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