Tom Barford ‘Bloomer’ CD/DIG (Edition) 4/5

Produced by Iain Bellamy and recorded at Real World Studios, “Bloomer” is the debut album from the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner, saxophonist and composer Tom Barford. Alongside the saxophonist for this recording there’s Rupert Cox on piano, Billy Marrows on guitar, Dave Storey on drums and Flo Moore on bass.

The session begins with Moore’s energetic bass riff supported by Storey’s tight drumming, soon joined by the impressive Marrows on guitar, with Cox’s engaging piano leading us into the tune itself. Then for a while it’s a sax, bass and drums trio before the musicians come together as quintet. The title track opens the album and it’s a good indication of what’s to follow; some intricate compositions matched by some excellent soloing, especially from Marrows and inevitably, the band-leader himself.

There’s some lovely changes of pace and variation throughout the recording, and as the album’s second tune “Space to dream” begins, it’s a clear declaration of intent from the composer. This spacious, gloriously atmospheric track is followed by the quirkier “Phizzwizard”, featuring Barford’s Chris Potter-esque soprano sax. Lovely playing and a lovely tune, one which reminds me of Potter’s collaboration with Pat Metheny’s Unity Band, similar in compositional style and execution.

“FStep” takes the bull by the horns, with the funkier vibe allowing Barford and Marrows to flex their musical muscles with some exciting interplay and soloing. “Music for an imagined dream” features Cox’s piano supplying the backdrop for the melodious sax, with a very nice solo section of piano mid-course. “Razztwizzlwer” gets into a deep groove with organ and guitar surfacing in strong waves of John Scofield/Larry Goldings interwoven tapestry-like playing.

There’s an all-round lighter touch on the exquisite “Ideology”, with the closing tune “The highly strung trapeze artist” resplendent with spacey guitar and a more inquisitive and progressive outlook, nicely concluding Barford’s debut.

A promising debut from Tom Barford, there are moments of brilliance here in the writing, with some great performances as the musicians share the spoils. One might make the comment that perhaps as an overall album the music could be more expansive and suffers a little from being slightly formulaic in parts, but that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that this is an album that excites and intrigues, and leaves the listener looking forward to hearing what’s to follow from this effervescent, gifted new talent.

Mike Gates