Category Archives: Album Reviews

Ed Motta ‘Criterion Of The Senses’ LP/CD/DIG (MustHave/Membran) 4/5

Those of us who have a vivid memory of the 80s, with its onslaught of TV-friendly faces and bands like Leo Sayer, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago and the Eagles, driving most of us away from the so-called ‘soft rock’ outpourings, were in fact embracing others like Boz Scaggs and Hall & Oates while the whole punk, electro, jazz-funk and house sounds were making more of an impact on the streets. Terms like Blue Eyed Soul, Yacht Disco and West Coast were to come much later, even if the aficionados of the time were using them. For the average listener, record shop visitor, TV watcher, the likes of Ned Doheny was probably as ‘out there’ as most of us got. We were noticing this ‘Adult’ rock sound was becoming more popular, finding its way to the department stores’ record section playing the latest beside the likes of Lionel Richie and The Doobie Brothers, but the mere mention of rock would send most of us soul/jazz crowd into a state of trauma by bands like AC/DC and Def Leppard. So this sound, with its varied genre bending terms from ‘Adult-oriented rock’, to ‘Album-oriented rock’, to simply ‘AOR’, has a determined following with countless re-edits, mixes, radio shows and compilations for the listener to search out – there’s even a dedicated website! As with much of the ‘scene’, there are those collectors searching out the prime releases of the past, the ever-so delightful tunes we would never have had the opportunity back in the 80s to hear. Even memories of record fairs of the day devoid this writer of any recollection of these recently surfaced delights; the likes of Rupert Holmes, R&J Stone and Pratt & McClain, which would have quickly caught my attentions, so it comes as no surprise, with the increase in popularity, that bands like David Foster’s Attitudes are being plucked for reissue, and that can’t be a bad thing.

So here we are in 2018 with what can only be described as the natural progression for this ‘sound’. Enthusiast, collector, musician, big Steely Dan fan, Ed Motta, has clearly become one of the lights in this field, already releasing his ‘AOR’ album in 2013 (with separate English and Portuguese versions may I add), and more recently compiling a compilation of Brazilian soft rock rarities under the “Too Slow To Disco” banner with the inclusion of the rather sought after Junior Mendes ‘Copacabana Sadia’, providing further evidence of his passion for the sound. You only have to look at the featured artists on his 2016 ‘Perpetual Gateways’ album to understand the clarity of his vision and knowledge of music heritage. He really does know his onions.

Criterion of the Senses delivers to the listener eight original songs, with the vinyl market clearly under consideration, given the overall length of the album sitting inside the preferred 40min framework, and all supplied with English lyrics by Mr Motta (nothing new as he was mixing both as far back as 1990). It’s a happy-go-lucky affair, summer breeze open-top car feel-good album. Off the menu supplied, ‘Sweetest Berry’ is more reminiscent of his ‘Poptical’ album. ‘Lost Connection to Prague’ flows atop the guitar with water splashing your face. ‘X1 in Test’ brings a little funky undercurrent, while ‘Novice Never Notice’ is very much typical of the adventurous Motta his fans have fallen in love with. Let’s not compare the energy of his ‘Aystelum’ album from 2005, which touched on the deep jazz, the jazz-funk and the fusion sounds. An album that won hearts in the UK. Let us simply look for similarities in the huge catalogue he now sits upon, with no modern day comparisons other than his own releases, which all, to some degree, have elements of this ’sound’. That’s some mighty achievement to have your own thing going on. Yes there are cheesy references to VCR recorders, Walkman cassettes and Shoulder Pads, but I get it. It’s not trying to be anything other than typical of a sound associated the with late 70s and 80s. So in that, he has mastered the formula without compromising by covering classics. It’s a bold statement to make but Ed Motta has done his own thing now for many years and the world has been watching, listened and adores him. He is an incredible voice for the ‘scene’ we hold dear, a true gentlemen in interview and a wonderful showman on stage. He touches so many people around the world and credit for his continued and varied music can only be endorsed. It’s not so much ‘Soft Rock’, ‘MPB’, or even pop music – it is Ed Motta.

Be sure to investigate the Japanese release prior to purchasing on CD, as there are six additional alternative takes.

Tour dates take him from Brazil to Sweden, to France and on to Germany in the coming months.

