All posts by ukvibe

Jaimie Branch ‘FLY or DIE II: Bird Dogs of Paradise’ LP/CD (International Anthem) 5/5

While it’s certainly not uncommon for jazz and soul music to boast a reputation of music that ushers in feelings of good times, dancing and romantic numbers, some of the most impactful soul songs associated with each genre’s history can be attributed to addressing social and political injustice. Classics by no less than legends like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron… all ask timeless questions about the society they grew up in and questions that sadly still ring relevant today. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ serves as a great example… maybe we’re destined to always ask that question but it’s certainly a question people still ask nearly 50 years later.

Jaimie Branch’s ‘FLY or DIE II: Bird Dogs of Paradise’ is actually an album that continues in the vein of asking that important question… ‘What’s Going On?’. Released through Chicago’s International Anthem – which is also home to Resavoir’s stunning self-titled debut album from earlier this year as well – trumpeter Branch’s second album sees her add the tag of vocalist to her seemingly never-ending skillset which includes trumpet, synths and composition.

With this project’s predecessor, ‘Fly or Die’, having been released in 2017, the sequel sees the return of many of that album’s contributors, and subsequent frequent collaborators, including Jason Ajemian on bass and Chad Taylor on drums as part of the core band, along with guests including guitarist Matt Schneider and label-mate Ben LaMar Gay.

Much of ‘FLY or DIE II’ revolves around the thoughts and feelings conveyed in ‘Prayer For Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2’: “It’s a prayer for America, the good, the bad and the rest of ‘ya”. It’s a song that exudes passion over the course of its 11 minutes and 26 seconds, from the melancholy bass, to Branch’s screaming trumpet and ardent vocal openly calling out the racism attached to this Republican Presidency. The introduction of Branch as a vocalist serves to override the notion of any ambiguity regarding any of the messages littered within the music here and very much contributes to a more honest and sincere recording particularly with regards to the subject matter of such sensitivity. But the album boasts even more highs like the urgency captured throughout ‘Twenty-Three n Me, Jupiter Redux’ or the vibrant ‘Nuevo Roquero Estéreo’.

There really is something about a piece of art that challenges the notion of injustice or calls for change – it can be like staring into the remnants of Pandora’s Box and laying eyes on the faint glimmer of hope sitting at the bottom waving back at you. ‘FLY or DIE II’ is the hope that things can in fact change.

Imran Mirza

Ethan Iverson Quartet with Tom Harrell ‘Common Practice’ CD (ECM) 5/5

Recorded live at Manhattan’s famed Village Vanguard, “Common Practice” features a set of standards and blues tunes, expertly performed and led by pianist Iverson, featuring the prime melodic voice of veteran trumpeter Tom Harrell. Iverson convened a group specifically to support and challenge Harrell. “Tom is one of the greatest living soloists. While it is always great to hear brand new compositions with every new Harrell band, there’s something to be said for just counting off familiar tunes and letting Tom blow.” And indeed, Harrell is in immaculate form, and together with Ben Street on double bass and Eric McPherson on drums, the quartet shine an intoxicating light on the tunes they perform, making this a truly wonderful album.

Listeners familiar with Iverson’s music via his 17 year tenure with trio The Bad Plus, could perhaps be a little surprised at the fact that the pianist chose to perform a set of standards, yet it’s clear from listening to the music on this session that he uses his skill and knowledge, along with tradition, to bring an innovative edge to the session. His playing, and listening, is masterful, and often restrained, letting Harrell take the lead, with subtlety and gentle nuances intelligently worked into the music. After the final set at The Vanguard, Harrell mentioned to Iverson that he thought the group’s sound felt new, despite the vintage repertoire, and that’s the beauty of this music, it can be enjoyed on so many different levels. And for Iverson, a long-held dream is realised in his overlapping of the traditional and the avant-garde, the premodern and the postmodern, the old and the new meeting at a single point.

