Playing like EST is not a put down, it’s a compliment. Why? Well it’s not just because the Swedish band who changed the course of the piano trio are personal favourites of mine, that would be a bit crap, wouldn’t it? (Although they are, incidentally.) But it’s because they were so significant, and have inspired a host of bedroom dreamers and thinkers to found bands all over the place. So if you can play like them or rise to their level you’ve got musicianship for sure, taste as well, and good compositional horse sense into the bargain, because after EST piano jazz has never been the same. This cannot be ignored. GoGo Penguin you feel realise they have to face up to what the Swedes achieved together and like them are all about the band “as band", their individual names, pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Grant Russell, and drummer Rob Turner, are all emblazoned in a ridiculously tiny point size on the back of the CD, under the titles of their songs although these tune names are all picked out in block capitals. That says something.
Opener ‘Seven Sons of Björn’ flares up with “pop chords", a lot of fluid build, and owes everything to EST. ‘Last Words’, which follows, doesn’t, although Russell takes on Dan Berglund’s method without the extra ampage, and the tasteful use of electronics. The beginning of the title song ‘Fanfares’ again recalls the late Esbjörn Svensson, and Illingworth sounds as if he knows what he’s doing and has tackled the faintly heretical notion that there’s more to life than just music. Most good musicians know how to step back eventually because in their music they are able to draw on what life is all about, even if they don’t know all the answers. I felt this about GoGo Penguin. They don’t have an innocence in the same way that say the excellent Hamburg melodicists Tingvall trio project for instance, but Tingvall aren’t as close to EST as these Mancunian aquatically-inclined creatures seem to be. The bar with these post-EST bands is set incredibly high, and GoGo Penguin have made a good dip into challenging Nordic waters here on their debut, and the seven co-written tunes recorded in January knit well. So far, so good.
GoGo Penguin, top, and the CD sleeve above right. Fanfares is released on 5 November
The Aruán Ortiz and Michael Janisch Quintet
Banned in London
Recorded last November live at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London this quintet co-led by Cuban pianist Ortiz and UK-based American bassist Janisch and a horn section of adopted Catalan Raynald Colom on trumpet and the great MBASE altoist Greg Osby plus drummer Rudy Royston, best known for his work for JD Allen and Bill Frisell, is a hearty release, and meat and drink to lovers of 21st century bop-become-hard bop. It doesn’t sound at all like hard bop used to sound, but you can hear where this thrusting, in-your-face, kind of jazz has its roots. Imagine if Charlie Parker was 18 years old in 2012; or Clifford Brown was a 20-year-old now walking down the street and into a club, and simply blowing everyone away. Take a moment just to contemplate what their music would be like. It wouldn’t be the same of course as the music they used to play, but it wouldn’t be like this either, as these fine musicians have something to say and no one else can say it for them either in the past or the present. There are five tracks, all very long (no track is shorter than ten-and-a-half minutes) but each individually persuasive and involving. I liked Osby’s opening to ‘Jitterbug Waltz’, but the heart of the album lies on Ortiz’s tunes ‘Orbiting’ and ‘The Maestro’. Go straight there and pretend you’re in the middle of Soho as day becomes night walking down the stairs with the band right in front of you, because the club engineer Luc Saint-Martin has faithfully captured the sound in this special place so it’s easy to imagine. This record unites different generations of jazz fans who know some things never go out of fashion. In fact the concept of being ‘all the rage’ is just plain nonsense to these guys. Strictly no messing. Stephen Graham
Released on 29 October