Steve Williams

Ralph Thomas ‘Eastern Standard Time’ 2LP/CD/DIG (BBE Music) 4/5

The city of Chicago was an important theatre in which independent jazz musicians were able to establish a base and flourish, yet these same musicians and their own labels were largely ignored by the mainstream American jazz press, and it is only through the praiseworthy efforts of connoisseur crate diggers that the music has finally come to a wider audience, and BBE have played their own part in unearthing hitherto undiscovered gems. In the Windy City, the music of Phil Cohran and off-shoots has been well documented – as have the wonderful spiritual sounds emanating from Detroit. Think Harold McKinney and others – in recent years and indeed his spiritual approach to jazz was influential on other musicians including multi-reedist, Ralph Thomas. Never previously re-issued, the album before you is a rare example of Thomas’ work and includes musicians from two separate locations: French musicians comprising electric guitarist Thierry Sharfe, flautist Joann Leauvanthal and drummer, Joël Vierset; musicians from the Horace Tapscott band in Los Angeles including percussionist Warren Thomas, a member of the group, Afro Roots of Jazz.

Of note is the very title of the album, taken from a well known Jamaican jazz piece by the Skatalites. Thomas grew up in a largely African-American neighbourhood of Los Angeles, but one in which a substantial Latino community was in close proximity and these included Mexican and Puerto Ricans as well as nationals from the Dominican Republic. As a result, Thomas was strongly influenced by Latin rhythms and made connections between these and the Afro-American tradition. In fact, Thomas even worked with Joe Colon at one stage.

What of the music then? Blues inflections on piano dominate the intro to ‘Doloroso’, which then morphs into a heavy bass line and piano vamp, before Thomas takes over with an impassioned soprano saxophone solo, while the jazz-fusion guitar soloing is straight out of the Al Di Meola school. A real favourite is the big band feel to another piece inspired by the Skatalites, ‘Big Spliff’, in which Thomas this time operates on flute with partner Leauvanthal making that a duet and together the driving pace is matched by the gorgeous electric piano that owes a large degree of gratitude to Jorge Dalto, the Argentine groove pianist who worked with both George Benson (‘Breezin’) and a key member of the crack pared down Tito Puente outfit, the Latin Jazz Ensemble. Here Ralph Thomas demonstrates what a versatile musician he is by reverting to baritone saxophone in the second half. Flute and electric piano combine on a beautiful, but all too brief duet on the cinematic sounding ‘Venice’, whilst film imagery continues with the lengthy, repetitive bass soloing on ‘Spellbound’ (a nod to the famous Hitchcock thriller perhaps?), where the fierce tenor solo is accompanied by in parts dissonant, and elsewhere modal, piano. Of any of the pieces showcased on the album, ‘Muscavado’, is by far the one that has the strongest Latin music influence and that is evident from the outset with the pronounced Latin vamp on piano, with clipped rhythm guitar and tenor saxophone centre stage. Arguably, the most compelling piece on the entire album.

Exemplary notes on individual musician trajectories, Thomas’ background, influences and post-album activities up until the present are provided by former Straight No Chaser editor and writer, Paul Bradshaw. They are supplemented by the lovely black and white graphics of the original album replicated with an imposing silhouette of the inner city district skyline. A lot of love and dedication has gone into this re-issue project and listeners should approach the album with confidence and discover a fine example of the spiritual jazz underground movement. How many other marvellous recordings of this ilk and genre are out there? More reason to tap into the BBE current and back catalogue of jazz sounds.

Tim Stenhouse

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble ‘From Maxville to Vanport’ CD/DIG (PJCE) 4/5

Jazz has played a key role in chronicling the African-American struggle for freedom and equality. Seminal recordings like Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown & Beige” and Max Roach’s “We Insist! – the Freedom Now Suite” tell the “dramatic story” of their history from slavery onward. This rich tradition continues to this day in works by Matana Roberts, Jaimeo Brown, Wynton Marsalis and Wadada Leo Smith amongst others.

“From Maxville to Vanport” looks at the quest for equality from the perspective of the African-American residents of two short-lived multicultural communities in Oregon, at a time when the state was known to be one of the most discriminatory outside the South. Both towns were built to accommodate workforces supplying local industries; Maxville, by a lumber company in 1923 to house loggers from across the South and Midwest ; Vanport in the ‘40s for shipyard workers. Neither settlement lasted more than ten years. Though concentrating on these two communities, we get an insight in to broader events, such as the large scale movement of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South to the North.

