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Black Motor / Bowman Trio / Jaska Lukkarinen Trio ‘Live Plates Vol.1: Berlin 27.10.17’ LP/CD/DIG (WE JAZZ) 4/5

The We Jazz organisation returns for this live recording from their annual We Jazz Label Night at Scope Festival, performed at Club Monarch in Berlin in October 2017. The album essentially features two performances each by three groups from the We Jazz roster, Jaska Lukkarinen Trio, Bowman Trio and Black Motor, who have all previously released albums on the Finnish record label over the recent years.

Separating the release into three, with Jaska Lukkarinen Trio beginning with ‘Pengerkadulla’, a dynamic but fluid composition that features drummer and producer Jaska Lukkarinen, Jussi Kannaste on tenor saxophone and Mattias Welin playing upright bass. Here, Jussi Kannaste leads the way with his strong melodic phrasing who is furthermore joined by complimentary bassist Welin while the impeccable timing of Lukkarinen underpins the arrangement. ‘Roger’ starts as a more straightforward swing number before becoming looser and more sporadic, especially Lukkarinen’s drum solo which contains some intricately sharp fills and patterns.

Bowman Trio commence their section with ‘Just A Scratch’, a relaxed piece possessing a somewhat languid quality, albeit, containing space for all band members to flourish, with the group consisting of Tomi Nikku on trumpet, Joonas Tuuri on bass and Sami Nummela playing drums. ‘The Hillary Step’, which in its studio form was released on the b-side of their 7” release ‘The Chase (Version 1)’ in October 2018, preserves their more traditional (but definitely not trad) sensibility. As Bowman Trio is one of the less leftfield signees to We Jazz, they focus heavily on their arrangements and the art of composition. All very successfully done and with flair and precision.

And finally, Black Motor offer ‘Lähempänä Taivasta’ and ‘Branches (Berliner Musik)’. This trio has existed for over 10 years in various configurations and they embody a more spiritual jazz and freer aesthetic than the two other groups. Here, the line-up consists of Tane Kannisto playing flute, shehnai and nagaswaram (both Indian reed instruments), Ville Rauhala on double bass and drummer Simo Laihonen. ‘Lähempänä Taivasta’ is relatively slow and sparse piece that evolves over its duration, revealing some high quality improvisational interaction between members. ‘Branches (Berliner Musik)’ becomes increasingly textured and dense, with the Indian wind instruments played by Kannisto supporting its spiritual jazz temperament.

All of the compositions featured are either previously unreleased or are new arrangements (and a small detail but the vinyl and CD/digital versions have a differing track order.) At times there is noticeable crowd and ambient noise during some of the quieter passages of the recordings, including the sound of the local emergency services passing the venue during ‘Lähempänä Taivasta’, but it’s never intrusive and there has always been a symbiotic relationship between jazz and live recordings – and long may that continue.

Capturing the instant and spontaneous nature of a live set on vinyl and other purchasable formats and using solid sound engineering techniques seems to be returning in popularity, with We Jazz Live Plates, a new series for the label of which this is the first, showcasing their numerous live exploits and thus, this release is thoroughly welcomed.

Damian Wilkes

Excursion: J.P. Bimeni and the Black Belts @ Ronnie Scott’s

As the saying goes…Good things come in small packages, or in this case small venues. Well, with regards to J.P. Bimeni and The Black Belts who performed their UK album launch of ‘Free Me’ at the very cosy, intimate confines of Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s, this was exactly the case. The audience consisted primarily of J.P. Bimeni’s old school friends and ex-work colleagues, alongside those who may have caught a taste of The Black Belts sound on BBC 6 Music or other independent internet radio stations and travelled to the renowned venue on Frith Street, London in the hope of catching the J.P. Bimeni and The Black Belts live experience. The gig itself was not even listed on the venue Marquee, so one had to be given the heads up that something ‘special’ was going down Upstairs at Ronnie’s behind a very nondescript grey door whilst bassist Victor Wooten was entertaining other ‘good’ music enthusiasts beneath us on the main stage.

