Alan Barnes + Eleven ’60th Birthday Celebration: New Takes on Tunes from ’59’ CD (Woodville) 5/5

As with all forms of art, the new generation critiques and reacts to the older generation, and jazz was due for a new movement at the turn of the 1960s. The jazz landscape of the late 1940s saw the end of the swing and big band era. Young musicians of the time had grown tired of the dancing and felt the need to show their true abilities and so bebop came as a reaction to swing. To truly enjoy it required hard listening. The bebop pioneers were masters of their instruments as well as their chosen idiom. For the duration of the 1950s bebop prevailed.

It seems to me to be something of a sweeping statement to say, as some have, that 1959 was the most creative year in jazz. I’m sure that there was never a time when Miles Davis said: “today I’m going to make the most influential jazz album of all time”. The same can be said for Ornette Coleman and Dave Brubeck. However, many of the albums that we now consider to be jazz “classics” all happened around the same time.
1959 saw the deaths of Billie Holiday and Lester Young. Both helped to define the jazz of an earlier period. The year also saw jazz stretching out into new forms, some of them more challenging than others. Today, music from that year will probably feature in almost every jazz collection. Of the many albums released that year, there are five which are almost always cited as being of particular merit: ‘Kind of Blue’ (Miles Davis); ‘Mingus Ah Um’ (Charles Mingus); ‘Time Out’ (Dave Brubeck); ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’ (Ornette Coleman) and ‘Giant Steps’ (John Coltrane). Each of these albums looked at jazz from very different viewpoints and yet all helped to define the music for years to come.

One other thing happened in 1959 too – the birth of saxophonist and clarinettist Alan Barnes. So it was an inspired idea for Alan to combine the celebration of the year of his birth with a musical tipping of the hat to some of the great music that was committed to vinyl that same year.

No doubt we will all have our favourite albums from 1959 which may or may not include the ‘top five’ that I have mentioned above. Alan Barnes has put together his own musical appreciation of the year built around his love for the Art Pepper album, ‘Art Pepper + 11’, where fellow alto saxophonist Pepper was featured playing a selection of modern jazz standards arranged for him by Marty Paich. Here, Barnes’ Mary Paich is none other than trombonist Mark Nightingale and his band-mates include Howard McGill, Robert Fowler, Andy Panayi and Mick Foster variously on saxes, clarinets and flute along with two trumpets, two trombones and the customary three-piece rhythm section. The material that Barnes and his men seek to investigate includes ‘Boogie Stop Shuffle’ from ‘Mingus Ah Um’, ‘Take Five’ from Brubeck’s ‘Time Out’ and ‘Naima’ from Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’. But there are several less obvious choices including ‘A Change of Pace’ from Quincy Jones’ ‘The Birth of a Band’ and ‘Dreamsvill’e from Henry Mancini’s ‘The Music from Peter Gunn’. There is much more here to enjoy with tunes from Gerry Mulligan, Duke Ellington, Randy Weston, Horace Silver and Antônio Carlos Jobim. Fittingly, Barnes gets plenty of room to shine on either alto or baritone saxes, clarinet or bass clarinet and his playing colleagues also each get a feature.

As Alan Barnes says, each of Nightingale’s arrangements “displayed his astoundingly fecund imagination in re-thinking completely new takes on these ageless tunes”. As with everything that Barnes produces, this is a fine swinging collection of music and the section playing is exceptional. A clear love of the music is shared by all the musicians and as Alan states, none are from the ‘Gloom School’.

This music has to be heard to be believed and so I urge you to buy the album. You can catch the band live at Wigan Jazz Festival 13th July and I’m sure that there will be more opportunities to see the band in action as Alan Barnes continues to celebrate his 60th Birthday year.

Alan Musson

Read also:
Alan Barnes and Gilad Atzmon ‘The Lowest Common Denominator’ (Woodville) 4/5

Dona Onete ‘Rebujo’ LP/CD (Mais Um) 5/5

Rebujo is the turbulence that the river’s currents create as they pass through. The rebujo churns up the silt and debris, giving the Amazon its muddy colour. It’s this churning that makes the river dangerous to those hopeful to enter the beckoning waters. It is this temptation that Dona Onete has delightfully captured with Rebujo, her love letter to her Amazonian home of Belém.

