Tag Archives: Edition Records

Edition Records

Review – Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, London Vocal Project – Mirrors – released Feb 2013

You might be forgiven for thinking this latest album by Kenny Wheeler is a jaunty, happy album. Well, it is at first listening and on many levels. I defy anyone not to want to join in with the vocals, the melodies float and soar, the London Vocal Project sound so light and airy, their voices young, reminding me of the Sixties. Then you listen to the words. This is music set by Kenny Wheeler to a series of poems by Stevie Smith, Lewis Carroll and WB Yeats.  Some are whimsy such as those by Lewis Carroll – the title of the album Mirrors refers to Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.  But Mirrors could also refer to holding up a glass to the human heart because so many moods are explored in this album. So the bright numbers like Humpty Dumpty and Tweedledum are broadly balanced by the sad, wistful poems of Stevie Smith and WB Yeats.  I’m glad they chose not to put Stevie’s most famous poem, Not Waving but Drowning to music, perhaps that would have been too obvious?

The more I listen to this album the more I discover it is an extremely complex affair. Within each composition I might hear words which I’d usually understand as melancholy or bitter and then I hear the voices and the rhythm section and they seem to be saying the opposite of what I hear in the words. Hence the initial impression of an upbeat album.  Take a poem like The Broken Heart by Stevie. It’s a very bitter poem – he told me he loved me – the voices are sweet and upbeat.  Then an ironic sax enters, mocking the voices.   It leaves you as confused as life, that you must smile at grief. 

Jazz set to poetry demands you listen to the words. Take He is dressed in grey chiffon. At least I think it is chiffon. It has a peculiar look, like smoke.  An evocative image  – you wonder how you would read these words aloud yourself and then you realise that what is so perfect about this album is that the music suits the poems so perfectly you forget which came first. The pacing, emphasis and intonation all are so perfect I can see teachers of ‘A’ level English reaching for this album to introduce their classes to these poets and they will thank Kenny Wheeler for his beautiful compositions.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll is absolutely perfect. Norma’s wistful, fragile voice perfectly captures a lazy July evening in a boat, you are lulled into a doze. But wait,  what is coming?  A sense of anxiety in the fading notes then Kenny’s brittle flugelhorn and a beautiful solo by Mark Lockheart on sax. Discordant voices lead us forward in time and we realise we have been dreaming.  It’s magical.

Death and bereavement stalk these poems but so gently. I particularly love Nikki’s piano on The Bereaved Swan, it is so delicate. It goes without saying that every note of Kenny’s is inspired and haunting. This perfect album is the jewel in the crown for Edition Records.

Kenny Wheeler, flugelhorn
Norma Winstone, vocals
London Vocal Project directed by Pete Churchill
Nikki Iles, piano
Mark Lockheart, saxophones
Steve Watts, double bass
James Maddren, drums

Mirrors is available on Edition Records 

Review: Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Warwick Arts Centre, 27 January 2013

It’s not every day that you get taken by surprise by a piano trio but that’s what happened to me last night at Warwick Arts Centre. The Alexi Tuomarila Trio are due to release their new album on Edition Records in April so it was a great thrill and a coup for Jazz Coventry to host them so early in the year. Alexi’s trio consists of Mats Eilertsen on bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums and himself on piano. As a trio comprised of a Norwegian and two Finns, they speak to each other in English but there the compromise ends. Each of them is a star in their own firmament. From a very early age, Alexi won prizes and over the years has played with Tomasz Stanko ( I believe I saw him at WAC with Tomasz Stanko in 2009). Mats leads his own projects (notably with Thomas Strønen and Harmen Fraanje, in addition to playing with Tord Gustavsen). Olavi leads Oddarrang (you will know about my enthusiasm for this project) and he also plays with Tomasz Stanko. There isn’t space to list all their achievements here but the sum total of all their experience means when you see all three on stage together you have an almost limitless depth.

So what was so great last night? Well, what most struck me was that I was listening to very dense sound, on the piano and the bass, but it didn’t feel heavy or overwhelming. It may have been Alexi’s exquisite sparkling touch on the piano, he could play a lot of notes at once and yet they felt airy. On the drums, a friend commented that he was impressed at how much sound Olavi could produce from so few drums. And Mats seemed to be always there, supporting, leading or progressing complex tunes that hung in the air at their ending. And together they created a beautiful sound. It was captivating.

So a composition like Pearl by Alexi or Cyan (?) by Olavi was able to be simultaneously dense and shimmering yet full of space. Magical. There were sounds like creaking timber, I felt I was on a ship going down, there was a feeling of dread and fear and then it was lifted so gently. One composition started with a lovely piano melody like the remembrance of summers past, wistful and gentle. I think this may have morphed into Bob Dylan’s The times they are a-changin but like Brad Mehldau, Alexi keeps standards very well hidden.

