Various ‘The Jubilee album. Twenty Magic Years’ (ACT) 4/5

Independent German label ACT is celebrating twenty years of existence and in order to showcase its talented acts has decided first of all to release this single CD anthology of some of the most memorable musical moments. Pride of place probably goes to the band which has done more than any other during the last decade to promote the label, EST. The title track from ‘Gagarin’s point of view’ is at once a sumptuous and refined illustration of the trio at their best and the brand new unreleased album ‘301’ (see review) a reminder of their talents. Another trio worthy of inclusion are that of Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, French accordionist Richard Galliano and Scandinavian pianist Jan Lundgren. ACT have made a virtue out of bringing together out of the ordinary musicians in seemingly unusual musical contexts and the ‘Mare rostrum’ album that this trio recorded became something of a cult hit in France with ‘The seagull’ being the number highlighted here. A more coontemporary trio has been that of French guitarist Nguyên Lê, bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons and percussionist Minu Cinelu. Collectively they offer the enthralling piece ‘Idoma’. Fusing jazz with other musical genres has been a trend that ACT has pioneered over the past two decades and arguably one of the most convincing has been the meeting of jazz with flamenco and more generally Spanish rhythms. Two volumes subsequently have been released, ‘Jazzpaña’ and ‘Jazzpaña II’. From the former ‘Tangos’ harks back to the 1970s with a big band accompanied by Al Di Meola on electric guitar while Gerardo Nuñez and ace pianist Chano Dominguez combine on ‘Calima’ for the latter. Vocalists have not been forgotten on the label and two fellow Swedish singers in particular have regularly been recorded. Rigmur Gustaffson offers ‘Close to you’ with Jacky Terrasson and trio while Viktoria Tolstoy contributes ‘Love is real’. If one had to single out one musical instrument on which ACT has excelled with new artists, then it would have to be the piano. Here young American pianist Yaron Herman performs ‘Heart shaped box’ and elsewhere German Bugge Wesseltoft and Pole Leszek Mozdzer exemplify their mastery of the ivories. It is a pity the likes of Vijay Iyer and Gwilym Simcock do not get a look in here, nor the superb Jan Johannson re-issue, one of Europe’s all-time great pianists. Perhaps a separate anthology devoted to new and recognised pianists is in order. Otherwise an excellent overview of one of the up and coming labels. Watch out for the double live CD of ACT performers which is imminent. Tim Stenhouse