The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE) has been around since 2007, set up to pursue the mutual interests of it’s member, performing new music in a large ensemble setting with a focus on community engagement and awareness.

PJCE describe the creative process for this album as “community guided”. From the outset locals, including descendants of the residents of both towns, were engaged not only in providing historical detail, but also in shaping the music which Ezra Weiss composed and S. Renee Mitchell wrote lyrics for.

The album distills these accounts in to a collection of experiences as if told by members of these historic communities through music that harks back to the roots of Jazz, through spirituals, work songs and the blues.

The opening song, “Oregon Sounds Like Freedom”, introduces Marilyn Keller’s rich and powerful voice. She evinces a detailed and convincing message of hope – a dignified, optimistic portrayal of opportunity in Oregon, against the backdrop of economic failure and systemic racism in the South. Portentous horns, bluesy guitar licks and Rob Davis’ meandering sax solo build on this sense of transition and movement.

“What Do Your Trees Tell You” is the album’s highlight for me. Like “Strange Fruit”, it poetically explores the conflicting symbolism of trees, in a way that is quite specific to African-Americans in the American South. This contextualising is best summed up in the lyrics – “It’s all about your outlook. Some see death, some opportunity.” Keller’s vocals spell out this stark reality with passion. Woodwind instruments add drama, but it’s the words and the images they evoke that resonate long after the song has finished.

“Woman’s Work” is a funkier number, giving us a glimpse of the hardworking lives of the women of Maxville. “Stacked Deck Hand”, a swinging blues, and the closing track, “Maxville to Vanport”, point to growing confidence and resilience within these communities, despite the odds. Segregation and racism were still to be found in Oregon, but the picture painted is one where the rewards outweighed the risks. “Maxville to Vanport” uses distinct musical themes to reflect on life before and after moving to Oregon, the first unsettling and anxious, all droning bass and rumbling drums, the second more upbeat and searching.

Whilst these events speak to social change, as a whole the album does not proselytise, instead inviting the listener to consider the price of freedom and how relative these values are. It also reminds us that change is not only about activism, but the extraordinary lives of everyday people.

Andy Hazell

Woven Entity ‘Two’ Vinyl/DIG (Enid) 5/5

If their first album, released a little over three years ago, was a breath of fresh air, then it’s fair to say that “Two” blows a similarly incandescent breeze through the music world in an even more satisfying, accomplished way.

The band’s mix of African-style rhythms and intergalactic sounds is an ever-intriguing and beguiling palette of sound that makes them temptingly unique. There are other acts around that walk a similar path, but Woven Entity’s stylishly crafted music is out there on its own when it comes to jazz/roots/electronica eclecticism.

Woven Entity are Patrick Dawes, Lascelle Gordon and Paul May; three percussionists and drummers with a huge range of playing experience between them, from dance music to jazz, rock and folk to free improvisation and all points in between. “Two” is the result of several studio sessions with some long term friends and collaborators including saxophonists Chris Williams and Julie Kjaer, keyboardist Ben Cohen, along with newer recruit pianist Diana Gutkind, and a mini string section courtesy of Roddy Skeaping, Abby Wollston and Fra Rustumji.

The overall vibe on this album is very similar to the band’s debut, yet to me sounds far more focussed. That’s not to say that it’s any less eclectic or experimental, with its elements of spiritual jazz, electronic dance and the avant-garde all shining as brightly as ever before. The percussive beats still make up the most important part of the music, but there are more layers here, more depth and texture with the bursts of free-jazz rising and falling across their multi-faceted musiverse.

There are shades of everyone from Sun Ra to The Art Ensemble of Chicago to Alice Coltrane to The Orb to Soft Machine… the genres blend and the captivating music ensues in its very own veritable whirlpool of expression. On one level it sounds so simple, yet on another so complex… and that’s the beauty of this music; it works so well on so many different levels. It’s technically so skilful, and yet at once so wonderfully emotive. It’s wildly expressionistic, and yet so careful and precise. It’s planned and composed, yet so intuitively improvisational.

One thing I would say about this album is you really do have to ‘experience’ it. To my mind it’s not one of those recordings you can just dip into here and there. To get the full immersive beauty of this album it’s a case of back to old-school listening for me… stick on the headphones, get into that luscious sound that’s feeding your ears, relax, give in to it, and enjoy the groove-laden vibe that follows. Play from start to finish. And replay. And replay. And replay…

Mike Gates

Forlorn Elm ‘Milya’ CD (QFTF) 3/5

Remember ​Fusion​? Some legendary ideas where accomplished when jazz met rock in the late 1960. An exploration of sound that later drifted into smooth elevator music. Easy to say, ​fusion as a ​jazz​ sub-genre receives only moderate appreciation.

