Hideto Sasaki / Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet +1 ‘Stop Over’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

The Hideto Sasaki – Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1 ‘Stop Over’ album is one of those extremely rare Japanese jazz recordings from the mid-1970s that has remained under the radar for many years. Only 100 copies were pressed for the Japanese private press label Smile on release in 1976 and it’s been a highly sought after album ever since. The title track featured on the 2019 J Jazz compilation ‘Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1983 (Volume 2)’; a precursor for the albums reissue via the BBE J Jazz Masterclass Series. The music is personally curated by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden and is dedicated to presenting the very finest in Japanese modern jazz. The whole series features rare material presented in the highest quality reproductions of the original releases, fully licensed and authorised.

‘Stop Over’ is the sixth release from the BBE J Jazz Masterclass Series following last year’s reissue of the Miyasaka + 5 album ‘Animals Garden’, recorded in 1979, and it’s another essential listen throughout, with first-class musicians at the top of their game. The album includes a stellar line up with pianist Toshiyuki Sekine and writer/trumpeter Sasaki Hideto joined by drummer Takashi Kurosaki, bassist Kei Narita and Alto saxophonist Noriyasu Watanabe.

The full sounding acoustic recording carries a reflective stance, highlighting a particular bop and modal feel that was prevalent during the late 1950s and mid-1960s, whilst adding an updated renewed spirit to the chosen compositions without losing the essence of the period. Of the five chosen pieces, compositions by Cedar Walton, Bobby Hutcherson, Tadd Dameron, Danny Zeitlin feature alongside the title track ‘Stop Over’, written by Sasaki Hideto.

‘Carole’s Garden’ is treated to an energetic sprint with the driving Messengers style high hat work by drummer Takashi Kurosaki adding a springboard for Sasaki Hideto and Noriyasu Watanabe’s fast tempo improvising. The sparse and rapid flurries from pianist Toshiyuki Sekine create a full-bodied piece that stretches over 8 minutes. It’s a good choice for the album and the group add a dynamic spark to the 1965 original from Danny Zeitlin.

Toshiyuki Sekine’s melodic creativity really takes centre stage on ‘Little B’s Poem’ with the alto saxophone of Noriyasu Watanabe the perfect accompaniment for this superbly nuanced version of Bobby Hutcherson’s original modal piece. The track enjoyed wide recognition through Dee Dee Bridgewater’s vocal version off her ‘Afro Blue’ album from 1974.

Tadd Dameron’s 1956 ballad ‘Soultrane’ is a warm and sublime update of the original with Hedito Sasaki setting the tone before pianist Takashi Kurosaki adds his melodic touches and exchanges with the trumpeter. It’s a well-chosen piece that sits well between the more mid and uptempo tracks.

Pianist Toshiyuki Sekine opens up the uptempo memorable title track in a similar vein to Horace Silver on a Messengers album with some superb performances on this Sasaki Hideto written piece. It’s one of the highlights from this solid album and a fitting choice for its place on the J Jazz compilation. There’s some relentless dynamic drumming on the track by Takashi Kurosaki who builds an intensity which brings the piece alive with some excellent moments by the composer.

Bassist Kei Narita and Sasaka Hideto both swing on ‘Turquoise Twice’ which was originally recorded by Cedar Walton on ‘Cedar’ for the Prestige record label. On the groups version there are shades of Kenny Dorham’s style evoked by Sasaki Hideto and again its a fitting tribute to the 1967 composition.

Licensed and released with the approval of Toshiyuki Sekine himself, ‘Stop Over’ will be available for download and streaming, as a CD and double vinyl LP, the first vinyl reissue of this amazing album since originally slipping out to family and friends in 1976. With a deluxe packaging and translated sleeve notes, there will also be new notes and an interview with Toshiyuki Sekine.
Another quality reissue with all the deserved attention surrounding its reissue.

