Martin Bruhn ‘Picaflor’ LP (Shika Shika) 5/5

Spring belongs to the hummingbirds. Those tiny, hard to catch little creatures that are gone before you’re even really sure you’ve seen them. Such is the newest album from Argentinian percussionist and composer Martin Bruhn, Picaflor, a swift, spirited album so full of delight it requires back to back listens. Bruhn’s Picaflor is an homage to the music and culture of the Huanca, a Quechua people from Peru’s Mantaro region. Bruhn managed to capture a vintage lo-fi sound that matches the vinyl recordings of the Andean region’s huayno orchestras, from artists like Picaflor de los Andes and the Ases de Huancayo orchestra. This simple yet celebratory sound was achieved by recording the album in Bruhn’s home studio during the first part of the pandemic lockdown.

I find it rather intriguing that Bruhn could capture such a jubilant sound in the midst of so much anxiety and uncertainty. It’s perfect really because it gives you something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. The songs on Picaflor almost blend into each other allowing for a celebration that doesn’t have to end. The only flaw to be found on Picaflor is that the rivalry is short-lived. At just half an hour the album flits away before you have a chance to get a good look, much like its namesake the hummingbird. The good thing is, all you have to do is press play again to be transported back to the fiesta.

There is so much beauty and craft in the songs on Picaflor. Popurri de Festejos sounds like dancing. The hooting and hollering mixed in with the percussion entice you to add your own cheers to the chorus. My favourite song on the album is Bruhn’s rendition of Cariñito which maintains the integrity of the beloved original while preserving Picaflor’s sound. While most of the songs interpret celebration to be upbeat and lively, Akuie sounds like a reinterpretation of Auld Lang Syne, that song we all sing as the ball drops each New Year’s Eve to celebrate our friendships and the lives we’ve lived up to this point. Akuie is a bit more sombre than the rest of the album but it’s sombre in the way Auld Lang Syne is sombre. A touching reminder to celebrate the paths that have led us to where we are now. Closing out Picaflor is another outlier, Ases, which while still holding onto that lo-fi aesthetic, is much more modern and psychedelic. If Picaflor as a whole is a tribute to the sonic aesthetic of Huanca culture, Ases is an homage to sounds that don’t exist yet, sounds that weave the past and present together.

Picaflor is so much more than an homage to a beloved sound and culture, it is a celebration of life, one that could entice even the most elusive hummingbird.

Molly Gallegos

GoGo Penguin ‘GGP/RMX’ 2LP/CD (Blue Note) 4/5

‘GGP/RMX’ is the new album release from Manchester’s very own, GoGo Penguin – the fourth of their full-length projects to be released through Blue Note Records.

Since their debut back in 2012, the GoGo Penguin trio have ascended to a colossal level of success. Following their first two album releases with the prestigious Matthew Halsall-founded Gondwana Records – ‘Fanfares’ (2012) and ‘v2.0’ (2013) – the revered Blue Note Records managed to solidify the trio’s subsequent releases amongst their own hallowed catalogue.

Comprised of pianist Chris Illingworth, double bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner, GoGo Penguin have managed to maintain a fairly voracious release schedule with their Blue Note debut ‘Man Made Object’ (2016) followed by ‘A Humdrum Star’ (2018) and last year’s self-titled ‘GoGo Penguin’. With a handful of EPs thrown in and around that schedule as well, extensive touring… theirs is an inspired and tireless work ethic that continues to appease listeners with each release.

It would probably be fair to cite this insatiable energy as translating across to their music as well – their distinct style of jazz is continually linked to finding inspiration from a range of genres and styles as diverse as the fast-paced nature of broken beat and electronica while also masterfully being able to capture the cinematic scope through classical music. ‘GGP/RMX’ delivers as very much the appropriate extension to everything GoGo Penguin have put out beforehand. Ultimately, ‘GGP/RMX’ is a remix album to the trio’s self-titled release from last year with every song finding itself the subject of reinterpretations from a range of diverse and mostly electronica-based artists.

