Dave Douglas ‘Secular Psalms’ CD (Greenleaf Music) 3/5

In the early 15th century, Flemish brothers, Hubert and Jan Van Eyck completed The Adoration of The Mystic Lamb (a.k.a.The Ghent Altarpiece), an eccentric 12 panel polyptych situated in Ghent’s St Bavo’s Cathedral. In 2018, to mark the 600th anniversary, Dave Douglas was commissioned by the Handelsbeurs Concert Hall to write and perform this music. He called it “Secular Psalms” with the aim to write a set of “songs of praise for all of us.”

To capture that late-Mediaeval, Western European vibe, Douglas immersed himself into the lives and works of contemporaries of Jan Van Eyck in the court of Burgundy, particularly composer Guillaume Du Fay and writer Christine de Pizan (coincidentally, History Extra podcast recently ran an episode called “Christine de Pizan: from medieval writer to feminist icon”, if you’re interested) even using her translated words as text for “If I’m In Church More Often Now” and “Ah Moon”.

Then COVID happened and with the lockdowns, a difficult and experimental logistical effort began. Developing new methods, the musicians worked together separately over two continents with both arranged and improvised passages for well over a year.

The opener, “Arrival” begins with atmospheric backward masking giving a tanpura-like drone sound and Douglas’ subtle trumpet before slowly opening towards Federik Leroux’s smoothly distorted guitar and fronds of strings and brass. On “Mercy”, the upbeat motif drips positivity as the track climaxes with Tomeka Reid’s strident cello solo. “We Believe” features the Credo from the Latin Mass and there’s a light folky feel from Leroux’s lute and Marta Warelis’ pump organ. On “Agnus Dei”, the cello-led asymmetrical melodies navigate the tricky time signatures.

“Instrumental Angels” is the standout, particularly the second half of the track where the band is tight. The balladic “If I’m In Church More Often Now” has melancholic grace. The sparse haunting texture of cello and pump organ introduce “Hermits and Pilgrims”. Electronic sounds pepper the abstract tuba-led “Righteous Judges”. “Ah Moon” sounds suitably nocturnal and Berlinde Deman’s almost twee voice is fortified by the off-kilter, angular accompaniment. However, the dirge-like “Edge of Night” is the disappointing conclusion.

Respect is due for overcoming the challenges of this ambitious project and there is much to admire. “Arrival” and “Agnus Dei” are enjoyably edgy and “If I’m In Church More Often Now” is very pretty. So this is all good but somehow this still leaves me cold. I couldn’t define what “songs of praise for all of us” sound like but I don’t think it’s this album. “Secular Psalms” is as enigmatic and elusive as its subject.

Kevin Ward

Bobby Oroza ‘Get On The Otherside’ LP/CD (Big Crown) 4/5

Bobby Oroza makes a welcome return with the release of his second solo album, ‘Get on the Otherside’, through his label home of Big Crown Records.

From Helsinki, Finland, singer, songwriter and guitarist, Oroza, initially captivated contemporary soul music audiences following the release of his magnificent debut album, ‘This Love’. His silky smooth vocal was partnered with some of the leading names in Finnish soul music, the production and musical trio garnering acclaim under the banner of Cold Diamond & Mink.

Serving as something of a spin-off or evolved version of The Soul Investigators – a phenomenal band that composed some lavish soul-drenched musical backdrops for vocalists including Myron & E, Bardo Martinez and their most celebrated union with US vocalist Nicole Willis which went on to spawn a trio of modern-day classic recordings. Now comprised of members of The Soul Investigators, the Cold Diamond & Mink musicians and producers Jukka Sarapää (drums), Sami Kantelinen (bass) and Seppo Salmi (guitar) continue to wave the flag for not just Finnish soul music but also for their own label home in Timmion Records delivering their own notable musical unions with artists including Carlton Jumel Smith, Willie West and Jeb Loy Nichols.

As incredible as Cold Diamond & Mink’s productions have proved to date, the undeniable magic of their work with Bobby Oroza may very well shine brightest in their catalogue. ‘This Love’, released as far back as 2019, was spearheaded by some exquisite soul gems that really positioned Oroza as a main event player. Tracks like ‘Alone Again’, ‘Should I Take You Home’ and ‘Falling in Love’ carried the album through to now-devoted listeners delivering some quintessential balladry across the album’s twelve tracks.

