Monday 13 May 2024

A rather late start to this year's blogging, for which apologies. It's been a busy and productive year on many fronts and as I start this we're in the process of looking for aerial sites for a potential expansion of our DAB+ service into East Devon. The polygon advertised is quite beyond our scope to even try and fill it all, particularly as using existing aerial sites is quite beyond our budget! Stockland Hill would be ideal, but we can't affored to use an external provider, so are having to look for potential aerial sites across the area we intend to cover. At the moment it looks as though our application will be using three sites. The bids to run the service have to be submitted by mid July and I'm currently rather busy rushing around by by lanes of what is, in some areas a very sparsely populated patch. More details as it progresses (or otherwise as the case may be!)

So to the jazz. It's obvious that 'jazz' is now covering a huge range of other musical areas with some recent forays into jazz-funk, rap jazz and European free jazz. Below are the six albums that I've enjoyed most during the first four months of the year. They appear in no particular order!

John Surman: Words unspoken.

As with most of the ECM material that I get this is an album that is splendidly recorded with Surman playing a range of sax sizes as well as bass clarinet. It's a break out from the normal quartet line up with Rob Luft on guitar (he's been on about three other albums this year already), Rob Waring on Vibraphone and Thomas Stronen on drums.All the compositions are by Surman and my starting point is 'Onich celidah'  and the title track. As ever, it's not a 'one play and you're hooked' album, but rewards repeated listens.

The Jazz Defenders: Memory in Motion.

Two changes in the lin up from the last outing, and a much tighter sound. Live, the new drummer ,Ian Matthews (sometime of kasabian) and Jake McMurchie on sax have tightened up the sound considerably, and this transmits itself throughout the album. Much of the maerial is written by George Cooper, (the keyboard player, and earlier from this City!). There are acouple of vocal outings . Current favourites are 'Rolling on a high' and 'Fuffle kershuffle'. Try to see them live, they were excellent at thier Exeter gig. A leap forward in quality and strength of material. See also my final comment, below.

Julian Lage: Speak to me.

The previous album seeemedlike outtakes from another session, but guitarist Lage has spread his range and material and has produced this throroughly enjoyable album. It's less sparse than some of his previous work, with some tracks filled out to a sextet. There are also a variety of tempos with less emphasis on his solos and more emphasis on ensemble playing.Introductory tracks ought to be 'Northern Shuffle'  and '76'. A welcome return to form.

Sarah L. King: Fire Horse.

Pleased to say this was a listener recommendation! It's a good one as well.. I know practically nothing about her, except she's British and sings in a very British style of jazz. The album was produced by Claire Martin, and the band led by Jim Watson on piano and keyboards are very empathetic. The strengths are her writing (and its style) and her choice of 'other' material. Self written songs to start with  are 'Born Yesterday' and 'Black Dog', whilst her version of 'Show you the way to go' turns the Gamble & Huff into an entirely different thing. Highly recommended.

Muriel Grossman: Devotion.

I was vaguely aware of some of Grossman's previous stuff, notably her John Coltrane trubute 'Golden Rule' but that was little preparation for this double album set of extended tracks which gave space not only to her tenor playing, but also allowed the rest of the band to solo extensivey. Of particular note is the guitar work of Radomir Milojkovic, but the band themselves extend the themes into an extended series of workouts with different tempos and different influnces, much of it based around themes of Buddhist contemplation. All of which makes it sound dull, and it isn't becasue it's a joyous amalgam of a host of other influences as well. A strong contender for my 2024 Top Ten.

Charlie Pyne Quartet: Nature is a Mother.

Charlie is the bass player in this excellent set with Katie Patterson on drums, Luke Pinkstone on Tenor Sax and Liam Dunachie of keybords. The songs are all Charlie's and it's a set of reflections on humanity, the Universe and constraints on working life. It's beautifully recorded, the song writing is strong and it's a really excellent example of where (British) jazz can go. Probably the most played album on the show so far this year, but see also my footnote below.

The year of releases is now, in mid May, really getting under way, so there'll probably be another page in a month or so. In the meantime I'll end with a footnote!


What really made my pleasure in listening to two of the albums above was that I got to speak to the writers about the albums, their struggles, hopes and humanity. So thanks to Goerge Cooper from Jazz Defenders for telling me his stories about growing up in Exeter and how one of the songs on the album was about his (mis)spent? youth. Thanks to Charlie Pyne for sharing the thoughts about motherhood, playing jazz, childcare and keeping bands together whilst life flowed on. Jazz is really about all those things, and more.