Rebujo takes that which has settled in your body, churns it all around and makes you move. The danger here lies in what comes to the surface, likely hidden from yourself, as you are beckoned to dance. You are tempted to explore that inner silt and to keep exploring it with each new song. The sometimes wild rhythms create turbulence in your feet as you try to keep up, forced to trust that your feet will land solidly on the ground.

On the cusp of her 80th birthday, Onete has given us a gift with Rebujo. As much as it is a celebration of her home, it is a celebration of her life. And what a joyous celebration it is, how sweet of her to invite us all. Like a river, Rebujo fills your ears with two music styles born in Belém: carimbós, influenced by African grooves, and bangues, a ska-type rhythm, along with cumbia, brega (‘romantic’ music) and samba. And like a river, the banks are a boundary that cannot always contain, as the sounds often overflow, creating new and exciting pathways.

The call and response and the clapping of songs like Mexe Mexe and Vem Chamegar make you feel like you are included in all the joy. Like if you close your eyes you will be transported straight to the party, clapping, dancing, and singing to your heart’s content. The songs are so inviting it honestly feels like you know her like Dona Onete is singing directly to you. But even that doesn’t quite do it justice, it’s more intimate than that, it’s like she’s taking care of you. Like each word is sung especially for you to fill you with love and warmth, like a blanket fresh from the dryer.

“Musa de Babilonia” is a loving ode to the beautiful black women of the favelas. It starts off slow with this beautiful combination of flute and drums and morphs into an unhurried, jazzy samba that takes its time with you, ensuring that you have space to take in the subtle power of the muse, giving them the love and admiration they deserve. She calls the women the muses of Rio de Janeiro, comparing them to sirens and mermaids who wear the leaves of coconut trees wrapped in their hair. It evokes a delicate yet strong, and maybe a little bit risky, image of a woman who deserves all the praise in the world.

“Fogo na Aldeia” seeps into your skin. Before I even knew what was happening I was up on my feet dancing. The song has all the elements for the most delightful celebration. A song about 19th-century Brazilian revolutionaries, she has again penned a worthy homage that epitomizes the theme that undergirds the celebration; justice.

Rebujo is indeed part love-letter, part war-cry. Onete sees herself as a spokesperson for indigenous people and minorities, using her music to help Amazonian communities and shed light on the people’s plight. Onete says, “my energy comes from the river…It’s like blood rushing through my veins, there’s no stopping it – or me”. And thanks to Rebujo, there’s no stopping you either.

Molly Gallegos

EABS ‘Slavic Spirits’ LP/CD (Astigmatic) 4/5

The third studio LP from Polish septet EABS sees the ensemble switch focus from reinterpreting the music of film composer and jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda and embark on investigating the Slavic mythology of their forebears. Embracing the eastern psyche of melancholia means this album has a distinct thematic direction. However, depressing it is not, it knows what works in creating rich textures and evoking ancient landscapes without losing touch of the vibrant lifeblood of the Jazz revival. In fact, this youthful band has enlisted the prominent London flautist and soprano saxophonist Tenderlonious as a guest artist for this record.

‘Slavic Spirits’ introduces itself with ‘Ciemność’, a frenzied cacophony of atonal wails carefully growing. It’s like a soundscape from a Jurassic swamp with strange creatures calling from every angle. Before long the next more civilised track ‘Leszy’ springs into life with twittering birds and some creeping piano lines. The breezy horns gently swing in, much like Kamasi Washington and the West Coast Get Down. The drumming of Marcin Rak is as rapturous as the squealing soprano solo of Tenderlonious. There are tight and funky moments of neo-soul with melodies which aren’t too over-elaborate and solos which aren’t tedious or over-long, yet the musicianship on show is impressive.

The band shows a more brooding side with the cinematic ‘Południca’. The pianist Marek Pędziwiatr plays over the changes with a soothing dexterity, giving an urgency to even the most sombre moments.

Spisek Jednego’s sound effects and samples spark the creativity from the others for a surreal and suspenseful freeform outing on ‘Ślęża (Mgła)’. Interestingly, Ślęża is a mountain not too far from the band’s hometown Wrocław which for thousands of years has been a site of religious importance to the Celts, Slavs and Vandals who have inhabited the area. The folk melodies on ‘Ślęża’ are given a upliftling setting and work fantastically as loop for the drums and synths to flourish. Tenderlonious’ flute makes these horn lines sing and gives them an ethnic feel. This track also features the experimental playing of Olaf Węgier on tenor sax, who stretches the limits of how far he can stray from the bassline held firm by bassist Paweł Stachowiak.