However, ‘Get on the Otherside’ is very much an album born of different times. Much has understandably been made about Coronavirus and its subsequent impact on the music industry and specifically on independent musicians due to the lengthy quarantine period. And it’s these hardships that have proved to be the prevalent themes throughout Oroza’s sophomore album release.

The stark contrast in releases and subject matter is introduced early into proceedings via the brief interlude, ‘Bobby’s New Mood’. The track, through its title alone, teases the album’s new direction before segueing into ‘The Otherside’ where Oroza confronts his concerns more unequivocally: “I was dragging along, things I should’ve let go; I spent too long, just trying to hold on”.

While several of the album’s tracks continue to wrestle with these notably darker aspects of life since 2020, the album does end on a positive note by its concluding number, ‘Through These Tears’, which looks ahead to the prospect of brighter days albeit within a world that may take considerably more years before it can return to a normal we all understandably took for granted. Soul music can often prove to be at its most impactful when assuming commentary for socio and political situations so Bobby Oroza’s ‘Get on the Otherside’ is an honest and sincere musical testament to the last couple of years. Hopefully, Oroza’s third album will subsequently be a testament to the more positive period that we’re hoping is to come.

Imran Mirza

Romperayo ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ LP (SOUK) 4/5

Imagine with me that you’re heading out on a road trip. You leave your home in a metropolitan area with major highways and things to look at everywhere; tall buildings, apartments, industry, parks that are loud and teeming with life all around you. That trip eventually takes you off the main highways and onto country roads where the view is mostly open fields and maybe the occasional cow. While these landscapes may not seem as alive as the city scenery, if you were to pull over and walk through those fields, you would see an abundance of different species of wildflowers, critters and creatures galore. Though it may look barren at first glance, these places are rich with life. Unearthing this life is exactly what Romperayo has set out to do for Colombia’s music scene, taking us off the mainstream highways and deep into the less travelled country roads. Helmed by musical mage and percussionist Pedro Ojeda, Romperayo is back, with a brand new tropical 9 track album that puts Colombia’s fertile rhythmic landscape on full display. ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ demonstrates Ojeda’s genius as well as his range.

Ojeda is one of the busiest men in music. Involved in a plethora of projects including Los Pirañas and Chupame el Dedo, Ojeda has found a way to create a signature sound with each project referencing the other yet remaining distinct and special. “La Segunda Parte de la Reforma Agraria” is like an industrial tango full of synthesizer and mechanical sounds, something all its own and yet the voice on the track is a total callback to Chupame el Dedo’s “Mi Ancestro Berraco” from 2019’s No Te Metas Con Satan. “Sangre en la Uña” recalls a bit of Los Pirañas’ “Dragones Chinos” with several more layers of psycedelia laid on top.

Romperayo sets itself apart from Ojeda’s other projects though with its aim to dig up often unknown historical samples creating an anthropological conversation between listener and musician. ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ is as avant-garde as you would expect coming from Ojeda but it’s much more subtle and restrained than you might imagine. The subtlety of his musical voice allows the complexity of the folkloric rhythms to shine. This is especially evident in a song like “Uyuyuis” which has this gorgeous vintage tropical sound off the top and melts into this eccentric cumbia-esque flow, with his signature high pitch vocal elements in the mix. Somehow he manages to make it all work together without sounding overdone or messy. It probably doesn’t hurt that he has the help of some really talented friends, including Jaime Ospina on the Gaita and arguably the greatest accordionist of our time, Ivan Medellín.

I often wonder how Pedro Ojeda sleeps. He has his hands in so much Colombian music that he must be up all hours of the night. With Romperayo’s ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ that loss of sleep proves worth it. Big rhythms and the spirit of experimentalism set the album apart and help expand our understanding of not only the sounds of the Colombian coast but what music, in general, can be.

Molly Gallegos

TC & The Groove Family ‘First Home’ 180g Vinyl (Worm Disc) 5/5

The remarkably apt opening line, “We have all this love to give, so let’s start!”, to TC & The Groove Family’s debut single from October 2020, ‘Let’s Start’, also launched the group’s statement of intent for their music going forward. A riveting, high-energy number that presented the band’s jazz-meets-afrobeat aesthetic with an impassioned message was a winner from the get-go and further bolstered by the accompanying electronic reimagining of the track by TAMBALA which added even more layers to TC & The Groove Family’s multi-faceted approach to music-making.