Forlorn Elm​ is a jazz-fusion trio from the mountain mists of Bern, Switzerland. The name, artwork and bandleader David Friedli’s magnificent hairstyle all set the paste for what you will get yourself into, when picking up the album.

Forlorn Elm rocks!

Their second album ​Milya​ is an original accomplishment of three strong, individual musician with a hardcore passion for music, a deep understanding for jazz and much love for rock.

Hard to tell whether this is still jazz or already rock or the other way around. Who needs genre boundaries in 2018? It’s freaking good music! Powerful, passionate and straight from the heart.

Forlorn Elm ​sounds both emotional and fearless. With songs delving in space, time and color. Not to flashy, not too humble. Mysterious moods shift to piercing melodic proclamations, with a driving groove.

There are moments where the trio falls short of its potential. The album occasionally sounds over produced. Friedli’s composition and musical vision can use more character and roughness in sound and approach. Some parts and solos appear school-like and could use more rage.

Though, overall, ​Milya​ as an album, shines with collective creativity and musical excitement. A sure discovery for jazz and progressive rock fans. Watch this band in the future!

SG

Itamar Borochov ‘Blue Nights’ CD/DIG (Laborie Jazz) 5/5

If there truly is an artist who never leaves the listeners indifferent, it is Itamar Borochov. The trumpeter is back with a much-awaited third album, ‘Blue Nights’, on the French label Laborie Jazz. And clearly, with this new album, he is on top of his game.
Teaming up with his loyal ensemble (Avri Borochov on double bass and Jay Sawyer on drums) with the exception of Rob Clearfield who replaced Michael King on the piano, Itamar Borochov cracked the code for success.
The album is chock full of emotions. This is no wonder really, as Borochov is an observer; an introverted soul whose music is full of integrity and modesty, and yet ever so present. He offers us nine original compositions except for ‘Kol Haolam Kulo’, each full of colour and enchantments.
Whereas on his previous album, Boomerang, the Middle Eastern influences of his upbringing were more pronounced; I feel he bares himself more on this latest album. A shift has definitely occurred; whilst still keeping all that he encompasses – his profound phrases and long smooth lines; his velvety warm tone, his mesmerizing style, which are all so inherent to him and make his tone and performance undoubtedly recognizable. But this goes beyond his playing; it is him as a person that comes through – a sign of both growth and bravery.

The album jumps to life with the suave opening track ‘Right Now’. Right from the first few notes, Itamar Borochov plays the seduction card. It comes easy to him and he caresses the listeners with his sensibility. This is a gentle, soothing piece where he leads the melody to meander gracefully before breaking the spell and bringing it to a gentle climax, making full use of his trumpet’s lush timbre.
It follows with the title track ‘Blue Nights’, which beautifully highlights the warmth that permeates the album. This is a meditative piece at first, enriched by the use of the oud and where the piano provides the platform for Borochov’s soaring trumpet as he sweeps us away into a hypnotic outburst.

‘Motherlands’, featuring the award-winning band Innov Gnawa gives us a lovely example of how jazz and African music is always a good combination to create a feet-tapping joy that lifts spirits. But most importantly, once again, Itamar Borochov shows us how he can embrace endless musical possibilities, as part of his artistic vision.
One particular piece that stood forth to my ears is ‘Maalem’. The gentle opening sounds as if Borochov is playing scales, but then his breathy sound, together with the piano’s shimmering playing, provide fire to the proceedings and develop it into a narrative before it returns to the opening melody. I can listen to it several times.
‘Garden Dog Sleeps’ also sits high at the top of the list, offering beautiful trumpet and piano solos and exciting bass and drums. It is obvious this quartet couldn’t be more in tune with each other.
Cranking up a notch, with ‘Broken Vessels’, Itamar Borochov reminds us that he’s also that powerful trumpet player who can easily take the mood to another energy level with those rapid phrases he so enjoys playing.

