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‘Some tracks have a strongly lyrical, classical quality; others echo the percussive harmonic complexity of the post-Cecil-Taylor school,' writes Barry Witherden. 'All are united by depth of feeling and breadth of imagination.’
Keith Jarrett (piano)
ECM 676 5853 (2 discs)
The Vortex and Cafe OTO are separated by a few hundred yards in Dalston, but they felt very connected by way of two outstanding gigs at the EFG London Jazz Festival. Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis appeared at the former on the penultimate night of the 10-day event, while trumpeter Jaimie Branch was at the latter just a few days before him, and it was interesting to see a crossover between the two audiences, as several listeners had clearly identified both artists, who have been steadily building impressive discographies, as real must-sees. They are deservedly hot tickets.
Last year Branch (pictured) released Fly Or Die to critical acclaim, and the buzz around that album crackles into excited expectation during her two nights at OTO, the first of which is sold out. Her quartet, with cello occupying the space other bands usually fill with piano, guitar or second horn, is superbly anchored by drummer Chad Taylor, one of the defining figures on Chicago’s creative music scene for the past few decades. The band proves an inspiring example of how skilled improvisers can work on a refreshingly broad stylistic palette, all the while retaining a strong sense of individuality. The seamless shifts from ricocheting dub to hearty Afro-Brazilian-New Orleans stomps to abstract electronica in which the lower range of the brass is manipulated to send tremors right across the floor, essentially serves the irreverent as well as focused nature of Branch’s character. That becomes explicit when she sings ‘Love Songs For Assholes And Clowns’, a staggering, almost punch-drunk blues-rocker that offers caustic comment on the powers that be the world over, and proves a suitably provocative prelude to the unsettling but rousing riffs of Monk’s ‘Brilliant Corners’, which is reprised in style.
A comparably inventive nod to traditions in black music is made by Brandon Lewis (whose trio released the superb No Filter last year) in the middle of an explosive set that raises the temperature of the room by way of the notable reaction of the audience. During a torrid alternation of free playing and slash’n’burn hip-hop-rock grooves, his quartet, featuring guitarist Anthoy Pirog, launches into the timeless gospel staples ‘Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child’ and ‘Wade In The Water’. The narrative logic is cast-iron given that the hard edge of the band stands on a historical foundation of which the black church is an integral part. To hear drummer Warren G. Crudup III and bass guitarist Luke Stewart stoke the kinetic fire of the music with such intensity, with their flurry of sub-divisions of the beat, gravelly chords, and stark leaps between low and higher range, is to hear musicians plug into numerous additional vocabularies, which often suggest metal and punk, without ever quite weakening such a building block. It is when Lewis pushes the tonal envelope of the horn to evoke the staccato backward scratch of a turntable that the cultural border crossing and, above all synthesis of acoustic and electric music, hits a head-turning creative peak. One surmises that the great Eddie Harris may well have approved.
Lewis clearly knows how to do tenderness as well as aggression, and the haunting ballad ‘Bittersweet’ brings a deeply meditative mood to the fore as a contrast to the adrenalin shot of many of the other songs. Next year the band will release Unruly Manifesto, which could well be an exquisite musical riot.
– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Jim Aindow
'A compendium of keyboard works by the so-called 'English virginalists', whose music speaks with a quiet power,' writes Kate Bolton-Porciatti. 'These works have sometimes been handled as trifles or decorative miniatures, but Iranian-American harpischordist Mahan esfahani treats them as profoundly expressive and introspective works.
Here measured, there free, his readings highlight the ebb and flow of their poetry and prose; phrases and rhetorically articulated.'
The Passinge Mesures
Works by Bull, Byrd, Dowland, Farnaby, Gibbons, Inglot, and Tomkins
Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
‘A tantalising fusion of the infinite and finite, of pseudo-improvisatory gestures operating within a malleable structural framework’, writes Julian Haylock.
Debussy: The Late Works
Violin Sonata; Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp; Cello Sonata; Berceuse héroïque; Pièce pour l’oeuvre du ‘Vêtement du blessé’; Élégie; Les Soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon
Magali Mosnier (flute), Isabelle Faust (violin), Antione Tamestit (viola), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Alexander Melnikov, Tanguy de Williencourt, Javier Perianes (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902303 54:02 mins
'Director Stephen Rice brings perceptive musical insights to these accounts', writes Kate Bolton-Porciatti. 'His vocal ensemble may be slender but the singing is robust and buoyantly articulated. Boyish upper voices offset velvety tenors and basses, and the relatively close recording perspective produces a sound at once lucid and lustrous.'
Antoine de Févin
Missa Ave Maria, Missa Salve sancta parens
The Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice
Hyperion CDA68265 79:13 mins
'Dreisig's voice is youthful yet assured, agile yet fluid, and powerful throughout its entire range', writes Anthony Pryer. 'Her control of dynamics is impressively expressive, and we can certainly expect much more to come from this singer.'
Arias by Gounod, Rossini, Puccini, Massanet, Steibelt, R Strauss and Mozart
Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Orchestre national de Montpellier Occitanie/Michael Schønwandt
Erato 9029563413 70:20 mins
'This disc showcases three commissions aimed squarely at the Canadian virtuoso's dazzling skillset,' writes Michael Beek. 'The three recordings here are top notch, particularly the two live concerto performances, and the applause and cheers on those are proof enough of the mastery on display.'
JN Howard/Kernis/B Tovey
Kernis: Violin Concerto; JN Howard: Violin Concerto; B Tovey: Stream of Limelight
James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano), Seattle Symphony/Ludovic Morlot; Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Christian Macelaru
Onyx ONYX 4189 68:25 mins