Matt Ulery ‘Delicate Charms’ LP/CD (Woolgathering) 4/5

It’s always a pleasure to hear Matt Ulery’s and Greg Ward’s unique, innovative takes on jazz. “Delicate Charms” is bass player/composer Ulery’s 9th (!) album as bandleader and it brings him together with Ward (alto sax) plus old mates Zach Broch (violin), Rob Clearfield (piano) and Quin Kirchner (drums). A violin and alto attack, eh? Interesting sonic and emotional possibilities…

“Coping” is a +13 minute six-part suite, where the graceful, lyrical, swollen violin/alto harmonised melodies are sodden with emotion while its rhythmical changes guide us through a dramatic inner process of pain and reflection. No surprise when we understand that the piece was created over the course of a year during which Ulery’s close family members suffered health challenges. It’s a beautifully grand, mesmeric short story of solemnity and passion.

“The Effortless Enchantment” is an aptly titled romance that Ulery wrote for his parents’ 40th wedding anniversary vow renewal celebration. Soft-lensed, nuanced and celebratory, it glows with affection.

“Mellisonant” opens with an eye-wateringly wistful melody right out of a love-lost silent movie and then rolls into 3 more parts; all gentle, all captivatingly filmic. The interaction between Ward and Broch is magical – there’s no rush, there’s no egging-on as such just watchful empathy and understanding. They know where each other is, gently passing into the space ahead of them.

“The Air We Breath” is more urgent; tighter with a mildly claustrophobic tension which is occasionally breezed away but always returns, tightening chests. Clearfield and Kirchner boss this tighten-then-release dynamic, with Clearfield’s spiritual, free, caressing solo achieving peak calm.

“Taciturn” has a curt, rock energy. It broods where the rest of album candidly emotes. “October” is a rework of a track on Ulery’s second album. It has a suspicious, tango energy as if the dancing partners mistrust each other but are incapable of separating; their passion increasing as the piece intensifies before relaxing into a calm, shared post-coital smoke.

The final track, “Nerve”, opens with Clearfield taking us on an eyes-closed, journey of feel; delicate daydream showers. Brock and Ward then lift us with equal beauty but greater purpose before Ulery ruminates and communicates and the quintet fasten, grip and surge to an energised finale.

“Delicate Charms” is gorgeous. Ulery’s unique vision of subtle grandiosity is let fly. It is texturally layered and emotionally swollen yet maintains a refined elegance; dense yet crystal-clear. With each album, Ulery’s voice evolves and gains greater focus. Always a pleasure.

Ian Ward

Read also:
Matt Ulery ‘Sifting Stars’ LP/CD (Woolgathering) 3/5

Jim Beard / Jon Herington ‘Chunks and Chairknobs’ LP/CD (Jazzline) 3/5

Having shared countless hours together in the studio over the years playing on each other’s albums, it comes as no surprise that pianist Jim Beard and guitarist Jon Herington decided to record this intimate duo album. The two musicians have also performed together with the likes of Michael and Randy Brecker, Bill Evans and Bob Berg, though it is perhaps their shared involvement with Steely Dan for the past several years that has cemented their musical partnership more than ever before.

While the ultimate role model for guitar-piano duets would have to be Jim Hall and Bill Evans, Beard and Harrington take a different path, with the tunes presented here steering away from the traditional jazz mould towards a more all-encompassing fusion of blues, pop, jazz and funk.

Not surprisingly, given the duo’s musical experiences together, there is an organic, naturally intuitive feel to the music on this session. Regardless of style or genre, the duo are obviously very at ease with what they’re doing, making for an enjoyable listen throughout. The eight tunes are made up of an engaging mix of originals and covers, with just enough variation in the program to keep things interesting.

