Alina Bzhezhinska ‘Inspiration’ LP/CD/DIG (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

Is the authentic and real inheritor of the spiritual jazz sound of Alice and John Coltrane actually to be found in Los Angeles or London? The question is worth posing when one listens to a promising new instrumental voice, namely that of harpist Alina Bzhezhinska whose own roots lie in both Poland and the Ukraine, but who has now made London her place of work and play. It is both the meditative and reflective side of the Coltrane couple that is emphasized here, although the leader is no mere imitator and offers up her own enticing compositions, which have a strong percussive flavour to them. The genesis of this project is a tenth anniversary commemoration of the passing of Alice Coltrane in 2007 and the fiftieth anniversary of her husband, John Coltrane’s death in 1967. Aiding Bzhezhinska in this endeavour are soprano and alto saxophonist Tony Kofi, double bassist Larry Bartley and drum/percussionist Joel Prime. In fact, Alina Bzhezhinska is a classically trained harpist who has since branched out into fusion with jazz and has worked, among others, with Shabaka Hutchings and the Glasgow String Quartet. Moreover, in more intimate musical surroundings, the harpist has also collaborated with vocalist Nikki King.

A real favourite is one of her own pieces, ‘Winter Moods’, which has a modal bass line, with a metronomic harp motif over which the harpist herself improvises, while there is deft work on percussion from Prime, whilst ‘Spero’ is another quality self-penned number. Naturally, some of Alice Coltrane’s own compositions are fertile terrain for covering and ‘Blue Nile’ receives a wonderfully spiritual reading with restrained soprano saxophone from Kofi and fine work in tandem from bass and drums, A lesser known Coltrane piece, ‘Los Caballos’, is taken at a rapid tempo with strong Afro-Cuban percussion and fine work between harpist and saxophonist. An improvised work, ‘Following A Lovely Sky Boat’, is a flowing number with modal bass once more and the drums and harp working side by side. Just one John Coltrane piece is attempted here and this is a lovely interpretation of the gentle ‘After The Rain’. Alina Bzhezhinska and group will be performing sporadicallly throughout the remainder of 2018, so do pencil in one of her shows.

Tour (with Tony Kofi, Larry Bartley and Joel Prime):
20/07/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet presents new album Inspiration – E15 JAZZ, London
28/07/18 Afro-Harping Dorothy Ashby – Play Twice at Giant Steps, Hackney
17/08/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet – INSPIRATION at Basement, York
18/08/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet – INSPIRATION at Ilkley Jazz Festival.
21/08/18 Annie’s Jazz, Thorpe Hall Ave, Southend-on-Sea SS1 3AT
27/09/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet presents Inspiration, Elgar Room, Albert Hall, London
30/09/18 Inspiration at Hastings Jazz Festival
21/10/18 Bzhezhinska & Kofi Duo at the GrenNote, Camden
06/10/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Presents Alice Coltrane at the Jazz Harp UK festival, Manchester
10/10/18 Georgia Mancio & Alina Bzhezhinska at Pizza Express presenting HANG
17/11/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet presents Inspiration, The Bear Jazz Club, Luton.
18/11/18 Afro-Harping at LJF
22/11/18 Inspiration at Spice of Life, LJF
30/11/18 Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet – INSPIRATION – new album preview at Wakefield Jazz.
13/12/18 The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead

Tim Stenhouse