The ritualistic Gregorian chant ‘Przywitanie Słońca (Rytuał)’ is full of atmosphere with howling wolves and droning horns competing with the monotonous incantations. The brief interlude sets up the final track ‘Przywitanie Słońca’ nicely. This hip jazz symphony is full of groove with driving drums and humble acoustic piano alongside synth solos and an irrepressible soprano sax solo from Tenderlonious. It brings the album to a frenetic crescendo and a satisfying conclusion. EABS deserve to have their music heard by a wide audience. ‘Slavic Spirits’ is a delight to behold and full of fantastic melodies and polished musicianship.

Fred Neighbour

UK Vibe mix: Jazz Fusion

https://www.mixcloud.com/ukvibe/jazz-fusion/

Tracklist:

Tom Cawley – Zona Mista (Ubuntu Music 2019)
Ebi Soda – Dimmsdale (Sola Terra 2019)
Shawn Myers – Floating Now (Self-released 2019)
Kenner – Janelle (8Ball City 2019)
Sébastien Jarrousse Tentet featuring Ellinoa – Burn Out (A.MA 2019)
Nicolas Folmer – What’s Happen (Cristal 2019)
Xose Miguelez – Under the Big Tree (Origin 2019)
Stratus Luna – Zarabatana (Music Magick 2019)
Jivan Gasparyan Jr. – Beginning (Self-released 2019)
Alfredo Balcacer – Inside My Head (Casabeat 2019)
Romain Collin – Overflow (XM 2019)
Mosambique – The Underdog (Jazzland 2019)
Ryan Porter – People Talk (World Galaxy 2019)
Lushh – Kid Stuff (Self-released 2019)
The Session – Kolmas Linja (Bubble Bath 2019)0
Melina Paxinos – Athens III (MachenMachenMachen! 2019)
Gerry Gibbs and Thrasher – Flying on the Wings of a Fantasy (Whaling City Sounds 2019)
Javonntte – Fantasy (ELE 2019)
Gagik Khodavirdi – The Last Dance (Self-released 2018)
Gary Dean Smith – Lucky feat. Jeff Lorber (MF 2019)

The New Woody Shaw Quintet ‘Vol.1 At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall / Hamburg 1982’ 2LP (Jazzline) 4/5

I love Woody Shaw. You probably do too and, of course, we’re not alone; Miles said he had a truly fresh approach to music, Randy Brecker described him as “the last in a line of trumpeters, who really added something new to the art of the jazz-trumpet…(he) really invented a new language”.

Some back-in-the-day heavy rotation of Larry Young’s Unity and Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance first exposed me to that new language; that hot dynamism; that tricksy precision; that unique phrasing; that for-the-hard-of-hearing clarity; and THAT tone (oooh, that tone). For me, he’s one of THOSE artists. One of MY artists.
Onkel Pö’s is a 1982 live set of four Shaw originals, featuring drummer Tony Reedus, bassist Stafford James, pianist Mulgrew Miller and trombonist Steve Turre. By the early 80s Shaw had moved into a straightish post-bop mode, glowing with a sprinkle of soul-jazz shine.

“Katrina Ballerina” is a syncopated modal waltz/swing thing with the rhythm section flawlessly shifting and gliding, transforming and evolving, while Shaw delivers his trademark combination of stutters, lightning runs and lyrical space before Turre, Miller and James each pass the solo baton in a no-fail heat jazz relay. Remarkable cumulative energy and creativity.

“Joshua C” kicks off with a spiritual percussion and piano moment, then an easily hip Shaw/Turre horn lick as Reedus lays a loose ebb and flow groove. As it grows, the liquidity of movement from the other four, that Reedus underpins and encourages, is always stimulating in its use of dynamics and inventiveness. Miller’s solo is particularly sparky and James and Miller’s interplay is a joy.

