Emma-Jean Thackray ‘UM YANG 음 양’ 12″ Vinyl (Night Dreamer) 5/5

A Night Dreamer release is always an exciting prospect and this EP from London-based trumpeter, Emma-Jean Thackray, is no exception. As with the other records, it is a single-take live performances recorded with vintage equipment at Artone Studio in the Netherlands and cut straight to acetate. Keeping in the spirit of this concept, the septet, who also feature saxophonist Soweto Kinch, Lyle Barton on Fender Rhodes, bottom end from Ben Kelly on sousaphone, percussionists Dwayne Kilvington (aka Wonky Logic from Steam Down), Crispin Robinson (Congas) and Dougal Taylor on drums, exclusively use analogue instruments.

Thackray has reined in some of the electronic styles apparent on her other releases and has delivered two pieces of music that are dedicated to Taoist philosophy. Side A, “Um음” starts slowly with percussion and twinkling Rhodes as the horns lazily and intermittently form the three note motif. There’s more than a hint of influence from the fusion experiments of late 60s/early 70s Miles here. Cowbell and conga propels the track forward as trumpet and saxophone harmonise. Thackray’s chant is initially quiet but is increasingly assertive and culminates with the repeated phrase “All must balance”. It fades out with some exhilarating free form fieriness.

Side B, the other side, is “Yang양”. As “Um음” builds from quiet to loud, the lighter and groovier “Yang양” is a fiery start that calms. The sousaphone has quite a soft timbre which reminds me of bass doubled up with Hancockian left hand synth and its circular repetitive line builds the platform as Kinch’s leads with some robust but sensitive sax.

UM YANG음양 has clear fusion and free influences which are probably enhanced by the studio environment but there’s a modern sense of efficiency and coherence in the composition. The performance is exciting and energetic but there’s also warmth and beauty. A success and one of my favourites of the year.

Kevin Ward

Live shows:
Nov 18 Headrow House, Leeds, UK
Nov 19 Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, UK
Nov 20 Band On The Wall, Manchester, UK