Read the full concert review here

Don Rendell / Ian Carr Quintet ‘The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-1969’ 5LP (Jazzman) 5/5

Well, you could say that the Eagle has Landed with the release of not one but all FIVE albums by legendary British 60s quintet, headed by saxman Don Rendell and trumpeter, Ian Carr. This very special and long-awaited project has been down to the dedication, blood (possibly), sweat, tears and downright dogged persistence of UK independent Jazz related label owner, Gerald Short, of Jazzman Records.

Although some albums are more sought after than others in this box set, the end result is something of an achievement considering Short first approached Universal music 20 years ago to licence just one album initially. As is common in record corporations that have bought other record companies over the years, they did not have all of the paperwork to hand and at some point was not sure where the master tapes were in the world!

What made these albums go from great to rare or near mythical status were the quality of the compositions, the quality of the original production (courtesy of just as legendary Denis Preston at his Lansdowne studios in London) and presentation of the record sleeves.

The line up of the quintet had changed over the years but the music throughout was always contemporary and bold.

Starting with SHADES OF BLUE (recorded 1st and 2nd October 1964) – ‘Blue Mosque’ kicks off proceedings with a nod to the various combos recording for Blue Note, Prestige and Columbia records at the time (Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard etc.). Whilst this initially sounds like an American post bop easy goer, the overall feel is quintessentially British. Rendell weaves a wonderful soprano saxophone spell on this which you could almost mistake for Yusef Lateef.
‘Latin Blue’ and ‘Just Blue’ – the next two cuts do exactly what they say; the ‘Latin’ track sounding more like a light bossa and ‘Just..’ being a down at home blues number with again some tasty play from Rendell on tenor and soprano.
The other stand out tracks here are ‘Garrison ’64’- a joyous bluesy bopper where you get an impression that what the whole band are playing, they are enjoying themselves and the title track ‘Shades of Blue’ composed by the ever talented Mr. Neil Ardley. This one is just a moody and seductive piece that will be at its most potent late at night with the lights turned down (or off!). This certainly gave rise to some of the quintet’s later powerful compositions.

DUSK FIRE was recorded under the supervision of Denis Preston towards the end of 1965 and was notable for the change in personnel. A change that would leave its mark on the quintet; pianist from the ‘Shades’ album, Colin Purbrook departed and Michael Garrick was brought in to replace him. Garrick brought with him a compositional dexterity and variedness that would take the quintet through different styles and forms in the coming years.
You can feel a change in style, pace and confidence on this album; the compositions are generally longer and the group seem to ‘explore’ their instruments more. Carr’s muted trumpet solo on ‘Ruth’, the opening track, shows an unabashed powerful elegance which you just didn’t get on the quintet’s first outing. Garrick’s solo just gives you a hint of what he is capable of when in full flow. As his solo ends, Rendell comes in on flute which doesn’t feel as incongruous as it did in one or two places on the debut album – a perfect opener.
‘Tan Samfu’ is a joy to listen to as everyone is on form and this one just bounces along. One to play loud on a half decent system to get the full benefit.
Another cut worth mentioning here is ‘Spooks’, which is slightly abstract in structure – which does not make this difficult to listen to. On the contrary, it shows the listener what these guys can do if you let them. It features Rendell on clarinet and Carr playing some damn fine flugelhorn with Garrick tickling those ivories with stabbing statements throughout.
Side 2 starts with ‘Prayer’ – an initially serene, spiritual piece that moves up a pace or two before settling back into serenity once more.
‘Hot Rod’ is akin to Miles’ ‘Milestones’ in its tempo and overall feel with masterful solos from the horn players – a serious one from Garrick and they also manage to give the drummer (Trevor Tomkins) some…
Which all nicely leads up to the album’s tour de force title track. This has of course appeared on Universal’s ‘Impressed With Gilles Peterson’ compilation from 2002 and is quite frankly a 12 minute brooding spiritual masterpiece.

