Jazz, June 2020

hfnalbum.pngByron Wallen
Portrait: Reflections On Belonging
Twilight Jaguar TJCD3

Surprisingly, this is the outstanding British trumpeter's first release under his own name since Meeting Ground in 2007. Wallen draws on his experiences as a musician touring the world and on the diversity around him at home in South East London, 'meditating on identity, culture and what it means to belong'. You hear a choir of schoolchildren, a market cry, and flute-like sounds from Wallen's conch collection on 'Ferry Shell'. But the pieces are vibrant and varied, Wallen's big-toned, engaging playing perfectly supported by his excellent and close-knit Four Corners band, which comprises guitarist Rob Luft, bassist Paul Michael and the dynamic American-born, UK-based drummer Rod Youngs. A warm and inspiring album. SH


Brecker Brothers
Live And Unreleased
Leopard D77072 (two discs; two LPs: D78072)

Here's a double album that captures a single night of non-stop excitement from trumpeter Randy and saxophonist Michael Brecker's pounding jazz/funk band, blowing down the walls of Onkel Pö's Hamburg jazz club during their 1980 European tour. By this time they'd made half a dozen albums for Arista and had a hit single with 'East River', so they're all in great form as Michael stretches out with ever-wilder sax solos and Mark Gray soars with pitch-bending keyboard lines. As Randy Brecker puts it, they 'left the audience in tatters'. Though lacking the sonic perfection of a studio album, this recording captures the impact of this exuberant band at its peak. SH


Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Trio
Without Deception
Dare2 Records DR2-01 (LP: LPDARE011)

Veteran pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland have worked with all the greats of their generation, and they'd met many times before finally getting together to tour as a duo in 2012. They followed up with the 2014 studio album The Art Of Conversation [Impulse!]. Now the duo has become a trio with a star drummer from a younger generation, Johnathan Blake, who helps things along from the start on Barron's Bossa-style 'Porto Alegre', and the social-media inspired title track. And the two main protagonists are as uninhibited and creative as ever, Barron slipping into Monk mode on Ellington's 'Warm Valley' for example. All thoroughly enjoyable. SH


Rob Luft
Life Is The Dancer
Edition Records EDN 1152 (LP: EDNLP 1152)

'In demand' is an overworked phrase, but it really applies to still-rising-star Rob Luft. The young British guitarist's many recent projects include straight-ahead jazz in O'Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane as well as exquisite playing for Albanian jazz/folk singer Elina Duni, along with regular bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Corrie Dick. As with his 2017 Edition debut, Riser, they're joined here by Joe Wright on saxophone and Joe Webb on keys. Byron Wallen's Four Corners band also includes Luft, and he returns the compliment here by guesting on two tracks. Luft's compositions range from gritty to ethereal, making a rewarding and repeatable listen. SH