En­sem­ble per­fec­tion May round-up

En­ergy and spon­tane­ity thrive in this glo­ri­ous al­bum full of rich va­ri­ety and gor­geous soul

BBC Music Magazine - - Jazz -

Bran­ford Marsalis Quar­tet

The Se­cret Be­tween the

Shadow and the Soul Bran­ford Marsalis (sax­o­phones),

Joey Calder­azzo (pi­ano), Eric Re­vis (bass), Justin Faulkner (drums)

Okeh 1907591403­2

Bran­ford Marsalis’s method when plan­ning a set for his quar­tet is to have ev­ery­one bring their ideas along and see what ex­cites. In the stu­dio he em­pha­sises melody and rhyth­mic drive over har­mony, re­sult­ing in mu­sic that has clar­ity and drive, but with ev­ery­one free to play in the cracks.

‘Dance of the Evil Toys’, Re­vis’s opener on the new al­bum, is a case in point: it’s nervy and pushed hard by the leader, the rhythm sec­tion freestylin­g busily around him. By con­trast, the group’s treat­ment of the late pi­anist An­drew Hill’s quirky piece ‘Snake Hip Waltz’ is bluesy, with a comedic edge that can’t quite dis­guise the fiercely con­cen­trated group in­ter­play.

Calder­azzo brings two stand-out orig­i­nal bal­lads. The wist­ful ‘Con­ver­sa­tion Among the Ru­ins’ is beau­ti­fully spelled out by Marsalis on so­prano sax, while the gor­geous melody on ‘Cianna’ is ca­ressed by the leader’s tenor like a well-loved stan­dard.

With this line-up some­thing of a rar­ity in jazz to­day, it’s rather won­der­ful to be re­minded of how the clas­sic horn-led quar­tet can still re­ally smash it. ★★★★★ Like Bran­ford Marsalis, the Cal­i­for­nian trum­peter Ralph Alessi also re­tains a long-term work­ing band. The quin­tet mem­bers, which in­clude Ravi Coltrane on sax­o­phones, have an easy fa­mil­iar­ity with one an­other that al­lows them to make mu­sic of a re­strained, even frag­ile beauty. The scene is set on Imag­i­nary Friends, Alessi’s third al­bum as leader for ECM, with ‘Iram Is­sela’, an ethe­real trans­port for Alessi’s ex­tended, full toned sto­ry­telling. Coltrane’s tenor sax in­sin­u­ates it­self so sub­tly into the mu­sic he prac­ti­cally re­de­fines the no­tion of solo­ing. Andy Milne (pi­ano), Drew Gress (bass) and Marker Fer­ber (drums) cre­ate a shift­ing, ephemeral sound that per­me­ates the whole al­bum.

(ECM 770 1817 ★★★★)

By way of con­trast, drum­mer An­ton Eger drafted in nearly a dozen con­trib­u­tors for his sparkling de­but as leader, the epony­mously ti­tled AE. Con­ser­va­tory trained, then a drum­mer in the Nor­we­gian mil­i­tary, Eger made his name in civvy street as the pow­er­house be­hind shapeshift­ing UK combo Phrone­sis and as side­man to young sax star Marius Ne­set.

This col­lec­tive makes a star­tling sound that de­fies cat­e­gori­sa­tion.

The opener, ‘★erb’, is a swirling mael­strom whipped up by Pet­ter Eldh’s synths (a con­stant in the setlist) and Dan Ni­choll’s Wurl­itzer. ‘Ox­ford Su­per Nova’, whose riff re­calls a Roy Ay­ers R&B groove, features the retro war­bling of the Moog; ‘datn’ finds Phrone­sis keys wizard Ivo Neame noodling on mel­lotron over Eger’s frac­tured back­beat. (Edi­tion EDN1122 ★★★★)

Pi­anist John Turville’s in­flu­ences can be heard clearly in the beau­ti­fully un­der­stated acous­tic sound he’s cre­ated for Head First: the late pi­anist John Tay­lor and horn player Kenny Wheeler were the gen­tle giants of UK jazz. Tay­lor es­pe­cially would have loved the far reach­ing setlist for this, Turville’s de­but record­ing as leader: rar­efied orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions like ‘Ennerdale’ that de­pict the wild north of Eng­land, in­ter­spersed with warmer, borrowed ex­ot­ica from Buenos Aries and Brazil.

It’s a per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for sax­o­phon­ist Ju­lian Ar­guelles too, whose clas­si­cally in­clined lines add to the qual­ity on dis­play. (Whirl­wind WR4734 ★★★★)

Sax­o­phon­ist Dun­can Ea­gles is an­other young player branch­ing out as leader for the first time with a new al­bum, Ci­ti­zen. On his own ma­te­rial, the sinewy sound he’s honed with dy­namic young South London mod­ernists Par­tikel is ap­plied to more a more bop-like pro­gramme. ‘Riad’ was in­spired by a visit to Mar­rakesh and Ea­gles’ so­prano sax tan­gles with David Pre­ston’s gui­tar to evoke the good na­tured clam­our of the souk. ‘Con­quis­ta­dor’ has a less bright feel, opened by gloomy bass fig­ures and Ea­gles’ mourn­ful tenor in­to­na­tions. Pre­ston’s golden lines on ‘Taxco’ are rem­i­nis­cent of Jim ★all’s style, en­hanced by drum­mer Dave ★am­blett’s cross hatch­ing. (Ro­pead­ope RAD443 ★★★★)

While he was on the road, Welsh pi­anist Gwilym Sim­cock fan­ta­sised about record­ing alone at home in Ber­lin, on his re­cently ac­quired 1900 vintage Stein­way B: Near And Now is the re­al­i­sa­tion of that dream. Each suite is ded­i­cated to a pi­ano hero, mostly from the world of cham­ber jazz. The three loosely struc­tured tunes in ‘Beau­ti­ful is Our Mo­ment’, with their trick­ling arpeg­gios and frag­ments of melody, is for Billy Childs; ‘Many Worlds Away’ for Eg­berto Gis­monti, which builds to a glo­ri­ous stand­ing wave of sound, is the most im­pro­vised. (ACT 9883-2 ★★★★)

Marsalis mas­sive: mar­vel at these mu­si­cians’ in­ter­play

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