PHASE III kicks off with ‘Crazy Jane’ – a straight-ahead bluesy/boppish affair (the ‘Crazy’ parts topping and tailing the piece) with, strong solos from piano, trumpet, saxophone and Dave Green on bass.
‘On’ hits us with an uptempo shot in the eye with a little play on time signatures; the solos are all on point and propelled to ever epic and powerful heights by Trevor Tomkin on drums.
Whilst ‘Les Neiges D’Antan’ is a reflective piece which feels mostly improvised with the musicians feeding off one another’s playing, ‘Bath Sheba’ is a pensive ballad that will put a smile on any listener’s face with flugelhorn, flute, piano and acoustic bass all taking their moments to impress.
As with the ‘Dusk Fire’ album, a lengthy and almost dream-like Michael Garrick composition rounds out this long-player. ‘Black Marigolds’ was previously recorded in a much shorter form on the Garrick Septet album two years prior. This version adds an eastern flavour to proceedings with Rendell on soprano and Carr muted trumpet. The players approach this one in a more subtle, yet intense manner which just adds to the overall performance that must be experienced by the lucky listener. This one will sound extra special on a nice system or quality headphones at home.

LIVE was recorded at Lansdowne studios in March 1968 in front of around 40 folks, so there is still quite an intimate sound. The title is a little mis-leading also for the fact that you would expect a ‘live’ album to be mostly full of the music previously recorded on past albums but the compositions here are new.
What a start with ‘On Track’ – a pulsating 8 minute piece with that modern 60s jazz sound. This sound is obviously what the quintet were aiming for as they all seem to make their individual presences felt with their solos – the most outstanding of which is Ian Carr on trumpet sounding on par with the likes of Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw – quite something to behold!
‘Vignette’ is another nicely constructed ballad that is more than worthy.
‘Pavanne’, like ‘On Track’, has been given a modern feel (for the day) and sounds like the next level that this quintet is moving towards with that fresh Eastern tone throughout. There are lots of special things going on here with the composition, arrangement and performance of this one, with some saying this was a time that Ian Carr was thinking further outside the original quintet box and perhaps forming the original genesis for his Jazz-rock super group Nucleus.
‘Nimjam’ is the first track on side 2 and whilst a frenetic jazz bop affair, has plenty of modern arrangement that doesn’t make it sound dated in a late 60s London jazz environment – a solid cut.
The similar modern treatment is given to ‘Voices’. The whole straight piece is showered with modern touches, a first class arrangement with changing tempos and a delicious bass solo from Dave Green to boot.
‘You’ve Said It’ sounds at first like vintage Rendell/Carr quintet but as with every other track on this album takes some ‘liberties’ with the arrangement and solos.

Of the five albums, LIVE is possibly the best of the bunch – but I know the buyers on Discogs say otherwise…

CHANGE IS represents a few things; first there were more musicians on this album with the addition of percussionist Guy Warren, Mike Pyne on piano (on one track but Garrick was still on the others), bassist Jeff Clyne and Stan Robinson on tenor sax and clarinet. The other first is the rather boring album cover for this one with just the two men standing there holding their instruments.
‘Elastic Dream’ starts with Warren’s talking drum followed by Jeff Clyne on his bowed bass before opening up with the rest of the group in a subtly soulful jazz vein. The bass duet between Green and Clyne is a pleasure to listen to but marred somewhat by Warren and that talking drum once more.

This album seems very influenced by the Miles Davis quintet of the same period with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and Ron Carter and the next two tracks ‘One Green Eye’ and ‘Boy, Dog and Carrot’ sound like the sort of arrangements that Miles would actively encourage with the latter piece sounding like it had taken elements of ‘Eighty One’ in its arrangement. This quintet does take the track one stage further and in comes the shakers and Michael Garrick on harpsichord to make this song truly their own.

‘Cold Mountain’ begins side 2 with a slow, stirring introduction from Rendell on soprano and Carr on flugelhorn before Rendell solos with the rest of the original quintet providing support. The tempo shifts up a couple of notches during Carr’s solo stint which opens the space for Garrick to make his solo statement in fine fashion. The now heightened pace is then handed over to Tomkins on drums and then the bass of Dave Green to bring things back down that mountain to terra firma. An ambitious rearrangement for Garrick’s composition.
‘Black Hair’ is the other Garrick composition on display here and starts the man in solo classical mode on piano before the tempo eases to a modal pace with Carr featured on muted trumpet. A delicate and very English sound pervades here with Rendell’s flute sounding almost folk-like in its execution. Garrick chimes in with another piano flourish that just makes this something that you could not dislike if you tried.
The Rendell written ‘Mirage’ ends this album with a no-nonsense jazz modal piece which seems very fitting as this album, like the ‘Live’ album, shows the listener what this combo could do – the straight ahead to soulful and fusion jazz to the slightly abstract and avant. The Don Rendell / Ian Carr quintet were it.

