Andre Canniere ‘Ghost Days’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

“Ghost Days” is US-born, London-based trumpeter and composer Andre Canniere’s follow up to his 2016 release “The Darkening Blue” and reunites him with singer Brigitte Beraha and saxophonist Tori Freestone, whilst introducing a new, all-star UK rhythm section of Rick Simpson on piano, Tom Farmer on bass and Andrew Bain on drums. Six of the album’s seven original compositions were inspired by a unique collaboration between Canniere and the poets/writers Malika Booker and Rebecca Lynch. Each piece had a poem as its starting point, defining the overall mood and the rhythm and phrasing of the melody. The songs deal with loss, anxiety and disappointment, yet are often uplifting in nature with a quirky sense of humour and an imaginative and hopeful message that works its way effortlessly through the music.

A Pennsylvania native, Canniere first developed his career in New York where he worked with artists such as Maria Schneider, Becca Stevens, Donny McCaslin, Kate McGarry, Ingrid Jensen and Darcy James Argue, and this album is full of the kind of innovative cross-genre exploration for which those artists are renowned. There’s a quietly confident, often exploratory feel to the composer’s tunes, with a highly original feel to the music being performed. Sometimes funky, often melodramatic and always thought-provoking, it makes for an intriguing mix of vocal-led jazz/pop and cool ensemble jazz.

“Suicides” has a lovely brassy big band feel to it, with a powerful funk-inspired groove and some superb blowing from the horns. One my favourite pieces on the album is “Colours”. It’s the kind of track that reminds me of Brad Mehldau or Mark Guilliana in dark, anthemic mood, bringing together a post-rock Radiohead sound with a jazz vibe that’s both sombre and uplifting. It’s a wonderfully crafted tune that brings out the best in Beraha’s voice and works exquisitely well with the melancholic chords and brass. This leads nicely into “Erasure”, a tune that slowly builds in intensity, switching from fragments of lyrics into wordless melodies, reminiscent perhaps of an imaginary, extended Snowpoet piece. “My Star” reminds me of a long-lost 80’s ECM tune, with its pop-inflected relaxed simplicity quite beautiful, before opening out with a pair of truly breathtaking solos from Canniere and Simpson. In fact, one of the highlights of this album as a whole is the understated yet wonderfully engaging playing of pianist Simpson. He’s got that magical thing going on where the notes he plays are at once emotive and kinetic, in a way that simply oozes class. “The Arrival” is a reflective piece, featuring a thoughtful muted trumpet solo. “One More Down” features another spellbinding solo from Simpson as Farmer and Bain lock into a precision groove. “Endure” exemplifies all that is good about Canniere’s compositional style and playing, creating an atmosphere of warmth and hopeful intent.

All the vocal-based material for “Ghost Days” was toured by the band extensively before they went into the studio, and although for me, some tunes work better than others, the sureness with which they deliver the arrangements is testament to how thoroughly each musician assimilated the concept. This is a very enjoyable album, owing as much to the likes of Norah Jones and Bjork, as it does to Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard.

Mike Gates

TOUR DATES

20 Feb – Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham

22 April – Pizza Express, London

14 May – Soundcellar, Poole

24 May – Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham

25 May – NQ Jazz, Manchester

26 May – Parrjazz, Liverpool

27 May – Lescar, Sheffield

Mike Gates