There’s been a recent debate on a few websites spurred on in part by Ethan Iverson’s comments on the value or otherwise of high profile contests and prizes with comments flying across the Internet for and against. I suppose the same will happen here in the UK once this year’s MOBO and Mercury award nominations are announced over the next few weeks. In some ways it’s more about the nominations, and the furore, if there is any, dies down when the winners are announced.

This year the Mercury announcement has been delayed partly because of the Olympics taking over, so nominations which are usually held in July are happening this month instead, with the winner announced in November.

Last year one of the bands that was hotly tipped to be Mercury annointed, the very fine Kairos 4tet, got nada but actually went on to win the MOBO for best jazz act, while the Mercury nom itself went to Gwilym Simcock for his airy but formidable Schloss Elmau solo piano album recorded, as you do, at a spa retreat in Bavaria.

Simcock this year has been touring with Anglo-American band The Impossible Gentlemen out of contention and with Lighthouse, definitely in with a chance, and if Lighthouse have been entered they’ll surely take up some of the judges’ chin scratching time as their own album (it’s Simcock with saxophonist Tim Garland and Asaf Sirkis) was one of the standout releases of the year for many. Portico Quartet, who were nominated for an earlier album changed tack this year to release a more electronica-oriented album, so don’t rule them out for the Mercury in this new guise, surely a prime candidate for a band that has changed dramatically from its jazz roots. Another outfit, which features former Jade Fox scenester David Okumu and Polar Bear’s Tom Herbert, The Invisible, has also moved well away from early influences and may get nominated but not in the “token jazz” spot, as they inhabit a trusted patch of indie-land.

While 2012 has seen few obvious jazz acts build such a consensus around them to make their appeal so blindingly obvious they’ll just stroll up for a Mercury or MOBO, other bands surely in consideration must be Roller Trio (if they’ve been entered like all of these mentioned I hasten to caution), Phronesis, if the rules allow them entry, Troyka, trioVD, Neil Cowley Trio for The Face of Mount Molehill, Get The Blessing for OCDC, Django Bates, Zara McFarlane, Josh Arcoleo, Partikel, World Service Project, Arun Ghosh, Beats and Pieces, a rare big band possible, Alexander Hawkins, Julian Joseph, Stuart McCallum, John Surman for Saltash Bells, and Trio Libero, if the rules allow the band on the tip sheet. Black Top (Pat Thomas, Steve Williamson and Orphy Robinson) have still to record so maybe they’re one to watch for next year as are Sons of Kemet. Dice Factory have made their presence felt with their self titled debut but that’s a late entrant, and Courtney Pine’s House of Legends while not released yet may have been entered if it met the Mercury and MOBO deadlines. Ivo Neame’s Yatra might be too late as well but if not it’s in with a shout. Both Ian Shaw and Claire Martin have released strong vocal records and Matthew Bourne’s Montauk Variations would be a great left field choice, and at its polar opposite young crooner Alexander Stewart made a good showing with his take on the Smiths on his debut album.

So it will be interesting to see who gets the nod. It could even be none of the above. In recent years it’s been pianists all the way with Simcock and Kit Downes while the MOBOs have moved away from the crossover smooth jazz of Yolanda Brown to post-bop last year. I’d like to see either Neil Cowley Trio, Get the Blessing, Matthew Bourne, or Troyka bask in the Mercury glow this year, they’d all be fine ambassadors for the music, and Zara McFarlane, Jazz Jamaica or Black Top pick up the MOBO, as the best jazz act category does not necessarily need a brand new album to guarantee inclusion.

Whoever gets it I hope they capture the wider media’s imagination so that the word can get out about the UK scene that bit more. Otherwise we’ll have to wait until the next set of awards to try to up the scene’s profile and they’re in January when Jazz FM launch their inaugural gongs.