Jazzman Records have shown nothing but the utmost respect for these important recordings by sourcing the original master tapes and cutting new discs from those original masters. They have reproduced the original album covers too, right down to using the similar paper stock. We can be assured that these remastered reissues were not simply copied from an old vinyl copy and ‘cleaned up’ digitally; we are getting the next best thing to those originals from 50 or so years ago on 180g vinyl too.
For those serious, and some might say rather wealthy individuals, that may have paid huge sums for these albums over the past years, you can still feel secure in knowing that you have the originals. But for the rest of us mortals, this release will be something special to behold and a testament to quality British jazz that refused to be forgotten or ignored by a younger generation who were probably just about taking their first breath on earth when these five albums were originally released.

Donald Palmer

Desmond Dekker ‘Double Dekker’ CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

As the year rapidly draws to a close, this 1973 Trojan offering from singer Desmond Dekker confirms what a popular singer he was at the time, capable of regularly entering into the pop charts. That is illustrated by the hit single, ‘It Meik’, which still packs a punch with a slow vocal intro that morphs into a groove-laden song. However, there is much more besides on what was originally a collection of unissued recordings from 1970, supplemented here by a further six songs. Recorded at Beverley’s studio in Kingston, the premier league musicians make this an enjoyable journey into early reggae, and that is exemplified by the lovely vocal harmonies and drum work on the uptempo ‘Warlock’ as well as on tight rhythm section evident on ‘Archie Wah-Wah’, complete with strong male harmonies. Dekker made his name with simple, yet highly infectious melodies, co-written by Beverley’s label owner and producer Leslie Kong, over which he laid down glorious harmony vocals. That formula certainly works on, ‘The more you live’ (aka ‘live and learn’). Pop-reggae is in evidence on, ‘Look What They’re Doing To Me’ and especially on ‘Licking Stick’, where one hears Dekker dabbling in onomatopoeia with his verbal juggling of words, particularly on his amusing parallel of early skinheads to ‘Hippopotamus’ over a relaxed reggae groove.
As with other reggae retrospectives in this series, exemplary graphics include original 45 colour sleeves and labels and press reviews of the time couple with fine historical inner sleeve notes by Tony Rounce whom we are more accustomed to reading his authoritative notes on blues, gospel and soul for ACE records re-issues.

Tim Stenhouse

Pink Martini ‘Non Ouais – the French Songs of Pink Martini’ CD (Wrasse) 4/5

Pink Martini may be something of an acquired taste to some, but this new offering is in fact a summation of the group’s French language repertoire and is, in this writer’s estimation, the strongest overall album to date. First of all, the lyrics and voice are authentic (with French native speaker songwriters overseeing matters) and have a nostalgic old world feel which, in a world of endless political chaos and major technological upheaval, comes as light relief. Secondly, the predominantly original music (all but two songs are originals) is highly entertaining and varied in style. A grower of a number is, ‘Sympathique (je ne veux pas travailler)’/’Friendly (I do not want to work)’, with lovely acoustic guitar and piano solo, while taking a leaf out of the early 1960s Serge Gainsbourg repertoire and especially the ‘Gainsbourg Percussions’ recording is the uptempo, ‘Dansez-vous?’/’Do you dance?’, with female vocals. It bears a resemblance to, ‘Couleur café’.

Of the covers, ‘Ma solitude’, is a George Moustaki song that features the author on vocals and guitar, while the Henri Salvador chestnut, ‘Syracuse’, is interpreted as a decidedly slow piece in the intro with jazzy piano accompaniment and strings, while China Forbes once again demonstrates that she is a totally credible lead singer in French. It should be stated that creating that authentic old-time atmosphere is the expert arrangements and delivery of the Harvey Rosencratz Orchestra. The band excel on the Latinesque cha cha cha approach to, ‘Où est ma tête?’/’Where is my head?’, or the orchestrated bossa nova groove to accompany, ‘Je ne t’aime plus’/’I no longer love you’. Only the overly schmalzy rock ‘n’ roll meets pop of, ‘Fini la musique’/’Music has ended’, fails to impress. In these times of outward hostility to all things perceived as ‘foreign’, where easy and vulnerable scapegoats are sought, it is reassuring to hear a band that positively champions diversity and an enlightened attitude towards the rest of the world.