I do like the flirtatious element of some of this music, the sparkling “Gaucho” being a prime example with its bluesy Jarrett-esque piano chords punctuated by some fine blues-driven guitar playing. What’s interesting is how this duo manage to create little pastiches within the songs themselves, as with this tune where little parts sound like Metheny and Mays have effortlessly taken over the tune before returning to its original intent. Two exemplary pros like Beard and Herington are capable of changing styles at the drop of a hat, and to that end, there’s a good selection of pieces to listen to, from the gentle bossa nova infused “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”, to the old-time boogie-woogie of the foot-tapping title track. There’s no lack of creativity either, with the more reflective “Loose Blues” and the slightly melancholic yet rhythmically uplifting “Hand to Hand” being particular favourites of this listener.

“Chunks and Chairknobs” is an enjoyable album. Whilst one might argue a lack of depth or originality, there’s no argument with the music being expertly performed, as one might expect from these two seasoned pros. The duo’s obvious chemistry keeps the album ticking along nicely, with their wonderful interaction and interplay keeping the listener tuned-in to its intimacy and skilful subtleties.

Mike Gates

3TM ‘Abyss (A Prelude to Lake)’ LP/Cassette / ‘Lake’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 5/5

3TM’s 2017 album, ‘Form’, earned them jazz album of the year in their native Finland, it’s followed by a pair of records, Abyss and Lake. Abyss, released back in August by Helsinki’s We Jazz label is a series of richly immersive electronic abstractions consisting of waves, pulses and echoes which whet the appetite for the more recent November issue of Lake.

3TM are led by drummer and producer Teppo Mäkynen with Jussi Kannaste, tenor sax and Antti Lötjönen, bass. Mäkynen composed both albums, he describes the character of each record, “Lake is reflecting what is on the surface, a metaphor for concrete living things” and describes swimming in lakes during the summer in Finland, enjoying untamed nature but simultaneously fearing what could be concealed in the murky depths of the water.

He says Abyss, by contrast, is concerned with the subconscious and the soul, how we can’t really see and can only guess at what lies beneath the surface. Praise of nature is also an important theme and ambitiously the music is “dedicated to all things living and dying”.

Each album has a distinctly different character, the pure electronica of Abyss comes across as being more about mood and atmosphere, being totally submerged in water where sounds are distant and hard to decipher. Lake, on the other hand, has a more jazz orientated feel, the electronics discreetly woven in as the band bring focus by making concrete what was implicit on Abyss.

If listening to Abyss is swimming a length underwater, Lake is the moment you stick your head back up, when sound and vision are clear once more. I’ve selected six tracks from the album Lake to talk about.

The electronic waves from Abyss ripple their way through the album Lake but tend to be more of an undercurrent, occasionally rising to the surface. The first track is the brief ‘Seven Keys’, it begins with a simple keyboard motif repeated with accompanying sax and the inclusion of what can only be described as a sonar pulse. The atmosphere builds with string-like keyboard texture as the original motif fades leaving the sonar pulse as the only remaining sound.

Full immersion takes place on the second track ‘Lake’, it has a light feel initially, with Mäkynen offering some intricate brushwork interplay with the bass combined with sounds somewhere between the earlier sonar pulse and that of dripping water. There is also a distinct hint of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in the way an echo is used to fuse genres. An airy mood is emphasized with a keyboard melody, this gradually shifts into something akin to guitar feedback as Kannaste’s sax lets rip in a momentary ‘out there’ Coltrane mode. It all calms down as the bass returns to the original melody revealing once again the presence of the sonar pulse.

‘A Pile of Broken Dreams’ comes in with a marimba-like soundscape and washes of synth before settling into an analogue attitude reminiscent of late 60s Gary Burton. The sax returns with a mournful refrain pushing the vibes mood further back. It’s not long before a more contemporary feel is deftly layered into the mix and the keyboard once again has more prominence. With a sensation of returning to the shore we hear birdsong which appropriately leads to the next track ‘Woods’, there’s a fluid elasticity to the rhythm as Kannaste’s sax melody weaves its way over a more ominous undercurrent.

