Jure Pukl ‘Broken Circles’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

‘Broken Circles’ marks the third album from saxophonist Jure Pukl as part of the incredible Whirlwind Recordings label and once again sees Pukl changing things up to create an entirely new dynamic.

Never one to try the same things more than once, Pukl’s time with Whirlwind seem to serve as a continual source of inspiration which sees the musician embrace new challenges: ‘Hybrid’, released in 2017, paired the New York-based Slovenian Pukl with Croatian pianist Matija Dedić; ‘Doubtless’ followed in 2018 which saw Pukl take centre stage with his quartet which included his wife and fellow saxophonist Melissa Aldana who herself scored highly with the release of her album ‘Visions’ in 2019 through Motéma Records. ‘Broken Circles’ again sees Pukl change the set-up – much like the recently reviewed Gianluca Vigliar’s ‘Plastic Estrogenus’ (A.MA Records) opted to explore his soundscapes with the absence of a piano, Pukl does so in a similar style by incorporating guitarist Charles Altura (Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard) and vibraphonist Joel Ross (Makaya McCraven, Melissa Aldana) into the company. Jure Pukl’s quintet is rounded out by long-time collaborator double bassist Matt Brewer (Steve Lehman Trio, Antonio Sanchez) and drummer Kweku Sumbry (Harish Raghavan).

While ‘Broken Circles’ affords Pukl the opportunity to dabble with the new arrangements and interplay between the guitar and vibraphone, the album is also born in response to the much-documented events impacting our socio and political climate. New York has genuinely served as a hot bed for charged and sincere political statements from musicians and artists across a broad range of genres and it’s poignant to have such an impassioned stance on this project as well. Songs like ‘Empty Words’, ‘Gloomy Sunday’ and ‘Separation’ point to the desire for change while other tracks like ‘Sustained Optimism’, ‘Triumph of Society’ and the album closer ‘Sky is the Limit’ express the hope that things can in fact change for the better and that change is best achieved through unity.

‘Broken Circles’ captures its purest magic through its more sublime moments like ‘Compassion’ which is exquisite, in particular within the song’s closing moments; ‘Gloomy Sunday’ serves as another transcendent highlight. Joel Ross’s vibraphone is certainly the inclusion within the dynamic that pays dividends – his work on the aforementioned Melissa Aldana project ‘Visions’ was flawless and here his contributions deliver as expected. From the opening to ‘Compassion’ to his warm and blissful performance in ‘Triumph of Society’, Pukl’s vision (for lack of a better word) pays off.

‘Broken Circles’ is a beautifully composed project that highlights Jure Pukl’s innovative approach to his playing and compositions and as we become accustomed to his reinventions with each album, it will be exciting to see how he changes the canvas for his art going forward.

Imran Mirza