The blissful nine-minute wonder of ‘Temple’ soon followed, plunging the band even further into their own bold musical soundscapes and paving the road for the official full-length debut from TC & The Groove Family, ‘First Home’, which is finally unveiled to keen listeners this year.

Headed up by bandleader, drummer and founder, Tim “TC” Cook, the Leeds-based, ten-piece ensemble find a suitable recording home within the esteemed walls of Worm Discs. Themselves, a label committed to “shining a light on some of the most cutting edge acts from around the UK” (as outlined via the label’s Bandcamp page), TC & The Groove Company find themselves amidst fine company with labelmates including the contemporary jazz stylings of Snazzback and the alt-jazz sounds of Run Logan Run. The broad and ambitious scope of TC & The Groove Family comfortably positions the collective within that “cutting edge” bracket with ‘First Home’ demonstrative of a band literally bursting with inspiration and creativity.

Their no-rules approach to composition is aided in large part here by Tom Excell from Nubiyan Twist who, as a revered name in their own right, are a band who also create music that comfortably straddles that incredibly thin margin between jazz, afro rhythms and Latin influences. Across the eight tracks presented on ‘First Home’, we’re introduced to a series of exciting songs that showcase the band’s unwavering personality and charm across instrumental numbers and also tracks where group vocalist Pariss “Elektra” Joseph leads the charge in spectacular fashion with a vocal that knows when to command with authority as she does in ‘Bossfight’ while also being able to deliver an affectionate and graceful performance as in ‘Sleeping Lions’.

Another notable vocal appearance comes from Franz Von – the Jamaican rapper and MC from K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade – who offers up a series of spirited verses on the track ‘Weh Dem A Do?’. The collaboration serves as a reunion of sorts following on from Von’s appearance on the ZÖLA remix of ‘Let’s Start’ which formed part of the group’s ‘Remixes’ EP from late last year. We touched upon the dynamic nature of The Groove Family’s music earlier and the openness to interpretation the music lends itself to being steered towards including a variety of varying electronic and jungle-inspired directions. A further testament to The Groove Family’s innovative and all-encompassing formula that is sure to solidify the collective as genuine champions of a pioneering UK sound.

‘First Home’ delivers as a massively triumphant outing from TC & The Groove Family – sure to be one of the standout releases of the year as well as the official launchpad to far greater successes for the boundlessly talented band.

Current UK tour dates:

30th June – El Dorado
1st July – Outlook
22nd July – Secret Garden Party
23rd July – Great Get Together
24th July – Bluedot
28th July – Kendal Calling
29th July – Deershed
30th July – Farmfest
4th August – Good Society
7th August – Wilderness
20th August – Greenman
25th August – We Out Here
26th August – Shambala
27th August – Camper Calling
28th August – Moovin
3rd September – Smugglers

Imran Mirza

Nduduzo Makhathini ‘In The Spirit of Ntu’ 2LP/CD (Blue Note Africa) 5/5

This album is something of a personal and cultural landmark for South African pianist, healer and educator Nduduzo Makhathini, as well as being his tenth studio album and the second release for Blue Note records it’s also the first issue on a new imprint, Blue Note Africa; a collaboration between the historic label and Universal Music Africa which aims to facilitate the ‘cultural exchange of ideas that transcend borders’. It’s fitting that an artist like Makhathini should be the label’s first release as he draws parallels between the birth of US jazz in ‘speaking out against inequality’ and the South African jazz scene ‘who’s backdrop was also one of inequality’. The album picks up on themes of African spirituality explored on his previous Blue Note album Modes of Communication: Letters From The Underworld, in which he used the idea of music as a ‘sonic letter’ to commune with ancestors both musical and spiritual. The Spirit of Ntu, goes deeper still in exploring the zone between the physical world and the spiritual world, it’s an attempt to achieve harmony as some kind of vital life force. Music really is a way of being for Makhathini, it’s not an add on, it’s his essence. He describes on his part ‘a total surrender and deep listening to a universe in tune with the cosmos’. The scope and ambition of this music really is something else.

