New music: Jazz round-up – April 2016
Featuring Tom Bancroft, Peter Brötzmann & Heather Leigh, and Fire! Orchestra
Tom Bancroft: Trio Red – Lucid Dreamers ●●●●
With this second album Tom Bancroft's Trio Red has really hit its stride. The Scottish drummer and bandleader has developed a great rapport with pianist Tom Cawley and bassist Per Zanussi, successfully integrating diverse musical elements into a distinctive group sound. 'Saturday Afternoon (With Sophie)' is a delight, with its breezy Soweto air and infectious Calypso bounce, while the tripartate title track deftly moves from delicate balladry to abstract rumination via a thunderous free improvisation. Despite its wacky title, 'Monsieur Pompouse Takes a Stroll' sounds not unlike an acoustic take on the industrial dub of 23 Skidoo, with the players working shadowy percussive corners.
Peter Brötzmann & Heather Leigh – Ears Are Filled With Wonder (Not Two/Trost) ●●●●
European free jazz titan Peter Brötzmann and Glasgow-based pedal steel maverick Heather Leigh have become a formidable duo since their debut at Tectonics 2015. Ears Are Filled With Wonder is a different beast to that super-heavy first date, with Leigh's woozily psychedelic guitar bringing out Brötzmann's lyrical loverman side. It's still an intense listen, with Brötzmann coming at Leigh's beams of white light with ragged tenor sax squalls, but the quieter passages will leave you breathless with their twilit beauty.
Fire! Orchestra – Ritual (Rune Grammofon) ●●●
Fire! Orchestra's 2014 album Enter was a not-entirely-successful attempt to channel the free-form excitement of their debut into a jazz-rock suite. Ritual is blessedly free from Simon Ohlsson's hammy vocals, but it doesn't quite resolve its predecessor's structural issues. The brooding psych-rock riffs that serve the core Fire! trio so well don't get the space to breathe in a big-band setting, while the rock opera elements sound rather clunky next to the free improvisations. With major talents such as saxophonists Mette Rasmussen and Anna Högberg in the front line, Fire! Orchestra can certainly summon a wailin' pound of sound, but sadly Ritual is less than the sum of its parts.