Henry Spencer and Juncture ‘The Reasons Don’t Change’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings was established in 2010. Janisch is an established bassist, composer, bandleader and producer. He is a native of the US but moved to the UK in 2005 and created the label specifically for the worldwide release of his debut recording ‘Purpose Built’. Since that time, the label has grown dramatically releasing, as Janisch says, “an eclectic catalogue of adventurous and visceral music that spans genres, is rooted in originality and has key emphasis on the improvised. The artists on the label range from established masters to guiding lights of their generation to undiscovered stars in the making”.
Releases for 2017 get underway with the debut from trumpeter and composer Henry Spencer. Henry is a recent graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The quintet featured here is made up of fellow Guildhall alumni. So, alongside Spencer we have Nick Costley-White (guitar), Matt Robinson (piano and keyboards), Andrew Robb (double bass), and David Ingamells (drums) interpreting Spencer’s original compositions. Add to the mix The Guastalla String Quartet adding to the tapestry of sound.
The opening ‘Introduction’ is a solo piece allowing us to experience up close and personal the sound of this wonderful trumpeter unhindered. It seems to me that we hear something of the history of jazz trumpet in the first minute or so. Then, suddenly, we are plunged into the maelstrom that is ‘Hindsight Can Wait’ as the rest of the band enter the fray. Then, things calm for the first statement from the pianist, almost rhapsodic in approach, ably supported by bass and drums. Interesting interludes of calm and vigour are set up against each other which all help to keep the listener’s attention.

‘On the Bridge’ starts with contemplative piano, with the trumpeter soon joining and it’s not long before bass, and guitar enter the fray. Drums join in adding a sense of urgency. All the time, the trumpeter is flying high above the ensemble. Then again the sound changes as a more considered, melodic motif is introduced. However, we are soon back in the high velocity high power of the band.

‘Eulogy’ is taken at a much more stately pace. But, once again, we are soon plunged into jazz-rock territory again.

‘Joanne’s Diary’ is certainly a more rhapsodic affair and we get to hear Costley-White’s guitar in all its glory.

‘Knock Back, Knocked Forward’ is a much more focussed piece of work and highlights more splendid guitar work. Indeed it is the close interplay between trumpet and guitar which make this music so different. The use of different keyboards also plays an important part in the overall picture.

‘Never Draw a Line’ is a lovely tune with equally eloquent solo work from the leader. Someone should write lyrics to this tune.

‘Hopeless Heartless’ finally affords the chance to hear the string quartet in support of the trumpeter. The track opens with the strings and trumpet and they are soon joined by the rhythm section. We have another fine piano solo, which is cushioned by the strings and rhythm and it’s all the better for that. For me, this has to be the highlight of the album.

For the most part this is very powerful and energetic music. For a case in point listen to the closing track ‘The Survivor and the Descendant’, a heady mixture of jazz-rock and classical sensibilities.

Be it on trumpet or flugel horn, Spencer is never less than outstanding.

One thing is for certain, if one were ever concerned about the current state of the British jazz scene, there is no reason to worry with music of this calibre. This is an outstanding release and sure to be a hit with all lovers of contemporary British jazz.

Alan Musson