Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux ‘Path of Totality’ 2LP/2CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

Saxophonist/composer Quinsin Nachoff’s inspiration for “Path of Totality”, an ambitious 2-LP/CD release, arose from the moon’s total eclipse of the sun in 2017. That event became a dramatic, natural metaphor for the band’s evolutionary creative process, plus a reminder (amidst current political and environmental discord being experienced from both sides of the ocean) of light’s assured emanation from and triumph over transitory darkness. A concept album then, with a message of solace and hope. All things will pass as the phrase goes…

The music written and performed here doesn’t make for easy listening. It does, however, make for rewarding listening, given the time and space required for it to sink in. At times fatalistic, at times hopeful, it is ultimately the ear of the listener that will decide how they feel about it. To my ears, there are a few oddities about the music that I struggle with, but overall it is bold and forthright with spellbinding diversity and attention to detail that is incredibly compelling.

Compositionally the music sits somewhere in-between modern jazz, contemporary classical and the experimental. It’s daring and alluringly audacious, yet not to the point that the listener wonders what on Earth is going on. Far from it in fact, with the composer obviously having the skill and presence of mind to bring different genres of music together seamlessly to create a tour-de-force of sound, aided in no small measure by the musicians involved.

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Nachoff is joined by a whole host of musicians that pull together to help make the composer’s creative ideas work so well. Leading the way are alto and C melody saxophonist David Binney, pianist/keys man Matt Mitchell, and drummers Kenny Wollesen and Nate Wood. The larger ensemble of musicians involved employ a vast array of instruments and a vivid palette of colours to create something that is consistently surprising as its sound and direction morphs from moment to moment over the course of the six epic-length pieces.

The 1st CD opens with “Path of Totality”, with its awkward-sounding phased double-drum patterns alternately exploding from one ear to another. It’s not long before I realised it was my brain that struggled with this… just letting my preconceived ideas go actually made things sound much better. One of the most consistently innovative recordings I’ve heard in a while sparks into life on “Bounce”. An incredible piece of music, with a heady mix of influences (I can hear Igor Stravinsky, John Coltrane and Pink Floyd just for starters). Nachoff is an artist that takes the idea of “experimentation” quite literally. The informative liner notes point to this stating that the composer takes his interest in science beyond simple inspiration and that working with physicist Dr Stephen Morris, they translate experimental data into musical form. The concept is interesting, to say the least, with the percussive outbursts and musical call-and-response of “Bounce”, built on the mathematical model of a bouncing ball. Regardless of whether this is of interest to the listener who might only be interested in what he’s hearing, not what the music was inspired by, it is undoubtedly a wonderful piece of music. The 3rd and final track on CD1 is “Toy Piano Meditation”. I love this. It may be based on John Cage’s “Toy Piano Suite” of 1948, but this exemplary music making is very much 21st Century. As with all of his input throughout this album, David Binney’s transcendental coda is described by Nachoff as “one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard”. I most certainly wouldn’t disagree with him.

“March Macabre” opens the 2nd CD. Its sombre, downbeat mood is punctuated by oddly flirtatious saxes, creating a mood of unnerving horror. Depicting the momentary darkness shrouding the planet, the tune benefits from a healthy dose of bleak humour. Wollesen’s ‘march machine’ provides the marching beat that gives the piece its totalitarian note. By the end though, the lockstep has been broken and individual freedom restored. The Baroque-sounding “Splatter” begins with a solo harpsichord improvisation, before progressing through a cosmic haze of jagged rhythms and erratic melodies. Fragmented with electronic wizardry this piece is both intriguing and enlightening in the way that a unique musical culture seems to be crafted within its strangely alluring incoherence. The final track “Orbital Resonances” sums up everything this band are about; imaginative improvisation through solos and gilt-edged structure, wrapped around an attitude of musical courage and experimentation.

“Path of Totality” might not be for the faint-hearted, but there’s no doubting its excellence on both a compositional and performance level. A remarkable achievement from all concerned and a listening journey well worth undertaking.

