Arty McGlynn

Irish guitar legend Arty McGlynn who has a jazz-influenced album called Botera out at the moment was in action at the weekend in Enniskillen playing in duo with his wife fiddle player/singer Nollaig Casey. McGlynn, whose career stretches back to the showband era, to high profile work with Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, and which has also included several years as musical director in the 1980s with Van Morrison appearing on such beloved albums as Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and Avalon Sunset, was playing in the gallery bar of the Ardhowen theatre. The beautiful ‘Moran’s Return’ and ‘E Minor Reel/Lads of Laois’ medley were the pick of the first set, McGlynn’s sense of time and rock solid rhythmic discipline a marvel. 

Arty McGlynn, top at Ardhowen, in the middle video wondrously on ‘The Healing Game’ with Van Morrison, and in the 1990s playing the lilting ‘Moran’s Return’ with Nollaig Casey.    

Dan Berglund, above left, Bugge Wesseltoft and Magnus Öström

AN 8 FEBRUARY RELEASE Reflections and Odysseys (Jazzland **** RECOMMENDED) is a must from Rymden, the brilliant ex-EST bassist Dan Berglund, the great Norwegian nu jazz innovator keys maven Bugge Wesseltoft, and ex-EST drummer Magnus Öström. This mighty prog-jazz supergroup have a real life force to what they are about.

It is fascinating how different this is to the sound of EST even when the unit is comprised of two-thirds of that great much missed band.

Wesseltoft is coming from a different standpoint. He certainly is less of a romantic than the late Esbjörn Svensson, more a Joe Zawinul-type figure and certainly on other projects follows Zawinul’s globe trotting instincts to explore world music.

In terms of tick boxes: yes to absorbing metrical investigation, lots of electricity, big bass and energetic drums. No however to navel gazing and ponderous pomposity which often bedevils prog-jazz.

This style is the antithesis of ambient Nordic spaciousness and it is a busy sound. On a tune like ‘Pitter Patter’ however you can source the sound back to say Chick Corea because Wesseltoft using the Rhodes electric piano knows that terrain inside out and manages to sound ahead of the game even when the sound of the Rhodes is everywhere this last decade.

‘The Lugubrious Youth of Lucky Luke’ is probably the most EST-like of all the tunes, a slow ballad that takes its time to unfold after a folk-ish opening melodic mood is established by Wesseltoft on piano with almost a country lilt to it.

But really you are coming to the album for more blood and guts and certainly you get that in the more intense band passages when everybody is firing. On a piece like ‘The Celestial Dog and the Funeral Ship’ which is a big achievement there is plenty of nuance, unusual chord progressions and a quiet malevolence that is conjured by Öström’s martial snare rolls and a lot of engrossing narrative and that is one of the strengths of this album: the three are storytellers.

While I enjoyed albums by Tonbruket and Öström’s solo projects in the decade since the tragic demise of EST I never got that elated feeling much as I was enthusiastic about them that I get from this.  

The little episodic amuse bouches however you get sandwiched in between tracks I do not particularly care for but for the proggier among you the sonic experimentation of ‘Råk, The Abyss’ will intrigue you most.

‘Råk’ begun by a drum solo gets more to the heart of the matter: then Wesseltoft with his left hand stabbing out a dark riff that ups the muscle power of the album and certainly there is plenty of that here and throughout the album.

‘Homegrown’ in a major rather than minor mood at the end is a beauty and shows this band are not afraid to use warm and rich melody, cadences to die for, to their advantage without being at all twee.

So, extravagantly beautiful music. If you are an EST fan like me you will see how time is a healer and how too Bugge Wesseltoft is the perfect person to harness the beauty of that band and paint new pictures with the spirit and all that heart. Everything glues together which may have been the hope but certainly to these ears is the reality. SG. Rymden website