Cornelius remixing ‘Kora’ is the perfect introduction into this new genre-mashing universe – easing us into these new sonic textures slowly while still highlighting how much of GoGo Penguin’s original compositions were able to sit alongside these electronic counterparts. Yosi Horikawa’s take on ‘Embers’ really brings out the menacing and sombre perspective on the track – still a highlight though – and James Holden’s reimagining of ‘Totem’ is genuinely inspired. The eight+ minute remix transforms the track into a bleak, Blade Runner soundscape that is just bliss. The very presence of ‘Petit_a’ is a nice surprise – originally a track reserved for the Japanese version of ‘GoGo Penguin’, a live version was later available on their ‘Live from Studio 2’ EP in 2020; here though Clark’s remix takes the track on a complete journey starting with an affectionate lament before transporting the track through various stages of electronic beats and bliss. Portico Quartet’s sublime rendition of ‘Don’t Go’ could very well deliver as the album’s gleaming highlight though – an exquisite album closer.

Presenting GoGo Penguin’s music in these exciting new concepts makes ‘GGP/RMX’ a thrilling experiment and an excellent accompaniment to the GoGo Penguin catalogue. While many of the songs here do present the trio’s music in seemingly entirely new concepts much has always been made about their versatility and ability to create music from a myriad of influences – and when you consider how much of a fit some of these combinations actually are – the project serves as further testament to their distinct style.

Imran Mirza

Read also:
GoGo Penguin ‘Man Made Object’ 2LP/CD (Blue Note) 3/5

Various ‘Club Coco’ 2LP/CD (Bongo Joe) 5/5

Coco Maria is a world-renowned DJ and selector based in Europe. She has played festivals around the world and currently hosts a weekly show on Worldwide FM specializing in Brazilian, South and Central American and Caribbean sounds. This Friday, May 13th, Les Disques Bongo Joe releases Club Coco, a compilation album that pays tribute to the community of listeners she has amassed over the years. Club Coco is full of bright sunny sounds so expertly arranged it could only have come from a DJ.

Club Coco the LP is full of musicians who have been a part of Coco Maria’s shows, artists like Romperayo, Meridian Brothers and even Coco Maria herself. Much like her radio show, the LP features artists who use music to explore cultural and personal connections between Afro-diasporic and Latin American cultures. The tropical rhythms blend with the cosmopolitan experimentation to form a playlist that is as thought-provoking as it is danceable. The artists included in the compilation are all wonderful and showcase exactly what makes Coco Maria a genius selector, but my favourite part was the attention she paid to the experience.

Starting you on the journey is the funky percussion of Nico Mauskovic’s “A Big Brain”. With this intro Coco Maria lets you know you’re in for a party, one that smells of hibiscus and just a little bit of sweat, full of drums and laughter, you can even hear the sounds of laughter in the song. After La Perla’s spirit moving “Guayabo” and Meridian Brothers & Grupo Renacimiento’s jazzy “Bomba Atomica” Coco Maria blesses you with a moment to wipe your brow and grab a cool drink with Graham Mushnik’s “Octopus Dance”, which does kind of sound like someone with eight arms created it. This pattern continues throughout. Coco Maria brings you up for the dance and every 4th song or so lets you relax to a slow groove, finally ending the party with the eccentric cumbias of Romperayo and Malphino so you end your night exactly as it began, laughing and dancing.

Molly Gallegos

Various ‘Made To Measure Vol.1’ LP/CD (Crammed Discs) 4/5

Marc Hollander’s Crammed label is variously described as “one of the most boldly eclectic independent labels around”, “innovative and groundbreaking” and “visionary”.

A quick genre map, for this composers’ retrospective, might give you some insight into why they might say those things. We’ve got ambient, electronica, minimalism, experimental avant-rock, soundscape creation, non-Western and “much more”.

And here’s a couple of their mission statements: the appealing “pathologically averse to pigeon-holing” and, via Georges Braque, the tasty “A lemon beside an orange is no longer a lemon, the orange no longer an orange; they have become fruit. Mathematicians follow this law. So do we.”

