I have been listening to and enjoying the three albums below:
Alexander Hawkins: Togetherness Music for Sixteen Musicians featuring Evan Parker + Riot Ensemble Intakt Records
This is the recorded version of the commission for Alex Hawkins featuring Evan Parker with the Riot Ensemble. The original piece was premiered in Birmingham at mac (a TDE Promotions gig) and Café Oto in 2019 alongside another commission for Kit Downes writing for his ENEMY trio and the Riot Ensemble. The Birmingham concert, and I imagine the Café Oto concert too, was great fun and an excellent example of a successful collaboration between jazz players and a classical ensemble. So I am delighted that Alex Hawkins’ pieces have now been recorded for the innovative Swiss label Intakt. The writing provides a wonderful setting for Evan Parker’s improvisations and brings out some great interaction between Evan’s lines and the string writing, or Evan with the whole ensemble. Interestingly, the line up differs considerably from that at the live gigs in 2019; at those two concerts Evan and Alex played with nine members of the Riot Ensemble whereas on the Cd the Rioters are down to five string players plus conductor Aaron Holloway-Nahum, and the group is made up to the full sixteen players with the addition of eight improvisers: Rachel Musson, Percy Pursglove, James Arben, Neil Charles, Hannah Marshall, Benedict Taylor, Mark Sanders and Matthew Wright.
These improvisers make a huge contribution to the music, especially Percy Pursglove on trumpet and Mark Sanders on drums who play a stunning duet on the second track Sea No Shore, and Percy returns on the final track The Optimism of the Will on which Neil Charles, Mark Sanders, Matt Wright, Percy and Alex himself combine before Evan Parker enters supported by Rachel Musson. Neil also plays a key role in leading the string players in backing Alex’s solo on Leaving The Classroom of a Beloved Teacher, and all the string players combine to play the exquisite string passages on Ecstatic Baobabs.
This is a brilliant and important album.
John Pope Quintet: Mixed With Glass NEWJAiM3
John Pope is the bass player with the Archipelago trio; his new group is a quintet with players from the North East and the North West: Faye MacCalman on tenor sax and clarinet, Graham Hardy on trumpet, Jamie Stockbridge on alto sax and Johnny Hunter on drums. Its first album Mixed With Glass will be coming out later this month on the new label newjazzandimprovisedmusicrecordings run by Wesley Stephenson of Jazz North East, and also on Bandcamp. The music moves between freedom and structure and is in the musical territory of the Charles Mingus Sextet – clearly an influence as a bass led group – and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The album starts really well on Plato with the three horn front line creating a rousing and joyful sound. On this track we first hear one of the features of the whole album: the interesting backing from the other horns and/or the rhythm players for the soloist. This occurs again on the second track, Misha, A Miner, and in fact throughout the album. On this track there is also a nice duet between the bass and the trumpet, and this pattern is followed on Ing with a duet between bass and trumpet which in turn leads into a tenor sax bass duet. Each track is based on a composition written, I assume, by Pope, but the development of the theme moves into quite open playing from the horns. Johnny Hunter on drums is extremely creative throughout in supporting the soloists in exploring that freedom without losing the pulse of the music. There is a very welcome amount of variety in the set and this is an excellent debut album.
Paul Dunmall Sextet: Cosmic Dream Projection FMR Records
This album is the latest of the Paul Dunmall series recorded at Sansom Studios in the West Midlands, and issued on the FMR label. It features a sextet of players from the lively Birmingham improv scene: trumpeter Percy Pursglove, trombonist Richard Foote, guitarist Steve Saunders, bass player James Owston and drummer Jim Bashford. Paul plays tenor and alto saxophones.
Paul has been active in recent years in supporting young Birmingham-based players through booking them for gigs as part of the Fizzle series and the Paul Dunmall Invites series at the Eastside Jazz Club, and also for recording sessions such as this one. He has the ability to bring out the very best in these players, particularly in the way he allows them plenty of space in the improvisations, but knows exactly when to enter himself. For this session Paul had written a number of short compositions in the style of his two recent suites, the Dreamtime Suite and the Soultime Suite, and these pieces set up an infectious groove which the soloists build on. All the horns and Steve Saunders on guitar take strong solos, and Paul is at his absolute best both in his own individual solos and in guiding the collective improvisation.
Another brilliant recording from Paul Dunmall.