‘Suburban Portraits’ continues the genre-melding theme with a 90s electronica feel, think Air meets a Talk Talk or Mark Hollis tune. The sax, drum and bass eventually dance around the reprised sonar pulse, this then flows seamlessly into ‘Model Two’ where the acoustic instruments are set aside in favour of liquid atmospherics.

Lake is for me the more accessible of the two recordings but the more I listen to it, the more I want to go back and listen to Abyss, the pure abstractions of which seem to make more sense after becoming familiar with the album Lake. They are an intriguing and enigmatic pair of records which powerfully conjured plenty of visual imagery as I listened. If you get one, you’ll have to get the other.

James Read

Catherine Russell ‘Alone Together’ LP/CD (Dot Time) 4/5

Catherine Russell releases her brand new album, ‘Alone Together’, marking her first release through Dot Time Records, and her seventh solo album.

Much has been made of Russell’s lineage – and rightfully so – the daughter of vocalist and musician Carline Ray who held degrees from Juilliard as well as the Manhattan School of Music, and her father, Luis Russell, the pianist/composer who also served as Louis Armstrong’s musical director. But Russell’s path to solo success was still a lengthy one and while guesting as lead vocalist for the Earl May Quintet release ‘Live At Shanghai Jazz’ (2000), it still wasn’t until 2006’s ‘Cat’ (World Village) that Russell took centre stage. Prior to ‘Live At Shanghai Jazz’, Russell spent over twenty years providing backing vocals – in the studio and on stage – for renowned artists including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Steely Dan and David Bowie.

Now newly signed to Dot Time Records, the jazz, soul and world music label showcase a dynamic roster of contemporary artists from around the world. In the seven years since its inception, Dot Time can boast releases from US violinist Zach Brock, British vocalist Ola Onabule, Polish jazz from the Marcin Losik Trio amongst many others. The addition of Catherine Russell to their line-up certainly makes for a perfect combination – her now famed interpretations of jazz classics and standards has garnered such critical acclaim that ‘Alone Together’ can only come with high expectations attached.

With guesting horn players Evan Arntzen (saxophone), John Allred (trombone) and Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), ‘Alone Together’ features long-time collaborators making up the core band including guitarist and the project’s musical director Matt Munisteri (Holly Cole, Dan Levinson), pianist Mark Shane (Lars Erstrand, Molly Ryan), bass by Tal Ronen (Dani Benedict Trio, Melechet) and drummer Mark McLean (Jamie Cullum, George Michael).

Over the course of ‘Alone Together’, Catherine Russell breezes through these thirteen interpretations with the confidence and poise as if they were her own – soaring with the upbeat swing of ‘Errand Girl For Rhythm’ and the lush take on ‘How Deep Is The Ocean?’. Another notable highlight is the bluesy ‘When Did You Leave Heaven?’ featuring the perfectly understated use of the string section comprised of Dana Lyn, Eddy Malave and Marika Hughes, and the masterpiece that is ‘Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’, which I didn’t think I could appreciate as much when not being a serenade from the suave Tom Cat (from Tom & Jerry).

‘Alone Together’ proves to be a triumphant collaboration for the team of Dot Time and Catherine Russell and here’s to many more.

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Catherine Russell ‘Bring It Back’ CD (Jazz Village) 4/5

Quentin Collins Sextet ‘Road Warrior’ LP/CD (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

Chucho Valdes
‘Road Warrior’ is the latest album from the Quentin Collins Sextet and it’s a swinging sensation. Unflinching in confronting a larger Jazz format with a contemporary outlook; it’s soulful, suave and sophisticated. The album’s name is a result of trumpeter Quentin’s life as a touring musician with Kyle Eastwood’s band, along with his own project QC/BA (co-lead by the equally in-demand tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen). However, 2019 sees Quentin take the spotlight again with his first album as sole leader since 2007’s much-acclaimed debut release ‘If Not Now, Then When?’. For ‘Road Warrior’, Quentin had the music mixed by the composer, drummer and producer Troy Miller, who has worked with the likes of Laura Mvula, Gregory Porter and Amy Winehouse to name a few.

