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

Evritiki Zygia ‘Ormenion’ LP/CD (Teranga Beat) 4/5

Modern Thrace straddles Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Ormenion, after which this album is named, is the northern-most region in Greece. Next train stop is Bulgaria though it’s actually the meeting point of all three nations and as such, has been the focal point of migration and cultural exchange. This exchange appears to be the theme of this outstanding release.

Evritiki Zygia is a five piece folk group, formed with a mission to preserve musical traditions from the region, mainly performing local festivals and other occasions. Their main traditional instruments of kaval (a type of flute), lyre, bagpipe and davul (drum) are augmented by retro electronic keys and effects.

And keys introduce the album opener, “Fog”, then gently accompanied by kaval and the others. A theme is soon established and it’s all very pleasant but not surprising. However, after a couple of minutes, the intensity is ramped up as deep fuzzy electronic bass and percussion is pushed to the front of the mix; low feedbacky sounds duel with frantic kaval. It’s immediately clear that preserving musical traditions doesn’t preclude exciting experimentation.

Bagpipes introduce the tune for “Maritsa”, the Bulgarian name for the river Evros, emphasising how their culture transcends borders. Later as the percussion pounds out the rhythm, improvised parts and individual solos merge with electronic effects.

The sleeve notes inform me that “5 nights” is a traditional love song but the brief percussive introduction is actually vaguely reminiscent of electronica pioneers, Suicide. The electronic bass is persistent throughout the track which is not what you’d necessarily expect but I feel it highlights rather than detracts from the traditional instruments (especially lyre and kaval here) and voice.

Another traditional, “Karsilamas” is smoother as the some of harsh electronic sounds are reined in. Although the earlier tracks are enjoyable and exciting, it’s also pleasing to hear more subtle sonic textures. The mournful sound of the bagpipe takes the lead for “Ormenion”. The percussion kicks off the rest of the band and each take an uptempo solo.

An ancient ritual is invoked for “Anastenariko (Firewalking Dance)” with the frenzied bowing of the lyre, the insistent drum, the repetitive vocal and the space-rock-like electronic swirling. The closer, “The Sun is Setting”, is a joyous and energetic wall of sound as the rhythms and melodies weave and jostle.

This is not music for reflection and quiet contemplation, it’s dynamic, zestful and celebratory. This is an album of paradoxes. It preserves traditional music and instrumentation but is also progressive and open. It is tied to the land it comes from but accepts and welcomes influences from outside. This is essential to its success (and it is successful!), the music feels vibrant and modern while retaining the primal essence of the culture. Rooted to the past but not restrained by it.

Kevin Ward

Eivind Aarset / Jan Bang ‘Snow Catches on her Eyelashes’ LP/CD (Jazzland Recordings) 5/5

Listeners familiar with the music of Eivind Aarset (guitars, bass, electronics) and Jan Bang (programming, samples, editing) will have a good idea of what to expect from this album. Although the two musicians have collaborated since the early ’90s, featuring with artists such as Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft, Sly & Robbie and Jan Hassell, this is, in fact, their first recording together as a duo. Based on a live concept that emerged in the wake of Aarset’s excellent 2012 ECM release Dream Logic, which was produced by Bang, the roots for the music performed here can clearly be heard.

Ambient music is like any other genre, in that there can be good, bad and indifferent moments in time, punctuated by a piece of pure genius that takes the imagination on a timeless, wonderful journey. “Snow catches on her eyelashes” is overflowing with such beauty. Aarset and Bang have long been masters in this field of music, but on this album, it all comes together seamlessly in a sublime and emotively engaging journey of atmospheric sound.

Our lesson in musical craftsmanship begins with Purplebright, a slowly looping distant memory that sets the tone for the whole album. Asphalt Lake and Outer Sphere are two tracks that take me back to the Metheny/Mays masterpiece As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls. The music I’m listening to here could easily be a natural successor to that classic piece. Before The Wedding is more like an ode to sorrow… maybe it is, who knows… it is, however, one of the most emotively beautiful pieces of music I could hope to hear. Heartbreaking yet deeply uplifting, Two Days In June is reminiscent of a classic Eno track, with its simple yet spellbinding melodies cascading gently against a summer breeze. Whilst Witness has more of a retro 80’s feel to it, Inner Sphere is more 90s with its industrial soundscape sounding like something from a David Lynch movie. The atmosphere on Serenade is again cinematic in scope, yet achingly beautiful, more like a memory that brings forth an unnerving emotional response. The intense nature of Monochrome leads the listener into the final track Night Spell, a piece that completes the album’s cycle of sound perfectly, taking us back the beginning.