“Sunbath” is my jam. It’s worked off a thick and funky, doubled up Turre/James soul-jazz bass line that sounds like NOW. Shaw effortlessly drifts his laid-back lines over the rhythm for 5 minutes or so without it ever feeling like he’s going over old ground. Miller, James and Turre all deliver solos that remain on message; loose, relaxed but constantly vital. A deep bath – sunny and compelling.

No gentle exit tonight. “To Kill a Brick” is a furious, edgy hard swinging blues with exasperated, fit-to-burst solos from Shaw and Turre that were probably played rolling around on the sweaty, booze-licked floor. Miller’s solo is a sequence of hold-your-breath deluges before the horns have a quick chat and Reedus completely knackers himself out.

This is a fine sounding, rip-roaring recording of a very live quintet who were absolutely on fire and connected. It’s faultless. I didn’t hear a single cliche throughout; they were constantly inventive and always compelling. And Shaw had pretty much perfected his Shaw-ness by this stage and is nothing short of awesome throughout. 4 out of 5 stars isn’t enough so I’m going to give it 18 out of 20.

Ian Ward

Melissa Aldana Quintet ‘Visions’ LP/CD (Motéma Music) 5/5

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”

Considered one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, Frida Kahlo’s indelible impact as an artist and a source of inspiration continues to grow: while many gravitate to her style of portraits and self-portraits as an exploration of identity, gender and class, others are drawn to her sense of character, her strength and ability to find the beauty in pain.

Kahlo’s quest for self-identity and self-exploration is mirrored through the new album ‘Visions’ by Melissa Aldana who not only unveils her first project with her Melissa Aldana Quintet, but also her first album for the independent New York-based record label, Motéma Music.

A lifelong fan of Kahlo’s artwork – Chilean saxophonist, composer and bandleader, Melissa Aldana’s extensive list of accolades make her such a perfect fit for Motéma’s jazz, Latin and soul music aesthetic. The daughter of saxophonist Marcos Aldana, Melissa graduated Berklee in 2009 and can cite having performed at venues and festivals around the world including Panama Jazz Festival, So What’s Next? Jazz Festival in The Netherlands and Thailand’s International Jazz Day. She was the recipient of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 2013 at only 24 years old and can boast having chalked up studio performances with Brian Auger, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jure Pukl, Crash Trio and Carmen Paris.

And amidst all of these accolades and accomplishments, Aldana’s own catalogue continues to flourish, starting with ‘Free Fall’ (2010) and ‘Second Cycle’ (2012) both on Inner Circle Music, and ‘Back Home’ (Wommusic, 2014) to this year’s Genesis of the Melissa Aldana Quintet which comprises pianist Sam Harris (Ergo, Ben Van Gelder), bassist Pablo Menares (William Tatge Trio, Joanna Wallfisch), drummer Tommy Crane (Aaron Parks, Jo-Yu Chen) and Blue Note recording artist, vibraphonist Joel Ross (Makaya McCraven, Aaron Burnett).

As alluded to earlier, Kahlo’s paintings, particularly her self-portraits, were an opportunity for her to look inwards, as she once explained: “I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” While Kahlo achieved that through her art, so does Aldana by using the music on ‘Visions’ to explore the subject that she strives to understand better which results in a deeply personal project filled with complex and exquisite soundscapes. The vibrant title track is an exquisite opener, the lush vibes of ‘Dos Casas Un Puente’ marks another highlight as does the brilliant ‘The Search’.

‘Visions’ marks a huge creative step forward for Melissa Aldana and her Quintet – it’s a stunning release and a huge win for Motéma Music. You have to believe that Melissa Aldana’s skill and passion will, in time to come, see her the subject for a new generation of artists looking to her for their own source of inspiration.

Imran Mirza

Tour dates:
JULY 6 – Gent Jazz Festival – Gent, Belgium
JULY 8 – Pizza Express – London, UK
JULY 9 – Pizza Express – London, UK
JULY 10 – Copenhagen Jazz Festival – Balders Plads, the Netherlands
JULY 12 – North Sea Jazz Fest – Rotterdam, the Netherlands
JULY 13 – Funchal Jazz Festival – Funchal, Portugal
JULY 15 – Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival – Edinburgh, UK

Lauren Desberg ‘Out For Delivery’ CD (Self-released) 4/5

‘Out For Delivery’ is the third album for LA born but currently New York based vocalist Lauren Desberg, with this 12-track release containing mainly original material with only two tracks being covers. Here, Lauren’s band consists of saxophonist Braxton Cook, pianist Kris Bowers, drummer Jonathan Barber, guitarist Andrew Renfroe with Ben Shepherd and Russell Hall on bass duties, with production by Drew Ofthe Drew and Will Wells.