There’s a gentle vulnerability to Harrell’s playing, but boy can he also swing. With this exemplary rhythm section, the iconic trumpeter is in focussed yet relaxed mood, at times allowing that exposed openness to touch the soul, whilst also hitting startling heights of melodic virtuosity as he swings as if it’s his last night on Earth. The album opener, Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” is given an expansive, especially ruminative treatment and is a truly beautiful rendition of this oldest of tunes. Iverson goes into a gorgeous rhapsodic mode on “I Can’t Get Started”, giving the tune a warm, lyrical hue. “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” is simply stunning, and the bebop groover “Wee” sits nicely alongside two irresistible and surprisingly bluesy Iverson originals, “Philadelphia Creamer” and “Jed from Teaneck”. The jazz tradition runs deep through old favourites such as “All The Things You Are”, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, and “I Remember You”, with a funky take on “Sentimental Journey” showing how well this quartet are able to draw on that tradition yet turn it seamlessly into something fresh and inspiring.

One of my favourite albums of the year so far, “Common Practice” should appeal to many. This is jazz of the highest standard, performed with subtlety and vision, with a great atmosphere and endearing nature, it just gets better and better the more I listen to it.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Mark Turner / Ethan Iverson ‘Temporary Kings’ LP/CD (ECM) 3/5

Die Parzäros ‘La Cachaca’ CD (JazzHausMusik) 3/5

Die Pazäros (The Buddies) are a German-based Colombian power trio consisting of good mates, Juan-Pablo González-Tobón (guitar), Joan Chavez (bass) and Luis-Javier Londoño (drums/percussion). They create a raw Colombian-rhythm enthused, jazz-rock; belting out a mix of originals and deconstructions of traditional Colombian pieces.

Opener “Galleguiando” is a quick insight into the hearts, minds and hips of the trio. A smashed wash of a power chord introduces a nasty, broken choppy riff with punctuated tremolo arm wobbles and jerks while the Latin percussion grooves. Over before it begins but the intent is clear.

“Tosque” expands on the “Galleguiando” riff and takes it into a more overt Colombian space – feeling like a slightly miffed, Latin John Scofield reworking some King Crimson/Song X mashup. Angular, busy and danceable, it has that breathing space/bottom falling out-ness unique to trios; most notable when González-Tobón and Chavez enjoy jaunty solos. Bet it’s fierce fun live.

“Madera Negra” is initially an edgy Latin-jazz stroll with a plucked, 4-chord wash over an emerging bass pattern before González-Tobón stamps on his overdrive, throwing some nasty prog our way – making way for a psych exploration to take over – the band really filling the space as sinuous guitar lines pop and dance.

“Kama de Shrekens” creates an exotic bluesy drama with Chavez and Londoño getting busy as González-Tobón ‘s guitar tells an unhurried story through several chapters. Much more hurry about “El Cuarto” though. It riffs hard, jagged and urgent. It builds and falls apart, just about keeping a lid on things. “Tunel” offers a needed respite from the angular aggression with a gorgeous guitar sequence of glancing chords, arpeggios and lines that are seemingly effortlessly moved into their rightful position by Chavez and Londoño’s gentle, yet purposeful, work. I’d like to hear a bit more of this. Handsome.

“Un Porrito para Noica” is a study of unbalanced binary; mainly watchful and very occasionally explosive. Chavez takes advantage of a watchful period to deliver a peppy, perky solo. “Q’hubo Pues” is a charged staccato while traditional piece, ” La Rebuscona”, has the uncomplicated “Go on son!” energy of 3 cerveza-happy mates jamming on it for the first time.

Die Pazäros have a unique schtick – do (actually, don’t) correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure there’s no other successful integrations of Colombian traditional music and raw jazz-rock out there? And successful it is. They crack, snap and drive with an endearing uncooked, organic roughness; almost ‘unthinking’, it is so instinctive, so visceral. They naturally, easily bounce off each other. I could imagine them being a real bag of fun live. My only reservation is a lack of dynamic shift; an occasional need for some relent, subtlety and maybe wider instrumentation to help deliver that. That said, I’m chuffed that they met up and became buddies.

Ian Ward

jazzhausmusik website

Various ‘Antologia de Música Atípica Portuguesa Vol.2: Regiões’ LP (Discrepant) 5/5

In my home, death is not the end. Death is just a different component of life. The ghosts of people we love don’t so much haunt us as they remain with us; to celebrate, to grieve, to dance with us. Disrepant’s newest anthology, Antologia de Música Atípica Portuguesa Vol2 Regiões, is haunted music. It’s the music you play not when you need to get rid of the ghosts, but when you need to sit with them.