Mike Gates

Read also: Quinsin Nachoff ‘Ethereal Trio’ CD (Whirlwind) 4/5

Gabriel Grossi Quintet feat. Hermeto Pascoal ‘#motion – Live’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 3/5

I don’t own many (any) albums led by a harmonicist. I’m totally sans Toots. I’m not even sure harmonicist is the correct term for a harmonica player. Equally not sure it’s an instrument I’ve got big love for…maybe in a fierce, substance-fired rhythm n blues context it brings some crazy but I’m not overly sold. However, Gabriel Grossi IS a harmonicist, this album IS NOT in a rhythm n blues context and he JUST HAPPENS TO BE a 3 times Latin Grammy finalist – so an ideal opportunity to challenge my lazy-arsed ignorance then.

#motion is a live album, captured over 2 nights, which Brazilian Grossi describes as a resumé of around twenty years of personal icons/influencers. “Each number pays tribute to a big name from my life story. For example, Mauricio Einhorn was my harmonica professor in the beginning; and trombonist Raul de Souza, I’m still really close to. These guys are 85 now and still playing – a good sign for us!” It features his latest quintet: trombonist Sergio Coelho, pianist Eduardo Farias, bassist André Vasconcellos and drummer Rafael Barata, with a guest appearance from celebrated fellow countryman Hermeto Pascoal.

Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Brazilian Baroque ‘Prelude from the Bachianas Number 4’ gently, wistfully caresses as Grossi’s deeply felt, exposed expression is touchingly supported by Farias. Hauntingly beautiful it is but an unlikely opener according to my Metal-damaged view of dynamics.

‘A Samba for Toots’ was written for Thielemans and is a breezy, sprightly jaunt which highlights an effortless, baton-passing quintet chemistry. The title track is more serious; a study in mobility & flow with a coruscant Farias doing the propelling and Barata/Vasconcellos doing the fizzing until Grossi slams the brakes on with a handsomely spaced solo that builds into a joyous coming together of all.

Lush, dawdling, sentimental Stevie Wonder balladry is offered via “From the Bottom of My Heart” while the playful, Hermeto Pascoal-blessed “Latin Brothers” lifts the (Latin) energy a notch and gets the crowd involved in some Portuguese-Paul Stanley call & response antics.

“Play, Raul” (“Raul” as in Raul de Souza, “Play” as in play) is affable and mature – Grossi and Coelho riffing, gliding and soothing as Farias & Barata comp and set predictive course resulting in an easy John Thompson “Nice”.

As a teenager, Grossi would take a weekly 18-hour round trip to be tutored by Mauricio Einhorn; ‘Embracing Einhorn’ is a tender “Thank you” to his second father, bringing a gentle celebration and obvious deep affection where over egged lament could easily have bruised. “Banzo” wears it’s Afro rhythms well, with a subtle spirituality that glows in and around Grossi’s energised soloing and Farias’ modal stabs.

‘A Tribute to Bituca’ is for his good mate, Milton Nascimento, and offers a much appreciated (by me) unhurried serenity. Vasconcellos’ drowsy 2-minute solo introduces melodies that are then picked up as a restful theme suited to warmer climes. Gears are then shifted, as “Different Beat” bustles and jives and Einhorn is welcomed on stage to wrap the album with a swaying, last-orders of a harmonica duet that drunkenly blurts “I really love you mate” more than any track I’ve ever heard. Loved-up mates, booze, harmonica – the perfect end to a night out or album.

“When I looked at my songs, I realised those I liked most were for my idols – so #motion is my heartfelt expression of gratitude” says Grossi. “It’s my truth and, I hope, somebody else’s truth, too.” I think this comes across in spades; #motion is an emotional appreciation of his beloved, expressed with great skill on an instrument ideally suited (I’ve now found out) to emote those feelings. Grossi has ensured that I am no longer ignorant to the seductive charm of the harmonica and its musical flexibility. He’s that kind of harmonicist.

Ian Ward

Norma Winstone and John Taylor ‘In Concert’ CD (Enodoc) 4/5

There’s something exceptionally ‘feel-good’ about this release. Recorded in August 1988 at The Guildhall School of Music, the revered duo were asked to give a concert having just finished teaching there. Arranged at short notice, the warmth and good humour of the recording permeates its way through the audience. There’s a wonderful atmosphere to the session, one which we can all now enjoy thanks to the cd release of this concert.