The skill with which Aarset and Bang have lovingly created, crafted and performed this music blows my mind. It’s like dreaming in slow motion, like teardrops touching a loved one’s cheek, and indeed, like snow catching on her eyelashes. It is beautiful, timeless and incredibly touching. Deeply rewarding music.

Mike Gates

Both Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset will be appearing as part of Punkt Birmingham which takes place 18-20 March 2020 at Royal BIRMINGHAM Conservatoire. Jan will be a very special guest with Birmingham based trio stillefelt (Percy Pursglove, Thomas Seminar Ford and Chris Mapp). Eivind will be remixing Trish Clowes and Louise McMonagle. Jan and Erik will also appear together in The Height Of The Reeds performance on the final night. Tickets and more information can be found here

Wednesday 18th March
Remixing The Festival Symposium (16:00)
Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Tony Dudley-Evans, Sarah Farmer and Fiona Talkington discuss the future of festivals

Thursday 19th March
Trish Clowes and Louise McMonagle (21:30)
Remix by Erik Honoré, Arve Henriksen and Eivind Aarset

stillefelt with Jan Bang (20:00)
Remix by RBC and UOA students

Friday 20th March
The Height Of The Reeds (21:30)
Remix by Annie Mahtani and Chris Mapp

Thallein Ensemble plays Maja S.K.Ratkje (20:00)
Remix by Andrew Woodhead and Mark Sanders Punkt Birmingham concerts will be introduced by Fiona Talkington

Tickets// £15 one day // £25 both days // Symposium is free entry

The Devonns ‘The Devonns’ LP/CD (Record Kicks) 5/5

From the moment the utterly glorious 45 landed from this lot I was totally hooked, “Come Back” & “Think I’m falling in love” have been played continuously here, “Come back” is a swaying stepper” whilst “Falling” sits firmly in the crossover soul camp with its insidious strolling tempo. I’ll be honest; I did wonder whether the album would surface anytime soon, as initially, I thought that these were unissued tracks, but on discovering they were recorded at Kingsize Sound Lab, Chicago – which is a modern-day working studio – I was hopeful it was all new material, and so, here we have an album.

WOW! If you only buy one more album this year, do make sure it’s this one. Ten tracks of subtle soulful beauty, with all leads handled by Mat with the exception of “Green Light”, where Jamie Lidell steps in – the man who’s 2008 album for Warp Records contains the stunning flowing modern soul dancer “Another Day”, which also contained the original version of “Green Light” which is covered on here, with Jamie on lead. The band draws its influences from the likes of The Dramatics, The Isley Brothers, Leroy Hutson, Jamie Lidell (of course) and Raphael Saadiq.

Mat Ajjarapu explains:

“The city was at the epicentre of a lot of good music back in the ’50s all the way to the ’80s, a lot of the labels specialising in soul were based in the Chicago and we even had our own sound known as “Chicago soul”. Through several years of crate-digging it surprised me how many songs I loved were recorded in this city, for example, one of my favourites is this great little song by The Natural Four, produced by Leroy Hutson ‘Can This Be Real’, and released via Curtom Records. […] This is a definitely a throwback soul record, as well as being drawn to lush and intricate arrangements of Motown, I was also inspired by the more lo-fi works of smaller labels such as Chess and Capsoul, and I wanted to capture the magic they had in those recordings in our record, as everything feels too precise nowadays”

The group consist of Mat who is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Khaiyle Hagood on Bass, Ari Lindo – Guitar, Khori Wilson – Drums, these guys were eventually joined by percussionist, organist and guitarist of some note, Ken Stringfellow. For this album, the group were joined by arranger and conductor Paul Von Mertens who has worked with the likes of Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney and Elton John. It’s Paul’s strings that caress and comfort the whole beautiful sound. The album took some 19 months to complete and the perfectionism shines. Coming from someone who has been collecting soul music in all guises for 53 years, owning the entire Capsoul output and the vast majority of Chess and its affiliated labels, and grew up listening to Motown first hand, I’m confident in claiming that this album bears all the soulful hallmarks of those influences and foundations.

Let’s kick off with the strolling big bass sound of “Tell Me”, which is an absolute joy to dance to and dare I say a direct comparison with Raphaal Saadiq’s “Love That Girl” from 2008, which got some serious plays at the more enlightened soul gatherings over here in the UK. “Tell Me” will be the first single from the album released as a limited edition 45 early next month. Leroy Hutson’s “So In Love With You” has been elevated in the UK to grail status due to countless plays at the burgeoning Sunday Soul Sessions that now flourish across the UK, with The Devonns offering up their take on this release, and it’s a totally addictive tune too – my replay button has been seriously active. The real grower on here is “Blood Red Blues”, a meandering string-laden protest song asking the age-old question “How long must we wait for justice to be done”. The uptempo “More” should get plays on modern soul floors, strings abound, driving percussion, guitar trying to get in on the act and pumping bass – I would suggest our European friends may well take this one to there hearts… “I know” is a beautiful simple lowrider, with haunting organ, creeping strings and sympathetic percussion driven by some truly fine vocals. Folks, if this album breaks out over here, this will be the soul radio play for everyone, just stunning. And as we mentioned “Green Light” earlier, well on here it’s a flowing mid-tempo dancer that should garner some attention with Jamie sounding quite superb indeed.