Mare Nostrum
The latest from Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano and Jan Lundgren in a series of gently dreamy Mediterranean themed albums which began with the first in the series in 2007 followed nine years later by the second. A river, the Seine, no less on ‘Blues sur Seine’ begins the flow Lundgren pensive in a Ludovico Einaudi space and then the plaintive trumpet of Fresu who has such a pure tone it speaks to you instantly. Galliano’s solo has a sadness to it that is not contrived at all and again like his colleagues has that intimate ability to connect with the listener. This is a facility incidentally that is beyond technique, it is about the interpretation of notes and many musicians forget this when they are simply intent on navigating material and neglect the power of emotion. Simplicity is key on Mare Nostrum III: the lengths are relatively brief ‘Le Jardin des Fées’ at well under five and a half minutes is the longest of the 15 selections. And in terms of improvisation the accent here is firmly on embellishment rather than a full scale deconstruction of melody. The pace is often more a walk than a run. Among them is a piece by Galliano dedicated to French master violinist Didier Lockwood who passed away just a few months before this Gothenburg studio affair was recorded. René Hess deserves a lot of credit for shaping the direction of the album artistically as producer. Long term fans of the trumpet-accordion-piano trio may not be surprised to discover that there is a lot of romance in these new selections nor that there is a pervasive warmth once again. And this is so melodic. Fresu’s composition ‘Pavese’ for instance has a gorgeous theme delivered with great sensitivity... the album is a feast of song. Coloured by the great accordionist Richard Galliano whose unravelling of melody and capturing of mood is unrivalled you will find material by Michel Legrand (the classic ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’), Quincy Jones (‘Love Theme from The Getaway’), as well as originals by all three of these iconic European bandleaders whose rapport is evident in their sincerity and skill all of which elevates their coming together into something very much of an occasion indeed. Look for the charming Mare Nostrum III in late-January. SG
Richard Galliano above left with Paolo Fresu and Jan Lundgren. 

Photo: Steven Haberland/ACT 

From Heritage (Ropeadope) to be released next month... Mark de Clive-Lowe has Josh Johnson (alto sax, flute), Teodross Avery (tenor sax), Brandon Eugene Owens (bass), Carlos Niño (extra percussion), and Brandon Combs (drums) on board as he delves into his Japanese ancestry. The expansive, mesmerising, ‘Memories of Nanzenji’ was inspired by a visit to the Nanzenji temple and gardens in Kyoto. The album draws on recordings made over three nights at an LA jazz club called Blue Whale.

Two dates coming up for the sax player everyone is talking about, Kamasi Washington. Dublin (3 March) link for tickets here. London (5 March) link here.

Real Isn't RealA frustrating slightly undercooked affair and yet there are some thought provoking elements to Real Isn’t Real (Green Eyes Records). 

A studio production (no recording date is given) it juggles instrumental tracks with vocal counterparts. Nick Malcolm, think the sound of Loz Speyer a bit or Don Cherry, has assembled once again an interesting band of pianist Alexander Hawkins, bassist Olie Brice and drummer Ric Yarborough surrounding his plaintiff fragile ache of a trumpet sound that really sends you back to old Ornette Coleman Atlantic records which is a pretty good thing in itself. Trouble is as an album this does not all hang together because it is as if the tracks with vocals (provided in sequence by Emily Wright, Marie Lister, Josienne Clarke and Lauren Kinsella) belong on an album all by themselves. There just is no obvious continuity in what you are listening to. 

The atmosphere is moodily blue throughout and incorporates a certain folk music wisdom to it along the way, certainly not full of the joys of spring so for miserabilists everywhere it has that in its favour. ‘Silent Grace’, with Will Harris cropping up on bass guitar, is the most accessible but does not sit well on an album which flits between avant chordal sequences and chamber jazz. Malcolm’s solo on the third of the five ‘Spiral’ suite tracks are really at the heart of the album and on this takes him into Kenny Wheeler territory resulting in the most satisfying aspect of the whole affair, Hawkins delivering a gravity defying pan-tonal bit of accompaniment that Malcolm responds well to.

Expect the unexpected is what can be said however tritely but accurately enough about the Hawkins organ opening to ‘Grass Remembers’ which has words by WB Yeats drawn from the poem ‘Memory’ (“One had a pretty face,/and two or three had charm,/but charm and face were in vain,/because the mountain grass/cannot but keep the form/where the mountain hare has lain”) and takes the Malcolm-composed album into territory that Lauren Kinsella has explored a good deal on her own records. On the title track her contribution is the most striking and experimental of the vocal numbers and is overlaid initially with another voice, an automated sounding voice that easily makes this the most experimental aspect of all. Hawkins’ accompaniment is quite beautiful on this track but the production does not quite measure up, the overdubs add confusion and are distracting. Tour dates coming up include Con Cellar Bar, north London on 1 February.   

Blue Note 80 logo web optimised 740

Blue Note plans for their 80th anniversary year have been announced. Note buried in the press release published on their in-house publicity uDiscoverMusic magazine the news of the shrewd signing of spectacular saxophonist James Carter.