In their long and illustrious careers pianist, Taylor and vocalist Winstone have of course worked together on numerous occasions, most notably on the ECM label alongside Kenny Wheeler with “Azimuth”. This 1988 concert recording is a superb example of their musical partnership, with the tunes performed ranging from composers Leonard Bernstein to Egberto Gismonti, Ralph Towner, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck. Yet no matter who wrote the tune, there’s an individualistic presence and style that sparkles from the duo’s collaboration, with the two musicians always willing to put their own inimitable stamp on proceedings.

The recording features eight tracks and lasts for an hour. There are some great examples throughout the concert of how the duo aren’t afraid to challenge each other musically. Taylor appears to push and probe at times, inviting Winstone to respond, as she does, in an improvisational and engaging way. Steve Swallow’s “Ladies In Mercedes” is a prime example, with Winstone’s whimsical lyrics working perfectly over Taylor’s expressive piano. It’s also wonderful to hear the more thoughtful side of the duo’s partnership, as on Egberto Gismonti’s “Cafe”. Taylor’s stylistic approach is mesmerising on tunes such as Brubeck’s “In your own sweet way” and Taylor’s rhythmically effervescent own composition “Coffee Time”. The resplendent Towner/Winstone tune “Celeste” is a beautiful, reflective and ultimately uplifting end to the concert.

This is one of those albums that just feels right and is a pleasure to listen to and own. There’s so much to enjoy. A wonderful example of two highly respected musicians enjoying making music together, in a way that engages the audience with a clear sense of purpose, skill and understanding.

Mike Gates

Pedro Ruy-Blas ‘Cyber Dolores’ LP/CD (Jazzaggression) 3/5

Jazzaggression have released a compilation of electronic jazz by Spanish artist, Pedro Ruy-Blas, culled from home studio recordings dating from the 80s and 90s. During this period Ruy-Blas set himself up with then state of the art midi and sequencing equipment to record his music in a new way, he aimed to revisit and expand upon themes already explored in his days with 70s fusion band Dolores, hence the title of this collection Cyber Dolores. The latest technology offered the freedom to work from a home studio environment and experiment with the possibilities of creating organically textured music with digital equipment. All instrumentation on the record is by Ruy-Blas himself.

No dates for the tracks were provided, so it was fun trying to guess how early in the 80s and how late in the 90s each track originates from. As a new listener to the sound of the original 70s Dolores I enjoyed the mellow and organic Return to Forever feel of the tunes. That music is very much part of its time but in a classic rather than dated way. The later music of Pedro Ruy-Blas is also very much locked in the era it was created partly due to its reliance on early-ish digital equipment. Whether it sounds okay to twenty-first-century ears is open to debate. On the whole, he seems to have succeeded in his aim to create organic and natural sounds and textures in his music though there were a couple of tunes I struggled with which may be there for the connoisseur only.

The compilation begins with the beautifully subtle ‘Terraza’, which is so smooth it could be the backing track from a West Coast yacht rock supergroup and is also a real earworm. I listened in the evening and awoke with it echoing around in my head the following morning. Neat motifs step up and down the harmonic scale, expansively shifting and echoing each other in repeated phrases. Sax and electric piano moods accompany a Latin rhythm giving a slick late-70s feel. A very satisfying opening track.

‘Bahia De Lavapies’ offers reminders of the earlier Dolores once we move through the soulful R&B intro and into Ruy-Blas’ speciality, a retro scat vocal – wonderful.

‘Morphy’s Rumba’ is a contender for the most jazz track on the album with a discordant piano theme and a post-bop sax tone nicely mixed with echoes of the Hammond organ. ‘From Resting to Ibiza’ also gives us a jazz workout with moments of genuine intensity and a distinctive Brecker Brothers flavour. This is born from another smooth intro building to a funky strut and interwoven with some vaguely Moorish keyboard textures.

