Ivo Neame ‘Strata’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

ivo-neameFresh from being an integral part of Phronesis, pianist Ivo Neame returns as leader on this fine all-original set of contemporary jazz. If the compositions are sometimes challenging and explore complex harmonies and texture, they are nonetheless accessible and it is the musicality of the ensemble that shines through here. Two years in the making, Neame expands his own sound to include the use of accordion and synths, though fans of his acoustic piano will not be disappointed since that is his preferred instrument and it is indeed the one that predominates here. The album starts off with an uptempo and dense opener in ‘Personality Clash’ where the trio plus vibes accompany at a rapid tempo and comes across as a latter day mid-1960s Bobby Hutcherson album with either Chick Corea, or Herbie Hancock at the piano, both of whom seem to have exerted an influence upon Neame’s approach. There is great subtlety in the combined use of piano, vibes and, on occasion, flute and this is wonderfully illustrated on ‘Folk Song’ with shimmering effect from vibraphonist Jim Hart. A bustling ‘Crise de nerfs’ (French for ‘nervous breakdown’) once again combines flute and vibes and explores different moods, yet still maintains a clear melody throughout. Piano trio only operate on the reposing ‘Eastern Chant’ that is not based on modes, but is instead an opportunity to hear Neame the pianist in full flow and the supportive rhythm section of drummer Dave Hamblett and joint bassists on the album Andrea de Biase and Tom Farmer are all worthy of mention. Elsewhere, the delicate use of textures on keyboards is showcased on the title track which some might liken to a number in the Weather report bag, but to these ears is more akin to the participation of Lyle Mays in the Pat Metheny group, with melodic saxophone from Freestone very much in the Jan Garbarek mould. Ivo Neame is to be commended for an album that is distinct from Phronesis even if some of the qualities of that formation seep through from time to time on this new recording. A brief late June series of dates to promote the album took place in the Midlands and south east England. Hopefully, there will be further dates in the UK to follow.

Tim Stenhouse