Their new album will be out in April on Edition Records. It is called Seven Hills and features the Portuguese guitarist André Fernandes. If anything, the album is more accessible than the performance last night but I like being challenged and I got the feeling that the band relished being in the same room for a few hours, an occurrence that is unlikely to be repeated often from now on as they pursue their other projects. Their modesty as a band was overwhelming and it was a great privilege to hear them live. Five stars.

Alexi Tumarila, piano

Mats Eilertsen, bass

Olavi Louhivuori, drums





BBC Radio3 Jazz Line-Up 10 Nov 2012 – being there…

Three gigs in one, could you ask for more? Jazz Line-up at the Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre offered us three very different short sets, each giving us an insight into the creative process that you don’t usually get in a live performance. The first, from Aruán Ortiz, a Cuban pianist whose quintet included Michael Janisch on bass and Greg Osby on saxophone was a fairly uncompromising upbeat set which felt very New York to me with its hard driving grooves. Just the thing to warm us up. The band keep in touch by Skype which must be an interesting way to rehearse when you are on different continents.

Then came pianist Tigran Hamasyan who divides his time between New York and Paris. His La Petite Esperance moved me greatly, I was captivated in an instant, sat forward in my seat holding my breath, I heard his home country of Armenia, gentle folk melodies, mourning for a lost way of life. It wasn’t just technique, there was such depth of feeling. I knew I had just heard a pianist who will be as great as Brad Mehldau. The busy Clore Ballroom went silent, rivetted by this slight figure hunched over the piano. Then he played an improvised piece with piano, voice, xylophone and electronics. Then What the waves brought combined piano, whistling and voice. Babies squealed in the crowd but we were transported to his native land-locked country for just a few minutes. He tried to get us to clap in the most difficult rhythm imaginable, we all failed dismally, raising my already soaring respect for drummers. He told us that he had a great respect for Armenian poetry which certainly added to the romance of La Petite Esperance.

Finally, Oddarrang from Finland, part of the Sound of Finland series. I reviewed Oddarrang’s Cathedral earlier this year here and I was really keen to see how their beautifully mixed, subtle sound with electronics would hold up in the ballroom. I need not have worried, the mix of instruments – guitars, cello, trombone, voice, drums and piano, and electronics stood up perfectly, the quiet bits silenced the crowd near the bar. We were treated to the UK premier of Self Portrait which started so quietly and then became very loud. It’s about a film called Self Portrait. Olavi explained that Finland is a quiet country, where silence is the default so it was inevitable that his music would have lovely delicate long spaces. People stayed in their seats for the 6pm set with Oddarrang, there was a real buzz of anticipation – Finland no longer seemed a gloomy country if it could create such magical sounds. We had loud sounds too – a rather frightening, menacing new track that they played in the 6pm set. There were noises like nails on a blackboard (ouch), deep rumblings and ghost-like sounds, and at one stage all the musicians appeared to be twiddling with knobs on gadgets! It bodes very well for their next album which will be released on Edition Records in August 2013.

We knew we were at a recording for radio as we had to applaud on request for sound levels. That wasn’t hard as we’d had an extremely good afternoon. After the gig I heard Kevin LeGendre tell a friend that he thought Olavi’s piano trio of ten years ago was one of the best he’d heard in Europe! And this was just my first gig of the London Jazz Festival 2012. It’s already top-notch, it can’t get better than this can it?

Review: Ivo Neame – Yatra – released Sept 2012

Yatra is Ivo Neame’s latest work on Edition Records. Yatra means pilgrimage or journey, the perfect word to describe a musician’s search for his own voice.  We have waited quite a while for this album as Ivo’s last in his own name was 2009 (Caught in the Light of Day – you can see my review here).   I am more used to seeing Ivo in smaller bands – with Phronesis, Josh Arcoleo, Kairos 4Tet and Marius Neset’s Golden Xplosion so a work with eight musicians (and no standards to call on) felt on the face of it, well, rather audacious, risky and brave.

But having seen Ivo’s Octet on stage twice – first in February this year in the Purcell Room and then more recently in the sympathetic environment of Kings Place, the word audacious is wrong – it wasn’t risky at all, it feels very natural now.   In February I thought “There are moments of genius in this, what a lovely complex sound but I can still follow it”;  in March I heard Ivo’s quintet in Sherborne and listened to the buzz afterwards (“That was the best gig we’ve had in Sherborne for ages”);  and just a week ago I thought “Wow, this has grown up a lot”.

Yatra consists of nine tracks, all by Ivo, with band members listed below.  The most obvious point of connection to his 2009 quartet is Jim Hart on vibes and Jasper Høiby on bass, providing the solid foundation on which to add the new layer of four reeds and an accordion. The result is an explosion of colour and texture, richness and depth. The reeds add a romantic layer which combined with vibes give it a very beautiful sound best heard on Heart Murmurs.