Mark Jones

Read also:
Miyasaka + 5 ‘Animals Garden’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5
Makoto Terashita meets Harold Land ‘Topology’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5
Tohru Aizawa Quartet ‘Tachibana Vol. 1’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5
Koichi Matsukaze Trio + Toshiyuki Daitoku ‘Earth Mother’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5
Various ‘J Jazz Volume 2 – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969 – 1983’ 3LP/2CD (BBE Music) 5/5
Various ‘J Jazz – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984’ 3LP/CD (BBE Music) 5/5

Organic Pulse Ensemble ‘The Light Comes Black’ LP (Urban Waves) 4/5

Organic Pulse Ensemble is the Swedish ‘One Man Ensemble’, Gustav Horneij. As is his way, ‘The Light Comes Black’ is entirely composed, produced and recorded by him, alone. Extraordinary chap.

It is an ode to the cycle-of-light-compelled way of living experienced by those in the northern parts of our world. Where days and nights blend together in a long period of darkness but when sun returns, the birds sing again and it feels like rebirth. It’s an album of moods where each track lays bare its sensitivity to today’s light prejudice.

‘Descending’ is portentous; watchful and deep but timidly one-dynamic. Its buzzing spiritual jazz layers are atopped by loosely braided melodies with flute and sax meandering noncommittally. ‘Long Time Of Darkness’ is patient; serene and understanding, submissive. Its bewitchingly resigned, hovering woodwind wash awaits the inevitable. ‘Mighty Cold’ is stoic; plodding, wrapped up against the elements. A hypnotic lilting bassline underpins lightly cascading eastern-edged motifs.

‘Ascending’ is hopeful; faithful and blithe. A carefree flute nimbly frolics through a field of uplifting spirituality with the bass confidently pathfinding. ‘See the Sun Rise’ is purposeful; swaggering. It’s a slow ride on the funky train, a less sensual, more spiritual take on Yusef Lateef’s own long and lat adventures. ‘Reinvigoration’ is grateful; relieved and healing. African melodies gambol as the layered percussion strat to wash away any ill thoughts.

‘First BBQ’ is breezy, baby; jaunty and impish. Angular stabbing Rhodes n bass and flirtatious flute (in the great Gil tradition) with an occasional dead-set, hipcat harmonised sax line to beef things up. ‘Midnight Sun’ is emphatic; resolved yet sober. Exotic, slightly trippy, a moment for awe and reflection with eyes looking towards the omnipotent star deity during its most persuasive expression, the polar day.

‘The Light Comes Black’ is a spiritual jazz album; a sincere, respectful call to the Sun. It is serene and knowing. Wise. A captivating, hypnotic and calming experience with a Stata-East ease. It begs to be performed live with a gang of skilled musicians who ‘get it’; enhancing Horneij’s singular voice with the dynamic, instinctive, multi-voiced energy a band creates. Yep. You’ve heard it right – I wanna see an ensemble organically vibing on Gustav’s pulse.

Ian Ward

Trilok Gurtu ‘God Is A Drummer’ LP/CD (Jazzline) 4/5

“God is a Drummer” is virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu’s twentieth solo album, the latest addition to the colossal discography accumulated over his accomplished career. Here he continues to present his philosophy of a unique seamless fusion of funky electric jazz, world music and something else not quite tangible. “My music is my music everywhere and I’m the way my music sounds”.

“Josef Erich”, one of a few tributes here to artists who are beloved to and have inspired Gurtu over the years, starts the show. It has a polished and slick jazz fusion signature with tablas, electronic percussion, Latin keyboard arpeggios and a purring thick creamy fretless bass.

Next is the pure tabla attack of “Connect”. The first of four tabla interludes dotted throughout the album, the others named ‘Connecting’, ‘Still Connecting’ and finally ‘Connected’, each time increasing in length and intensity.

“Obrigado” is exuberant with joyous almost spiritual singing accompanied by percussive vocals with angular drums and synthy bursts reminiscent of late 80s electro-funk which slightly dates it a little. Stand out track “Holy Mess” hangs on a hard funky riff. And it’s a beast of a track with skittish rhythms and shifting tectonic plates of sound.

The poignant and emotional “Madre” lowers the tempo and the sonic intensity. Through keyboard washes and the sympathetic tabla pattering, violin and voice connect and entwine. “Samadhan” is also beautiful, the warm but mournful trumpet motif is doubled by voices and violin. Later, Latin keyboard shapes add a bit of spice to the mostly balladic structure.

