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MUSIC Jazz album reviews: July 15, 2020

Latest releases from Dominic Ingham, Gordon Grdina Septet and James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor

Dominic Ingham
Role Models
(dominicingham.com)
★★★★

YOUNG Wakefield-born violinist Dominic Ingham went to Guildhall School of Music and has played in bands such as Bonsai and Johnny Mansfield’s Elftet. Created by crowdfunding, Role Models is his first album and musical power and invention flow out of his bow.

His solo curls and winds on a title track in which David Swan’s piano crackles and on Full Mansfield’s keening vibes duets with Ingham’s wordless voice before his violin turns skywards.

Throughout, Will Sach’s bass and Boz Martin-James’s drums colour the rhythmic pulse and ground Ingham’s singing strings.

In Phones, Ingham then Mansfield zip through their phrases and Daydream is a track of beautifully crafted ensemble lethargy. Bottles finds Swan’s artistry in dexterous empathy with Mansfield’s jumping notes and Passport takes listeners to a newfoundland of sonic discovery.

All in all, a sparkling debut.

Gordon Grdina Septet
Resist
(Irabbagast Records)
★★★★

“Xenophobia, homophobia and racism are raising their heads again... I want to dedicate this music to everybody who is fighting against these ideas. Making art is a political act.”

So declares Vancouver-based guitarist and oud virtuoso Gordon Grdina and his album Resist crystallises his words in powerfully relevant and inventive sounds, with the 23-minute title track a compelling essay on the era of Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro.

With tenor and soprano saxophonist Jon Irabagon, a trio with Tommy Babin’s bass and Kenton Loewed’s drums, Grdina’s message of musical truth and hope resonates.

The somnolent, almost stygian ambiance of Resist is transformed by Irabagon’s questing horn on Varscona, while Resist the Middle is an essay in timbral discomfiture.

It’s worryingly close to the bone of oppression and unwittingly prophetic of the the cosmic coronavirus tragedy, while Ever Onward, with Grdina’s oud resplendent, concludes the album with a searching optimism.

Compelling music for today.

James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor
Live in Willisau
(Intakt Records)
★★★★★

THIS duo album of tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and Arizona drummer Chad Taylor who learned his craft in Chicago with free-spirited hornmen Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson and Roscoe Mitchell, has echoes of another saxophone and drums album, Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell’s Red and Black at Willisau of 1980.

Brandon Lewis and Taylor step inside and outside the tradition with works by Coltrane, Ellington, Waldron and Redman as well as their own riveting improvisations.

It’s an evocative and emotive set, with Coltrane’s Radiance shining out and Taylor’s enveloping drums pounding out his partner’s road to freedom on his own composition Matape.

Taylor turns to his mbira on Come Sunday, taking Ellington with him to Africa. The duo turn Over the Rainbow into a present anthem of hope — no words, just breath, skins and sound.

Marvellous.

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