 Theon Cross

LOOK OUT FOR THIS IN FEBRUARY The buzz began before the holidays, ‘Panda Village’ popping up and standing out on a number of high profile playlists, and while Fyah is not available until 15 February marlbank readers you lucky things are the first to know more first.

Theon Cross you will recall from Sons of Kemet (he took over from the original tuba player Oren Marshall) and is well known on the London scene. Cross flickered first on marlbank’s radar on Tom Challenger’s raucous Brass Mask Live that came out two years ago and was an out-there gospelly New Orleans confection.

This is very different. Tuba it is easy to forget is extremely unusual in contemporary jazz because, of course, the bass we nearly always hear is provided by a double bass or bass guitar.

Recorded at the Soup studio in London what we have here is a trio on six of the tracks (Cross with saxist Nubya Garcia and drummer Moses Boyd) expanded to a different quintet on the remaining two (Cross with his brother trombonist Nathaniel Cross, Tim Doyle on percussion, Artie Zaitz on electric guitar and Wayne Francis on tenor sax).  

 

The first thing that you notice on opener ‘Activate’ is the thunderously captured tuba sound. Gearbox are very good at getting a full sound and given that this will be issued on vinyl (I am listening on a digital copy) the sound will be even more riotously immediate.

‘Activate’ has a simplicity to it and becomes a conversation between tuba and sax that certainly summons up the atmosphere of a Sons of Kemet record. Cross takes a solo after the initial duelling which is OK but the initial fireworks stole the show. His strength throughout Fyah no fears is in rock solid beat in group-play not necessarily soloing which is actually very limited in terms of his role. The tuba is not cut out for that really.

Offerings’ has street noise in the background before the riff takes over and echoey sax from Garcia gives this track more of an African sensation and also gives you an idea of some fine production ideas in the sound engineering department. Again the tune is built on tiny building blocks, a little three-note motif, but it is not quite so compelling as the opener.

‘Radiation’ has a great groove going on, swung beats from Boyd that lay up and woozy polyphonic effects smear saxophone in to the middle of the sound. ‘Letting Go’ makes use of a delay as an underlay, the undertones emanating from Cross’s tuba beautifully caught, like the throb of the exhaust pipe on an old classic car. ‘Candace of Meroe’ has more of an African vibe and a lot more motion which Artie Zaitz feeds in to. His contribution on the few tracks he is on is massive.

On Panda Village’ Boyd opens using his sticks like a poker as the accent is established, Cross’s tunes are great at getting their point across and in the course of any given one the listener enters into a sort of hypnotic state brought on by the repetition, sheer size of the sound and ritual of it. ‘CIYA’ again with the larger group has much more of a modern jazz (NB in its 1960s sense) to it and there is a lovely mellow trombone sound beautifully arranged that moves this to a higher level and is certainly the marlbank pick of the album. 

‘LDN’s Burning’ at the end juggles rhythms in a maelstrom of frantic activity and the mix seems crowded and adds to the excitement and makes the group seem even larger than it is. I think a lot of people will love this record, we certainly do down here marlbank way. A more highly accessible and energy-laden start to 2019 when it is released next month you could hardly wish for or hope to locate. SG

Branford Marsalis album

You saw the cover and read it here first. Titled The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul which was recorded over the course of three days in the Alexander Theatre at Monash University in Australia last year it features the Branford Marsalis Quartet “in the usual line up on all tracks, no guests this time,” says OKeh label chief Wulf Muller.

So that’s sax icon Branford Marsalis also the producer, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, double bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner.

Tracks are: 1 Dance of the Evil Toys by Eric Revis; 2 Conversation Among the Ruins by Joey Calderazzo; 3 Snake Hip Waltz by Andrew Hill; 4 Cianna by Joey Calderazzo; 5 Nilaste by Eric Revis; 6 Life Filtering From The Water Flowers by Branford Marsalis; and 7 The Windup by Keith Jarrett.

Branford Marsalis says: “Some musicians may need to work in different projects to create the illusion of sounding different by changing the context, whereas we are confident that we can adjust our group sound so we don’t have to change the context. What always appealed to me were the great bands, not just the great players who could start and stop at the same time. Staying together allows us to play adventurous, sophisticated music and sound good. Lack of familiarity leads to defensive playing, playing not to make a mistake. I like playing sophisticated music, and I couldn’t create this music with people I don’t know.” To be released through Sony on 1 March.