Splashes of backward effects introduce “Indranella” then it’s drums and more drums topped with disciplined percussive vocals. The closer, “Try This”; the spectacular and complex melody lines are expansive but also constrained by the dominant drums and rigid but groovy bass.

God is a drummer and the drummer is god here. Percussion doesn’t just establish the rhythmic structure, it is at the forefront, providing the melody and the character of the tracks. Probably the most interesting element to this is how the often hidden percussive properties of other instruments and the voices are released too. While maybe this album doesn’t really add anything particularly new to the well-established Trilok Gurtu paradigm, it’s still very impressive and enjoyable. It is another affirmative reflection of Gurtu’s exciting and open-minded vision of music.

Kevin Ward

Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones ‘Holy Science’ LP (Jazzman) 4/5

The first run through of Holy Science nothing really stuck. And like the critical Teflon I am, I gave it another go. Somewhere in this winding-unwinding, pastoral-urban, grating-soothing four-track, just-over-an-hour jazz-scat-drone statement, I actually got into it. This was a bit of a surprise as I am not known for my fondness for wordless vocals. Kidambi’s vocals stay on a sort of Dada fringe area of scat. There’s something more than vocal imitation of a trumpet or what-have-you. Especially on what is undeniably the peak of the album, “Dvapara Yuga (for Eric Garner)”, which is two slabs of expanding and contracting that smother a brief and painful section of swollen double bass.

Holy Science isn’t really a good album to put on while trying to do anything that requires focus. It is unapologetically busy and the band deploys its limited range of instrumentation with confident aplomb. A brief search informed me that the “yuga” of the titles refer to the cycle of four epochs in Hindu theology. I recommend, if you do listen to this record, looking up a brief description of the yugas and you can certainly see the ambitious conceptual linking and interpretation. Even from a largely uninformed point of view, I thought this was a satisfying conceit and artistically successful. For example, the fourth track “Kali Yuga” does have a sense of something sliding into ruin, but at the same time tonally reflecting the first track with the drone of a harmonium. There is a link to Coltrane’s Psalm here, who Kidambi has cited as an influence.

Instrumentally, behind Amirtha Kidambi’s sizeable vocal breadth and experimental vigour, the soprano sax weaves behind the vocal lines, echoing sometimes, altering and throwing them back at other points creating a lively conversation. The double bass from Brandon Lopez is to be applauded for some especially melodic and dynamic playing, especially on “Treta Yuga”. The drums and percussion wrong-foot and mislead as much as they secure and stabilise, adding to the seat of your pants effect.

A great album that I’m glad I sent round the brain another time after the dust settled from the first wave. Ambitious and humble, tender and violent.

Thomas Pooley-Tolkien-Sharpe

Read also:
Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones ‘From Untruth’ LP/CD (Northern Spy) 4/5

Sotomayor ‘Orígenes’ LP/CD (Wonderwheel Recordings) 5/5

As we get older what looks like a good time to us starts to shift. What used to be late nights out in loud streets is now literally one hit of herb, a paintbrush and some headphones. In our youths we wanted to escape into other people, now it’s more of an escape into ourselves. Tapping into that, Mexican brother-sister duo Sotomayor’s third studio release Orígenes is a channel for both. Produced by multiple Grammy award-winning producer Eduardo Cabra (Calle 13), Paulina and Raul Sotomayor have created a stunning, intelligent and hard-hitting piece of art. Orígenes takes us to our roots, marrying cumbia, Peruvian chicha and pulsating percussion with electronica and house, creating something that is accessible to all listeners. Orígenes’ offerings could be found in any self-respecting club while still being the perfect accompaniment to a solo good time.

I was impressed at how smart this album is. Everything was so clearly thought out and intentional. The way Paulina morphs her voice to evoke different feelings in each song, it adds so much complexity and depth to what could at the surface seem like just another pop song. Add to that the nuance of Raul’s sonic foundation, the way he serves up these incredible beats creating an entire universe in each song. Sotomayor’s strength has always been their musicality; Orígenes takes that to another level. The structure of the album further confirms how considered Orígenes really is. They start you off with the digitized and thumping “Nunca es Tarde” and bring you home with “Ella” a deeper, slower ode to the marvel that is Woman.