Stephen Graham

In the running
Simcock, Garland, Sirkis
Lighthouse ACT
Roller Trio Roller Trio F-IRE
Partikel Cohesion Whirlwind
Portico Quartet Portico Quartet Real World
The Invisible Rispah Ninja Tune
Get The Blessing OCDC Naim
Django Bates Confirmation Lost Marble
World Service Project Relentless Brooke
Arun Ghosh Primal Odyssey Camoci
Beats and Pieces Big Ideas Efpi
Alexander Hawkins Ensemble All There, Ever Out Babel
Julian Joseph Live at the Vortex in London ASC
Troyka Moxxy Edition
Claire Martin Too Much In Love To Care Linn
Ian Shaw A Ghost In Every Bar Splashpoint
Zara McFarlane Until Tomorrow Brownswood
Sheppard, Benita, Rochford Trio Libero ECM
Stuart McCallum Distilled Naim
Dice Factory Dice Factory Babel
Ivo Neame Yatra Edition
Matthew Bourne Montauk Variations Leaf
Alexander Stewart All Or Nothing At All Alexander Stewart Music
Neil Cowley Trio
The Face of Mount Molehill Naim

Get the Blessing: will they bag an award? Pictured top, and Zara McFarlane, above

This time last year The Face of Mount Molehill was just a twinkle in the eye, in that vacuum between advance copy and release and no one really apart from the band and their nearest and dearest had actually heard the record.

Molehill, released at the start of 2012 in that funny old world when the London Olympics hadn’t actually taken place and the capital was even then still reeling from the previous summer’s riots, has since gone on to become the biggest selling new UK jazz release of the year so far with more than 8,000 copies sold and climbing. That’s pretty unlikely to be beaten by any other jazz release, even though it’s still only September.

But before the end of the year wheels around once more the trio is rehearsing ahead of an autumn tour in the States, and then back in Blighty with the Goldsmiths (Big) Strings on 17 November plays an unsual London Jazz Festival afternoon show at the Barbican, a “never-been-done-before project", says the venue, which involves the trio along with Molehill violinist/arranger Julian Ferraretto challenging a hand picked 30-piece ‘big strings’ orchestra to play by ear instead of from notation music from The Face of Mount Molehill plus new tunes specially written.

Last year at the London Jazz Festival, the complete programme of which for this year is announced next week but which features already such flagged-up luminaries as Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau and Kurt Elling in the festival’s biggest ever incarnation fittingly in its 20th anniversary year, the Neil Cowley Trio played a midnight gig at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, the album’s producer Dom Monks (who engineered on Coldplay’s Viva La Vida) even manning the sound desk.

That night it was a chance to hear the album in a relaxed setting as the NCT kicked right in after soundchecking in front of an audience made up of Facebook friends, musicians and gig-goers who had made their way over from other London Jazz Festival venues that night. They began with ‘Rooster Was A Witness’ and the hum of feedback still ringing in their ears, pianist Cowley also doubling on Nord keyboards; new recruit Aussie indie rocker Rex Horan (Mama’s Gun) on double bass; the trio’s long standing and original drummer Evan Jenkins; and the Mount Molehill Strings squeezed decorously in the rear of the compact bandstand of the Dean Street basement club demonstrating a certain amount of ingenuity in running through the material with Cowley in the tiny breaks between songs bantering with the audience, the desk, and the band. The band settled on the highly effective ‘Skies Are Rare’ and by ‘Fable’ started to rock. Cowley got into the zone headbanging away on the Steinway, with minimalist lines, fast breakout improvising and resolved melodic flourishes, while on the title track of the album the strings came into their own.

The classical players who will come head to head with the Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican at this year’s London Jazz Festival may not know quite what’s hit them. One thing’s for sure with this trio, as the record has also shown and as the public continues to snap it up, jazz has never quite sounded the same before.

Stephen Graham


Neil Cowley Trio top and the cover of The Face of Mount Molehill. US dates are: Iridium, New York (11 October); Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio (13 Oct); Franklin Theatre, Nashville (14 Oct); Yoshi’s, Oakland, California (15 Oct); and The Mint, Los Angeles (16 Oct).

Musicweek.com reports today of a new Jazz FM awards to be launched on the last day of January next year by digital radio station Jazz FM, sponsored by US audio firm Klipsch. According to the story: “The annual accolades will recognise and commend those who have made exceptional contributions to the jazz industry during the preceding twelve months," and both the new generation and jazz legends will be recognised. Jazz FM has worked with Klipsch already and the firm founded in Arkansas in the 1940s has already sponsored the station’s retro jazz dance Peppermint Candy show.

The awards will complement the existing Parliamentary Jazz Awards, the only significant UK jazz awards at the moment, held each year in May, but will be seen as a broader media event with some similarities to the BBC Jazz Awards that the corporation ran successfully for a number of years in the noughties until funding cuts ushered in their demise along with the sister world music awards event.