Léo Ferré in 1960 was among the first French singers to make explicit reference to the invasion of the English language into current day French usage, with a humorous take and touched a nerve in the process. There is, then, a sense of current day role reversal with a US band in Pink Martini, albeit one from the north-east in proximity to Canada and the francophone world, tackling French language material. One wonders what Monsieur le Président des Etats-Unis (the United States President) would make of it. If he should read this, no tweets please!

Tim Stenhouse

Myriad3 ‘Vera’ CD (Alma) 4/5

The publicity for this album proudly proclaims that “Myriad3 is cutting edge, the future of modern jazz.” These are bold claims indeed, but does the music live up to the hyperbole?
This is the fourth album from the Toronto-based trio. It certainly showcases both the prowess of the musicians and their skills as composers. Myriad3 comprise Chris Donnelly (keyboards), Dan Fortin (bass) and Ernesto Cervini described intriguingly as drummer and multi-instrumentalist. In his capacity of multi-instrumentalist, Cervini includes bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, alto sax, glockenspiel and a host of additional percussion in his armoury. On paper, at least, this certainly has the makings of an intriguing set.

The album opens with ‘Pluie Lyonnaise’ from the pen of Donnelly. Unusually for an opening track, it has a powerfully ominous yet reflective feel. From around the two-minute point the mood changes to a more delicate rippling theme evoking the raindrops of the rainy concert in Lyons for which the piece was named. The piece brings to mind the restrained power of EST especially with the sparing use of studio overdubs. The following piece, ‘Tamboa’, initially makes use of a mallet instrument similar to a marimba and quickly builds in intensity with the bassist prominent in the mix, soon to be joined by the drummer. The fervour that they build up suddenly dissipates and the piece becomes rather more meditative. The pianist bringing to mind thoughts of the great British pianist John Taylor but then the intensity builds to a climax at the conclusion. ‘Ward Lock’ is next and is altogether more powerful. In marked contrast, ‘Diamond’ is more sedate and contemplative, at least to start, but again the intensity builds as the tune progresses. ‘Piano-Rag Music’ is great fun, managing to combine the traditional with more contemporary styling. Here I was reminded of another British giant of the piano, Les Dawson – listen and judge for yourself!
‘Fortress’ is an outstanding track, ushered in by the drummer and as it evolves it becomes almost funky. Bass clarinet makes an appearance on this one too. The trio seems to breathe as one entity on ‘DNA’. Again, I’m guessing that much fun was had by all on this. Insistent piano and bass open ‘Couche Tard’. Just as you think you know what is coming the trio spring another surprise with yet another change of direction, with Fender Rhodes piano overdubbed with acoustic piano enter into a most attractive dialogue. It’s only momentary however as the trio move once more into the hinterland of free form exploration, but only briefly, and then we are back to the lovely melodic statement to end the piece.
‘Meme Art’ has the feel of a rock anthem, at least at the outset. Again, the trio’s musical kaleidoscope of sound is at work as the mood changes several times before it runs its course.
The disk concludes with ‘Total’. This is a very pensive piece. It’s reminiscent of Tord Gustavsen with added fire power. So, is Myriad3 the future of modern jazz? In the end they are working in a densely populated area and there are many, dare I say even a myriad of piano trios out there for us to enjoy. The answer might be to buy the album and make your own minds up.

Alan Musson

The Brian Auger Piano Trio ‘Full Circle: Live at Bogie’s’ LP/CD/DIG (Freestyle) 5/5

This release may be a surprise to some who associate Auger, quite correctly, with the rock music and performing pyrotechnics seated at the Hammond organ. During an illustrious career he has worked with the likes of Rod Stewart, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin and Led Zeppelin. An early claim to fame is that he played on ‘For Your Love’ by The Yardbirds. That was in 1965. A little later he formed Brian Auger and the Trinity. His duet with Julie Driscoll on Bob Dylan’s ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ reached number 5 on the UK Singles chart in 1965. Their joint album billed as Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity reached number 12 in the UK Albums Chart in the same year.
In 1970 Auger moved into the area of jazz fusion forming Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Much more has happened in the intervening years, in fact, too much to detail here.