Each song brings something different to the table, underpinned by this constant reminder of who the hell you are. So many lyrics could be taken down, written on sticky notes and placed on your mirror, setting your intention for the day before you head out into the big bad world. “Esta Vez” is this beautiful cloud forest of a song calling you back to your voice. Paulina’s calming vocals declare, “no me lo voy a callar…yo te lo quiero decir…es que no puedo parar”. I’m not going to shut up, I want to tell you that I’m not going to stop. An important memento to take with you after the song is over. Beyond the loving reminders in the song, the guitar in “Esta Vez” is transformative, it alone makes the whole album worth listening to.

Orígenes is full of these moments. Yes, Sotomayor is taking us back to the roots of what makes up our music, but they also take us back to the roots of ourselves. Orígenes is music for women, for people of colour, for the marginalized. “Nunca es Tarde” asserts in the midst of knee bending beats “si queremos gritar es importante escuchar”. If we want to shout you must listen. Or “Latin History Month”, which urges you to be “el que siembra la tierra”. Be the one who sows the seed. “Despierta” is an alarm clock, waking you up to your potential. Utilizing perfectly paced percussion that will raise you right up out of bed, and this guitar that just makes you want to live longer, the song perked me right up, just as promised. The whole of the album upholds that we are the creators, the originators and that will not be lost to the history books.

Orígenes is dancefloor therapy, dancefloor spirituality. Through dancing, you can transcend to spirit creating openings to better hear the message of the song. Orígenes permeates the tough exterior we’ve had to create to get through the day, filling us back up with our creative power. When people pray to their god(s) they get on their knees, humbling themselves in deference and gratitude to the power before them. Listening to the power in Orígenes, my knees are also the vehicle to prayer and power, gratefully bending and extending as the beat commands, taking me through a physical meditation. My only complaint is that I wish the songs were four times longer. Sometimes it felt like I was just getting into the groove and the song would be over, cutting my enjoyment short. But I guess maybe it’s a reminder that the best things are savoured in small bites so we can love them in the moment with greater presence and attention. Throughout, Orígenes begs us to acércate un poco más. And you will, I promise.

Molly Gallegos

Agile Experiments ‘Alive in the Empire’ LP (Dave De Rose) 3/5

Dave De Rose, London based Anglo-Italian drummer and multi instrumentalist is the force behind Agile Experiments, a loose and changing collective of musicians committed to spontaneously created free-form music. For these recordings at the Empire Bar Hackney, from November last year De Rose was joined by John Edwards (double bass) Dan Nicholls (synths samples and FXs) and George Crowley (sax and FXs).

The origins of Agile Experiments lie in the Agile Rabbit, a pizza restaurant in Brixton Village. De Rose had the idea of bringing unsuspecting consumers of pizza face to face with free-form jazz musicians, thus going against the grain of targeting people with exactly what they want. Instead he offered them the excitement of an unexpected encounter, music they might not ordinarily come across.

Agile Experiments Volume 1 and 2 were culled from these encounters with unsuspecting diners at the Agile Rabbit. The only rules laid down by De Rose for the band were; no discussion about what they would play and the set would be one hour straight with no break. Someone from the British Library was impressed enough by these off the cuff volumes of creativity to include them in the library’s sound archives of cultural achievement.

De Rose has toured with and played on an impressive roster of other people’s records including Mulato Astatke, Jamie Cullum, Bastille, Scroobius Pip and Vula Veil to name just a few. The record is released on 27th March on vinyl only and is produced, mixed and mastered by De Rose himself.

Alive In The Empire consists of excerpts from longer performances, there are seven pieces in total. Some tracks almost flow into each other, others have a very different mood or pace. They’re simply titled Alive Ⅰ-Ⅶ, the longest almost ten minutes in duration.

‘Alive Ⅰ’ is introduced with short and breathless notes from the sax, the music then meanders in a sonic territory that made me think of Miles’ On The Corner album, this was reinforced later when the electronics kicked in with ferocious snarls and growls along with an inspired level of percussive energy.

‘Alive Ⅱ’ moves at a different pace altogether, with an almost 70s funk feel, allowing Crowley’s sax to take centre stage with a potent energy. As the rhythm breaks down Crowley echoes much further back in the mix before Edwards’ double bass comes to the fore as the track fades out.