So. I guess we should be expecting some curious, purposeful, adventurous stuff then.

This retrospective has been released as part of Crammed’s 40 year (!) anniversary celebrations. Originally released in 1984 it includes works commissioned as soundtracks for dance & theatre performances, films, and a fashion show. It features 4 of Crammed’s shiniest treasures: Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, Aksak Maboul & Tuxedomoon.

The first four tracks come from Israel’s Minimal Compact’s “Pieces for Nothing” suite. “Bat-Yam” is a tight, funky, slowish, middle-eastern blessed, moodpiece. Layers build its brewing presence as the Belew-lite guitar chugs, chords and arpeggios, adding a sweet post-new wave touch. “Too Many Of Them” highlight’s Malka Spigel’s tormented, quavering voice over an edgy bassline and primitive synth drum. “Immer Vorbei” is a mechanically oom-pah-pah, tik-tok plodder with evocative, sensual violin and an Ozzy vs Wyatt vs Lydon weaving vocal. “Animal Killers” is an intense, electronic avant-rock trudger with a dramatically-lit spoken word and deliciously nagging keyboard lines.

“À La Recherche De B.” is the only Benjamin Lew track: an ambient soundscape of echoes, knocks and symphonic swells which passes much too quickly. Aksak Mabou’s turntablist “Scratch Holiday” minimally loops with woozy-making pads and static-noise-crackling, spinning vinyl jumps.

“Un chien mérite une mort de chien” was Aksak Maboul’s soundtrack for Michel Gheude’s eponymous theatre play, which revolves around the life of Russian writers Vladimir Mayakovsky, Ossip Brik, Lili Brik, Velimir Khlebnikov and the Russian Futurist movement. It’s 6 pieces running at roughly 15 minutes starting with “Odessa”s sinuous majesty of stately percussion and a most regal of riffs. 4 solo piano pieces follow: hypnotic and agitated then sombre and reflective then prancing and pixieish then strutting and formal. “Mort de Velimir” closes the suite with a darkly harmonious riff that barely pivots and pedals.

No waver’s Tuxedomoon wrap up the retrospective with three tracks from “Verdun”, the soundtrack for Dutch filmmaker Bob Visser’s movie about the famous WW1 battlefield. “Fanfare” is a portentous synthy herald; dark, romantic and lavish. “No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition” is menacing, marching, drubbing. Simple but intense. “Driving To Verdun” is angular and futuristic, optimistic synth motifs waltzing upon gambolling synth patterns.

So, obviously, this is not a party album. It is not folks getting down and getting brown in the sunshine. It’s correctly, artistically earnest and imparts remarkably detailed, evocative literary and visual experiences. Its often deceptively simple, post-punk delivery doubles down hard on mood and storytelling. Riffs and motifs repeat and repeat and repeat again to ensure you ‘get it’, bludgeoning you with the romance and feels. The result is a wonderfully cohesive album which is much more than just a collection of lemons and oranges. It is a vibrantly colorful bowl of tantalizingly piquant, not-pigeon-holed, homogeneous musical fruit. And it’s delicious.

Ian Ward

Matthew Halpin ‘Agreements’ CD (Frutex Tracks) 4/5

‘Tinkle Tinkle’, Thelonious Monk’s tune was reinterpreted for the twenty-first century by tenor saxophonist and composer Matthew Halpin. It features on his website to whet the appetite of would-be listeners. I can see why he chose this piece to represent himself with its playful, energetic and free approach; it certainly does the job of enticing the listener to find out more about the artist.

