Jazz, August 2023

hfnalbum.pngScott Hamilton Quartet
At Pizza Express Live In London
PX Records PXR1001; LP: PXRLP1001 (two discs)

American swing saxophonist Scott Hamilton has been playing the Pizza Express in Soho for 40 years, and for more than 20 of those leading his UK quartet of John Pearce (piano), Dave Green (bass) and Steve Brown (drums). So when PizzaExpress Live, which embraces the restaurant chain's three London music venues, launched its own label, Hamilton was a natural choice for the first release. There are precedents, in the form of a 2003 Concord album Live In London and Dean Street Nights (2014), one of many Hamilton albums from Alan Barnes's Woodville label. But here Hamilton, with his quartet in perfect rapport, is simply excellent, seeming only to have got even better over the years. Excellent recording too. SH


Ingi Bjarni
NXN Recordings NXN2014

Translating as 'Migratory Birds', this is the Icelandic pianist's fifth album, his second with an unusual and striking Scandinavian quintet. Bjarni calls it 'my own kind of folk music' as he combines Nordic traditional influences with elements of jazz and pop. His cohorts here (as on 2019's Tenging) are Norwegian trumpeter Jakob Eri Myhre, who can be both haunting and fiercely declamatory, the supremely talented and original Estonian guitarist Merje Kägu, Swedish bassist Daniel Andersson and Norwegian drummer Tore Ljøkelsøy. This is music that builds strongly to climaxes, brings tension and release, and will grow on you with each listening. SH


Donny Mccaslin
I Want More
Edition Records EDN1219; LP: EDNLP1219

Saxophonist Donny McCaslin was well established as a leader and sought-after sideman in New York when in 2014, he played on 'Sue', David Bowie's collaboration with Maria Schneider – he'd been a member of Schneider's Jazz Orchestra for a decade. And when Bowie saw McCaslin leading his own quartet, he hired them for what would be his final album, Blackstar. You can hear the same quartet lineup here, with keyboards, echo, electronics and wild effects from Jacob Lindner, driving bass from Tim Lefebvre and relentless drumming from Marc Guiliana. McCaslin discards all jazz conventions to create his own brand of riff-driven, no-holds barred excitement. SH

2704 X

Dominic Miller
ECM 4589048; LP: 4589049

He's recorded many albums on many labels, but this fine guitarist is most widely known for his empathic work with Sting – and Miller's first ECM album, Silent Night (2017) included his own instrumental take on 'Fields Of Gold'. This time, as with Absinthe (2019), his quartet is anchored by Belgian bassist Nicolas Fiszman, but it now includes Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon and New York-based Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz. In a set of contemplative, wistful and even melancholy pieces, Miller plays sparingly yet ravishingly, hinting at flamenco, sometimes making his guitar sound like an oud, while Karlzon meshes perfectly with skill, sensitivity and a light touch. SH