Quentin’s sizzling ensemble consists of Wynton Marsalis’ pianist Dan Nimmer, double bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Willie Jones III, tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson, alto saxophonist Meilana Gillard, and on two tracks Jean Toussaint appears on sax as well as producing the album.

It’s ambitious yet familiar on ‘Look Ahead (What Do You See)’ where a soulful Quincy Jones-type band sound skips along with joyful percussion and staccato horns. It may be distinct from the three opening tracks with their swinging Bebop sound, but it’s just as vibrant. On ‘The Hill’ the band zips along with a hint of Latin spice. It’s a simple track yet it swings with verve. Drummer and bassist lock in tight, giving space for Nimmer to lead the way with a gliding piano solo.
‘El Farolito’ is an energetic yet restrained composition; the chord changes are relaxed but the hectic tempo upheld by Willie Jones III gives enough authority to keep the others on their toes. Meilana’s fluid legato and sweeping arpeggios on alto ensure interest is carried through the improvised sections.
We see the sextet’s sentimental side on ‘Wider Horizons’; the mood is delicate as Willie’s soft cymbal tapping stitches together this ballad’s varied components. Quentin’s controlled melody has a mellowness to its tone, perhaps that of the flugelhorn – the similar instrument to the trumpet which Quentin also plays.
The album ends in a sultry fashion with ‘Oh! Look At Me Now’. This simmering, pleasingly seedy number plays out with a blues feel which grooves with zest. The use of sax and trumpet as respondents to one another helps the tune spark a humorous narrative.

Fred Neighbour

Selma Juudit Alessandra ‘Rubicon Songs’ CD (Self-released) 4/5

Rubicon Songs is the debut album of Selma Juudit Alessandra, a four-piece group based in Helsinki led by composer and singer Selma Savolainen. The group describes the sound they produce as ‘nostalgic and experimental indie-hybrid’. It’s going to be a nightmare for the record shop owner who likes to display his wares by genre but what does it mean? For a start, I can happily report that the music bears no resemblance to Oasis and their ilk! The rhythm section is jazzy and includes double bass. Synthesiser keyboards and voices dominate the ethereal sound with references to the 1980s and hints of prog and folk.

The sombre, crystalline “Rubicon Song” introduces the album with the muted voice intertwining with the swirling synths. The songs build to grandeur as the muscular rhythm section slowly asserts itself. I detect elements of folky progressive rock here. The uptempo “Spineless” follows with grinding distorted double bass. The dance-y feel abruptly cuts into a syncopated disjointed chorus which I find a little jarring. On “Spring Song”, voice and synth noodling wander on the ether. It’s reminiscent of 80s dream pop, partly because of their use of contemporary synthesisers.

Drums burst through on the sublime “Miles Apart” with Drum & Bass style broken beat patterns, though set low in the mix to emphasise the track’s ethereal sound. It’s the stand out track on this release. Some more exciting drumming on “Spook Hour” accompanied by bowed bass as its claustrophobic repetitive synth hook takes hold. The balladic, haunting “Metro” follows, featuring a melancholic Rhodes piano solo. The more uptempo “Request Song” is not so subtle. It lacks the precision of the other tunes and grates a little after a few hearings. The smooth “Stray” has a folky feel and is gentle and moving. Especially enjoyable is the vocal harmonising towards the end of this song. The beautiful dense sweep of soaring vocals and layers of keyboards on “Back Here” completes the album.

This album explores deep experiences such as grief, so the music, as you’d expect, is mostly solemn. It is more successful where the songs are slow-paced and moody. Unfortunately, the more uptempo tracks feel a little forced and are less convincing but overall this is an accomplished and skilled first outing for the band. And it does sound impressive, as the use of retro synths and the layered vocals blend well with the aggressive, (largely) acoustic rhythm section. When listening, there are echoes of the past but primarily this music is forward-looking. So I guess that’s what it means.