So, with a background favouring rock, R&B and soul music, why should he now release a jazz trio album? Well, it’s not so unexpected as one might think. Auger began to hear jazz from an early age by way of the American Armed Forces Network and an older brother’s record collection. By his teens he was playing piano in clubs and by 1962 had formed the Brian Auger Trio with Rick Laird on bass and Phil Kinorra on drums, both of whom were later to join him in the Trinity. In 1964 he won first place in the categories of “New Star” and “Jazz Piano” in a reader’s poll in the Melody Maker music paper. He was even house pianist for a time at the original Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Gerrard Street. So his jazz credentials are clear to see.

Now the title of this new album becomes clear in that Auger’s career has indeed gone full circle. Auger plays a Steinway Grand Piano throughout with his son, Karma, behind the drums and Dan Lutz on both double bass and electric bass guitar. The set list is pleasantly varied, opening with the old jazz war-horse ‘A Night In Tunisia’, with the familiar opening vamp picked out on bass guitar and the trio soon hit the swinging stride. Next is ‘Creepin’ written by Joe Sample. This is soulful, funky playing from all concerned and there is a particularly nice bass guitar feature too. ‘For Dancers Only’ is a fine lightly swinging piece written by Sy Oliver which originally saw the light of day in 1937 and is here given a contemporary face lift.
The set continues with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’. Here I’m reminded of the music of Horace Silver, certainly no bad thing. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ gets a swinging bluesy treatment. Billy Strayhorn’s magnificent composition, ‘Chelsea Bridge’, gets a suitably reverent treatment. Bass guitar ushers in Miles Davis’ ‘All Blues’ – all very soulful.
There are ten tracks on the album, all but one having impressive jazz pedigrees, the only original composition is the pianist’s tribute to fellow keyboard maestro Victor Feldman, ‘Victor’s Delight’.
For me however, they saved the best to last with a version of Don Grolnick’s ‘Pools’. This is set up by the drums of Dan Lutz before the familiar theme is played impeccably by all.
All-in-all this is a fine album which I cannot recommend highly enough. Go out and buy it immediately.

Alan Musson

Bill Evans ‘The Classic Trio 1959-1961’ 2CD (Acrobat) 4/5

First of all, it is important to stress that this is not the complete Bill Evans trio recording live at the Village Vanguard, nor the totality of the two studio albums, ‘Portrait in Jazz’ (1959) and ‘Explorations’ (1961). For the former you will have to search for the limited edition 4LP box set of the live sets, and for the latter the separate individual expanded CD versions. What this value for money 2CD does offer, however, is the original two live vinyl albums minus any of the alternate takes and the majority of the two studio albums. If you are prepared to accept those limitations, then the music is still magical in parts and for a budget price, this no frills edition will not make too much of a dent into your pocket.

The first CD is mightily impressive with some favourites of the Miles Davis repertoire, rapidly finding their way into the Evans trio repertoire. These include the reflective, ‘Blues in Green’, a lyrical ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come’, and an appealing alternative to both the Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis versions of ‘Autumn Leaves’. The tempo shifts upwards on the second album with ‘Nardis’ and ‘Israel’, which are both outstanding interpretations. If anything, the music on the second CD as a whole is marginally superior, with a superlative take on Gershwin’s ‘My Man’s Gone Now’, another excellent reworking of a Miles original, ‘Milestones’, and a second take of Evans’ own ‘Waltz For Debby’. Rounding off proceedings are two fine ballads, ‘My Foolish Heart’ and Rodgers and Hart’s ‘My Romance’. As a whole, this may not be for Bill Evans completists who will already possess these sides and much more besides. However, for the newcomer to Evans’ craft, they will still form an essential part of any self-respecting jazz fans collection and are strongly recommended. Historically, the live recordings are especially important in that they were the very last demonstration of the classic trio in action before bassist Scott LaFaro lost his life in a car accident.