It just so happens that Halpin’s debut as leader is released on May 14th. This Dublin born, Cologne-based musician has appeared on plenty of other recordings as a sideman and co-leader. Previous projects have ranged in scope from Last Chance Dance, described as an ‘appreciation of the storytelling potential of traditional jazz music’ with a focus on sounds inspired by Sonny Rollins. The Owl Ones is a collaboration with Austrian vocalist Veronika Morscher who also features on Agreements. Cat Out of the Bag, a Cologne-based project which Halpin describes as ‘stumbling through the genres’ and Matthew Halpin’s Earwax Control which is described as ‘Humorous, absurd and captivating’ with its audiovisual experiments and projected visuals of classic movie footage and cartoons. These are just a few examples; Halpin has so far had a fluid approach to musical genres with an emphasis on reinterpreted classics and a few self-penned numbers.

Agreements, an album of original compositions by Halpin see him evolving from classic jazz territory towards a more experimental field though he still draws on an eclectic range of influences. On Agreements his collaborators are Kit Downs (organ) Hanno Busch (guitar) Sean Carpio (drums) and Sergio Martinez (percussion). Three vocalists also feature: Rebekka Salomea Ziegler, Laura Totenhagen and Veronika Morscher.

‘To Do Today To Do Dismay’ is the quirkily titled opening tune which revolves around an off the wall riff played with varying tempo. There’s a pleasant whiff of psychedelia about it as the sound speeds up, slows down and wavers in and out of a dreamlike place before it picks up pace once again and the original theme is resumed. Kit Downs’ organ sound adds to the period feel of the piece as do Hanno Busch’s guitar textures.

‘Dancing with the Devil’ has a funked-up riff and some joyous Hammond work matched by Halpin’s equally joyful sax soloing; the organ grinds away underneath the rock-inflected theme of Busch’s grungy guitar. Later, the neat and breezy melody of ‘The Beach’ contrasts with the slow, bluesy and slightly out of place ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ with Halpin sounding not unlike Coleman Hawkins.

The album rounds off its eventful journey with an interesting pair of tracks: ‘Sigh for Sam’ has an ambient quality, as if it was recorded in the small hours but there’s a restless undertow which takes hold in a rather unsettling way. I get the impression someone’s not sleeping too well. The closing song ‘Sleep’ finds an answer to this quest with its beautifully soothing harmonised vocal, ‘May your sleep be sound and silence all the world/ time unwound/ time unwound’, at last, there’s a resolution.

This album doesn’t have a particularly polished quality to it; the music is more like a work in progress and I think that’s part of its appeal. Halpin isn’t afraid to make stylistic leaps but somehow manages to hold it together and offers some compelling new musical directions.

James Read

OTOOTO ‘This Love is for You’ LP/CD (April) 5/5

The highly anticipated debut full-length release from OTOOTO, ‘This Love is For You’, finds its home on the boundless hub of inspiration that is April Records.

And OTOOTO is very much an exciting fit for April – a record label with a wide-spanning appreciation for innovative Danish talent who have had a fantastic run of recent releases from the haunting beauty of saxophonist Cecilie Strange’s ‘Blikan’, the projects by innovative piano trio Little North and the eclectic pop sensibilities of Kalaha’s ‘Mystafa’. The OTOOTO quintet look poised to carry on in that vein of ambitious and distinctive contributions to April’s riveting roster.

OTOOTO is comprised of members saxophonist Oilly Wallace, trumpeter Jonas Due, Matthias Petry on bass, Calle Brickman on keys and Andreas Svendsen on drums. Although a tight-knit quintet consisting of incredibly talented young Danish musicians, it is Wallace and Due who act as the nucleus of OTOOTO. As founding members and responsible for the project’s compositions, OTOOTO is a fascinating meeting of the minds of these two shining lights from Danish jazz.

With Wallace’s burgeoning career seeing his talents – and his saxophone – attached to numerous projects including his own Oilly Wallace Quartet, Guiding Star Orchestra, Kathrine Windfeld Big Band and Anders Fjeldsted Sextet, as well as supporting numerous projects including appearances on Quadron vocalist Coco O’s debut solo album ‘It’s A Process’. A seasoned live performer, trumpeter Due has toured extensively across Europe and the US and can also boast work with various collectives to his resume including Be-Bike-Sun-Tree, Mads Nørregård Outlet and Jazzkollektivet.