The remaining track are all worthy additions. Ten very strong tracks and I can see this celebrated in the end of year lists for many a soul fan on these shores. Available in all formats from the 3rd April, however, their Bandcamp page notes only 25 Limited Edition vinyl packs up for pre-order, which includes two 45s – Well, I guess there’s now only 24!

Brian Goucher

Max Light Trio ‘Herplusme’ CD (Red Piano) 4/5

Max Light, originally from Washington DC and now resident New Yorker, is a guitarist who sits comfortably alongside contemporaries such as Julian Lage, Lage Lund and Rotem Sivan. In a similar way, it is this new release from the guitarist that showcases his writing and performing skills in a nicely rounded trio package. Matt Honer on drums and Simón Wilson on bass complete the threesome and together they perform eight original compositions, all of which are fairly short, yet concentrated and playful.

Light won second place in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition and has performed with the likes of Donny McCaslin, Jason Palmer, Noah Preminger and Walter Smith III. “Herplusme” gives the guitarist an excellent platform to showcase his talents and with superb interaction and support from Honer and Wilson, the trio work intuitively well together, performing well and showing great promise throughout this recording.

The session is pretty much what one might expect to hear from a guitar-led contemporary jazz trio, and there are some lovely little touches and exquisite interplay highlighting the best elements of a trio at work. The opening track “Boy” shows an edgy originality to this trio that I really like, with its exploratory bass and drums the perfect accompaniment to Light’s inventive playing. The fiery “Overcooked” embraces an adventurous essence that spirals through different cycles of beat and tempo. The balled “Pumpkin Pie” is a slow-burner of a track that gradually draws the listener into its unexpected eloquence. The exploratory “Dog” highlights this trio at their most original, a driving force that confidently takes on the jazz idiom with a refreshing style and panache. I love the way that “Baby’s Hard Times” grows from birth to adulthood in the space of a few minutes, rising up with emotion and vulnerability. Whilst “The Things You” is a pretty straight-ahead jazz standard type piece, “Bagel” is anything but, with its wonderful bittersweet resonance. The final number “Dennisport” is a complex chordal piece reminiscent of a young Pat Metheny and finishes the album off in style.

“Herplusme” is well worth checking out, especially if you’re into your jazz guitar trios. I would expect there’s a lot more to come from Max Light, let’s hope so!

Mike Gates

Keith Jarrett ‘Munich 2016’ 2LP/2CD (ECM) 5/5

A solo concert recording from pianist Keith Jarrett is always something exciting to anticipate, and this latest recording, from Munich’s Philharmonic Hall on July 16th, 2016, doesn’t disappoint. Jarrett’s solo performances form a unique and continually evolving body of work. An extraordinary musical journey that can be traced back to 1973’s “Solo Concerts Bremen- Lausanne”, with high points that include the now famous “The Koln Concert”, the inspirational “Sun Bear Concerts”, and wonderful “Paris Concert”, “Vienna Concert” et al, it is incredible to think that Jarrett is still capable of improvising at such a high level, and “Munich 2016” gifts the world with some startlingly beautiful and original music, adding yet more weight to the many decades of sensationally inventive music the pianist has produced.

The shape of Jarrett’s individual concerts has been transformed, the large arc of the early concerts, with unbroken improvisations spanning an entire set, giving way to performances made up of discrete, tightly focussed spontaneous compositions. Since Jarrett embarked on this quest the number of solo improvisers has multiplied exponentially yet his sense for developing motifs and melodies remains unparalleled. “Munich 2016” is something of a hybrid performance, taking the listener on a journey back in time to the earlier free-flowing lyricism of The Koln Concert, through to a more classical leaning, and a growing maturity that was to be heard on Vienna Concert, and into a new dawn of playfulness.

The first cd covers Parts 1 to 7 of the concert. Whilst Part 1 is a typically challenging Jarrett piece, Parts 2 to 7 feature some of the most melodically accessible and beautifully crafted music that Jarrett has performed in years. The stunning elegance of each piece he performs is matched by its purity and originality. From deep bluesy foot-tapping joyfulness to some of the most achingly, heart-wrenchingly beautiful music you will ever hear. As with much of Jarrett’s best offerings, the yearning melancholia is wonderfully and intuitively mixed with fresh hope and a sense of an ultimately uplifting essence, resulting in a life-affirming musical listening experience.