Death comes in many forms and ghosts are not just the people we’ve lost. We may be haunted by past actions, thoughts or lovers. Antologia gives us the chance to commune with all of this, to consider who we were and who we want to be. Songs like “Manta” and “Por Riba” feel like the connective tissue between what was and what lays ahead. And connecting is exactly what Discrepant set out to do. For the second volume of the Antologia series, they chose to draw attention to the various regional styles of Portugal, each track connecting with a different province from the country.

Whatever you were expecting this album to be, just go ahead and toss that out the window. With its focus on the atypical, Antologia dives deep into the peculiar and unseen musical world of Portugal. While it may not help you exorcise your ghosts, at the very least this album is an exercise in exorcising your preconceived notions. Aside from the multiple drawn out expletives, the powerful playlist of songs like “Asylo” and “Montemor” have pretty much left me speechless. You. Need. To hear this.

Antologia sounds industrial, experimental and eerie. The sounds stay with you long after you turn them off. They are new and unknown. And yet, the handpicked songs are all very much bound up in tradition, just in an unexpected way. With Antologia, Discrepant is attempting to re-evaluate Portugal’s musical history, to de-construct clichés and re-assemble preconceptions to make you reconsider not only what you think about Portuguese music but what you think about music in general. For this, they have chosen artists working on the fringes. And it’s quite timely as we draw near to the Day of the Dead. The time when we light candles, set out breads and pictures and trails of fragrant flowers and call the dead home. Antologia will be our siren song, the soundtrack that will invite our ghosts to sit in reverence with us. I imagine the awe they must feel as they observe all the ways the world has changed since their last visit. And yet, what Discrepant has done here will serve as a reminder that it was only possible with the solid foundation they created.

Molly Gallegos

Ville Vannemaa ‘Cassiopeia’ LP [includes CD] (Jazzaggression) 5/5

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were gushing about Jazzaggression releases – namely drummer Aleksi Heinola’s Quintet and their excellent debut, self-titled album released earlier this year. This time, however, it’s the new album by Finnish saxophonist Ville Vannemaa, ‘Cassiopeia’, that has us swooning and reaching for the replay button.

Vannemaa studied at the Sibelius Academy’s jazz department and the Paris Conservatory and having spent years as a member of Kalevi Louhivuori Quintet, Teddy’s West Coasters and Teemu Åkerblom Quartet, as well as having contributed to projects by Kerkko Koskinen Kollektiivi and Vantaan Vilhdeorkesteri, Vannemaa has developed a reputation as one of the most revered saxophonists in Finland.

For his ‘Cassiopeia’ project, Vannemaa has assembled a stunning quintet comprised of long-time friends and collaborators: bassist Heikko Remmel (Max Zenger Globus, Kimara lovelace), drummer Jaska Lukkarinen (Jimi Tenor, Ricky-Tick Big Band), trombonist Kasperi Sarikoski (UMO Jazz Orchestra, Eija Kantola) and vibraphonist Panu Savolainen (Timo Lassy, Joanna Wang).

‘Cassiopeia’ features six tracks, composed by Vannemaa, and on the vinyl version of the album, the songs find themselves discerningly split into two categories: the ‘light side’ and the ‘dark side’. The CD version – which does thankfully accompany the vinyl version of the album as well – boasts an additional two bonus tracks not seemingly allocated to either ‘side’ (‘Ring The Bell’ and ‘Bacta Tank Blues’).

The gentle twinges of swing found in ‘Hyacinth’ along with the energy and vibrancy of ‘Hurry Up’ are impeccable contributions to the ‘light side’ but it really is the ‘dark side’ of the album that propels this project to another level. The sweet, almost romantic, melancholy attached to ‘Sorrow’ absolutely pulls you in and then there’s the sublime, almost ethereal nature of ‘Stars’ that is just captivating. The work of Panu Savolainen on vibraphone really does deserve special mention – his versatility when playing adds a fantastic new dimension to ‘Cassiopeia’ enabling him to excel on compositions whether they fall into the ‘light’ or ‘dark’ sides of the album.

Bassist Daryl Runswick once bestowed high praise for Vannemaa’s sax playing describing it as a “touch of Trane, touch of Pharoah”, while the Jazzaggression website refers to ‘Cassiopeia’ as a “future classic assured!”. They might just be very right.