Even though it is clear Itamar Borochov is the creative force behind the album, it is very much a collective effort. All the other three members of the quartet provide the ideal support. The piano’s remarkable accompaniment blends perfectly with Borochov’s powerful trumpet solos as well as the rhythm section. Avri Borochov’s bass’s full tone and vamps, as well as the drums’ audible nods and delicate sweeps, add colour and texture precisely where and when needed. Neither of them is obstructive but definitely act on a subliminal level to capture together the consciousness of the album.

Itamar Borochov wins me over and over. His writing is sensuous; his playing flawless. His music puts you in a reflective state. He has a magical pull and vulnerability that is palpable on every track.

The album is simply divine, in the spiritual sense. It touches all our senses with its lyricism, leaving the listeners with a lasting impression.
If the pursuit of perfection is indeed Itamar Borochov’s aspiration, then he is doing a pretty damn good job of it.

Nathalie Freson

Trygve Seim ‘Helsinki Songs’ CD (ECM) 5/5

One of the unsung heroes of the ECM label, tenor and soprano saxophonist Trygve Seim delivers one of the unexpected surprises of early autumn with a wonderfully melodic quartet album which is loosely based on Finnish folklore (though the compositions themselves are entirely new and conceived of by the leader) adapted to a jazz context, and here at least there are comparisons to be made with the earlier work of Swedish pianist Jan Johansson, and to a certain extent with some of the work of Norwegian Jan Garbarek. Above all else, it is the sheer melodicism of the music that is communicated by the musicians, and the rhythm section comprising pianist, Kristjan Randalu, double bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Markhu Ounaskari, deserve great credit for their empathetic support throughout. This is beautifully illustrated on, ‘Sol’s song’, with, first a trio intro, and then a gentle tenor solo with the prettiest of themes, while the title track itself is a contender for the album’s most compelling piece and is notable for a gorgeous bass line intro and understated tenor solo. This scribe immediately warmed to the nocturnal atmosphere created and, as with much of the rest of the album, the leader is in no hurry whatsoever and delivers the most laid back of solos. A real asset in a world dominated by individuals who are in too much of a hurry to reach their ultimate destination. One of the multiple attractions of this recording is the myriad moods that are captured and on, ‘Sorrow march’, it is the contemplative quality of the music with Seim reverting to soprano saxophone and playing in a mode that actually sounds more like a violin, and that very effectively conveys the somber mood. In a different vein, the Eastern flavoured, ‘New beginning’, once again features a saxophone akin to a violin, but this time the high-pitched tone is accompanied by drone like piano. Seim displays his aptitude for performing ballads on, ‘Ciaccona per Embrik’, with delicate cymbal and brush work from Ounaskari. Recorded at the Rainbow studios in Oslo to this writer’s ears, this is the strongest album by Trygve Seim to date and a prime example of what the ECM sound is all about.

Tim Stenhouse

Sungjae Son ‘Near East Quartet’ CD (ECM) 3/5

ECM has regularly delved into the ongoing relationship between world roots music and jazz, but the music of the Near East, here that of Korea, is a new phenomenon to these ears at least. While the folk tradition of Korea (both south and north? One is not quite sure from the limited information at the time of review, though south is most likely) is most certainly evoked, this album, recorded in the southern capital of Seoul, has more of an acoustic jazz with the occasional jazz-rock touch to it, and is best approached as a bona fide jazz recording. In fact, South Korean pansori vocalist Yulhee Kim is on hand on various pieces, and it is, moreover, her soft delivery combined with the guitar of Suwuk Chung, who has definite echoes of Bill Frisell, that impresses most on the sparse, ‘Mot’, deploying minimalist guitar in the intro and adding bass clarinet and vocals. Indeed, the dissonant sound of Chung’s guitar added to the saxophone of the leader (who operates also on clarinet) works a treat and creates attractive layered texture to the opening number, ‘Ewha’. Delicate percussion from the excellent Sori Choi and in particular the use of echo are features of the all too brief and, once again minimalist-influenced, Garram’. Folk and jazz elements blend well on the reposing, ‘Galggabuda’, with female vocals. As a whole, the album is concise at just under forty minutes with eight pieces, all composed by the leader, Sungjae Son, Of note, the vocal pieces are translated into English which is useful.