‘Inconstantly Lovely Day’ is a great repost to the Bill Withers song and sees an eclectic mix of styles and motifs, the track begins with electronics reminiscent of gamelan music, shifting into an ambient film score territory before sax and choral music are met with either part of the choral phrase run backwards or a call to prayer, I couldn’t quite make out which, but I had the feeling this is where East meets West in the album. Probably the most intriguing track on this compilation.

‘Cruzando El Estrecho’ and ‘Pan De Pueblo’, the last couple of tracks, I found somewhat anticlimactic, the first suffering from quite dated and gratuitous studio effects and the latter lacking in personality compared to earlier parts of the compilation.

Overall some seriously decent pieces of studio work, a bit uneven in places, but then that’s the nature of experiments. A must-have for Dolores and Ruy-Blas fans and worth a listen for the rest of us, especially if it leads us further back into his catalogue.

James Read

UK Vibe Mix: Modern Jazz

Tracklist:

Jamie Saft Quartet – Landrace
Jeff Denson – 21st Century Blues
Dave Wilson Quartet – Untitled Modal Tune
Rich Halley – Centripetal
Ville Vannemaa – Hurry Up
Matías Dabanch Cuarteto – Transición
Fabio Tullio – Asterischi vari
Curtis Nowosad – Never Forget What They Did to Fred Hampton
Scatter The Atoms That Remain – Vishvapura
Joshua Redman Quartet – How We Do
Jerry Bergonzi – 5th Ray: Knowledge
Herlin Riley – Borders Without Lines
Dann Zinn – Day of Reckoning
Johnathan Blake – One For Honor
Steve Davis – Inner Glimpse
Benjamin Boone – They Feed They Lion
Tobias Wiklund – Dancing to the Drum of No Conscience
Miguel Gorodi Nonet – Not Nicest Memo

Bruno Salicone Trio and Quartet ‘Happy’ CD (A.MA) 3/5

Bruno Salicone is an Italian pianist who often performs and records as part of a trio called Ipocontrio often within its homeland. Although Salicone is an experienced musician, I believe this is his debut album under his own name.

Unaccompanied piano introduces the pleasant cool jazz opener “I’m Happy”. From the start, the trio delivers a satisfying level of proficiency and skill in their performance. “Speak Up” is another outing for the trio but is more uptempo with its twelve bar rolling rhythmic signature. As excellent as the piano improv is here I’m drawn towards the exciting bass playing. The boppy “Dialogue With ‘Trane” is performed by the quartet with saxophone augmenting the trio. The piano and saxophone trade lines. The dialogue is definitely with the early 60s ‘Trane. “Invisible Man” is a return to the trio. It is quieter and contemplative than earlier tracks and with extended double bass and then piano solos. A pleasing showcase for the abilities of both musicians. The quartet performs the much busier “Perturbazione”, which according to google translates to Disturbance! The saxophone led motif, to me, is actually more reminiscent of Coltrane than “Dialogue With ‘Trane”. The saxophone and piano solos are well performed. Although the artist title for this release is “Bruno Salicone Trio and Quartet”, the fusion-y “L’Attesa” is actually performed by a quintet with the addition of Giusi Mitrano’s pure voice which doubles up with the soprano sax for the joyous melodic motif with the exciting complex tight electric rhythm bubbling underneath. The rhythm section is reined in later so piano, electric bass and saxophone are unleashed in succession. This is very much the stand out track. The modern jazz ballad “Ray” is a change of mood and a return to the piano-led trio. “Bye Bye” the fittingly named closer of the set, is the kind of laid back smooth jazz favoured by David Sandborn, for example, in the 1980s.

This is an enjoyable album and Salicone and his colleagues are clearly talented musicians. As someone who responds to bass, I would like to give special mention to Francesco Galatro particularly for his performance on “Speak Up” and “L’Attesa”. However, the release does come across as a showcase to present their proficiency in covering differing styles. I have to assume that this merely reflects the introductory nature of an artist’s first outing and I look forward to hearing their real voice in subsequent releases.

Kevin Ward

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 reigns supreme throughout.

Mark Jones

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