Imran Mirza

Outhentic ‘Transparent’ CD (Self-released) 3/5

Outhentic is a Bulgarian ethno-jazz group, who bring their native folk and traditional flavours to modern jazz, funk, pop, etc. and vice versa. The core of the group are siblings, kaval player Zhivko Vasilev and singer Rayna Vasileva. Transparent is their self-released second album following their debut from 2016, which is titled “YesToday”. Yes, they do enjoy a bit of word play!

The kaval (a type of flute) melody line accompanied by other folk instruments introduces the album and the first track, the lively “Ayda, Ayda”. Vasileva’s voice is sweet, precise and pure, but apparently without too much power. As the song develops, the sparkly keyboards are joined by restrained bass and drums. “Transparent” is the sparse piano introduction to the slower paced “Yaz Ti Postilam” of which although it has traditional elements, the instrumental accompaniment is familiar with electric guitar, a standard rhythm section including electric bass and smooth solos from kaval and acoustic guitar. “Zalibih Si Edno Libe” is more uptempo, particularly during the non-vocal passages. The structure of tune is more conventional to western ears. “Razoral Dedo” kicks off with an electric guitar riff and then springs into an uptempo funky style shuffle. The verses drop out and it’s the opportunity for the band members to show their chops. The solos are proficient and pleasing.

The pace changes for “Chereshko Chorna”. Kaval and gentle Spanish guitar introduce the ballad. Rayna Vasileva’s singing is especially beautiful on this track and exhibits impressive control and constraint. It’s the highpoint of the album. “Yunache Ludo” continues the melancholic mood of the previous track but with a slightly bluesy feel. “Doydi, Doydi, Libe Le” is probably the most successful fusion of folk and jazz. It’s where the fit is most snug between traditional instruments and electric jazz phrasings and syncopation. “Stiga Mi Sa, Momne Le – Ti Rechi, Momne Le” stays close to their template of giving an edge to the traditional song using offbeats and jazzy fills.“Rachenitsa” is a kaval-led instrumental and for much of the track, is structured and quite rigid. That is, until about mid-way through, when there’s a bracing manic section and now it feels like the gloves have come off! Unfortunately, it doesn’t continue into the final track, “Rano E Moma”, which is rather prosaic. A generic funk/disco work-out.

Transparent is an enjoyable album without hints of dryness sometimes apparent in music tied to a concept such as this. It is embellished by good musicianship and a distinct cohesiveness within the group. Although sometimes the arrangements are a little tentative and derivative, the album is successful, allowing a listener with no specific knowledge of Bulgaria to sample and appreciate some of her culture and folklore within a familiar musical scenario. Although I would expect that there’s not much of interest here for the world music purist (whoever they are!), art like this is a reminder that you can still retain an internationalist outlook whilst preserving and nurturing your roots.

Kevin Ward

Abdullah Ibrahim ‘Dream Time’ CD (enja) 5/5

This record comes quite soon (for AI) after ‘The Balance’ but unlike that one this is a solo outing recorded live at his now hometown in Bavaria. I had the privilege of hearing this live at Cadogan Hall the day before I got the review copy of the CD. So this is a review which melds aspects of the recording and the live performance.

Both performances take the same form two movements (I hesitate to call them sets because they are distillations of Ibrahim’s music which take a classical style while remaining jazz – more of this later) both of which are continuous with Ibrahim employing his signature segueing from tune to tune.

This will be familiar to regular listeners to him live or on record. “Quietly flowing, eternal stream of life”, says the record company blurb and for once they have got it spot on. There is a list of tunes but that bald list does not tell the story of what he does. He states themes, moves effortlessly from one to another and back while apparently playing aspects of each at the same time.

Notes and chords hang in the air, waiting for the next statement. It’s like the music holds its breath and then resolves. While playing nothing like Monk, Abdullah does have a Monk-like ability to make the spaces and grace notes speak as loudly or quietly as the notes themselves.

I can’t put it better than Roland Spiegel’s sleeve notes: “Calm, yet exuding a gripping power. In prelude, soft tones gently reveal the initial melodic content. Motifs emerge in echo, making way for a complete melodic statement refined through minute, unexpected details. The gathering stream flows directly into a single, liberating chord. A second melody follows suit, at once melancholic, morphing to bright lyricism, also settling on an open chord. Yet not an end, but a transition…Abdullah Ibrahim is a master of transition.”