The album begins with the uptempo ‘The Way You Feel Inside’, which as per much of the album blends the old traditions with some slight contemporary production elements, as well as featuring a looser end section with a guitar solo and more frantic drumming from Barber. ‘Yes Unless’ occupies an earthy quality with its effectual upright bass and slightly (intentionally) wonky piano lines combined with Lauren’s reflective lyrics, while, the acoustic guitar led ‘Something Wrong With Me’ gradually builds both musically and vocally with its thoughtful insight into misjudged relationships. Personal favourite ‘Falling Dominoes’ includes a fantastically fluid bassline, melodic piano lines and a Carpenters-esque bridge section to brilliant effect.

Soulful ballad ‘Alone, In Love’ changes tempo at the midpoint where the groove changes from its shuffle based inflection to a more funky and straight rhythm track for eight bars before returning back to its initial drum pattern while Lauren contemplates love and all its intricacies. ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)’ is an American songbook standard previously recorded dozens of times but made famous by Fats Waller is 1935, but here this version stays within the jazz lines with upright bass, drums, piano and an additional saxophone solo while the lyrics talk of an imaginary relationship. The Rodgers and Hammerstein original, ‘The Sweetest Sounds’, retains an almost neo-soul quality but preserves its jazz credentials with some improvised guitar and sax work during the final third, although the piece itself is only 2’44”.

Lauren Desberg is a quintessential traditional jazz vocalist. She has the correct tone, phrasing and ideology of a jazz singer, but with a slightly modern edge to her vocals which could move Lauren into a more mainstream position. I would suggest Lauren sits somewhere between the smooth jazziness of Judy Roberts and the pop tradition of Karen Carpenter with regards her vocals and harmonies. Still quite unknown to many, I feel that the marketing and promotion of Lauren’s music could be improved as she possesses all the qualities of a leading jazz vocalist, with the jazz scene always requiring strong female front women.

Unusually for a contemporary artist of this nature, Lauren’s albums, including ‘Out For Delivery’, are available as free downloads on her Bandcamp profile as well on CD formats. My own personal introduction was via purchasing Lauren’s debut ‘Sideways’ (2012) on vinyl, and it’s a pity that none of her subsequent releases have thus far appeared in vinyl form. Nonetheless, I would recommend listeners to also explore previous albums, ‘Twenty First Century Problems’ (2015) and ‘Sideways’, which includes fantastic vocal versions of Grover Washington’s ‘Mister Magic’, Herbie’s ‘Come Running To Me’ and ‘You Go To My Head’, the jazz standard made famous by Billie Holiday.

Damian Wilkes

Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux ‘Path of Totality’ 2LP/2CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

Saxophonist/composer Quinsin Nachoff’s inspiration for “Path of Totality”, an ambitious 2-LP/CD release, arose from the moon’s total eclipse of the sun in 2017. That event became a dramatic, natural metaphor for the band’s evolutionary creative process, plus a reminder (amidst current political and environmental discord being experienced from both sides of the ocean) of light’s assured emanation from and triumph over transitory darkness. A concept album then, with a message of solace and hope. All things will pass as the phrase goes…

The music written and performed here doesn’t make for easy listening. It does, however, make for rewarding listening, given the time and space required for it to sink in. At times fatalistic, at times hopeful, it is ultimately the ear of the listener that will decide how they feel about it. To my ears, there are a few oddities about the music that I struggle with, but overall it is bold and forthright with spellbinding diversity and attention to detail that is incredibly compelling.

Compositionally the music sits somewhere in-between modern jazz, contemporary classical and the experimental. It’s daring and alluringly audacious, yet not to the point that the listener wonders what on Earth is going on. Far from it in fact, with the composer obviously having the skill and presence of mind to bring different genres of music together seamlessly to create a tour-de-force of sound, aided in no small measure by the musicians involved.

