With the cross-pollination and collaborative nature of many of the young jazz musicians emanating from the current vigorous UK jazz scene, particularly in London, it can be difficult to keep up with releases and the ever changing line-ups of some of these enterprises, with Wildflower being no exception. Comprising of Idris Rahman on saxophone and flute, bassist Leon Brichard and drummer Tom Skinner, in this trio format they have been unobtrusively generating interest in their modern but traditional approaches to contemporary jazz. This six-track set ploughs the deep ancestry of spiritual jazz, with clear references to Pharoah Sanders, John and Alice Coltrane, Yusef Lateef and Su Ra, but with that young, fresh and hip attitude that is sometimes understandably missing from more established and seasoned musicians.
With so many saxophonists also being accomplished flautists, the very aptly titled ‘Flute Song’ sanctions Idris to showcase this component of his skillset. The relatively simple 2-bar bassline from Leon Brichard leaves sonic space for the drums and flute to interrelate and mingle, infuse and circulate. Late 1960s Impulse records influenced no doubt. ‘Where The Earth Meets The Sky’ puts the saxophone front and centre with again, bassist Leon underpinning the whole composition with its earthy and almost rustic temperament. The 6/8 ‘Long Way Home’ is a personal favourite as it meanders throughout its six minute duration, providing the trio with an explorative vehicle to navigate through its journey. The longest piece of the set, ‘Other Worlds’, possesses an almost afro beat quality, with its pulse-like rhythm track that juxtaposes with the varying sax work from Idris. But the entire album is engaging and fulfilling in equal measures, although, it needs to be noted that conceptually the live experience is also maintained within the recording quality. This isn’t ACT or ECM, but unashamedly young London, and thus, Wildflower’s debut is not polished, edited or cleanly mixed within an inch of its life, but kept unkempt and almost slovenly but not in a musical sense. Conceptually, the album maintains a written compositional form, but with room for improvisation embellishments and artistic freedom.
Criticisms – I would like to hear more from bassist Leon Brichard who does a superb job anchoring the whole project, alternating from electric bass, upright bass and fretless with ease and finesse. And some of the compositions were a touch short and demand lengthier arrangements than the 4 or 5 minutes provided, with brisk dancefloor gem ‘Hogol’ clocking in at only 3’36”. But less is possibly more.
But I’m really fascinated by the record collecting attitude of the more recent releases by these younger UK jazz musicians and labels, as by pressing very limited vinyl runs helps to create a demand for the product i.e., project. As of the end 2017, there have been three editions of the vinyl pressing, from the original 80 white label test presses, to 250 hand painted sleeves on the second press to the more recent printed sleeve versions, with more planned for early 2018. Worth seeking out.