In a way, the actual tunes he plays are not as important as the rolling stream of consciousness he creates in each movement. But, of course, the tunes are all important as they are all redolent of his life and of South Africa and that unique corner of the genre that is South African jazz.

But there is more going on. First, the tune the performances are named for is Dream Time with its linked song Did You Hear That Sound. It seems Ibrahim, similar to Aboriginal beliefs, thinks of life as one interconnected system between spirits, ancestors and reality. “If someone tells you in Dream Time that you got to do something you better do it.” (Did You Hear That Sound Dreamtime Improv from Amandla! A revolution in Four Part Harmony.) For me (who is not religious at all) this goes a long way to understanding what Ibrahim is doing with his music – particular in his later years. Far from pandering to calls for him to play “Township”, he is actually distilling through his music his feelings and beliefs, his life, the arc of him leaving South Africa for the USA, time back in SA after the fall of apartheid and time in Europe and the greats of Jazz. Coltrane, Ellington and Lawrence Brown are honoured here. It feels like he has transcended his background while remaining rooted in it. It probably also explains why Mannenberg is rarely on his setlist these days (it’s not here either) – it’s rather too much of a populist anthem.

And something else comes to mind listening to this emotional musical journey, something Abdullah says on the documentary about him from the 80s called Abdullah Ibrahim A Brother With Perfect Timing. He says: “We are sound scientists, we constantly take our music and analyse it, contrary to the idea that in Africa we just take up our saxophones and play. We put in a lot of time, study and analysis.” This also speaks to why he presents his music in the way he does. In effect, he is saying (in Dream Time) “we are African composers” so we had better listen! Of course, he doesn’t actually articulate this but for me, that is the feeling I get from how he plays, what he plays and the atmosphere he creates.

There is one downside of this atmosphere and the quiet listening it demands. Like in a classical concert it’s the coughing. Both on the recording and in the Cadogan Hall concert, it’s there, fortunately not enough to spoil it. I can only assume that the coughing in quiet concerts is psychological – there seems never as much in the bar or elsewhere. Abdullah’s music has a singing quality to it and he can be heard occasionally singing/humming but at no time is it intrusive as Keith Jarrett’s humming is for some people.

I don’t know about the live concert represented on the CD but at the Cadogan Hall, Abdullah did an encore! I think this is a first in all the times I have seen him live – he did seem, without speaking as his style, to be very engaged with the audience and they with him. I had to catch a train back home so missed most of the unexpected encore but I was told afterwards it was short and very intense.

I have a thing where if music gets me I get shivers down my back. I shivered at Cadogan Hall and do so every time I play the CD. Spellbinding, there is no other word for it.

Brian Homer

Pharoah Sanders ‘Izipho Zam (My Gifts)’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

After returning from a trip to Africa during the mid-1960s Clifford Jordan produced five albums for the Strata-East label which have since become highly collectable. One of those was Pharoah Sander’s ‘Izipho Zam’ album, recorded in 1969 but not released until 1973 by the Strata-East label because Pharoah Sanders was still under contract with the Impulse label. As well as recording some of his most well-known works for Impulse, Pharoah Sanders also featured on the more avant-garde recordings of John Coltrane’s later albums such as ‘Expression’, ‘Ascension’, ‘Om’, ‘Meditations’ and ‘Kulu se Mama’.

‘Izipho Zam’ brings together a stellar group of musicians with Pharoah Sanders joined by Sonny Fortune on the saxophone, vocalist Leon Thomas, Sonny Sharrock on guitar, Billy Hart and Majeed Shabazz on drums as well as Chief Bey on African drums, bassists Cecil McBee and Sirone, Pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, Howard Johnson on tuba and percussionists Nat Bettis and Tony Wylie, who are also joined by the ensemble adding extra textures and colour with the array of percussion instruments.

This welcome reissue by Pharoah Sanders is widely known for the soulful classic ‘Prince Of Peace’, featuring the unique style of the jazz vocalist Leon Thomas. The album as a whole is a sonic exploration featuring three compositions by Pharoah Sanders spread over 50 minutes with a free-flowing avant-garde perspective. From the soulful eloquence of ‘Prince Of Peace’ to the probing expressionist soundscapes on ‘Balance’, ‘Izipho Zam’ is a tour de force of an album which epitomises the ensemble’s collective spirit and understanding for the overall message that Pharaoh Sanders was wishing to convey.