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Nachoff is joined by a whole host of musicians that pull together to help make the composer’s creative ideas work so well. Leading the way are alto and C melody saxophonist David Binney, pianist/keys man Matt Mitchell, and drummers Kenny Wollesen and Nate Wood. The larger ensemble of musicians involved employ a vast array of instruments and a vivid palette of colours to create something that is consistently surprising as its sound and direction morphs from moment to moment over the course of the six epic-length pieces.

The 1st CD opens with “Path of Totality”, with its awkward-sounding phased double-drum patterns alternately exploding from one ear to another. It’s not long before I realised it was my brain that struggled with this… just letting my preconceived ideas go actually made things sound much better. One of the most consistently innovative recordings I’ve heard in a while sparks into life on “Bounce”. An incredible piece of music, with a heady mix of influences (I can hear Igor Stravinsky, John Coltrane and Pink Floyd just for starters). Nachoff is an artist that takes the idea of “experimentation” quite literally. The informative liner notes point to this stating that the composer takes his interest in science beyond simple inspiration and that working with physicist Dr Stephen Morris, they translate experimental data into musical form. The concept is interesting, to say the least, with the percussive outbursts and musical call-and-response of “Bounce”, built on the mathematical model of a bouncing ball. Regardless of whether this is of interest to the listener who might only be interested in what he’s hearing, not what the music was inspired by, it is undoubtedly a wonderful piece of music. The 3rd and final track on CD1 is “Toy Piano Meditation”. I love this. It may be based on John Cage’s “Toy Piano Suite” of 1948, but this exemplary music making is very much 21st Century. As with all of his input throughout this album, David Binney’s transcendental coda is described by Nachoff as “one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard”. I most certainly wouldn’t disagree with him.

“March Macabre” opens the 2nd CD. Its sombre, downbeat mood is punctuated by oddly flirtatious saxes, creating a mood of unnerving horror. Depicting the momentary darkness shrouding the planet, the tune benefits from a healthy dose of bleak humour. Wollesen’s ‘march machine’ provides the marching beat that gives the piece its totalitarian note. By the end though, the lockstep has been broken and individual freedom restored. The Baroque-sounding “Splatter” begins with a solo harpsichord improvisation, before progressing through a cosmic haze of jagged rhythms and erratic melodies. Fragmented with electronic wizardry this piece is both intriguing and enlightening in the way that a unique musical culture seems to be crafted within its strangely alluring incoherence. The final track “Orbital Resonances” sums up everything this band are about; imaginative improvisation through solos and gilt-edged structure, wrapped around an attitude of musical courage and experimentation.

“Path of Totality” might not be for the faint-hearted, but there’s no doubting its excellence on both a compositional and performance level. A remarkable achievement from all concerned and a listening journey well worth undertaking.

Mike Gates

Read also: Quinsin Nachoff ‘Ethereal Trio’ CD (Whirlwind) 4/5

Gabriel Grossi Quintet feat. Hermeto Pascoal ‘#motion – Live’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 3/5

I don’t own many (any) albums led by a harmonicist. I’m totally sans Toots. I’m not even sure harmonicist is the correct term for a harmonica player. Equally not sure it’s an instrument I’ve got big love for…maybe in a fierce, substance-fired rhythm n blues context it brings some crazy but I’m not overly sold. However, Gabriel Grossi IS a harmonicist, this album IS NOT in a rhythm n blues context and he JUST HAPPENS TO BE a 3 times Latin Grammy finalist – so an ideal opportunity to challenge my lazy-arsed ignorance then.

#motion is a live album, captured over 2 nights, which Brazilian Grossi describes as a resumé of around twenty years of personal icons/influencers. “Each number pays tribute to a big name from my life story. For example, Mauricio Einhorn was my harmonica professor in the beginning; and trombonist Raul de Souza, I’m still really close to. These guys are 85 now and still playing – a good sign for us!” It features his latest quintet: trombonist Sergio Coelho, pianist Eduardo Farias, bassist André Vasconcellos and drummer Rafael Barata, with a guest appearance from celebrated fellow countryman Hermeto Pascoal.

Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Brazilian Baroque ‘Prelude from the Bachianas Number 4’ gently, wistfully caresses as Grossi’s deeply felt, exposed expression is touchingly supported by Farias. Hauntingly beautiful it is but an unlikely opener according to my Metal-damaged view of dynamics.

