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IT IS rare for bands to recover from prolonged separations such as the 19 years visited on this southern England and Nashville-based quartet. But all trepidation vanishes with the first bars of Al Aire Libre (In Open Air) or Mercury in Retrograde.
This is classy and elegant music, played with supreme confidence, clear vision and a mesmerising instrumental mastery which includes Tim Keegan’s beautifully phrased vocals, delivered unhurriedly with a warm and intimate timbre.
Lindsay Jamieson on drums and Jake Kyle on bass establish an alluring pulse, while Keegan and Chris Anderson’s guitars pick delicate, almost classical, riffs coloured by soft and thoughtful keyboard interventions.
The trumpet and whistling riffs in the instrumental Al Aire Libre bewitch.
This is sumptuous and judicious music, with an intelligence that deftly defies pigeon-holing. Soothing and intuitive, it’s a perfect antidote to times of stress and uncertainty.
Love & Desperation
(Tres Pescadores Records)
IT’S a measure of the quality of the musicians concerned that the instrumental line-up on Love & Desperation was able to put together such an organic and heart-warming package, despite having to record their various contributions remotely because of Covid-19.
Rick Shea may not be a household name just yet but this gifted southern Californian practitioner of the finest Americana has assembled a very impressive body of work over the years, prompting favourable comparisons with highly regarded singer-songwriters such as Tom Russell, Dave Alvin and John Stewart along the way.
His 12th album must rank as one of his best offerings to date, and the skilfully crafted contents are liberally peppered with a series of captivating narratives, led by (Down at the Bar) at Gypsy Sally’s, She Sang of the Earth and Texas Lawyer.
Yoko Miwa Trio
Songs Of Joy
OF THE 11 tracks on Yoko Miwa’s album Songs of Joy, five are lockdown compositions by the pianist herself, while others are familiar tunes from diverse sources.
The hard-struck opener, Richie Havens’ Freedom, has an ebullient Erroll Garner sound, with Will Slater’s bowed bass earthing Miwa’s emboldened lyricism and Scott Goulding’s resonant drums.
Miwa’s own The Lonely Hours speaks directly to the millions who endured 2020 with only themselves for company. With a worrisome and engaging theme, its rolling notes lead to a haunting Slater solo.
Duke Jordan’s No Problem radiates a powerful melodic optimism, Monk’s Think of One expresses the master’s wit and doggedness and Miwa’s Inside a Dream enters the hopeful mindset of an end to global suffering.
The album’s beautiful finale is the white blues Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You which Joan Baez used to sing. Guest bassist Brad Barrett’s arco bass undertow is superb, bringing back to mind the struggles of the 1960s.
THE Amsterdam-based and Grammy-nominated sextet Altin Gun are a musical paradox. They draw entirely on Anatolian and Turkish folk music and, remarkably, nothing at all is lost in translation into the rock and pop idioms.
Their stupendous arrangements are of such clarity and fidelity that the music retains the passion characteristic of those traditions and delivers it, undiminished, with admirable musicianship.
“After we worked on [the songs], they got a whole new life of their own. Maybe we went a little bit too far,” vocalist and keyboardist Merve Dasdemir jokes.
It is her rich and expressive voice that delivers impressive Levantine chromatic tonalities that mesmerise.
Every now and then Middle Eastern melancholy seeps through the pulsating vigour as this third album from Altin Gun provokes pensive reflections on this sombre pandemic-defined time.
An Hour with Cecil Sharp and Ashley Hutchings
THIS fascinating offering is the brainchild of former Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Albion Band stalwart Ashley Hutchings, who hit upon the bright idea of assembling a tribute to the life of pioneering folk-song collector Cecil Sharp.
He toured it as a one-man show during much of the 1980s and 1990s and hopes to perform live once again when the world returns to some semblance of normality.
This CD version boasts guest appearances from Martin Carthy and Richard Thompson, alongside spoken-word passages and ancient cylinder recordings of assorted rustic performers made by Sharp and fellow folk-song enthusiast Ralph Vaughan Williams during the early years of the 20th century.
An aura of mystery surrounds the latter recordings, which were apparently discovered unlabelled in the voluminous archives at Cecil Sharp House in London.
Binker and Moses
Escape the Flames
IN 2017, tenor saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd launched their duo album Journey to the Mountain of Forever with a live performance which has now been released as this double-vinyl album.
Londoners Golding and Boyd were in powerful improvising fettle that night and their album resounds with a creative, subversive urge.
The profound musical empathy between these two musicians forges a mutual brilliance and sonic comradeship which is both rare and hugely compelling.
The 17 minutes of opener The Departure is followed by the rhythmic depth of Boyd’s drums on Intoxication from the Jahvmonishi Leaves, which finds its amalgam with Binker’s tempestuous notes on another expression of a new, original and dynamic force in improvising music.
Its scope and message signifies a vibrant epoch in British jazz.
(Thelonious Punk Records)
COLLETTE COOPER’S startlingly unique voice ranges from seductive silkiness to hoarse street-cred menace and it has been missing for too long from the present bland musical firmament.
She combines classic jazz and raw blues sprinkled with vaudeville in an energising mix so characteristic of chanson.
Lost was recorded in a single take that’s alive with raw sentiment, reflecting Cooper’s own tough life trajectory, from the loss of her beloved father to homelessness.
Classics like Don’t Throw Your Love Away, I Put a Spell on You, Perfect Girl or Street Life are musically engaging on an album offering generous support to Nordoff Robbins, a charity that provides collaborative music-making to engage vulnerable children who suffer from life-limiting illness, isolation or disability.
Get Out Of My Father's Car!
THE original incarnation of Gryphon emerged on the scene in the heady musical atmosphere of the early 1970s, when they found an appreciative audience for their unique blend of folk, rock, medieval and Renaissance dance music for a few years before finally giving up the ghost in 1977.
Three of the group’s founder members — Brian Gulland, Graeme Taylor and Dave Oberle, along with a recently recruited cohort — are now striving manfully to keep the name of Gryphon alive for a whole new generation of open-minded record buyers.
The album’s eclectic contents capture the legendary musical adventurers in typically quirky form, with demon fiddler Clare Taylor excelling on Christina’s Song and A Stranger Kiss and the entire ensemble harking back to former glories with the delightfully archaic Krum Dancing.
SIXTEEN musicians join forces on Togetherness Music, an album instigated by pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins.
Featuring saxophonist Evan Parker and the all-string Riot Ensemble, it’s a distillation of Hawkins’s compositions and collective improvisation.
It was recorded in summer last year, when the musicians, eager for company after the isolation of lockdown, created joyful sounds of concord and solidarity.
Parker’s opening choruses on the track Indistinguishable from Magic express an elated sense of relief and in Sea No Shore, the trumpet and drums duet between Percy Pursglove and Mark Sanders releases the dammed-up flow of two brilliant improvisers suddenly unchained from musical quarantine.
This entrancing music is one of unfettered creative jubilation set free — listen to the exultation of Togetherness Music and you will hear and understand why.
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