‘Izipho Zam’ begins with the classic vocal cut ‘Prince Of Peace’; the bells and percussion ushering in Lonnie Liston Smith’s soulful piano and Leon Thomas’s distinctive yodelling style sound. The song has long been an inspiration and uplifting piece of work, featuring on many compilations over the years. In 1992, Galliano covering the song on their ‘A Joyful Noise Unto The Creator’ album for Talkin’ Loud, with vocalist Valerie Etienne adding her own contemporary interpretation.

‘Balance’ opens up with a warm and inviting exchange between Howard Johnson on tuba and Pharoah Sanders saxophone before the music becomes more free and intense in waves and sheets of sound. It’s a great performance by guitarist Sonny Sharrock who contorts the sound of his guitar in immutable ways, which seems to counteract the sustained intensity of Pharoah Sander’s immense tonal weight. Layers of sound build and intensify as both musicians create a wall of sound with the ensemble adding a range of textures and rhythmic interplay that weave in and out of harmonic structures.

The 28 minute title track, ‘Izipho Zam’, builds slowly but surely with the soulful idiosyncratic yearnings of supreme vocalist Leon Thomas creating more colourful wordless sounds amid a flurry of percussive effects. After a lengthy intro build up, the unmistakeable lyrical phrasing from Pharoah Sanders cast the composition, dipping in and out throughout the track; it’s an adventurous piece, open and free of constraints, emanating a rich cultural history through the decoration of silence.

A welcome reissue from the seminal Strata-East label that Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell started in New York, early 1970s. It was the only album he recorded for the label and I suspect that is mainly because of his long-standing relationship with Bob Thiele at Impulse Records.

Mark Jones

Noah Preminger ‘After Life’ CD (Criss Cross Jazz) 4/5

At only 33 years of age, New York based Tenor Saxophonist, Noah Preminger, already has a long list of releases as a leader and has played with some of New York’s most lauded players (Jason Moran, Ben Monder, John Patitucci…). On his latest album ‘After Life’, Noah plays alongside guitarist Max Light, trumpeter Jason Palmer, Rudy Royston on drums and Kim Cass on double bass.

Despite many of album’s tracks bearing decidedly gloomy titles (‘Senseless World’, ‘World of Hunger’, ‘World of Illusion’), the album never is dreary nor militant, merely pointing to global issues and the consequences of human behaviour. Noah’s compositions are full of character and whimsy, striking with unfaltering resolve. And these musicians at the top of their game sound like they’re rightly enjoying getting their teeth into these elegant creations.

There are moments to get lost in, such as on the tranquil ruminations of ‘Island World’, which cradles as the horns languish. Noah’s pensive opener ‘World of Twelve Faces’, sees his soloing take on a searching tone as if entangled in the web of Max’s fluid chords.
The spritely ‘World of Growth’ contains some impressive acrobatics from Jason Palmer’s trumpet as he and Noah bounce nicely off one another, trading licks with aplomb.

The slow introspection of ‘Senseless World’ sparkles, engineered by the undulating accents of Rudy’s drums. The looser playing from the horns translates the desired emotions; weariness with an added bite.

The band reaches progressive new heights on the free-form ‘Hovering World’, it is defiantly raucous and unrestrained. The distracted narrative meanders into ominous droning with rattling drums, briefly returning to a juxtaposing traditional Hard Bop spell.

The sombre and balanced double bass of Kim Cass plays out with stoicism over the unassuming ‘Nothing World’. The subtle melodies of Noah, Jason and Max grow in confidence to form a passionate ballad.

The band gives an aggressive, writhing performance on the brash ‘World of Hunger’. Notes cascade with urgency as if making a call to arms. It’s an agitated and relentless composition, with a discordant yet incendiary hook.

In contrast, the melancholy ‘Island World’, soothes with a sustained breathy tone and a deep sentimentality. The tender approach exemplifies the musical range these artists possess.

Final track ‘World Of Illusion’, sees the band concluding in an impressive fashion, with saxophone and trumpet gracefully dancing around in a sparse introduction, then turning into a brooding and elemental arrangement. The energy gathers when Max’s expansive and textured sound combines with Rudy’s thumping drums.