On the album, Makhathini pays homage to musical ancestors including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner as well as Abdullah Ibrahim and his personal mentor Bheki Mseleku. Their sounds are absorbed into his music as echoes, shadows and reflections, they are with us but the music he and the band create is contemporary and very much of the African diaspora as it flows from the sound of one continent to another. It’s a beautifully harmonised band with Linda Sikhakhane (sax) Robin Fassie Kock (trumpet) Dylan Tabisher (vibes) Stephen de Souza (bass) Dane Paris (drums) and guest vocalists Anna Widauer and Omagugu with Jaleel Shaw (sax).

‘Unonkanyambo’ gets the album moving, Makhathini’s undulating piano and Makhene’s percussion set up a vital counterpoint with a horn arrangement that cruises in parallel. Three motors run this tune before the pattern is broken as the piano cuts in with a jarringly low undertow. The tune’s playfully dynamic energy is drawn from dramatically different sources but somehow pulls in unison.

‘Nyonini Le’ has a transcendent finesse which entwines Makhene’s percussive excitement as Makhathini reanimates Monk’s angular and tumbling piano tones while simultaneously making the sound his own in a dream-like fusion.

There’s a processional nature to ‘Re-Amanthambo Feat. Anna Widauer’ it appears to be a plea from the spirit world to the living, ‘caught in the haze, caught in the dark, my eyes can see the spark that might reignite my heart’. The song blends a deeply soulful vocal with an Afro refrain and some stunning improvisation from the soprano, trumpet and vibes. They are at one.

‘Senze’ Nina’ is released as a single; it brings a harder, more brittle edge to the piano and the song incorporates a yearning Coltrane like sax. Makhathini talks about discovering A Love Supreme as a youngster in his school’s library and his fascination with Coltrane’s prayer on the sleeve notes. He’s carried some of that with him here and pulled the sound of two continents together in the process. The record closes with ‘Ntu’ which forms a continuum with the previous tune. There’s a tentative shifting energy to it and some jarring tonal juxtapositions. Conflicted emotions occupy the same space before a resolution brings harmony and peace.

‘In The Spirit of Ntu’ is surely proof that the creator does indeed have a master plan.

James Read

Nimbus Sextet ‘Forward Thinker’ LP/CD (Acid Jazz) 4/5

Serving as the group’s official sophomore album release, ‘Forward Thinker’ comes less than two years after its predecessor – the warmly received ‘Dreams Fulfilled’. An introductory project that made great waves upon release, it was exciting to see the Glaswegian collective, Nimbus Sextet bask in the radiance of glowing reviews for their style of contemporary jazz which draws inspiration from an array of varying styles and genres.

The members of Nimbus have never sought to rest on their laurels – even before ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ had seen release, the band had amassed an impressive catalogue of standalone single releases, including an epic near-nine minute Matthew Herbert Dub remix of the single ‘Lily White’. And the Nimbus Sextet have once again demonstrated their exciting work ethic boasting a slew of remixes in the time between ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ was released in 2020 to now showcasing inspired interpretations of their music like the moody trip-hop-esque nature of Ghostchant’s remix of ‘Lily White’, the broken beat bounce of Portugal’s Rui Fradinho as he tackles ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ and then the ‘Helix EP’ featuring two new tracks along with two further remixes like a beats-heavy contribution from Chris Read (‘Deep Dark Blue Lights’) and Born74’s “Boogie Funk” remix for ‘Trap Door’.

The expansive assortment of reimaginings and reinterpretations from the aforementioned remixers is a real testament to the over-arching scope and variety that the ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ project confidently exuded.

But now, looking to ‘Forward Thinker’, the question is invariably whether the Nimbus Sextet are able to capture imaginations all over again…? Comprised of musicians including band leader Joe Nichols on piano and keyboards, Alex Palmer on drums, Mischa Stevens on bass guitar, Euan Allardice on trumpet, Martin Fell on saxophone and Luca Pisanu on guitar, the album’s seven tracks continue to embrace an exciting selection of influences.

Highlights throughout include the neo-soul stylings of the introductory number, ‘High Time’, featuring the only guest vocal on the album provided by the brilliant Charlotte de Graaf; the Head Hunters-like jazz-funk of ‘To The Light’ bursts with impassioned energy and is a real winner as is the album’s title track which, at a little over eight minutes, masterfully traverses these blissful sonic realms – again, a track rooted in a scintillating jazz-funk aesthetic but also bolstered by lush synths and twinges of electronics. There are compositions that strike a more introspective note like ‘From The Shadows’ which at times seems to present some inspired energy throughout but ultimately succumbs to its own turmoil by the latter portion of the song.