Kevin Ward

Roland Johnson ‘Set Your Mind Free’ LP/CD (Blue Lotus Recordings) 4/5

Well, it’s been a long time Roland, October 2016 to be exact, yep it’s that long ago since I reviewed your first long-player, “Imagine This”, in which that deep soul masterpiece “Ain’t That Loving You” still gets frequent plays here. I didn’t have a clue that this was out, UK collector/DJ Cliff Steele announced its arrival in vinyl format on the dreaded FB, so, vinyl ordered and eagerly anticipated I contacted Blue Lotus direct and in no time at all, a digital copy was in my sweaty mitts. The wait was worth it, it’s a cracking album with something for every soul fan, one small gripe there isn’t an out and out weeper on here but fret not, vocally he’s in great form and in many ways this album leaves off where “Imagine This” ended. Musically it’s exciting to hear a southern soul man backed by 14 musicians which include a small string section. I’m assuming it was recorded at Blue Lotus Studios in St Louise. Of course, we were all enthralled by another Blue Lotus set, 2017’s Gene Jackson “1963” which still gets aired here too.

And so this ten-track album, kicking off with the storming title track, “Set Your Mind Free”, it’s relentless, set at the right pace, I can see this lighting up a few dancefloors, especially with the vinyl format being available. It has a nagging familiar riff, easy on the feet and ears. The track for me though is “Still Here” – think the James Hunter Six and you’re in the right territory – it has also got a sneaky subtle Jamaican feel to it, those stabbing horns are straight out of Kingston’s Studio 1, he’s joined by a fine female voice in Emily Wallace, crystal clear in tone and is the perfect foil for Roland, utterly fabulous in every way. The swaying “Now You’re Gone” drops the pace and morphs into a fine ballad, bathed in strings and a simple tap on the drum rim for company, there’s a subtle bass well down in the mix which builds to a crescendo and then drops back, complete with a sax solo, this really is lovely tune. The often recorded “You’re My Best Friend” is another easy on the ear stroller which sits on here without offending anyone. “Push & Move” is a duet with the aforementioned Gene Jackson, it has an insidious groove which will take you over, so try and keep still to this, an impossible task. The closer, “Mean Mistreatin”, is a bluesy strutter with guitar out front, and what sounds like a double bass stamping its authority throughout, it’s sparse, black, gritty and I love it. Not a million miles away from what Mavis Staples is doing now and another personal fave is the Dixie inspired romp, “You Know You’re Mine”, where Emily pops up again, her voice fits this genre perfectly, the manic sax solo just adds to this romping brew.

The other tracks just add to the overall quality of this album and I can’t recommend it enough. A long list of musicians bring much to the album, and we thank you all. Track this down in whatever format you’re happy with, this is another stunning heartwarming set. Thank you again.

Brian Goucher

Read also:
Roland Johnson ‘Imagine This’ CD (Blue Lotus Recordings) 4/5

Santiago Bosch ‘Galactic Warrior’ CD (Self-released) 4/5

Santiago Bosch releases his sophomore album ‘Galactic Warrior’ which serves as a marked return to the forefront for the multi-faceted pianist.

Following eight years since Bosch’s well-received debut release ‘Guaro Report’, the native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, who boasts the distinction of being a Berklee graduate and son of saxophonist Jaime Bosch, has become a live music staple having performed at festivals the world over including Puerto Rico’s Music Conservatory Jazz Festival, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, Colombia’s Barranquilla Jazz Festival, as well as hosting a residency at New York City’s 55 Bar with guitarist Tim Miller.

Even without being told directly, the fact that thematically Bosch has strived to emulate the soundtrack to a video game would in complete honesty leap out at you – with song titles like ‘Level 8’, ‘Main Menu’ and ‘Finding Your Way Out’, and compositions which, at times, emulate the fervent and desperate pace of a hero committed to the fulfilment of his quest like those enshrined within an early-1990’s Sega Mega Drive classic like Shinobi or Golden Axe. But the fact that this aesthetic is still presented as a contemporary jazz record is, well, intriguing to say the absolute least.

