Julian Argüelles ‘Tetra’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

julian-argüellesLoose Tubes alumni Julian Argüelles is a busy man. As a leader he is currently fronting an exciting quartet comprising pianist Kit Downes, double bassist Sam Lasserson and drummer James Madren. This all original set was inspired by a visit to Portugal and Spain, hence the impressionistic visions that the leader has created. A famous Iberian riff that is in fact a north-western Spanish folk song in ‘Asturias’ begins in earnest after a lengthy drum intro when the main theme suddenly emerges. Thereafter, the listener is taken on a tenor saxophone and piano excursion into deepest Spain. This writer especially liked the polyrhythms deployed. Another lovely piece is the staccato rhythm of ‘Hurley Burley’ and here features some intense soprano work from Argüelles. Meditational themes permeate the album with the meandering ten and a half minute ‘Nitty gritty’ a fine illustration with lyrical vamping from Downes and then a lengthy solo while the rest of the rhythm section accompany gently. At times Argüelles come across as a composite of Charles Lloyd and Wayne Shorter and it is the former who is evoked on the spiritually uplifting and soulful ‘Yada Yada’ with drum beats that keep the piece on edge. This working quartet has operated collectively for the last three years and an integral part of the winning formula is the individual chemistry between leader and pianist. The two combine on a reflective number, ‘Hocus pocus’, that gradually builds up a head of pace and bass and drums head off on an inventive lyrical adventure. A fine recording, then, all round. A recent UK tour has taken place in late October and early November.

Tim Stenhouse

Food ‘This is Not a Miracle’ (ECM) 3/5

foodCreated back in 1998, the musical collective Food has oscillated in composition over time, but two stalwarts have remained and they are multi-reedist Iain Ballamy and keyboardist/percussionist Thomas Strønen with a single new member in guitarist and electronica performer Christian Fennesz. Recorded in Oslo (but not at the usual Rainbow studios) over a relatively short period of three days and then re-worked over a further five month period in Str*nen’s own studio, this is very much a twenty-first century take on improvisational music with a heavy dose of electronica that will either endear or alienate depending on the individual’s capacity to taken on board contemporary beats. In parts it can be a disconcerting listen insofar as instruments can seem to be going against one another. However, it is also an album of beautiful moments and, in general, a sound that in some respects harks back to the early 1990s Jan Garbarek group recordings. The album works best on the layered textures created on synthesizers of the title track with the sparseness of Ballamy’s tenor and sheets of sound emanating from the percussion. A haunting combination of soprano saxophone and an experimental sounding percussion works a treat on ‘Death of Niger’.

On the other hand, some of the numbers are difficult to access with drum beats ever more discernible and intrusive on ‘Exposed to frost’. As befitting the use of electronic music involved in the editing process, Iain Ballamy’s own saxophone playing has not been spared from the cutting and this writer would have liked to have heard more of that contribution overall. The pieces are concise and for an ECM album and quite short with album as a whole weighing in at just under fifty minutes. Late November and early December dates in Ireland and the UK including the MAC, Birmingham on 2 December.

Tim Stenhouse

Stefano Battaglia Trio ‘In The Morning’ (ECM) 4/5

stefano-battaglia-trioPiano trios are becoming something of a speciality within the Italian jazz fraternity and now reaching the venerable age of fifty, leader and pianist Stefano Battaglia demonstrates why he is one of the leading exponents in both his country and on the European continent with this live recording from the Teatro Vittoria in Turin in April 2014. Parallels with the Bill Evans trio and even Keith Jarrett are valid and will be made given the introspective nature of the music contained within, though Battaglia is most influenced by the style and work of Paul Bley and to a lesser extent by that of Jarrett. However, Battaglia is very much his own man and devotes the album to an exploration of the major, yet lesser known composers of what has become known as the great American songbook in Alec Wilder. For those not already familiar with his body of work, his compositions have been recorded by a bevvy of star singers including Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra among others. Double bassist Salvatore Maiore and drummer Roberto Dani complete the line-up and the fact that there is only a four year gap between all the trio members may account for the natural empathy between the constituent parts of the trio. The lengthy, languid opener of the title track unfolds with a mounting of tension while Battaglia is at his most melodic on the quiet introspection of ‘When I am dead by dearest’ and there is glorious supportive work from the rest of the rhythm section here. One of the most endearing of all Wilder pieces is ‘River run’ and Battaglia is on fire with cascading piano rolls that create several layers of sound.
Alec Wilder not only composed, but equally wrote about music with his book, ‘American popular song. The great innovators 1900-1950’ a very worthy read. A number covered by Jarrett, ‘Moon and Soul’, receives a treatment that is at once subtle and tender, caressing the melody tenderly. Previous recordings have been similarly theme focused with ‘Pasolini’ from 2007 noteworthy and locations prominent as in ‘Songways’ from 2012. A fine way to end the year and once again an ECM recording of distinction with impeccable sound as ever.

Tim Stenhouse

Philip Clouts Quartet ‘Umoya’ (Odradek) 4/5

00 porta CD Aki def foto+traccia  copiaIf you like your jazz music to be strong on the groove and with a subtle infusion of world beats, then this excellent new recording from the Philip Clouts Quartet may well prove to be a revelatory experience. Born in South Africa, but from an early age resident in London, leader, pianist and composer Philip Clouts studied under renowned pianist and music lecturer Howard Riley at the Guildhall School of Music and further study with Bheki Mseleku helped to refine his sound. The waltz-like opener, ‘Lila’, is notable for the sweet sounding alto saxophone of Eagles, but it’s inspiration in fact lies in the trance-like gnawa music tradition of Morocco. Interestingly, there are hints of an all-acoustic Weather Report on ‘Dreamy Driving’ and here the change of pace within the piece is a joy to behold. Saxophonist Samuel Eagles, who has been mentored partly by former Jazz Messenger Jean Toussaint and studied at Trinity Music College, comes across as something of a latter day Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, and has already been featured as a leader in his own right for his debut album on the F-IRE label, ‘Next Beginning’. There is a subtle use of Afro-Beat drum patterns by drummer Dave Ingamells on ‘Walking in Starlight’ with Clouts reverting to electric piano for a more 1970s feel, and the bass line by Alex Keen is an especially compelling one. A slow burner of an album that gets better with repeated listens.

Tim Stenhouse

David Sinclair’s “25 years of jazz photography” – 116 gems

November 2015 @ The Royal Albert Hall – sponsored by Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Soho, London

– An EFG London Jazz Festival event.

steve-williamson_by_David Sinclair

When one is faced with 116 photos of some of the great artists and musicians of the jazz world (and more), one can only stand and admire.
I was honoured to be invited to the preview of the show: all the photos, curated by David’s son as well, Malcolm, are exhibited around the amphitheatre of the building. Clever and fun at the same time.
I loved looking at each and every single one of them, but David Sinclair being David Sinclair, his mark is for sure on each print. One can spot the David Sinclair from a mile. From Max Roach to Ronnie Scott to Charlie Watts. My favourite illustrates this short piece on the exhibition. I am a great fan of saxophonist Steve Williamson, I love David’s photo of him. It captures the man perfectly.

David Sinclair’s photos for the exhibition are only a hand-full taken from an archive of 50,000!

To see more photos, and perhaps buy some too, visit sinclairjazz.com

by Erminia Yardley