for a great cause. We can’t all physically put our arms around those we have seen suffering, but by coming to enjoy a nights entertainment every person there will be helping the Red Cross reach out and provide the compassion we all feel – it’s simple, come and contribute to a great cause by having a great night.”

Peter Hooton, lead singer of The Farm, said:

“When we were approached to perform at the concert, we immediately said ‘yes’ – it was a no-brainer, no matter how short the notice was. We’ve all been moved by what is a humanitarian crisis and we’ve all got a role to play in supporting those in need. I just know Liverpool and its people will come out in force to support this concert – it’s what we do, it’s who we are.”

Liverpool set the example for the rest of the country just last week when Mayor Joe Anderson made national news by becoming the first UK Mayor to actively offer to house refugees in the city.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said:

“Liverpool’s response to last week’s horrifying revelations surrounding the ongoing refugee crisis has been nothing short of overwhelming. When it comes to reaching out and offering solidarity to the families whose homes have been ripped away from them, Liverpool is leading the way. Now, Liverpool is stepping up to the plate once more with the ‘With Love From Liverpool’ concert. We’re using our reputation for world-class music to now help save lives across the globe.”

All proceeds from the ‘With Love From Liverpool’ concert will be made to British Red Cross, who are carrying out crucial work across the continent. Their activities include giving food, water and medical aid to refugees arriving in the continent and ensuring that families stay together throughout the long and gruelling journey. They are also working with search and rescue teams in Italy, saving families from drowning during the perilous crossing.

Tina Robinson, senior community fundraiser for Merseyside, said:

“The surge in awareness and support over the past week has been astounding, and I’m grateful that so many people have finally realised the extent of the grave situation. These people aren’t coming to Europe for a ‘better life’, but simply to stay alive. They are refugees, fleeing from war.

The work that we’re carrying out is varied and addresses a number of critical issues. In addition to providing on-the-spot immediate aid, we’re also guiding refugees through the asylum process, making sure that families stay together and that children don’t get separated from their parents during the chaotic journey across the continent.”

‘With Love From Liverpool’ will be held on Saturday, 19th September at the ECHO Arena. Doors will open at 6.30pm with the concert starting at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £25 (inclusive of £1.50 booking fee), and are available from or by calling 0844 8000 400 and will be available on 9th September, 2015 from 9am.

Bixiga 70 ‘III’ (Glitterbeat) CD/LP/Dig 4/5

PrintSao Paulo group Bixiga have been influenced by the 1970s recordings of Fela Kuti, but have expanded their own instrumental sound to take in West African and Ethio-Jazz flavours and the result is this new recording, their third album in total. Collective horns and beefed up percussion make for a bright and breezy exploration of pan-African music and on ‘Martelo’ they offer up some 1970s Afro-funk with tasty horns and wah-wah guitar. Previously they have recorded for Mais Um Discos and toured Europe and North Africa, and this seems to have influenced their overall eclectic approach. A more contemporary dance groove is to be found on the pumping bass line of ‘Niran’ while subtle dub effects and delicate keyboards are a feature of the melodic mid-tempo number ‘Ventania’. The Ethio-Jazz connection is dissected on ‘Lentro’ where the guitar sound oscillates between surf guitar and a more groove-laden approach while funk guitar riffs abound on ‘Di Dancer’.
What makes this album rise above the plethora of Afro-Beat wannabes is the skilled use of reeds that includes flute accompaniment as on the uptempo ‘Mil Vidas’ and in truth the Fela sound is merely a starting point from which the band departs and lays down its own voice. Excellent retro 70s cover with African artefacts.

Tim Stenhouse

Misha Mullov-Abbado ‘New Ansonia’ (Edition) 3/5

misha-mullov-abbadoWhen your parents are a distinguished Western classical orchestra conductor father (Italian Claudio Abbado) and a gifted violinist mother (Russian Viktoria Mullova), the obvious path may seem a musical career in the classical arena. However, Mullov-Abbado deserves credit for choosing an alternative path in jazz music and after impressive undergraduate study, opted for the prestigious Masters course in jazz at the Royal Academy of Music. In between study he found time to form his own quintet, featuring the vastly talented young pianist Jacob Collier (a Quincy Jones protégé). Factor in the excellent production talents of pianist and jazz radio presenter Julian Joseph and the results of all this this endeavour are to be found on this debut recording that bodes well for the future. As one might expect with individual members still in their twenties, they are continuing to soak up the history of the jazz tradition and that is evident in the soul-jazz hues of the homage paid to hard-bop king Art Blakey on ‘Lock, Stock and Shuffle’, which sounds very much like a modern update on ‘Moanin’. Unquestionably, the compositions are both refined and sophisticated in parts for young musicians (little surprise, then, that Mullov-Abbado won the 2014 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize), yet there is equally a certain stiffness and formality in some of the performances that time will surely eradicate. Where the music is most convincing is when band loosens up and introduces a groove undercurrent and that is perfectly illustrated on the title track where the guitar of Nick Goodwin is added and there is impressive ensemble work here. Arguably strongest of all is the one standard on the album, a highly inventive reworking of Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘September’, where the use of brass ensemble leading and trombone soloing from Tom Green gives the piece an altogether grittier edge and the piano takes on a distinctly Latin tinge. In some ways, the band are taking a leaf out of the excellent Enrico Rava project on ECM of a couple of years ago devoted to the music of re-envisioning the works of Michael Jackson in a jazz idiom. Quite possibly an expanded future project of soul/funk music beckons at some point. Elsewhere the gentle opener ‘Circle Song’ with Matthew Herd impressing on alto saxophone is a lovely lyrical number and Collier gets to stretch out on the play on words piece, ‘Real eyes, realise, real lies’ with once again the creative use of brass ensemble. The writing here was two years in the making and if the band continue to make progress in their live performances, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the years ahead.

Tim Stenhouse