‘A Samba for Toots’ was written for Thielemans and is a breezy, sprightly jaunt which highlights an effortless, baton-passing quintet chemistry. The title track is more serious; a study in mobility & flow with a coruscant Farias doing the propelling and Barata/Vasconcellos doing the fizzing until Grossi slams the brakes on with a handsomely spaced solo that builds into a joyous coming together of all.

Lush, dawdling, sentimental Stevie Wonder balladry is offered via “From the Bottom of My Heart” while the playful, Hermeto Pascoal-blessed “Latin Brothers” lifts the (Latin) energy a notch and gets the crowd involved in some Portuguese-Paul Stanley call & response antics.

“Play, Raul” (“Raul” as in Raul de Souza, “Play” as in play) is affable and mature – Grossi and Coelho riffing, gliding and soothing as Farias & Barata comp and set predictive course resulting in an easy John Thompson “Nice”.

As a teenager, Grossi would take a weekly 18-hour round trip to be tutored by Mauricio Einhorn; ‘Embracing Einhorn’ is a tender “Thank you” to his second father, bringing a gentle celebration and obvious deep affection where over egged lament could easily have bruised. “Banzo” wears it’s Afro rhythms well, with a subtle spirituality that glows in and around Grossi’s energised soloing and Farias’ modal stabs.

‘A Tribute to Bituca’ is for his good mate, Milton Nascimento, and offers a much appreciated (by me) unhurried serenity. Vasconcellos’ drowsy 2-minute solo introduces melodies that are then picked up as a restful theme suited to warmer climes. Gears are then shifted, as “Different Beat” bustles and jives and Einhorn is welcomed on stage to wrap the album with a swaying, last-orders of a harmonica duet that drunkenly blurts “I really love you mate” more than any track I’ve ever heard. Loved-up mates, booze, harmonica – the perfect end to a night out or album.

“When I looked at my songs, I realised those I liked most were for my idols – so #motion is my heartfelt expression of gratitude” says Grossi. “It’s my truth and, I hope, somebody else’s truth, too.” I think this comes across in spades; #motion is an emotional appreciation of his beloved, expressed with great skill on an instrument ideally suited (I’ve now found out) to emote those feelings. Grossi has ensured that I am no longer ignorant to the seductive charm of the harmonica and its musical flexibility. He’s that kind of harmonicist.

Ian Ward

Norma Winstone and John Taylor ‘In Concert’ CD (Enodoc) 4/5

There’s something exceptionally ‘feel-good’ about this release. Recorded in August 1988 at The Guildhall School of Music, the revered duo were asked to give a concert having just finished teaching there. Arranged at short notice, the warmth and good humour of the recording permeates its way through the audience. There’s a wonderful atmosphere to the session, one which we can all now enjoy thanks to the cd release of this concert.

In their long and illustrious careers pianist, Taylor and vocalist Winstone have of course worked together on numerous occasions, most notably on the ECM label alongside Kenny Wheeler with “Azimuth”. This 1988 concert recording is a superb example of their musical partnership, with the tunes performed ranging from composers Leonard Bernstein to Egberto Gismonti, Ralph Towner, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck. Yet no matter who wrote the tune, there’s an individualistic presence and style that sparkles from the duo’s collaboration, with the two musicians always willing to put their own inimitable stamp on proceedings.

The recording features eight tracks and lasts for an hour. There are some great examples throughout the concert of how the duo aren’t afraid to challenge each other musically. Taylor appears to push and probe at times, inviting Winstone to respond, as she does, in an improvisational and engaging way. Steve Swallow’s “Ladies In Mercedes” is a prime example, with Winstone’s whimsical lyrics working perfectly over Taylor’s expressive piano. It’s also wonderful to hear the more thoughtful side of the duo’s partnership, as on Egberto Gismonti’s “Cafe”. Taylor’s stylistic approach is mesmerising on tunes such as Brubeck’s “In your own sweet way” and Taylor’s rhythmically effervescent own composition “Coffee Time”. The resplendent Towner/Winstone tune “Celeste” is a beautiful, reflective and ultimately uplifting end to the concert.

This is one of those albums that just feels right and is a pleasure to listen to and own. There’s so much to enjoy. A wonderful example of two highly respected musicians enjoying making music together, in a way that engages the audience with a clear sense of purpose, skill and understanding.

Mike Gates

Astral Travelling Since 1993