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Jazz album reviews Jazz album reviews with CHRIS SEARLE: June 12, 2024

New releases from Ingi Bjarni, Simon Spillett Big Band and Charlotte Keeffe's Right Here, Right Now Quartet

Ingi Bjarni
Farfuglar
NXN Recordings
★★★★

 

JAZZ and Iceland may not come to mind simultaneously, but the Icelandic pianist Ingi Bjarni may change all that.

His new album Farfuglar (Migratory Birds), with a Scandinavian quintet of Norwegian trumpeter Jakob Eri Myhre and drummer Tore Ljokelsoy, Swedish bassist Daniel Andersson plus Estonian guitarist Merje Kagu, create a special sound of nature and lyricism.

The quintet create music in flight, notes with wings. Kagu picks her strings like feathers and Andersson’s bass seems to resonate deep in the air while Myhre’s horn flies abreast with Bjarni’s plucked-out pianism on Bjogun a dugon (Distortion of daybreak).

Their sound is icily beautiful, yet strangely warm and full of melancholic melody as in Pad Sem Er (That Is) where Myhre blows a starkly evocative solo. All the compositions are Bjarni’s. It’s a long way from New Orleans, but how far and how superbly the music travels, as north as north goes.

Simon Spillett Big Band
Dear Tubby H
Mister PC Records
★★★★★

 

IT’S rare enough to hear a now-times big band play with such power and gusto as Simon Spillett’s Big Band do on their new album, Dear Tubby H.

Spillett is a huge admirer and scholar of Tubby Hayes and his music, and his band play the great saxophonist's work with intense love and authority from the very first notes of the opener, Dear Johnny B, to Sammy Mayne’s rampaging alto solo on the finale, She Insulted Me in Marrakesh with Freddie Gavita’s spiky trumpet chorus.

The band relive an era when British jazz took its own direction after decades of US imitation, and musicians like Hayes blew open their own sonic pathfinding.

There are a host of outstanding players here, and they forge a creative amalgam worthy of Tubby’s genius. My favourite moments? Certainly the unmitigated swing of Rumpus and Spillett’s own lyrical tenor saxophone solo on Solweig: beautiful!

Charlotte Keeffe’s Right Here, Right Now Quartet
Alive in the Studio 
Discus Records
★★★★★

 

BOSTON, Lincolnshire-born trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe describes her sounds on her new album Alive in the Studio as ”overtly overblowing, splitting, splattering, squirming, squeaking and squealing out ALIVE.” She’s only too right there, as she blows her heart out alongside bassist Ashley John Long, drummer Ben Handysides and guitarist Moss Freed.

What a lip she has — full of fire and ice, melody and waywardly beautiful improvisation. As soon as the opener, 1200 Photographs 1, blasts off, you know this astonishing quartet session searches for as yet untravelled aural spacelands, and finds them with discovering artistry and power.

This album is, beyond its own amazement and uncanny musicianship, an open invitation to hear its protagonists alive next time they are down your way. Meanwhile, listen to such perverse sonic essays as East Enders, Wholeness or Brentford on this album: you’ll travel with them, entranced and captivated, to who knows where.

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