New music: Jazz round-up – April
New releases from Matthew Shipp, Alexander Hawkins Trio and Death Shanties
Matthew Shipp – To Duke (Rogue Art) ●●●●●
Free jazz pianist Matthew Shipp has been dropping Ellington tunes into his repertoire for some time now, but To Duke is his first full-length engagement with the great man's music. Recorded with Shipp's long-term trio of Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, the album features Ellington-inspired originals alongside radical interpretations of classics like 'Mood Indigo' and 'Prelude to a Kiss'. The centrepiece is an inspired nine-minute take on Billy Strayhorn's 'Take The A Train', which replaces the original's good-time glamour with an antsy energy, all sideways note clusters and locomotive rhythms. Shipp's ability to open these timeless compositions up to avant-garde strategies while retaining their elegant beauty is a marvel.
Alexander Hawkins Trio – S/T (Alexander Hawkins Music) ●●●●
A rising star of British jazz, Oxford pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins follows up his fine 2013 solo and ensemble discs with a trio set featuring Neil Charles on bass and Tom Skinner on drums. Like Shipp, Hawkins is an avant-gardist with a rich sense of melody and rhythm, and his Cubist takes on Ellingtonia and South African jazz are exciting and highly original.
Released Mon 13 Apr.
Death Shanties – Psychic Rome (Golden Lab) ●●●●
Rollicking free jazz from the Glasgow-based duo of saxophonist Sybren Renema and drummer Alex Neilson (also of folk-rock troupe Trembling Bells). Captured live to a single microphone, this is a raw blast of high energy skronk, with Renema's gnarly baritone riding roughshod over Neilson's restless drums. Closing track 'Fly Me To Dunoon' offers the pun of the month and some surprisingly lyrical fragments of the Sinatra standard.
Release date TBC.
Free Nelson ManDoomJazz – Awakening of a Capital (Rare Noise) ●●●
This Edinburgh trio's idea of a free jazz/doom metal fusion is a good one, building on ideas hinted at by acts on both sides of the equation. Saxophonist Rebecca Sneddon has a fine line in controlled wails and squonks, but the rhythm section fail to match her energy and there's an overall lack of spontaneity and heaviness.