2013 will also see Jazz FM mount the Love Supreme outdoor jazz festival near Brighton to add to its burgeoning live sector that this year has seen the station extend its Funky Sensation club night from its Ronnie Scott’s base, and promote major concert hall gigs by such stars as Marcus Miller and Dionne Warwick.

Stephen Graham

 

Pictured above: New Bluetooth On-Ear headphones awards sponsor Klipsch launches this month; and the Jazz FM logo.

Fresh from his “sit down" comedy shows in Edinburgh Ian Shaw was on familiar ground at a venue he loves, the Vortex, and where he is constantly asked back and plays several times a year, even appearing there on New Year’s Eve. At the end of his gig last night he was comfortable enough to be found behind the bar talking in relaxed form to old friends and newcomers alike who had filed in to fill up the Gillett Square club earlier.

The concert was, I don’t want to use the expression but here goes anyway, a game of two halves, with the first a run of songs from Ian’s fine new Fran Landesman album A Ghost in Every Bar released on Sussex indie jazz label Splashpoint. Accompanying himself on the piano mostly he was joined towards the end of the first half only vacating the stool for pianist Simon Wallace who co-wrote many of the songs by the great Landesman featured on the album.

Best known of course for standards ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ and ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’, Landesman songs have a depth and a bittersweet realness few lyricists achieve, and Ian who has a strong affinity with her songs developed over many years was then joined on ‘Ballad’ by Sue Richardson on flugelhorn, to add that extra touch of piquancy. 

After the break, Ian turned to his Edinburgh show A Bit of a Mouthful, named he said mischievously for the jaw-breaking Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, as he’s from Wales. Frequently hilarious the show charts topics featuring tall tales of love and sex from Shaw’s point of view of, as he puts it, “a practising homosexual." Some are deliciously rude (the tale of the hapless Gareth, for instance), and a beautifully conceived list song featuring lots of Internet acronyms. Best of all was his James Taylor pastiche which was very, very funny, even managing a good old swipe at James Blunt which was well aimed. At the end Shaw topped it off expertly by seguing beautifully into Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone Again Naturally’, which was wonderfully done. A hugely enjoyable night all in all.

Stephen Graham

Ian Shaw pictured above

Jacky Terrasson

Gouache

Universal France **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT

A welcome return from pianist Terrasson whose profile has dipped lately but who is newly signed to a major label after a spell in the past with Blue Note. Terrasson follows the Yaron Herman path a little by choosing unusual pop songs to cover (Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ the equivalent of Herman doing Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ a while back), but there’s nothing gimmicky in the slightest about Gouache, which also features a fun version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’, some Satie, original music of Terrasson’s, and listen out for the delicate and affecting voice of rising star Cécile McLorin Salvant on John Lennon’s ‘Oh My Love’. The latter provides some spine tingling moments on what is overall a fine jazz pop-inclined album full of delights that draw you back in time through jazz history, a nod to James P Johnson here, a Herbie-ism there, but all these styles are stood back from, absorbed, and given a nowadays personality. Terrasson also plays Rhodes on some tracks, and he shows considerable depth throughout both as a soloist (on the Chopin-esque ‘Happiness’) and an accompanist, particularly set against the trumpet of Stéphane Belmondo on some tracks. 
Released on Monday

Diana Krall

Glad Rag Doll

Verve ***

A very different Diana Krall at work on this T Bone Burnett-produced album, with a rootsy Americana flavour, recorded on an old nineteenth century piano, that unmistakable voice and lots of guitar. There’s very little jazz, possibly even none, but instead mature interpretations of songs ranging from the 1920s and 30s to the 50s. Glad Rag Doll, which takes its name from the Ager/Dougherty/Yellen song, the fifth track, has people like Marc Ribot cropping up to considerable effect, and it’s a bit of a reality check when you hear him in this context as other projects of his have included the wildly different Spirits Rejoice Albert Ayler project with Henry Grimes that played in London last year. The Krall band besides Ribot and producer Burnett on guitar by contrast has ukulele player Howard Coward, drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Dennis Crouch, guitarists Bryan Sutton and Colin Linden, plus keyboardist Keefus Green. Krall, it’s easy to forget, began as a pianist and mentored by the late great Ray Brown developed her vocals side, becoming a very high class and much celebrated jazz singer who then switched to co-write her own songs on The Girl in The Other Room, away from her earlier interests in say the music of Nat King Cole. I think this album will appeal to Bill Frisell or Bob Dylan fans a bit, maybe Charlie Haden devotees even, at the country end of his work, will take to it as well. Highlights here are Doc Pomus’ ‘Lonely Avenue’, which is an interesting contrast to say the way Van Morrison interprets the song, and a deeply satisfying rendition of the Millers’ ‘Wide River To Cross’. A sophisticated album, with unexpected pleasures including the tempo and feel of ‘When The Curtain Comes Down’ and one that shows considerable artistic growth despite the tacky artwork. Clearly Krall won’t be pigeonholed, although of course that is not an ultimate end in itself and not the point of the album at all. What though is harder to ascertain is whether it is just a bunch of songs or not.  
Released on Monday 15 October