This album holds interest throughout and like a lot of Jazz albums it requires dedicated listening to fully appreciate the emotive soloing and seamless arrangements. ‘After Life’ will leave you captivated.

Fred Neighbour

Crosscurrents Trio ‘Good Hope’ 2LP/CD (Edition) 5/5

Under the collective group name of Crosscurrents Trio, bassist Dave Holland, percussionist Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Chris Potter are justifiably billed as three of the best in the world on their respective instruments. The band was originally brought together by Zakir Hussain as a large group project; Crosscurrents, featuring Holland and Potter alongside other Indian musicians, Shankar Mahadevan on vocals, Louiz Banks on piano, Gino Banks on drums and Sanjay Divecha on guitar. The trio came about as a result of the larger group and went on to tour throughout the summer of 2018 before recording this album in September ‘18.

For Potter, working with this band was enlightening: “I have to admit I was a little nervous about the trio setting since Zakir and Dave are two of the most amazing maestros on the planet. Also, it is a very exposed role for the saxophone, and playing with only tabla and bass is rather unfamiliar sonic territory. However the chemistry immediately felt great, and the problems of reconciling musical differences between the jazz language and the Indian classical language immediately melted away playing with musicians who listen so well. It’s been a huge joy for me to be part of this project, and reaffirms my belief in the power of music as a beautiful way of bringing people together from different backgrounds and traditions.” This is, of course, a sentiment that Hussain, in particular, has lived by for many years. His creative collaborations over the decades have brought together East-West musicians, breaking down boundaries and opening up new experiences for musicians and listeners alike on numerous occasions. From Shakti with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, to Sangam, with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland, to name just two immediately recognisable groups.

And so “Good Hope” really is an album built on mutual respect, as I suspect, any trio of this kind has to be for it to work well. All three musicians obviously share a love of the music and are dedicated to musical and cultural integration, and it’s a pleasure and inspiration to hear them in this trio setting, open to the elements, open to each other, and embracing their love of music to create a quite awesome and blistering set of tunes. The musical conversations are exquisite, with subtle nuances and skilful intensity clear for all to hear. The collaborative nature of the album extends to the compositional duties, with three tunes written by Potter, two by Hussain and three by Holland. To be honest, listen ‘blind’ and it would be difficult to say who wrote which tunes, a testimony to the fact that there is a rare skill and understanding, indeed a mastery at work from each musician involved here.

Recorded at Sear Sound, NYC, engineer Chris Allen has captured perfectly the detail of the instruments, with a warmth and clarity that does justice to the performances. Hussain’s textural palette is as spellbinding as ever, Holland’s improvisatory instincts as engrossing as always, and Potter’s fiery intensity and breathtaking pyrotechnics unmistakably awe-inspiring. One could run out of superlatives trying to describe this music. Put simply, it is a masterclass in musicianship.

The Crosscurrents Trio embark on a European Tour throughout October and November, finishing up at Cadogan Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival on 17th November.

TOUR DATES
Oct. 23 – Enjoy Jazz Festival, Heidelberg, Germany
Oct. 24 – Halle 02 / Frankfurt Jazz Festival, Germany
Oct. 25 – Philharmonie Luxembourg Grand Auditorium, Luxembourg
Oct. 26 – Teatro Comunale di Cormons, Italy
Oct. 27 – Moods Club, Zurich, Switzerland
Oct. 29 – MoMkult, Budapest, Hungary
Oct. 30 – Zagreb Youth Theater, Zagreb, Croatia
Oct. 31 – Kulturni Centar Panceva Pancevacki, Pancevo, Serbia
Nov. 1 – Tampere Music Festival, Tampere, Finland
Nov. 3 – Casino de Montbenon, Lausanne, Switzerland
Nov. 5 – Teatro Massimo, Pescara, Italy
Nov. 6 – Auditorium Parco Della Musicasala, Rome, Italy
Nov. 8 – Unipol Auditorium / Bologna Jazz, Bologna, Italy
Nov. 9 – BARTS / Barcelona Jazz Festival, Spain
Nov. 13 – Réunion Island, France
Nov. 16 – La Seine Musicale Acoustic Room, Boulogne – Billancourt, France
Nov. 17 – Cadogan Hall, London Jazz Festival, UK

Mike Gates