Joining Santiago Bosch on his own quest are an accomplished array of musicians including the aforementioned Tim Miller, saxophonists Tucker Antell (Myele Manzanza, Saucy Lady) and George Garzone (Magnus Bakken, Joe Lovano), electric bassist Dany Anka (the only returning member of Bosch’s ‘Guaro Report’ debut), drummer Juan Ale Saenz (Adrián Escamilla Quartet), trumpeter Darren Barrett (Roy Hargrove, Esperanza Spalding), with laouto by Vasilis Kostas (Hago) and upright bass by Jared Henderson, which leaves Bosch the duties of handling the Fender Rhodes, synthesizers, acoustic piano and all production.

The real strength and charm in ‘Galactic Warrior’ comes from the versatility of Bosch’s compositions – the skill that Bosch demonstrates as he interweaves incredibly subtle themes of electronica into the arrangements is near masterful. And while, yes, the idea of this album being presented as the soundtrack to a video game adds a genuinely exciting dimension to the whole package, there are also songs that listeners will connect with on entirely different dimensions – like the jazz-funk of ‘Perspectives’ and ‘Transition’, or the introspective nature of ‘Questions’. ‘Persecution’ is another notable mention as, over the course of nearly seven minutes, this overwhelming cacophony of sounds transports you through this surreal cosmic nightmare that you ultimately realise is best appreciated when you just give yourself over to it.

Santiago Bosch has delivered an inspired project with ‘Galactic Warrior’ and hopefully one that will receive a follow-up in fewer than another eight years.

Imran Mirza

Kit Downes ‘Dreamlife of Debris’ LP/CD (ECM) 5/5

“Dreamlife of Debris” is pianist/organist/composer Kit Downes’ second release for the ECM label, extending and developing further the core ideas heard on his first recording “Obsidian”. This new release benefits from music performed in a much wider context, featuring long-time collaborators saxophonist Tom Challenger, cellist Lucy Railton and drummer Seb Rochford. There’s also a first musical encounter with Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus.

The album is drawn from sessions recorded at two UK locations – the 13th century church of St John the Baptist in the village of Snape in the Suffolk countryside and St Paul’s Hall (a converted 19th century church) at Huddersfield University – where the musicians arrived to variously interact with Downes. The instrumentalists meet – as Downes puts it – “in a space with no singular character”, with a dream-like ambience being created through overdubs and collage. Although the players do not come together as an ensemble, their appearance as individuals in changing constellations influences the direction of the shape-shifting music triggered by Downes’s improvising, arranging and composing.

The intuitive, effortlessly ethereal understanding between Downes and saxophonist Challenger is built on years of performing and recording together, and it shows. When two musicians of this calibre share the same wavelength at an identical moment in time, the results, as heard here, are quite simply stunning. Downes and Challenger had maintained an organ/sax duo for eight years prior to this recording, yet it is the introduction of piano from Downes that brings a new light and breath of fresh air to the session. The bright opening section of “Sculptor”, the first track here, rings the changes, with alert sparkling piano gradually dissolving into organ drones. Downes’ intelligent use of piano and organ works wonderfully, with a deft touch from the composer skilfully weaving the two instruments’ different sounds into a thoughtful, elegant tapestry of sound.

Each tune develops into its own journey, with time and space for us to take in the beauty that surrounds us. I’m also taken by Downes’ ability to surprise the listener, as on the ambitious “Bodes”, with its stark, bereft, industrial soundscape, and the closing piece “Blackeye” which features an energised Seb Rochford.

There are moments of absolute bliss as Downes and Challenger touch the soul on the mournful yet sublime “Twin”. Downes’ flexibility with, and vast understanding of the sounds that can be nurtured from the organ cannot be underestimated. “Sunflower” is the perfect example of this, as he conjures ideas and sounds that are at once other-worldly and yet somehow still grounded in earthly tradition.