Mick Coady’s Synergy

Nine Tales of the Pendulum

Jelly Mould ***


‘Naturally Liberating Molecules’ might be the most science-laden song title I have come across in a while (ask Irish bassist Coady after the gig what the song title means if you catch him and his band on tour this autumn). More familiar although that bit more metaphysical is Ivo Neame’s ‘Unseen Coracle’, which also features on the pianist’s octet album Yatra released soon. Featuring the cerebral circuitously engaging US alto sax player David Binney and with Irish jazz scene faces drummer Sean Carpio and saxophonist Michael Buckley joining Coady and Neame, Nine Tales is intelligent music making, with an engaging abstract accent that fans of Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman will relate to. Released in October

Davide Mantovani

Choices

Equilateral Records ***

While a little over produced but with a pleasantly pan-global feel to it UK-based Italian bassist Davide Mantovani is well known for his work as a sideman with a range of leading jazz artists including Zoe Rahman, who appears here on a number of tracks. At times the album transports you to Africa via the kora of Madou Sidiki Diabate (on ‘Choice is Yours’), but also skips back in time to the baroque for a brief foray into the world of Bach. But Choices also recalls the Pat Metheny Group at times, the approach of Antonio Forcione as well occasionally, and features tunes mainly by Mantovani that will delight this well liked and tasteful player’s fans and maybe newcomers as well.
Released on 24 September


Anat Cohen

Claroscuro

Anzic **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT

Highly accomplished clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone player, a critics’ favourite in the States, and rightly so, Anat Cohen doesn’t take herself too seriously and there is a finely honed character in her extraordinarily burnished playing at times as well as monstrously well developed technique. Go straight to her down home version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘The Wedding’, which could bring her many new fans and wider audiences beyond America if news of this release spreads beyond New York and she tours. But with a band that includes the hip Jason Lindner on piano, skilled bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Daniel Freeman with special guests among them Wycliffe Gordon there’s much to savour on an album that slightly perversely uses the Spanish spelling of the Italian word ‘chiaroscuro’ in its title (a mere quibble, incidentally). Don’t forget to catch Cohen’s wonderful take on Artie Shaw’s ‘Nightmare’ with Paquito d’Rivera guesting.

US release date 25 September

Stephen Graham

A few thoughts immediately spring to mind about The Master. First of all it’s a very long wait until November when the film, the latest by Paul Thomas Anderson is released. Anderson, for Magnolia and more recently There Will Be Blood, is one of the artiest of ‘commercial’ arthouse directors possessing the unique ability to combine the most arresting of visual images (think the frogs raining from the sky to the waifish wailing of Aimee Mann or the gushing of Brahms to the blackest of an oil well in spate in Blood) to music. Secondly, with a score once again on an Anderson film by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (pictured below), there is beyond the gloriously fractured themes infused by the spirit of the Polish classical avant garde (Penderecki, who Greenwood has worked with, and maybe Lutoslawski) music which accompanies a plot that concerns itself with the story of a Naval veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix coming home from war who falls under the spell of The Cause (pick a cult, any cult) led by its maverick and slightly disturbing leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who you’ll remember was the much put upon nurse in Magnolia.

From what I’ve heard so far of the score it has a substantial, fibrous feel to it, with plenty of crunch points that effortlessly point to a sense of mystique without appearing to do so in an obvious way. The Master is debuting at The Venice Film Festival this week and undoubtedly early reviews will appear in the national press shortly.