Tim Stenhouse

Chet Baker ‘Live in London Volume II’ 2CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

The Canteen near Covent Gardens in London was certainly a short-lived jazz club, but one that welcomed one of the all-time greats in trumpeter Chet Baker. Following up on the excellent first volume, this personal Sony TCS 3000 audio cassette recording from 1983, that has been beautifully cleaned up with digital technology, offers an intimate and priceless glimpse into the musical world of Chet Baker with extended takes on some of the classic American songbook, accompanied by an excellent British rhythm section comprising John Horler on piano, Jim Richardson on bass and Tony Mann on drums. With the benefit of time, we can now appreciate this timeless exploration of the standards and Baker is certainly in fine form, both on vocals and trumpet, with inventive soloing for the latter. That versatility is exemplified on a stunning nine and three-quarter minutes rendition of ‘My Ideal’, which starts with a piano solo intro before Chet takes over with a vocal delivery that is at once melodic and yet also reveals his own vulnerability before he then goes on to take a trumpet solo.

It is indeed the sound of the trumpet that takes the spotlight on a leisurely paced interpretation of Horace Silver’s composition, ‘Strollin’, with an extended solo on the horn. By contrast with most jazz musicians who tend to play ‘Stella by Starlight’, as a ballad, Baker prefers to opt for a more sprightly tempo and thus heads straight into a solo, while the deft brush work from Mann is accompanied by equally subtle piano comping from Horler. Ballards have always been a feature of Chet Baker’s repertoire and here, both ‘When I Fall in Love’ and ‘Broken Wing’ are treated delicately and tenderly with the trumpet caressing the melody. The fine evocative front cover black and white photo by jazz cameraman par excellence, David Sinclair, is accompanied by incisive inner sleeve notes from music writer and author of ‘The Man in the Green Shirt: Miles Davis’, Richard Williams.

Tim Stenhouse

Nori ‘Bruise Blood’ CD/DIG (Private Press) 4/5

Nori is a quintet from Austin, Texas. Akina Adderley handles vocals, Erik Telford plays trumpet, Nick Litterski is on Fender Rhodes piano, Aaron Allen played upright bass and Andy Beaudoin is behind the drums. The quintet’s press release describes their music as being “one-part jazz, one-part folk and one-part world”. The quintet “playfully weaves together a myriad of global influences giving rise to a seamless synthesis of sound”.

This is the band’s second release. This release continues where the first ended, pursuing their various influences. Importantly, it also seeks to address the strong emotions many are feeling in their US homeland. The name ‘Bruise Blood’ is a reference to Steve Reich’s 1960s composition ‘Come Out’. Reich’s composition includes a tape-loop based on the spoken words of Daniel Hamm, a young man from Harlem who was wrongly accused and convicted of murder. It is said that after Police officers tried to brutally beat a confession out of him, Hamm made a desperate attempt to show his need for immediate medical treatment – “I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.”

The band members believe that Hamm’s words still resonate today and the album is an attempt to “cut that wound wide open and let the blood out.”

Given the foregoing description, the album opens in a contemplative, yet somehow pensive mood with ‘The Dream’ and features a powerful vocal from Adderley and the whole steadily builds in intensity with all band members giving everything that they have.
‘Wildfire’ is next and the vocal paints more emotional sound pictures. Despite the theme of the song, the music seems quite uplifting to me.
‘Crash and Burn’ includes more difficult subject matter in the vocals and yet despite this the tune is rather graceful. ‘Undertow’ follows a similar path. On this piece as on others throughout the album, strings are added which contrast pleasantly with the core quintet.
‘The Walk’ is a protest song, but is again a thoughtful piece of music and quite elegant in its execution. A short free-form version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was certainly unexpected. This is followed by more uplifting fare with ‘Amends’ and here we have more strong playing from all and more forthright vocals. Throughout the album I felt that the sound of the Fender Rhodes piano lifted the rather gloomy ambience of the vocals.
‘Prelude’ for a string trio alone is a lovely piece of music which stands up on its own irrespective of the subject matter of the album.
The album concluded with ‘Ballad’. Again, there is more difficult subject matter in the vocal. However, the musicianship of all concerned is exemplary, as it is time and time again during the whole session.

This is not an easy album to digest and certainly would repay repeated listening. It is a “searing account of trauma, survival and power explored through intoxicating, fervent and elaborate instrumentation alongside pertinent, poetic lyrics.”

Alan Musson