‘Alive Ⅴ’ at the extended ten minutes length gives a better impression of what the music is about. Ominous bowing by Edwards introduces some satisfying interplay between his bass and Crowley’s sax. The underlying structure makes this part of the recording easier on the ear than other parts of the album. De Rose increases the pace and intensity which gradually dismantles the hypnotic sax structure of the piece.

Finally, ‘Alive Ⅶ’ is pleasingly ambient, akin to a retro sci-fi movie soundtrack. Though brief at three and a half minutes it has some intriguing electronic texture.

Is there a contradiction at the heart of a recorded free jazz concert? Knowing what’s coming next in that moment of spontaneous creativity certainly changes the experience and provides a useful reference for posterity. I watched a performance on YouTube recorded earlier this month with the band performing as a trio, (minus sax). This twenty-five minute piece was also recorded at the Empire Bar. What’s missing from the album is the amazing visual spectacle and physicality of John Edwards’ bass playing, the drama of which draws attention to the stunningly agile interaction between him and De Rose. The fluidity of this performance somehow works better as an extended audio visual experience rather than the shorter excerpts on the album.

James Read

Live Dates at The Empire Bar, 291 Mare St, London E8 1EJ
11 March – Ruth Goller elec bass & FX / Tom Challenger saxophone / Dave De Rose drums
1 April – Tom Herbert elec bass & FX / Dan Nicholls synths, samples & FX / Dave De Rose drums
13 May – Colin Somervell double bass / George Crowley saxophone & FX / Dave De Rose drums
3 June – Dave Smith drums / Marius Mathiszik guitar, loops & FX / Dave De Rose bass & FX

Ross Alexander ‘Memorias Vol.2: High Atlas To The Sahara Desert’ LP (Discrepant) 5/5

Thick and feverish, poky and fraught, High Atlas To The Sahara Desert is a field recording fed synth walkabout that grabs so much of what I love from both worlds. As a bent-up, re-constituted aural travelogue, I couldn’t say whether it captures anything of the spirit of East Africa, as the press release (typically confident from Discrepant) outlines, but this blend of palettes, however, gets me right in the dystopian, wasteland-y feels.

High Atlas, across nine tracks, doesn’t shock or side-swipe you to create its tension. There isn’t that avant-slap-across-the-chops that some more careless cads can resort to. Like cheap jump scares. This has more in common with the ambient and the psychedelic. There are, indeed, a lot of layers going on, but there’s just enough to make it… whelming rather than overwhelming. In a more natural and normal description, it doesn’t swamp itself and it’s textured into a mire, but you’re kind of worried you might occasionally need to take in deeper breaths.

The elemental balance is satisfying, and not just the choice, but also the substitutions. What counts as the driving percussive force can shift from percussion to found sound parts. And there are these interstitial moments where the elements are processed to resemble neither. Almost every inglenook and cranny is filled with something, and the juxtaposition of the field recording to the processing treatments cracks open each part to reveal these great soundscapes.

The nadir of the record is “Homage To The Cause (One Night In Marrakesh)”, which is like a drum workshop that everyone else left except you and one other guy and he has the only drum but won’t let you leave without finishing a killer sudoku, made more difficult by the heat in the marquee generating sweat that drips in pregnant bulbs from your fusty brow onto the perplexing grid puzzle gripped in your nail-less fingers. There’s a great tension to it. Thank heck for the next track, “Uplands”, being a swelling, cosmic nap that helps you back down to something more serene and contemplative, rather than combative. But this is the sort of ride I can really get behind.

My personal favourite track is “Night Pass” which took me to a cyberpunk-y, futurist film-noir place. There’s a lot to drag from this record and it gives you a ton of options. There are threads to pull, angles to approach, bells and whistles, and as long as you have a bit of a dark-adventure sense of humour, you’ll probably fall out the back of it and want to dig out the previous volume of Alexander’s as I did.

Thomas Pooley-Tolkien-Sharpe

Web Web ‘Worshippers’ LP/CD (Compost) 5/5

A new album by Compost Records signee Web Web is always something to be excited about. This, their third in two and a half years contains the same line-up with Roberto Di Gioia playing piano, keys and percussion, Tony Lakatos on tenor saxophone and flute, Christian Von Kaphengst on bass and Peter Gall playing drums, and in addition for this album, cellist Boris Matchin and Stefan Pintev playing violin and viola. And finally, Berlin born songstress Joy Denalane appears as a featured vocalist on four of the thirteen compositions.