Through their numerous projects, both Wallace and Due display their expansive styles and disciplines across the ever-broadening scope of contemporary jazz. From big band projects to the avant-garde to improvisational collectives, Wallace and Due also each share a strong penchant for the infectious groove-based, neo-soul stylings that adorn the music throughout ‘This Love is For You’. From the lush slow-build of the album opener, ‘Dissolving Parts’, which eventually leads into a blissful synth backdrop – aided in large part by the inclusion of guest Christian Balvig – to other fantastic highlights like ‘0 to 1’ and ‘Mayday Greyday’, the aforementioned neo-soul aesthetic is really punctuated by some inspired interplay between Calle Brickman’s work on the keys and the sublimely understated horns throughout. While many of the songs excel within this mid-tempo groove, ‘Hekea’ delivers its own highlight as one of the album’s ballads which is a beautifully composed song.

With the extensive list of projects that Wallace and Due continue to find themselves as contributors to, there’s no doubt that their talents will see their respective lists grow exponentially but hopefully, they will still find time to follow up this awesome release with more OTOOTO in the future.

Imran Mirza

Nate Morgan ‘Journey Into Nigritia’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

Nate Morgan’s excellent debut album, ‘Journey Into Nigritia’, was recorded in 1983 and released on Nimbus West; a community-spirited label based in Los Angeles. Along with similar labels such as Black Jazz, Strata-East and Tribe, many of the recordings from Nimbus have become increasingly more collectable and this latest reissue from Pure Pleasure Records is another highlight from the catalogue, revisited and restored with a high-quality pressing and the sleeve notes as per original.

Pianist/composer Nate Morgan was an integral part of the Los Angeles’ underground jazz scene that centred around Horace Tapscott and his artist collective ‘Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA)’. Before joining up with the L.A. based community to record for the Nimbus West record label, Nate Morgan recorded alongside many well-known artists during the 1970s adding his personable style to not just jazz but the soulful spectrum alongside names including Chaka Khan and Willie Hutch. After becoming an integral member of Horace Tapscott’s collective, Nate Morgan contributed for over 30 years with collaborations continuing up until around 2011, as a valued member of the Build an Ark collective alongside names including Phil Ranelin, Dwight Trible and Carlos Niño. Nate Morgan’s influence and contribution spread much wider than music. His support and work with the concerts for Drew organisation helped raise over 2,000,000 in scholarships over 18 years for The Charles R.Drew University of Science & Medicine in Los Angeles.

Joining Nate Morgan on the album are Dadisi Komolafe on alto saxophone, Jeff Littleton on bass and Fritz Wise on drums. As expected, the compositions and music is of the highest quality and varied yet holding together as a whole. The opening track ‘Mrafu’ is the most recognizable and memorable. The piece was included on Kyoto Jazz Massive’s excellent Nimbus compilation in 2006 and Soul Brother’s ‘African Spirits’ collection in 2004. Pianist Nate Morgan and altoist Dadisi Komolafe add a real spark to the occasion on this track. Dadisi’s bold lyrical tone and Nate’s flowing runs perfectly mesh and catalyze into a wonderful piece that is altogether memorable and rhythmically captivating. Faint reminders of 1970’s Horace Silver and Pharaoh Sanders add a familiarity without any sense of a tribute.

‘Morning Prayer’ builds an image of a new day ahead. It’s a memorable solo piece by Nate Morgan with the pianist waking up the day with a firm expressive and flowing tone that perfectly catches an image. There’s a punctuating style that is reminiscent of McCoy Tyner with ease and warmth of depth and anticipation.
‘Mother’ is a superb modal piece that effortlessly glides in motion shifting gears with connectedness and fluidity. It’s another highlight from the album and one that combines the pensive infectious touch of Nate Morgan with Fritz Wise’s inspiring drumming which locks into the journey and brings out something special.
Nate Morgan really stretches out on ‘Study in C.T.’, this tribute to Cecil Taylor is an explorative piece with a more intensely angled approach than the rest of the album. It’s a really adventurous composition that allows the quartet to stretch out and bring a more probing free feel to the piece.