All the tracks stand alone but my favourite is That Syncing Feeling. It has the loveliest, achingly subtle melody on clarinet, a purring gently bouncing bass and sparce piano setting the tone. The reeds section is at its most sublime, serene and cool.   In my mind I see a girl leaving home, she looks back over her shoulder and sees the boy at the window wistfully gazing after her, but she keeps walking.   It feels sad.   I like that.   But then Ivo pushes us into the circus/fairground with Owl of me, with its funny noises and quirky dance rhythms. He’s playing with us!   Moody seems to continue the circus feel, with more squeaks and hoots, clip-clops like a horse, it all feels a bit insane, suggesting psychological ups and downs, but then the tune breaks through which you will hum for days. It’s very clever.

I think the genius of this album is that Ivo has a light touch with his fellow musicians. You are never aware of solos, it’s not formulaic, it’s democratic but not obviously so, it works as an ensemble. It ebbs and flows naturally, nothing is forced.

Ivo has arrived at the end of this particular journey.   I’m very pleased that he has found his own distinctive voice: witty, modest, serious, cerebral, poetic and self-deprecating, but also fun.    It’s fabulous.

Ivo Neame, piano, accordion
Tori Freestone, saxophone, flute
Jon Shenoy, clarinet
Jason Yarde, alto saxophone
Shabaka Hutchings, bass clarinet
Jim Hart, vibes
Jasper Høiby, double bass
Dave Hamblett, drums


Yatra, Ivo Neame et al is on Edition Records, available http://www.editionrecordsstore.com/

Review: Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset – Neck of the Woods – released Aug 2012

I was wondering how to sum up the feelings prompted in me by this interesting new album.  On Twitter I posted one word – sublime.  I think I have another three words inspired by Shakespeare ” …a dying fall”.    If you never knew what that meant, then listen to this album and you may find they make sense. This album is the latest from the Edition mine of beautiful music. The cover is lovely, the CD itself is a work of art with delicate snowy patterns on it.  Norwegians Daniel Herskedal on tuba and Marius Neset on saxophones are supported by the Svanholm Singers from Sweden.  This is not just everyday Scandinavian melancholy, no there’s humour and playfulness here, wistfulness and peace within its forty minutes.  It creates a very special mood, not one to easily classify, not least because of the unusual pairing of instruments.  I think it will grow on you.  Most of the compositions are by Daniel except for The Wedding by Abdullah Ibrahim.

Marius literally blew us off our feet last year with his Golden Xplosion tour and album. He’s spellbinding in performance, you can feel heat, there is so much energy in the room emanating from him.   His saxophone seems to float, it’s a living thing almost.  I recently saw him at Pizza Express where he surprised even himself at the tempo he played City on Fire, blisteringly fast.  I also saw him at St Georges Brandon Hill (see my review of Dave Stapleton’s Flight) where he revelled in the perfect acoustic.  But it’s not just technique or virtuosity you remember with Marius, it’s passion and fire, the sheer joy of performance.

The first and title track Neck of the Woods will leave you spellbound,  Marius and Daniel have created a piece of heartbreaking beauty.  The gorgeous swoops of Marius’s sax, the feather-light tuba supporting it, the voices, some subtle electronics – they all work together.

Eg er Framand shows off the beautiful solo voice of Hallvar Djupvik.  If I can trust an online translation of this song it is “I am a pilgrim who will stay only one night here. I seek the City of God where sorrow & death are no more. Dear Lord, lead me to Heaven’s shore.”   So I feel a bit more comfortable with my initial impression of this album, it is a bit melancholy and full of lamentation.

But it’s balanced by some pastoralism and the magic we heard on Golden Xplosion’s Angel of the North (about a fjord) we hear on this album.  If Golden Xplosion was urban, then this album is pure Norwegian fjord.   The light, clear voices of the choir add to the feeling of space, coolness and echo.  The Christmas Song’s haunting melody will be part of my Christmas from now on. If I need snow and moonlight on Christmas Eve, here it is in this charming composition by Daniel.

The final track, The Wedding by Abdullah Ibrahim, is played so delicately and ends so gently, you wonder if you are dreaming.   Here is the dying fall I started with, it just floats off into the distance, leaving you to savour a very pleasant feeling of Scandinavian melancholy.

Neck of the Woods - Daniel Herskedal & Marius Neset

You can see Marius and Daniel at the Edition Records Festival at Kings Place on Sunday 16 September 2012 at 2pm. I cannot wait!

You can also see them at St Georges Brandon Hill on 17 September and at Dempseys in Cardiff on 18 September (supporting Asaf Sirkis).