The record begins with ‘The Upper (Part 1 & 2)’ which immediately moves into spiritual jazz mode with its short vocal introduction from Joy before the piano, drums, bass and strings interchange. ‘Two Faces Lost’ again starts with vocals, but this time jazz poetry while the gliding flute lines float over the intoxicating rhythm track and persuasive piano of Di Gioia. ‘Warlock’ with its swirling 6/8 rhythm demonstrate Web Web’s ability to sound rich and textured without the need for a large ensemble of players.

‘Free A.M. (Part 1)’ is an unashamedly hard bop jam with some loose electric piano, free saxophone and additional sparse vocals in the background by way of large room reverb. The vocals here are somewhat reminiscent of mid-1970s Urszula Dudziak. ‘Paranormal Question’ is a tale of two halves, with the first section being string instruments only before the second half becomes quite funky with its ‘in the pocket’ drumming. With regards ‘What You Give’, the female vocals again are a wonderful touch with the track being the closest thing on the album to being a ‘jazz vocal’ number showing that Web Web can also compose as well as improvise, although, the vocals were still improvised. Pity, it’s only 2’13” though.

I would argue that ‘Free A.M. (Part 2)’ is the most free of all compositions on ‘Workshippers’, a modal exploration by way of electric piano, drums and sax with some bass in the background, although, it’s very much pushed into the distance. ‘Enchanted Realm’, a 5/4 composition is as enthralling as it is hypnotic and is another personal favourite. ‘Inner Revolution’ possesses an almost 4 Hero quality with its funk-jazz drumming combined with string parts a la Charles Stephney, while, the use of upright bass is front and centre on ‘Mystic Flowers’, a melodic piece that makes heavy use of violin via Bulgarian legend Stefan Pintev. The CD and digital versions contain the bonus track ‘Free A.M. (Part 3), but luckily it’s only 2’13” in length so not a great loss for the vinyl lovers.

On a side note, the use of extreme stereo placement is prevalent on the album with whole instruments panned to one side or another in many of the pieces, something you rarely hear on modern jazz records but which was commonplace in the late 1950s and ‘60s when stereo LPs first became popular. Most studio engineers of the time hadn’t quite worked out how to use this new system, and thus, many of our favourites from that time have quite drastic uses of stereo but it became a sonic characteristic of the genre which was replicated here to great effect.

It’s difficult not to love Web Web and their releases. Their creativity, musicianship and willingness to grow from one release to the next is to be commended. Joy Denalane’s vocals added a different dimension to this third album (maybe Doug and Jean Carne were a reference point) as did the featured vocals of Majid Bekkas on their second ‘Dance Of The Demons’ (2018). The title ‘Worshippers’ refers to the group’s admiration and respect for the legends of jazz and their music especially the spiritual spectrum of jazz, but this goes way beyond just being a straight-ahead tribute record.

‘Worshippers’ is more arranged and composed than say their debut ‘Oracle’ (2017), but Web Web seem to relish the challenge of evolving for each album by not repeating themselves – but ‘Worshippers’ is something special. We do not hide the fact that we are massive fans of Web Wed here at UK Vibe. Totally essential.

Damian Wilkes

Read also:
Web Web ‘Dance Of The Demons’ LP/CD (Compost) 5/5
Web Web ‘Oracle’ LP/CD (Compost) 5/5

Mezcla ‘Shoot The Moon’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

‘Shoot The Moon’ marks the debut recording by Glasgow-based outfit Mezcla now aptly aligned with the UK’s Ubuntu Music.

Headed up by bassist David Bowden, the project seeks to present the variety of styles and influences that have served as inspirations to him over the years – having studied jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Bowden also spent time studying in Amsterdam and Ghana and has since performed in venues and festivals across the UK and Europe including the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend and the 2018 London Jazz Festival.

It’s a real testament to the overall talent displayed throughout Mezcla’s ‘Shoot The Moon’ that a brief, in passing, encounter with Ubuntu Music’s Martin Hummel would quite quickly lead to the band signing with the label, home to such indelible talent like saxophonist Camilla George, pianist Andrew McCormack, trumpeter Quentin Collins and the newly-signed trumpeter James Copus.