Every track on the recording offers a slightly different glimpse into the artistry and style of the leader and his quartet who had an in-depth understanding of each other. ‘Journey Into Nigritia’ is another deep and memorable album to have arrived from the Los Angeles’ jazz community centred around Horace Tapscott, Tom Albach and all the artists and contributors involved with the various aligned projects. Pianist Nate ‘Mrafu’ Morgan was an important part of the underground jazz movement and this excellent album documents a poignant place in time and space.

Mark Jones

Dennis Egberth ‘Dennis Egberths Första’ LP (DEg.) 4/5

Dennis Egberth is a drummer and composer based in Stockholm. His eclectic work spans jazz, improvised music, avant-garde, alternative pop and post-punk. “Dennis Egberths Första” is his first album as a band leader; the first released through his own label DEg.

It’s the autumn of 2018 and, from Egberth’s apartment in southern Stockholm, new compositions dawn as bleary-eyed, low volume piano explorations opportuned by his benevolently sleeping, newborn baby. As the musical ideas evolve so does his notion of a record. That notion eventually becoming reality in Örnsbergs Musikstudio on 16 February 2020 with the help of Katt Hernandez (violin), Isak Hedtjärn (clarinet), Johan Graden (keyboards) and Vilhelm Bromander (double bass).

The output of that year and a half of creativity stimulates my intellectual-emotional-intersection sweet spot. It’s composed music but it has an improvisational fizz. Sonically, I’d approximate it as an acoustic meeting of Don Byron’s early/mid-90s and Brahja’s now – strongly timbral like Brahja with the early/mid 20th-century avant-gardism of Byron.

“Palo Santo” drifts in as shards of light, abstract reflections off a mirror. Hedtjärn’s leisurely, breathy motif repeats as the band warmly coalesce around it before an ascendant, accelerating climb agitatedly stumbles and fights to regain its balance. Hedtjärn and his motif return to absentmindedly mollify.

“Syrinx” is initially folksy bonhomie with Hernandez and Hedtjärn romantically waltzing and Graden cascading the shimmer. Graden then goes on a staccato exploration as Egberth surges and relents before a purposeful, amorous return to the intro.

“Magenta” is touched by autumnal reflection and melancholy. The musicians are one powerful, compelling voice, recounting an emotionally escalating monologue of a complex, unbeaten life that has admirably coped thus far. “Sjösabrinken” slows proceedings but continues the mood as Hernandez’s bewitchingly uncanny violin touchingly reaches out.

“Leijona” and “Lophorina” shift seasons, now offering a springtime optimism; less reflective, more living in that delightful moment. “Leijona” is a swinging party, “Lophorina” a glorious, butterflies, birds and stirring sunlight through trees revelry.

The charming closer, “180908”, is impassioned, deeply affecting and ultimately rousing. Graden’s Satie-tickled tinklings and ardent articulations are made more expressive by the sublimely tender yet elevating overlays his bandmates generously float, layer upon layer.

“Dennis Egberths Första” is a remarkable first outing by Dennis Egberth. It is an album for today that has absorbed much of yesterday. It is considered and intelligent but is in no way free of juicy frisson. It throws down orchestral avant-gardism and freeish jazz but delivers it with accessible furniture music, European folk sensibilities. And it tells human stories about lived experiences; stories that we are asked to rewrite for ourselves, about ourselves or perhaps others. If Egberth’s första is anything to go by I cannot wait to hear what he does nästa.

