Matthew Halsall ‘Fletcher Moss Park’ (Gondwana) 4/5

A new album from Manchester’s modal maestro, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, and an extension of musical influences that singles this release out as the leader’s best to date. As ever the all original set includes a burning, slow paced modal number, ‘Cherry blossom’ with repeated bass and harp from band regular Rachel Gladwin combining beautifully in the intro and with a lovely delicate solo from Adam Fairhall on piano. However, the best is definitely yet to come for eastern flavours emerge on the superb piece ‘The sun is September’ with exotic hues conjured up on flute by Birmingham’s very own Lisa Mallett. This track in particular recalls the two superlative impressionistic musical frescoes of Japan by Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver and a possible future project for Halsall might be to devote an entire album to a country of choice. The oriental ambience created here is a truly inspired one. Another welcome addition is the inclusion of strings with echoes of both Debussy and Ravel on ‘Sailing out to sea’. The combination of bass and strings in unison is especially compelling. In previous recordings, the influence of John Coltrane and Yusef Lateef has been discernable and a very special composition devoted a very special lady has resulted in another winning number in ‘Mary Emma Louise’, which is a mid-paced piece with Halsall and multi-reedist Nat Birchall playing together on the main theme. With a UK tour up and running this month, the nation will have the opportunity to hear not only Manchester’ finest, but arguably the strongest modal formation since the days of Michael Garrick and Don Rendell/Ian Carr. Tim Stenhouse

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