A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)

A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jun 12, 2017  |  0 comments
Well, he’s come a long way since founding Methodism in the 1700s, via The Porcupine Tree and a spell fettling guitars for Marillion, but here is John Wesley with one of those albums you can almost hear just from the cover image. Acclaimed by those in the know as reinventing the progressive genre, this album starts with a track seemingly designed to cram every metal/prog/heavy cliché into as short a track as possible, though, as a result, it does go on a bit all the way to the feedback howl with which it ends. As do several of the other tracks on this album, with their ponderous bass-lines and howling, distorted guitar noodlage, meaning there are times when it all gets a bit Spinal Tap. However, that’s not the main problem here: it’s the relentless ‘slam everything into the red’ onslaught of the mix that makes this set most wearing.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 29, 2017  |  0 comments
Well, this looks like perhaps the safest jazz set in the book: a trio, playing standards such as ‘I’ll Remember April’, ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ and ‘On The Sunny Side Of The Street’. However, overlook it at your peril, for both the musicianship on offer here, and the quality of the recording, set it apart: Charlap’s piano playing is consistently light, tight and entirely in control, while still remaining remarkably expressive and able to bring something new. And the bass of Peter Washington and the drumming of Kenny Washington (no, they’re not…) fusing perfectly with the ‘lead instrument’ to create a tight, focused sound that’s at once easy on the ear and constantly intriguing. Listen to this album a second, third or fourth time and you’ll still be picking up little nuances you may have missed first time round, simply because you were enjoying the music so much.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 15, 2017  |  0 comments
Another live Bill Evans set emerges from the archives, and this one, in DSD guise, is a cracker. Recorded in 1968, it has just the right combination of live atmosphere and focus on the performances, meaning one can enjoy what’s being played and the sense of event without Jazz At The Pawnshop levels of distraction. Engineer George Klabin recorded these performances for his radio show, and got an intimate, yet dynamic sound. Evans is here with a relatively new trio of Eddie Gomez – with whom he’d been playing for a couple of years – and recently-arrived drummer Marty Morell.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 08, 2017  |  0 comments
There’s obviously something of a blooming of Nordic double-bass player/composers with solo albums at the moment, for here we have Norwegian ‘big fiddle’ virtuoso Mats Eilertsen with a scintillating set of self-composed pieces originally part of a collection commissioned for the 2014 Vossa Jazz Festival, and evolved on the road to create this ensemble album played by a septet. And you can tell the musicians have been working closely to develop the recordings here, so well do they connect in an expressive mélange of brass and woodwind, pianos both acoustic and electric, some superb guitar-work by long-time Eilertsen collaborator Thomas T Dahl, and of course the composer’s own bass. The music is understated, mesmeric and consistently captivating, and – despite our reservations in the lab panel below – instruments still sound crisp, clear and natural. AE Sound Quality: 90% Hi-Fi News Lab Report While this is certainly a 96kHz rendering and one that avoids peak-level overload, spectral analysis reveals a clump of (digital?) spuriae around 30kHz [see graph].
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 20, 2017  |  0 comments
The Texas-based choral ensemble Conspirare here performs musical director Craig Hella Johnson’s first major composition, a full-length concert piece about the murder of Matthew Shepard. A gay student at the University of Wyoming, in 1998 Shepard was kidnapped, beaten and left to die tied to fence in a field, his funeral later picketed by the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Drawing on Shepard’s own journals, contemporary sources and musical snippets from the Bach opening to ‘Frère Jacques’, the piece evokes the senselessness of the crime. In its scope, structure and power, this is a modern oratorio, albeit as grounded in country music as it is in the sacred tradition.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 15, 2017  |  0 comments
The concepts of down ’n’ dirty blues and fine sound don’t always go hand in hand, but that’s certainly the case with this set from singer/songwriter/guitarist Lance Lopez and producer/bassist Fabrizio Grossi. Of course, it helps if you can pull in the odd guest artist, and here they’re of the calibre of Warren Hayne, Walter Trout and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. However, it’s not a case of ‘sling in a flashy trademark solo’, as each meshes seamlessly into the band’s sound. As Grossi puts it, ‘It’s not a guest record, those guys are part of our family and just happened to show up on that song’.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 10, 2017  |  0 comments
This set by German trumpeter and vocalist Till Brönner will neither set the world alight nor challenge any jazz preconceptions, as it’s very much on the safe ground some hundreds of metres back from the cutting edge. If that’s damning with faint praise, so be it: this is a selection of familiar standards covered with a combination of breathy brass and easygoing vocals, set against assured accompaniment and fine production. Brönner’s keen musicianship is matched by pianist Larry Goldings, guitarist Anthony Wilson, John Clayton on bass and drummer Jeff Hamilton, and the whole thing was produced at LA’s Ocean Way by Ruud Jacobs, creating a flawlessly easy sound to match the album’s subtitle, ‘Music for Peaceful Moments’. It may well be a bit too formulaic for some ears – so high marks for technical, if notched down a little on artistic, presentation.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 25, 2017  |  0 comments
Guitarist Cline says ‘I have been dreaming about, planning, and re-working my rather obsessive idea of this record for well over 25 years’, and hopes it ‘offers something of an update of the “mood music” idea and ideal, while celebrating and challenging our iconic notion of romance’. Fortunately this package, arranged and conducted by trumpeter Michael Leonhart – who also plays as part of the large ensemble featured – isn’t quite the slushfest that description might suggest. Instead, its combination of original pieces and arrangements both gives Cline’s guitar room to manoeuvre and manages to evoke the emotions intended, (albeit on the lush side at times, though well-served by an excellent Blue Note production job). Yes, the sound is occasionally a bit on the easy-listening side of neutral, but won’t test your speakers’ dynamics or trouble the neighbours.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 20, 2017  |  0 comments
Jazz/classical crossovers are nothing new, but this set by Norwegian saxophonist and composer Marius Neset pulls off the trick better than many: there’s not any sign of the usual car-crash or shoehorning here, but rather a fine combination of the jazz ensemble and the London Sinfonietta’s instruments. The music itself is by turns slow and lyrical and hard-driving, making use of everything from the Sinfonietta’s woodwinds to the crisp pizzicato strings, and the ‘band’ is clearly up for the challenge’s of Neset’s dense, busy writing. If there’s a criticism it’s that there often seems to be too much going on, and ideas tumble out and are replaced almost before they can be established, let alone developed – but a masterful recording makes the most of everything from lush strings to the taut, jerky rhythms. Here’s a crossover well worth closer inspection.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 05, 2017  |  0 comments
Sometimes things come together to create something special, and that’s definitely the case with this set by Danish bassist Jasper Høiby, perhaps better known as part of jazz power-trio Phronesis. In that set-up Høiby is part of the engine-room; here he’s given the chance to spread his wings rather more as performer and composer, not only showing just what a fine bassist he is but also writing tunes both intriguing and entirely catchy. Placing himself at the heart of a quintet comprising the trumpet of Laura Jurd and saxophonist Mark Lockheart, with fine work by Will Barry on piano and Corrie Dick wielding the sticks, Høiby never falls into the bass-player’s trap of putting himself out in front. This is an ensemble set, superbly recorded and with real impact and insight to underpin its fine musicianship.