Ian Ward

Pharoah Sanders ‘Rejoice’ 2LP 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

Pharoah Sanders has long been one of the shining lights of spiritual jazz. Even during the genre’s current resurgence within contemporary jazz circles – namely evidenced through devoted Sanders disciples including Jake Long’s Maisha collective on Brownswood Recordings or the immeasurable success of Los Angeles-based saxophonist Kamasi Washington – Sanders has continued to sit as the benchmark for projects going forward. And while Pharoah Sanders is currently soaking up praise from an entirely new generation of listeners through his collaborative project, ‘Promises’, with electronic music producer Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra, Pure Pleasure choose to honour him by turning back the clock to 1981 for a vinyl reissue of a forgotten gem from the revered saxophonist’s extensive catalogue.

Pure Pleasure is a record label devoted to the reverential appreciation of the vinyl product – everything from the record itself to the album’s cover artwork and sleeve notes are all viewed by Pure Pleasure as elements to be cherished for the complete album experience. Their recent vinyl reissues have seen the label consign their affections to stunning pieces of work by Stanley Cowell, Charles Rouse and Horace Tapscott, and continuing that theme of ‘celebration’, Pure Pleasure turn their attention to ‘Rejoice’ by Pharoah Sanders.

Originally released in 1981 through Theresa Records – the California-based label that was founded in 1975 housing releases from luminaries like Nat Adderley, Idris Muhammad and George Coleman – ‘Rejoice’ lovingly strives for that notion of celebration, achieving it almost immediately with the album’s nearly thirteen-minute opening title track. The statement of intent as declared by B Kazuko Ishida’s spoken-word introduction as she invites listeners to “Walk with us, dance with us, sing with us, rejoice with us, join us in peace and love”.

While Sanders may perhaps be most well-known for his period on Impulse! Records in the 60s and 70s, seeing ‘Rejoice’ plucked from a later period and being reintroduced is particularly exciting. In large part, this is an album that embraces its 80s surrounding soundscape, particularly during the album’s early portion of highlife songs (‘Highlife’ and ‘Nigerian Juju Hilife’) and marks the first of several albums that Sanders would unveil within this decade, many of which via Theresa Records.

‘Rejoice’ is bolstered by some fantastic names as part of the line-up including drummer Billy Higgins, pianist Joe Bonner, Steve Turre and Danny Moore on trombone and trumpet respectively, and then there’s the inclusion of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson who guests on several tracks throughout including the first of two tributes to the music of John Coltrane, ‘Moments Notice’ with vocals from George V Johnson Jr. The oft-covered ‘Central Park West’ – another Coltrane classic – is also affectionately recreated for a genuine album highlight.

As mentioned at the top of this review, while ‘Promises’ certainly gives an opportunity for listeners to embrace Pharoah Sanders within an entirely new context, if those celebrated Impulse! releases are all you’ve gravitated towards within Sanders’ past catalogue then the reissue of ‘Rejoice’ is just as much of a fantastic opportunity to explore Sanders within an alternate context as well.

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Ed Kelly ‘Ed Kelly & Friend’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 3/5
Pharoah Sanders ‘Izipho Zam (My Gifts)’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

Noah Haidu ‘Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett’ CD (Sunnyside) 5/5

Okay, I’ll admit it, it was the title of this album that grabbed my interest. That and the fact that pianist Noah Haidu is joined on this trio outing by none other than two legendary jazz musicians; drummer Billy Hart and bassist Buster Williams. Having first worked together in 1969 at a concert with vocalist Betty Carter in Chicago, Hart and Williams both played on classic Miles Davis albums before joining Herbie Hancock’s innovative sextet Mwandishi, going on to record a wealth of acoustic and electric music with legends such as McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz and Kenny Barron. At the age of 19, Noah Haidu studied at Rutgers University with Kenny Barron, but was soon skipping classes to sit in at jazz clubs in Barren’s hometown of Philadelphia. He later moved to Brooklyn and went on to record his debut album “Slipstream”. His subsequent albums and sideman work have seen him collaborating with the likes of Ambrose Akinmusire, Mike Stern, and Jeremy Pelt. Haidu made his Sunnyside Records debut in 2020 with the acclaimed “Doctone”, which addressed the remarkable legacy of pianist Kenny Kirkland.

