Archipelago are a North East trio fronted by multi-instrumentalist Faye MacCalman, and accompanied by bassist John Pope and drummer Christian Alderson. Archipelago are a band with innovative ideas and real creative potential - their music spans a huge range of influences, drawing upon the different individual musical backgrounds of each member. Echoes To The Sky is Archipelago’s newest release since 2017 - due for release on 25th June 2021, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peak at the album before its launch. Echoes To The Sky, a genre-defying album, features a similar set up to the band’s previous work, yet incorporates new elements such as synths and electronics, creating very new-world soundscapes. Creating contrasts between typical, traditional jazz playing and distorted, disorientating experimentalism, the trio are definitely one to watch in the northern jazz scene this year. In their own words, Echoes To The Sky is an album inspired by ‘transformation, loss and a sense of hopeful mystery’ - regardless of genre, this is a sentiment we can all connect with.
Having recently released There Is A Tide, a one-man album which featured Chris Potter on all 14 instruments and was later hailed one of the best jazz albums of 2020, Sunrise Reprise has a lot to live up to. This, and the fact that the last time Potter, Harland and Francies played together was on Circuits, means that the sense of anticipation and expectation for Sunrise Reprise was always going to be extremely high. Potter has been releasing albums for over 25 years now; his ability to continually refresh and renew his own musical style and output is an impressive accomplishment. Sunrise Reprise marks another new movement forward for Potter - with Eric Harland on drums and James Francies on keys, this album is an extremely modern exploration. Featuring synths and electronics as on Circuits, yet taking a new approach to composition and the musical journey, Potter’s new album is definitely a refreshing listen. Intense ensemble playing, virtuosic solos, emotional peaks and troughs - Sunrise Reprise is not an album to be missed.
On Thursday 6th May, we were lucky enough to watch an exclusive premier of ‘Parallels’, a piece by composer, guitarist and improviser Moss Freed. The Q&A which followed really allowed the audience to dig deeper into the music, and gave us a lot of food for thought. Freed has studied composition extensively, attending Goldsmiths to study for a masters in composition, and is currently researching composition for the Universities of Hull and Huddersfield. Freed’s newest composition, ‘Parallels’, was premiered as a performance by Alexander Hawkins on piano, Elliot Galvin on piano, kalimba and kazoo, and Maria Chiara Argirò on piano. A composition for three pianos, ‘Parallels’ was a challenging yet beautifully explorative piece which intended to bring together three different improvisers in order to see how they would interpret the piece differently, and without being able to hear one another. Freed explained that the musicians were working at different tempos, and were often given notated instructions to freely improvise without any restrictions. This made the piece extremely interesting to listen to, with new ideas and tonal centres featuring all the time. Although ‘Parallels’ may be a challenging composition at first glance, every listen illuminates something new - it’s a really stimulating and thrilling piece of music.
Back in 2019, Norwegian guitarist Casper Hatlestad played at Lancaster Jazz Festival. Having lived in many places and travelled often, Hatlestad’s compositions are often inspired by different cultures and places. After doing a BA and MA at Leeds Conservatoire, he then moved to Prague, and plays guitar as part of the band DOMI. He is set to release a full solo album later this year, Acoustic Tales From Prague - but for now has begun releasing some of his solo work as singles. We listened to ‘Bokka’ and ‘Ella’, which were released in April, and became completely immersed in this beautiful, acoustic music. Hatlestad’s style is characterised by intimate solo guitar playing, harmonics, a strong sense of movement and warm melodies. These singles are extremely accessible to any listener, and were inspired by some beautiful stories. On Spotify Hatlestad writes that his music ‘kept him sane’ during lockdown, and that his only wish is that listeners ‘find some peace, some calmness and mindfulness while listening’. We don’t know about you, but we certainly did.
Télémaque are a trio of improvisers, made up of Joe McPhee, John Pope, and Paul Hession. Their debut recording, The King’s Hall Concert, has just been released in April 2020, but it’s actually a live recording from Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music back in 2018. The trio performed their set in 2018 to a real live audience, yet only now is it being released to the wider public - and it’s an intense listen. Featuring McPhee on sax and trumpet, Pope on double bass and Hession on drums, the trio freely improvise together on two lengthy A and B sides. The free improvisation may be challenging for many listeners, yet the ideas displayed are stimulating and take the listener along on the trio’s journey. There are moments of tentative and quiet playing contrasted by big, climactic builds which create senses of tension and resolve. If you love improvised and live music, this is definitely the exploration for you.
Back in 2019, jazz pianist and composer Jacky Naylor was commissioned by Lancaster Jazz Festival to write a new suite of music. Naylor wanted to write about the wool and textile mills which he grew up with and explore the history of many Northern families. ‘The Industrial Suite’ then premiered at the Festival in 2019 - and now, these five compositions have been recorded to be shared with us again in 2021. ‘The Industrial Suite’ is a beautifully crafted set of works which tell the story of industrial growth and decline in the North of England through tight ensemble playing, interesting solos, and sensitive musicality across the board. This set of compositions are a really beautiful listen, featuring moments which challenge you, moments which comfort you, and moments which give you goosebumps. Naylor has composed pieces with a profound, underlying meaning, which are accessible and tasteful - it’s truly inspiring. Prepare to be blown away by this album.
Rafe’s Dilemma are a quartet best known for their storytelling, and for the eclectic mixture of influences which can be heard in their album, Rafe’s Dilemma. Featuring Jamil Sheriff on keys, Nel Begley on vocals, Katie Patterson on drums, and Pete Turner on bass, the group originally formed as a commission for Bolton Worktown festival. Rafe’s Dilemma released their self-titled album which narrated the story of ‘a family on the edge’ through spoken word, improvisation, and a range of soundscapes. Therefore, their new release ‘Give In’ is an unexpected yet welcome addition to their previous works, as it explores their own personal musical storytelling for the first time. Whilst their album Rafe’s Dilemma features a wide range of generic influences, including jazz, rock, electronic music, spoken word, and more, ‘Give In’ offers a new sound from the quartet. It’s a moving piece which immediately allows the audience to connect with the band through its harmonic qualities, its emotional lyrics, and its laidback groove.