Cd 2 delivers Parts 8 to 12, along with 3 encore pieces. Continuing in the same vein as the first half the concert, Jarrett is in fine fettle, creating little passages of heartbreakingly gorgeous melodies combined with longer, repeating motifs that twist and turn as only Jarrett could make them do. Genius is not a word that should be used unless truly warranted, but yet again there is no better word to describe this musical innovator. One thing that Jarrett has become even more well known for over the years is his encores. The 3 encore tunes here remind us why. “Answer me, my love” takes me away on its warm-hearted journey of love and affection, and “It’s a lonesome old town” is darkly romantic with its blues-tinged melody tugging at the heartstrings, joyously bitter-sweet. It is though, perhaps Jarrett’s most defining piece that steals the show, as it has done on several occasions over the years, with another spellbinding performance of “Somewhere over the rainbow”.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Birthday profile: KEITH JARRETT AT 70 (including 10 Best Album Picks)
Keith Jarrett ‘A Multitude of Angels’ 4CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett ‘Creation’ CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden ‘Last Dance’ CD/2LP (ECM) 5/5
Keith Jarrett and Michelle Makarski ‘J.S. Bach Six sonatas for piano and violin’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5
Keith Jarrett Trio ‘Somewhere’ CD (ECM) 5/5
Keith Jarrett ‘Sleeper’ 2CD (ECM) 4/5

Julia Biel ‘Black and White Vol.1’ LP/CD (Rokit) 5/5

The immeasurably talented Julia Biel unveils her brand new, and incredibly personal, project ‘Black and White, Volume 1’.

Having established herself as something of a celebrated and leading indie jazz champion, Biel’s fourth album release sees her music presented within a more stripped down and intimate setting pairing her unmistakable vocal with the black and white keys of a piano over the course of eleven songs. Dipping into tracks from her previous releases, the project provides an exciting new dimension to past gems including ‘The Wilderness’ and ‘Diamond Dust’ from ‘Julia Biel’ (2018), ‘Little Girl’ from ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ (2015) and ‘Shhh…’ from ‘Not Alone’ (2011).

And hers is a stunning catalogue to dip into. Having won the Perrier Vocalist of the Year Award in 2000, Julia Biel went on to unveil her first full-length in 2005 with the album ‘Not Alone’ (co-written with Oriole’s Jonny Philips) which subsequently went on to see her nominated for the Rising Star award in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2006. Now paired with long-time collaborator, and partner, producer and bassist Idris Rahman, ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ and the self-titled album followed in 2015 and 2018, respectively, solidifying Biel’s unending talents as a vocalist, songwriter, producer and musician, and her dynamic, all-encompassing approach to jazz.

New Julia Biel projects will always be cause for celebration. Any listener fortunate enough to have caught either of her last three albums will attest to the devotion she has for her craft – an inimitable and exquisite vocal coupled with intricate penmanship that can be as sharp and cutting (‘You Could Turn a Rainbow Grey’) as it can be warm and affectionate; tagging that to a seasoned live performer who always delivers an always impassioned set and it all contributes to a sincere and fairly remarkable artist. And one never afraid to try new things – as well as past collaborations with Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watts, Hidden Orchestra, Oriole, Lautrec and of course as the long-standing vocalist for reggae/afrobeat collective, Soothsayers, there was also the release of the ‘Licence to be Cruel’ remix EP back in 2015 which opened the door to past recordings being taken in completely new directions at the hands of electronic and dance producers including Son Lux, Wu-Lu, Other Worlds, Triptyc and Yes King.

‘Black and White’ may perhaps not be as drastic a change of pace as ‘Licence to be Cruel’ but certainly proves to be an incredibly bold step when considering the deconstruction of some of these songs – the ethereal quality of ‘Say It Out Loud’ translates beautifully as does ‘Little Girl’ which, originally housed on ‘Love Letters and Other Missiles’ as a guitar-heavy dalliance into Nigel Godric and Radiohead territory, further proves to be a testament to Biel’s abilities as even through just her vocal and the keys at her fingers, she manages to hold on to the song’s brash energy.

Since delving into this project, there’s a quote from Nina Simone that has really resonated with me when weighing up the very nature of ‘Black and White’ and the inspiration behind the project: “Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument? That it has notes no other instrument has? It’s like being between the keys of a piano. The notes are there, you can sing them, but they can’t be found on any instrument. That’s like me. I live in between this. I live in both worlds, the black and white world.”

Imran Mirza

LIVE DATES:

Mar 26 – Streatham Space Project London, UK
Apr 24 – Kulturzentrum Schlachthof Bremen, Germany