‘Forward Thinker’ carries through several of the elements that were in place for ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ but Nichols and company seem to wholly embrace the opportunity to build upon them and steer those concepts into exciting new directions for what will undoubtedly prove to be another rapturously received project.

Imran Mirza

Read also:

Nimbus Sextet ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ LP/CD (Acid Jazz) 4/5

Kjetil Mulelid Trio ‘Who Do You Love The Most?’ CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

“Who Do You Love The Most?” is the third album in just over four years from the young Norwegian piano-led trio, and continues in the tradition of their two previous releases; subtle, evocative melodies that dance with fluency and beauty. With pianist and composer Kjetil Mulelid at the helm, Andreas Winther on drums, and Bjorn Marius Hegge on double bass, there’s a vibrant, beguiling feel to their music that is full of Scandinavian character and originality.

The trio’s playing is confident and articulate, an obvious bond having developed between the musicians since recording their first album back in 2017. For this new release, the trio have found a wonderful balance between a rich, playful energy, and a delicate, sensitive contemplation. In successfully incorporating into their music a wide range of influences; contemporary jazz, blues, classical and gospel, they have forged their own captivating identity.

The weaving of the trio’s magic on tracks such as “Paul” and “Remembering” is a joy to behold. Textures open up in and around the motifs and melodies that Mulelid conjures on his acoustic piano. A colourful palette of refreshing sound is intelligently added by Winther and Hegge. The trio certainly have a lovely way of presenting a melody, or a hook, within a tune that is not dissimilar to their Rune Grammofon stable-mates Espen Eriksen Trio. The folky “Endless”, the mesmerising “Remembering”, and the heart-breaking “For You I’ll Do Anything” are great examples of this. There’s always a slightly esoteric touch that I really like though, almost as if the trio are taking a sideways glance at the traditions they honour and reinvent. As I listen to the stylish, characterful, blues-infused “Gospel”, I can’t help but think of a late ’60s/early ’70s Keith Jarrett. Laden with hooks and grooves and flourishes, this tune is so full of life it really takes me back to some of Jarrett’s best work with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.

“Who do you love the most” is a very enjoyable album from start to finish. I certainly look forward to hearing more from Kjetil Mulelid’s trio.

Mike Gates

Read also:

Kjetil Mulelid ‘Piano’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 5/5

Denny Zeitlin with George Marsh and Mel Graves ‘The Name of this Terrain’ 2LP+CD (Now-Again Reserve) 5/5

This wonderful Now-Again release falls into one of my favourite musical categories – the “smart arse, self aware and playfully wonky” category. In fact, it is exemplar; the absolute zenith of “smart arse, self aware and playfully wonky” music.

It is zany, intelligent, occasionally chaotic and both adultly complex yet art studently naive. It’s stylistically very late 60s – jazz rocky, experimental, groovy. It drops reminders of many greats of that time and beyond; Zappa; Sly Stone; Ken Nordine; Eugene McDaniels; Stark Reality; Yes; Iron Butterfly; Tubes.

On first hearing, I thought to myself “This sounds like a soundtrack to those trippy 70s Sesame Street animations”. And, guess what? It was! Well, not this specific music but Denny Zeitlin and Grace Slick did team up as the “Jazz Spies”, offering musical encouragement to those early Gen Z, flairs wearing, hula hooping, TikTok safe kids who were, at the time, learning how to count from 2 to 10 – see:

Denny Zeitlin is a pianist, composer and psychiatrist(!). Obviously, he’s way too impressive to be sufficiently covered in this simple/simplistic review but here’s two fun highlights; (i) it took 6hrs at gigs to set-up his extensive (but never exhaustive) pile of electronics and (ii) he wrote the “Invasion of the Body Snatcher” movie score.

“The Name Of This Terrain” is performed by Zeitlin (mad keys and vocals) and the very talented Mel Graves (bass and synth) and George Marsh (drums and backing vocals).

“Are you hip to the name of this terrain that stretches for miles inside of you?”