The music on “Dreamlife of Debris” has a timeless quality to it that is a rare gift. Immerse yourself in it and you will be carried away by its beauty. It has intrigue, it has depth, it has wonder. It is unique – even for an ECM release.

Kit Downes and co are promoting the album with the following UK dates:
MAC Theatre, Birmingham (December 5)
Anteros Arts, Norwich (December 6)
King’s Place, London (December 7)

Mike Gates

Read also:
Kit Downes ‘Obsidian’ LP/CD (ECM) 3/5
Kit Downes and Tom Challenger ‘Vyamanikal’ CD (Slip) 4/5
Kit Downes Trio ‘Quiet Tiger’ CD (Basho) 4/5

Muriel Grossmann ‘Reverence’ 2LP (RR GEMS) 5/5

I’m going to cut to the chase, I love this record. Last year Golden Rule blew me away and I really feared that Muriel and her quartet wouldn’t be able to top it. But I’m delighted to report I was wrong. It’s a joy and a privilege to hear such a wonderful album. If Golden Rule was permeated with the spirit of John Coltrane then ‘Reverence’ which with its swirling organs, gorgeous strings, and Radomir Milojkovic’s driving guitar is exploring the paths first travelled by Alice Coltrane, Miles electric bands and Larry Young. It is powerful, insistent, creative and joyous music anchored by an amazingly tight rhythm section that grooves like hell.

‘Reverence’ is a record that consistently and respectfully draws on Africa influences to create wonderful, memorable, multi-layered, original and exuberant tunes. ‘Water Bowl’ is a bass-heavy afro-beat shuffle punctuated by some deep and funky solos with Barcelo’s staccato organ coming over like James Brown in the Africa 70. On album opener, ‘Okan Ti Aye’, a Yoruba phrase meaning Heart of the World, Gina Schwarz, and drummer Uros Stamenkovic create a cacophony of bass-led percussion, while Milojkovic and Grossman fiercely ride the changes.

Grossman has a wonderfully warm and rich sound and uses it to great effect on ‘Union’. Her soprano dances over the sonic excursions of Llorenç Barceló on Hammond and that super tight rhythm section, which is augmented by an array of drones, string and percussion instruments, creating a pulsing and beautiful polyrhythmic tune which acknowledges and pays tribute to the African roots and legacy of jazz.

‘Chase’ starts with the sumptuous interplay between drums and saxophone before settling into another intense percussive groove Grossman’s solos are 100 miles an hour, exciting and exploratory and gloriously powerful, a musician confident in her own sound and ready to share it with the world.

‘Sundown’ is a wonderous and peaceful, spiritual meditation with strings and keys creating the perfect atmosphere for Grossmann’s beautifully melodic solos and it is one of many highlights on an outstanding record. Another highlight is the bass of Gina Schwarz. Her introduction to ‘Tribu’ is stunning, as are the exchanges between Hammond and Horn and throughout the record she is the potent and concentrated rhythmic pulse, creating a solid and yet creative canvas for the vibrant and resonant explorations of the rest of the group.

The core of this band has been together for nearly four years and you can hear that this in their playing. Radomir Milojkovic’s guitar gives the group a unique and distinct sound, his solos on ‘Afrika Mahala’ take the instrument into new worlds. Llorenç Barceló’s organ is a revelation as far away from the sixties soul-jazz trios as you could imagine but still evoking that richly sonorous, joyful and spiritual sound of Sun Ra and those later Blue Note sides by Larry Young.

The final track ‘Morning’ epitomises the whole record, with marimbas, strings, shakers and whistles setting the tone for a gloriously searching and celebratory tune that captures the sound of a group that is still growing, evolving, experimenting and surging towards its creative peak.

Nick Schlittner

Read also:
Muriel Grossmann ‘Golden Rule’ 2LP (RRGems) 5/5
Muriel Grossmann 2019 interview