The other aspect that occurs to me that is worth mentioning is the way the extra music in the film, whether it is ‘Get Thee Behind Me Satan’ sung by Ella Fitzgerald, or ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)’ performed by Madisen Beaty, or the spooky version of Chopin’s Tristesse ‘No Other Love’ by Jo Stafford or best of all the ambiguous ‘Changing Partners’ by Helen Forrest (pictured top) makes you revisit songs that on a reissued CD would not be so gripping all together. That’s partly the skill of the juxtaposing of this often old-sounding music with the very modern Greenwood score, so the context changes the perception. Older readers will recall Forrest who had wartime hits with the Harry James band, but on this soundtrack is accompanied by the Sy Oliver orchestra.

One final thing about the music, it features Shabaka Hutchings, Neil Charles and Tom Skinner collectively Zed-U, along with veteran Humphrey Lyttelton clarinettist Jimmy Hastings and the London Contemporary Orchestra violinist Daniel Pioro on the eighth track, which is titled ‘Able-Bodied Seamen’. A certain clarinet-led experimental modernism Greenwood explores heavily on this track and adds that bit more interest for jazz people with their involvement here. So remember, remember the fifth of November when the soundtrack is released by Nonesuch: it might even send you off to explore the vocal jazz of the 1940s with renewed interest.

Stephen Graham

Journey into the night on the jazz scene anywhere and you’ll find people you’d never even imagined were there playing like their lives depended on it.

Subterranean by nature, nocturnal by instinct, they thrive on the spontaneous, and instigate creative situations that in time mutate into the music of the future. They could come from anywhere. Jamming, they play gigs starting ever later in the evening, eventually surfacing as night becomes day with a visit to a studio and an album that often or not causes a stir.

Guitarist Hannes Riepler is one such musician who, for the past two years, has been organising weekly concerts and jam sessions at Charlie Wright’s club in Hoxton, a hub for musicians on the up and up, and for visiting luminaries passing through London wishing to let off a bit of steam in John Nash’s congenial bar a short stroll from where the Bass Clef fulfilled a similar role in the 1990s.

Riepler is 33, from Austria, and is influenced by the likes of John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel. His debut self-penned album The Brave just released by Huddersfield indie jazz label Jellymould matches the guitarist, whose roots are in the acoustic period of jazz from the 1950s and 60s, to a strong band. His fellow Bravehearts include Troyka’s Kit Downes; Ma’s saxophone hard hitter Tom Challenger; newcomer bassist Ryan Trebilcock; and Kairos 4tet’s drummer, Jon Scott. Recorded in the spring of 2010, Riepler arrived in London via study in Amsterdam more than half a decade ago, and honed his sound by checking out the scene all over London playing with young stars along the way including the late trumpeter Richard Turner who died in tragic circumstances last summer, and who The Brave is dedicated to along with Riepler’s dad. Stephen Graham

Hannes Riepler, leads the jam session every Tuesday at Charlie Wright’s in Hoxton. http://www.charliewrights.com

This is a small extract from an article published in the July issue of Jazzwise available in larger branches of WH Smith and selected local newsagents. Download the app from the Apple store for the Jazzwise iPhone and tablet edition, or subscribe at jazzwisemagazine.com

Brass Jaw saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and pianist Euan Stevenson have come together to record New Focus, a quartet album with additional string quartet and harp instrumentation, to be released by bassist Michael Janisch’s label Whirlwind just ahead of this year’s London Jazz Festival.

The album features original music by the pair working inside a quartet, which also comprises Scottish National Jazz Orchestra drummer Alyn Cosker, and Janisch on bass; and they’re joined by the Glasgow String Quartet, made up of players from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and harpist Alina Bzhezhinska.

Recorded and mixed at Castlesound Studios in Scotland and released on 5 November, tracks are: ‘Nicola’s Piece’, ‘Intro’, ‘El Paraiso’, ‘For Ray’, ‘Interlude’, ‘Music for a Northern Mining Town’, ‘Illuminate’, ‘Dziadzio’, ‘Leonard’s Lament’ and ‘Parsons Green.’