The 12 minute, titular opener overtly lets us know what’s to come. It has 4ish distinct parts ranging from the playfully funky to the freest jazz. There’s engaging lyrics, properly ON IT bass, fizzing beats and a good three minutes of acoustic/electronic free exploration. “Hey you plant the trees here, you make the breeze here.” Zeitlin and Marsh’s vocals are a delight; honest, expressive and message-first.

“2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back” comps off with solo clavinet before the trio drop into a laid back, urban gospel, gadda-da-vida thing; buoyed by fuzzy organ break and churchy layers before an explosive, correctly incongruous, fast finger clicking, cool cat jazz bit.

“Gonna Take You Away” is a fiercely funky psych hipfest; A wIld Ken Nordine oblivious to the electronic spasms; A Captain Kirk beamed up by a young Bootsy Collins, baby. Marsh and Graves take zero prisoners on this – Marsh especially. I’m surprised I’ve not heard this sampled.

“What’s In It For You?” is a wonky soul-jazz organ that bursts into a Zappa/Tubes lyrically visual epic followed by an overdrive that’s being driven over a surging, soaring organ and then a beautifully rejuvenative, bluesy solo break – as uplifting and hopeful as the sun breaking cloud. “Free Piece” is a goofy, studenty, free word association piece.

A couple of caipirinhas later and “The Wizard” tipsily sambas into the studio to lead a hippy psych-jazz musical theatre production that falls into a flaccid, intoxicated, oil projected “Heart Of The Sunrise” outro.

There’s everything for me to love here; Jazzers that can rock and funk; a late 60s aesthetic; highly visual, smartly poetic, lightly ironic lyrics; an endearingly playful, experimental spirit. These are brains and souls that just had to explore; to understand it, and themselves, by doing, not by conceptualising or defining. And these brains and souls went and produced my favourite smart-arsed, playfully wonky album of all time. I suspect even Oscar the Grouch wouldn’t have a bad word to say. He might even find room for it in his bin.

Thanks to Egon at Now-Again for having the ear and the persistence (Zeitlin was having none of it at first!) to get this released and for fermenting those wonderful liner notes in 66 DRC Montrachet and a Musigny Pinot. Salut.

Ian Ward

Editor Note : Following publication of Ian’s review, we were thrilled to hear from the great George Marsh who told us “The mention of Sesame Street was interesting as I later was involved in all the pinball cartoons dealing with numbers up to 12” see:

“Ian mentioned why wasn’t I sampled?, well I was a bit later when DJ Shadow lifted my voice off of a Standard Oil Educational record released in 1974” see:

Espen Eriksen Trio Feat. Andy Sheppard ‘In The Mountains’ CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

Having released five successful studio albums in the last twelve years, a welcome live album now lands in the shape of “In The Mountains” from the excellent Norwegian outfit Espen Eriksen Trio. Demand from fans has been high for this one and having seen the trio perform live a couple of years ago (with Andy Sheppard), I can understand why. The good news is that pianist Eriksen’s charisma on stage carries across well onto this live release, with the added bonus of long-time collaborator UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard performing on three of the eight tracks. The sound quality is wonderful; you could actually be at the gig, the tunes sparkle with the trio’s melodic hallmark, and the intuitive understanding between the trio and Sheppard is better than ever. In fact, it’s all good, there isn’t any bad news!

Originally formed back in 2007, with leader Eriksen at the piano, Lars Tormod Jenset on bass, and Andreas Bye on drums, it comes as no surprise that the melodic nature of their music has seen them build an appreciative reputation across the globe. But it’s more than that. There is a charm to their music that is just so likeable. For jazz heads there’s enough edge and surprise to feel rewarded, and for non-jazz heads the tunes themselves are eminently listenable. For “In The Mountains”, five of the seven tracks were recorded live in concert at Oslo´s Nasjonal Jazzscene in 2018 and 2020, one at a special one-off intimate concert at Propeller Music Division in Oslo in 2020 and one in Poznan, Poland, in 2021. Six of the seven tracks are extended versions of Eriksen originals from four of the studio albums, adding instrumental vividness as well as dramatic and moving elements to the event. The seventh is a dazzling cover of Krzysztof Komeda´s iconic “Rosemary´s Baby”.