Tim Stenhouse

Ruth Brown ‘Miss Rhythm’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

If Aretha Franklin was the undisputed ‘Queen Of Soul’, then backtrack fifteen years or more and Ruth Brown was best known as ‘Miss Rhythm’, from which this excellent Atlantic album from 1959 is taken. Among her contemporaries her voice stood out from the slinky sophistication of Eartha Kitt, or the powerful, booming voice of Big Maybelle, both of whom appealed to their constituent audiences. In fact, Ruth Brown possessed a wide-ranging voice that could easily adapt contrasting musical contexts and so it proves on this album, which, like many of its time, was essentially a collection of 45s along with a few lesser known songs before the concept album had begun in earnest. Listeners new to original R & B should note that this is not a de facto ‘Greatest Hits’ album for it does not include the immortal sides such as ‘So Long’, ‘Man He Treats Your Daughter Mean’, or ‘5-10-15 Hours’. Instead, however, you have as the opening number one of Brown’s greatest ever interpretations in, ‘This Little Girl Gone Rockin”, which showcases the raunchier and grittier side to her wide repertoire. That said, there at least two slow ballad blues on this album worthy of your attention including the excellent, ‘Just Too Much’ and ‘Somebody Touched Me’, while in a more uptempo vein, ‘When I Get You Baby’ and ‘Book Of Lies’ impress. Twelve songs in total that stand the test of time remarkably well.

One of the reasons for Brown’s wide-ranging voice is to be found in her musical origins which started in the church as a gospel choir singer with her father, the director of the choir in Portsmouth, Virginia. There was an ongoing tension between her own desire to move into R& B and her father’s wish that she remain in the sacred tradition. Ruth Brown, early on in her career, faced numerous obstacles and in actual fact it almost never got started in the first place since she had to cancel her first live performance at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre in 1948, and, moreover, missed an appointment with the record executives at Atlantic records. However, once she had well and truly established her credentials, she never looked back and her immeasurable contribution to the success of the label earned her the sobriquet of, ‘The house that Ruth built’. The minimalist red, green and black front cover with photo of Ruth underneath the title speaks to the early and earthy period in record industry advertising. Now available finally in its original vinyl format, this is a welcome re-issue and highly likely to generate further interest in her back catalogue.

Tim Stenhouse

The Modern Jazz Quartet ‘The Sheriff’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

The Modern Jazz Quartet, or MJQ to give them their more commonly used and informal name, were in a rich vein of form when they cut this fine album, recorded in 1963 and released a year later on their favoured and long-time label, Atlantic records. In fact, the album formed part of a prolific two days of recording, with the first day comprising what is heard here on, ‘The Sheriff’, while the second became another album entirely, ‘Concorde’. The first of these reflects a growing interest in both Brazilian music and in adapting the music of J.S. Bach and, more generally, his approach within the jazz idiom. Both elements come together on what is undoubtedly an album highlight, ‘Bachianas Brasileiros’, by the Brazilian classical composer, Heitor Villa Lobos, who was well-known for combining his interest in native Brazilian folk music with western classical. This interpretation has a strong Bach influence to it which competes with, elsewhere in the piece, a bossa nova percussive accompaniment and piano vamp from John Lewis. Part way through this passage, the bowed bass and piano crescendo morph into a refined bossa complete with Latin piano vamp and Milt Jackson’s vibraphone in a lead role. Simply put, this is a wonderful slice of Brazilica that does not conform to the then currently in vogue bossa nova formula. Indeed, the MJQ’s love of Brazilian music was explored further on the ‘Collaboration’, an album with Brazilian guitarist, Laurinda Almeida.

A second Brazilian theme, ‘Carnival’, by Luiz Bonfa that concludes ‘The Sheriff’ on a high, is, in fact, the theme from Black Orpheus which was made into a delightful French film that dissected Afro-Brazilian culture as viewed from the finely nuanced prism of French director, Marcel Camus, and won top prize of the Palme D’or at the Cannes film festival in 1959. This infinitely subtle take makes for a thrilling way to end the album as a whole. The rest of the album is very much in the MJQ tradition, which means focusing on leader John Lewis’ own innovative and occasionally challenging compositions such as the title track which uses a staccato rhythm in the main motif, yet still reverts to basic storytelling which it communicates most effectively. A single standard from the American Songbook. ‘Mean to me’, stays close to the original. Excellent and incisive back cover sleeve notes from jazz writer Leonard Feather are right on the ball when noting, ‘Rarely, if ever, has the J [Jazz] in MJQ been more continuously observable’. Well worth investigating as is, ‘Collaboration’, which is probably this writer’s preferred studio album of the MJQ in their prime.

Tim Stenhouse