Jazz, September 2020

hfnalbum.pngChris Montague
Warmer Than Blood
Whirlwind Recordings WR4756 (LP: WR4756LP)

Guitarist and composer Chris Montague grew up listening to rock and blues players but then voraciously absorbed the whole jazz guitar canon too. Having toured the world with pianist Kit Downes and drummer Josh Blackmore in Troyka, he's joined again by Downes for his own debut as leader, in a trio completed brilliantly by Ruth Goller, who adds chordal and percussive effects on electric bass. And the absence of drums lets you in more clearly to the interactions of Montague and Downes. With three players who all give out so much energy, the music can be intense, but Montague is lyrical on the almost ballad-like 'Not My Usual Type', with a more conventional chord structure than most of his pieces. SH


Ambrose Akinmusire
On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment
Blue Note 0892619 (LP: 0715001)

This is the trumpeter's fifth album as leader, but it was 2018's Origami Harvest that broke all previous moulds, harnessing a string quartet, jazz group, rapping and spoken word to a social-issues agenda that focused on structural racism in America. This time, Akinmusire pursues his themes with just his own quartet, consisting of long-term collaborators Sam Harris on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass and Justin Brown on drums, along with some guest vocals from Genevieve Artadi and Jesus Diaz. But Akinmusire has such great mastery of his instrument that you could say he makes it talk, and he certainly puts the message across. SH


Andrew Mccormack
Ubuntu Music UB0059

Known in recent years for his work with Kyle Eastwood and his own Graviton ensemble, McCormack still loves the challenge of a solo concert – as he puts it, 'You could say I'm addicted'. He wrote some of the pieces here in 2016, and performed them at the London Jazz Festival. But they were put aside until last year, when he dusted them off and added new ones to create this welcome solo album. Never flashy but always communicative, revealing harmonic depths and depth of feeling too, his playing always has a pulse. And he rounds off this absorbing set with a subtly re-harmonised and freshly-absorbing 'For All We Know' that just hits the spot. SH


Kevin Figes Quartet
Changing Times
Pig Records PIG 10

Beginning his career in London, saxophonist Kevin Figes soon moved west to work with avant garde pianist Keith Tippett and became a standout figure in the Bristol jazz scene. Here, as on 2012's Tables And Chairs, he leads a quartet featuring the spectacular keyboard work of Jim Blomfield and the drumming of Mark Whitlam, though now with Thad Kelly on bass. Figes' forceful flute and agile alto ride the waves of synth sounds as he stirs in dance, trance and rock ingredients. Accomplished singer Emily Wright provides the chorus on the dream-turning-to-nightmare 'Strange Place' and adds substance to Figes' own zany vocal lullaby, 'Soft Escape Bed'. A trip. SH