Eriksen’s trio is all about mood, and there’s no better example than the opening tune “1974”. Reminding me a little of Keith Jarrett’s great “European” quartet with Garbarek, Danielsson and Christensen, saxophonist Sheppard brings an almost spiritual presence to the trio, with a flow of consciousness running through this piece, awakening the senses to a higher place. The quartet continue in a similar vein on the sumptuous “Anthem”, with Sheppard also in thrilling mood for the title track. Sometimes in life things were just meant to be, and the combination of the trio with Sheppard is one of those times.

I love the pulsating rhythm on “Suburban Folk Song”. One of my favourite tracks, the trio are at their best here, with Eriksen letting loose to the delirium of the crowd. The tension subsides for “Perfectly Unhappy”, the pianist once more providing such delicate beauty, being melancholic and yet warm-hearted and uplifting all in one long breath. The brilliant energy of “Dancing Demons” brings back fond memories of the much-missed Esbjorn Svensson Trio, and how they could wow a live audience with their musical splendour and excitement. The deeply rewarding “Rosemary’s Baby” is enigmatic and haunting, a beautiful end to an excellent live album.

Tour dates:
ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO
Friday 14th October, Stapleford Granary, Cambridge

ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO with ANDY SHEPPARD
Tuesday 22nd November, Watermill Jazz, Dorking
Wednesday 23rd November, Band On The Wall, Manchester
Thursday 24th November, The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
Friday 25th November, Sheffield Jazz, Sheffield
Saturday 26th November, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Mike Gates

Read also:
Espen Eriksen Trio ‘End of Summer’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard ‘Perfectly Unhappy’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

Flora Purim ‘If You Will’ LP/CD (Strut) 5/5

‘If You Will’ marks the new full-length release from Brazilian singer, musician and producer, Flora Purim, who unveils her first new studio recording in 17 years. Dubbed the “Queen of Brazilian Jazz”, Purim’s staggering career began in the 1960s and would see her amass an incredible catalogue of releases since then as a solo artist and also go on to contribute to just as many recordings as a part of some revered ensembles with luminaries like Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, George Duke and Hermeto Pascoal; there’s even a recorded collaboration with the hip-hop and R&B duo PM Dawn from 1996!

A slew of Purim recordings in the 1970s as a part of Milestone Records would really go on to cement what was her burgeoning legacy at the time. ‘Butterfly Dreams’ (1973), ‘Stories to Tell’ (1974), ‘500 Miles High’ (1976), amongst others, established the groundwork for her riveting take on jazz fusion. Flora Purim’s perspective on music was continually fuelled by various inspirations and influences – with both parents working as classical musicians, her mother would go on to introduce her to jazz through the recordings of iconic vocalists like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. While Purim’s 1964 debut album ‘Flora É M.P.M.’ saw her tackle mostly Bossa standards, collaborations with Hermeto Pascoal and most notably Chick Corea, as vocalist to the latter’s Return to Forever fusion outfit proved to be the perfect catalysts encouraging Purim to explore more ambitious compositions within her own music.

‘If You Will’ is very much an ode to some of Purim’s most accomplished recordings and collaborations presented beautifully over the course of the album’s nine tracks. George Duke and Flora Purim’s track from Duke’s album ‘Cool’, originally released in 2000, serves as an excellent album opener and the reworked track further benefits from the inclusion of Diana Purim on vocals – daughter to Flora and Brazilian drummer and percussionist Airto Moreira, and a celebrated artist in her own right.

The aforementioned years in association with Chick Corea’s Return to Forever are thankfully commemorated here with the revisiting of one of Purim’s, and the group’s, most recognisable numbers in ‘500 Miles High’. Long interpreted as a nod to drug culture, the classic was housed on the group’s 1972 album ‘Light as a Feather’ – an album that featured Purim’s delectable vocal present on three of the album’s six tracks. The nine-minute original is condensed for ‘If You Will’ by nearly three minutes and delivers as another standout on this release.

If this album is to serve as your introduction to the music of Flora Purim then it’s a really fantastic starting point. Purim still sounds incredible, inspired and passionate about the music that has created a long-lasting legacy for herself as well as the lineage of Brazilian jazz music. We cited the celebrated projects that Flora Purim is most associated with through Milestone Records but hopefully this fantastic new release through Strut Records will mark the beginning of a similarly lengthy association between the two factions as well.

Imran Mirza