The decision to focus this album’s material around the great Keith Jarrett crystallised when news broke of Jarrett’s retirement due to a pair of debilitating strokes. “When I heard about Keith,” says Haidu, “I was profoundly moved, and I started to envision the recording with Billy and Buster as a kind of musical response to these events and Keith’s body of work.” One of the most important things to say about this album is that Haidu most definitely has his own voice. The eight tunes reflect the spirit of Jarrett’s work – especially his trio recordings with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock – but are not any kind of imitation or reworking of Jarrett’s music. The trio here focus on their own vibe and originality, respectfully paying homage to Jarrett along the way. Of his relationship to Jarrett’s music Haidu says: “I’ve never thought of myself as a pianist who ‘plays like Keith’. However, his work has increasingly influenced my trio approach in the last few years. I’m getting back to playing ballads, standards and increasingly finding my own voice on standard repertoire. That evolution has been inspired by Jarrett who plays standards with complete authenticity, never sounding like anyone else on this music.”

Almost everything on the album is an unedited first take. According to Haidu, “These songs have a certain simplicity. There’s not a lot of pyrotechnics, everything depends on the band interaction, you can’t hide behind a complicated form or wild rhythms. You have to make a statement, and everyone has to breathe together in the music.” These are sentiments I whole-heartedly agree with, and indeed, a way of thinking that has served Keith Jarrett well on many of his interpretations of jazz standards over the years. The music here develops organically, just as it should do, with Haidu, Hart and Williams all contributing compositions. Haidu elaborates on the repertoire choices in the liner notes: “We decided to include Buster and Billy’s wonderful compositions which highlight the type of interaction and open-ended expression that I feel is the heart of the Jarrett/DeJohnette/Peacock trio.”

Williams’ dreamy “Air Dancing” opens the album in some style. Atmospheric cymbals lead us into the tune with Haidu immediately taking the reins with maturity and openness. As with the music throughout this wonderful album, there’s no holding back from the trio, a confidence and joyous spirit flowing freely and effortlessly. Hart’s “Duchess” swims with lyrical beauty, waves of golden light shimmering and glistening on the water’s surface, with an undercurrent of warmth and fondness rising to the surface. “What a difference a day makes” is the first of the standards performed here, and what a beauty it is. Haidu shows a lighter touch that dances with graceful ease, like a ballet dancer, barely touching the floor, the pianist’s fingers elegantly move from key to key, breathlessly creating a bright, sunny disposition. The Jarrett waltz “Rainbow” is fabulous. The trio interacts so well together it just puts a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. In an exception to the rule with this album, Jarrett’s “Rainbow” segues into Haidu’s jubilantly rocking “Song for Keith Jarrett”. Let’s be fair, he couldn’t make an album without pulling out all the Jarrett stops at some point or other. And it’s a blast, the trio obviously enjoying themselves as Haidu relishes the opportunity to use plenty of those Jarrett-esque frills and motifs that made him so popular, especially in his earlier years. Next up is the standard “Georgia”. This is so mesmerising, a wonderful take on this classic tune, being both thoughtful and illuminating. The title track “Slowly” was penned by Haidu and is dedicated to Jarrett’s solo piano style. It’s yet another exemplary piece of writing and performance from the pianist. It’s back to full-on jazz trio mode for Billy Hart’s “Lorca”, a tune that reverberates with all the things that is great about this trio. The closing piece “But Beautiful” may well be a tune many of us are familiar with, but I assure you that you still need to find time to listen to this performance of the timeless classic. It is achingly beautiful, Haidu, Hart and Williams bringing it together with a soft, gentle, wholly emotive touch that melts my heart.

“Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett” is a stunning album. Not only does it sum up the spirit of so many Jarrett/DeJohnette/Peacock performances, but it realises a fresh and inspiring take on the piano/bass/drums trio format. Traditional in many ways, yet original in many others, it brings together three great musicians who just play their hearts out, with skill, intelligence and a quintessential jazz verve.

Mike Gates

Astral Travelling Since 1993