While Glasgow-based Wiszniewski is well known for his work with the hard gigging Brass Jaw and in his writing for New Focus draws on his Polish and Scottish heritage, Stevenson is less known outside Scotland but with influences including Oscar Peterson, George Shearing and Bill Evans the pianist has quickly achieved a following in his homeland in a relatively short space of time with BBC Radio Scotland broadcasts bringing his music to an audience far beyond the jazz club and concert hall circuit. Stevenson also leads his own standards-rooted trio, and has worked as an arranger for trumpeter Colin Steele’s high powered Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra. Tour dates include the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh on 26 September; Glasgow Art Club (27 Sept); Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (13 November); The Institute, New Lanark (24 Nov); and the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (29 Nov).

Stephen Graham

Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson pictured above

With little advance fanfare tomorrow sees the release of the latest album for Blue Note by US-based Beninese jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. Co-produced by labelmate Robert Glasper whose own record Black Radio this year has marked a turning point in his own already rocketing career and who returns to the UK for the iTunes festival next month, Heritage is Loueke’s third album for Blue Note a label that signed him after Loueke appeared on a couple of Terence Blanchard records. Loueke, who has also toured extensively with Herbie Hancock as recently as his Imagine Project tour, also contributed to the Blanchard band’s songbook, and ‘Benny’s Tune’ if you haven’t heard it, is to my mind one of the best jazz compositions across the board in the last decade. It’s like a standard in the making with a distinctively bittersweet poignancy.

Heritage has dispensed with Loueke’s longstanding trio of bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth, so instead there’s electric bassist Derrick Hodge, who you’ll know from Robert Glasper’s band, and who is himself to release a debut as a leader for Blue Note. And there’s also Mark Guiliana, the drummer who made such an impact with UK jazz lovers on Alive by Phronesis and previously when he played with Avishai Cohen. Heritage has seven new Loueke tunes, a couple by Glasper, who also plays on many of the tracks, and another distinguishing feature of the album is background vocal glimpses of singer Gretchen Parlato on a few tracks.

There’s a real warmth to the album and it sounds undeniably Loueke from the first notes. It’s interesting that in the past he has talked about liking George Benson’s music when he started out and was thinking about playing jazz, and particularly the 1970s album Weekend in LA. Well, Heritage is a world away from the Benson sound but both players share an instant ability to communicate their musical ideas however complex. With Glasper’s involvement and a new band the message will get across that bit more directly with Heritage I think and maybe Loueke’s vocals will come to the fore more and more as his career develops. ‘Tribal Dance’, the third track, written by Glasper, has a beautiful warmth to it opening up for Loueke to expand on the bed of percussion and vocals behind him, but there’s a lot of strong material throughout and above all Heritage works as a play-through album, which is always better than just a series of tracks in isolation unless you just want the thrill of a pop hit. Glasper’s input gives Loueke’s approach a new creative energy and it’s interesting that Loueke was an original member of Glasper’s band the Experiment. How recent jazz history would have been different if he had stayed. Let’s hope Loueke plays the UK again soon so we can hear some of these songs live.

Stephen Graham


Nadje Noordhuis

Nadje Noordhuis

Little Mystery Records ***

Another of the burgeoning new-melodic school, trumpet/flugel player Nadje Noordhuis, from Sydney, based in New York since 2008, was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk competition the year before.

In her mid-thirties, a member of underground jazz composer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, her band on this debut is full of good players including pianist Geoff Keezer, drummer Obed Calvaire, and bassist Joe Martin, and it’s easy to feel at ease with the chamber-jazz material, instantly attractive and approachable from the first sounds of the little piano figure on opener ‘Water Crossing.’

Fourth track ‘Big Footprint’ draws the musical world of Kenny Wheeler to mind, but the record also presents a very different side to Geoff Keezer, particularly if you think of him in terms of say his Rhodes work with Christian McBride’s jazz-rock band. Keezer is instead more like the pianist on a mid-20th century prairie period drama, and Sara Carswell’s violin playing on ‘Waltz for Winter’ completes this sepia tinted impression.

The last track ‘Open Road’, Noordhuis says this about on her blog: “I was thinking to myself ‘I want to write a tune as beautiful as a Pat Metheny ballad.’" And in some ways she has, although Metheny doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious source, which is probably a good sign. It’s a record that’s hard to dislike, but could do with a bit more of an edge at times, although the young trumpeter has a very expressive narrative style that lifts the record’s appeal immeasurably.

Stephen Graham

Released on 9 October in the US

Nadje Noordhuis, pictured top