Blue Touch Paper ‘Drawing Breath’ (Provocateur) 4/5

Blue_Torch_PaperIf the name is somewhat unfamiliar, the brains behind it will be a welcome rediscovery. Blue Torch Paper is in fact the brainchild of composer, keyboardist and leader Colin Towns and his impressive and extremely diverse CV includes both film and television work as well as his previous musical life as a prog-rock keyboardist. This latest project has been two years in the planning and is a follow up to the well received ‘Stand well back’ album. An interesting array of London-based musicians accompany Towns in his endeavours with individual members of Polar Bear, Troyka and Kit Downs’ ensemble all present. In terms of influences, Miles’ electric period is well represented, particularly from ‘Bitches Brew’ onwards, there are hints at the jazzier side of frank Zappa and even the progressive innovations of the latter part of the Beatles career. That said, the music is still rooted in the jazz tradition with Gil Evans’ orchestrations an obvious feature and the great composer and arranger is evoked on both the brass and piano sound of ‘Juggling with strangers’ which is a definite album highlight. Post-bop mayhem of the Weather Report meets John Zorn variety is a dominant theme of ‘Watch Out’ with a meaty tenor solo from Mark Lockheart while Towns himself excels on the intimate keyboards of ‘Isadora’. For devotees of jazz-rock the guitar soloing on ‘Attention seeker’ will fit the bill admirably and this is a homage to Gil Evans’ own tribute to the Jimi Hendrix era. World beats emerge with gospel, Spanish tinge and tango all combining on ‘Suddenly tango’ which has some delightful piano vamps and soprano sax from Lockheart. Blue Torch Paper will be performing live at the Vortex in London next February and this will be part of a forthcoming UK tour. Tim Stenhouse