‘Shoot The Moon’ is a project that finds itself very much at home amongst Ubuntu’s best and it’s incredibly easy to see why the label have greeted Mezcla with such enthusiasm – a contemporary jazz record that imaginatively intertwines elements of Latin as well as African rhythms over the course of the project’s nine tracks.

With Bowden naturally assuming bass duties throughout, the collective is further comprised of tenor saxophonist Michael Butcher, trumpeter Joshua Elcock, keys by Alan Benzie, guitarist Ben MacDonald, drummer Stephen Henderson and Steve Forman on percussion.

The album’s title track kicks off proceedings in incredibly vibrant fashion – the perfect introduction to the project’s cocktail of influences all seeming to burst out in ‘Shoot The Moon’. ‘Volta’ changes the album’s pace completely with its subtle build around the tag team of Forman’s percussion and Henderson’s drums before layering on Bowden’s bass then Benzie’s lush keys. It’s such a beautiful effect and song in general, exuding such warm textures that it really delivers the stand out number of the album. I could honestly listen to that opening minute and a half on a very long-running loop.

‘Dinosaur Jump’ again takes the energy into exciting and dynamic territory particularly in the song’s latter half which is a real joy; ‘Winter Walk’ and ‘Firefly’ deliver as further strong highlights – two songs that each take the time to deliver their own exquisite narratives before we arrive at the album closer, ‘Knockan Crag’, with its ethereal twists and turns delivered over its ten minute run time.

Expectations must have been high for Mezcla’s debut album after the attention they’ve garnered over the years so the exceptional quality of ‘Shoot The Moon’ must come with considerable pride for all involved.

Imran Mirza

Jan Garbarek / The Hilliard Ensemble ‘Remember Me, My Dear’ CD (ECM) 4/5

I’m feeling nostalgic. It’s the music. It takes us places, opens up long lost memories, brings home many journeys and reminds us of the people we met along the way. It’s been over 25 years since ECM’s owner, producer and driving force Manfred Eicher brought together jazz legend, saxophonist Jan Garbarek and choral group The Hilliard Ensemble. Their inaugural release “Officium” was an unexpected masterpiece, touching a large international audience and selling over a million copies in the process. “Something came into existence that was not there before” in the words of Jan Garbarek. A thousand concerts, many in churches, abbeys and sacred places ensued, along with further albums. Listening to “Remember me, my dear”, a live album recorded from their final tour at Chiesa della Collegiata dei Santi Pietro e Stefano in Bellinzona, in the Ticino canton of Switzerland, reminds me of how quickly the years have passed since “Officium” first entered our consciousness, and how sometimes when good things come to an end, it is important to reflect on the beauty that has been gifted us, in this case by these incredible musicians.

The range of music performed by Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble has inevitably broadened in scope over the years, and the music on this album expands things even further. The recording begins with a traditional Armenian piece, Garbarek’s soaring saxophone filling the natural space of its environment like a long-lost friend rekindling a beautiful friendship. The performance also includes contemporary music, including Arvo Part’s “Most Holy Mother of God” and two Garbarek compositions “We are the stars”, based upon Native American poetry, “Allting fins”, a particularly characterful setting of a poem by Swedish author Par Lagerkvist. Music from the 19th and 20th centuries is consummately integrated alongside 12th and 13th-century offerings. Time and place, however, seems totally insignificant when listening to the soul-searching of Garbarek’s saxophone resonating perfectly alongside the collectively haunting voices of The Hilliards. And that has always been the beauty of this distinctively unique ensemble. The music here flows effortlessly, like a bird gliding, dipping in and out of the clouds, sunshine occasionally glancing off its wings as it takes in its surroundings with a reflectively assured approach, lost in its own reverence on one final journey home.

“Remember me, my dear” embodies all the special attributes of this unique alliance between the Norwegian saxophonist and British vocal ensemble. It might not have the impact that the famous debut recording had all those years ago, but it is a timely reminder of the incomparable beauty that was given to the world by this wonderful collaboration.

Mike Gates

Astral Travelling Since 1993