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With its similar use of modes and time signatures, Coltrane’s quartet is the inspiration for trumpeter Halsall’s group. But the differences are telling. Halsall’s music is gentler, more lyrical and melodic, with a Miles-ian use of space that lets it breathe. And though its role is similar to McCoy Tyner’s in the original, Adam Fairhall’s piano is necessarily more spare, as is Rachael Gladwin’s harp, compared with Alice Coltrane’s in later Coltrane groups. What matters is that Halsall co have put their stamp on it.
The recording mix does the bass no favours on the faster pieces, and one session could have used a better piano, but the music is absolutely gorgeous. Soprano/ tenor Nat Birchall is a brilliant foil for Halsall, and both, like Fairhall and Gladwin, are compelling soloists.
All contribute especially memorably on two ballads, Togetherand I’ve Been Here Before.
Cycle of Silence
Norwegian soprano saxophonist Frøy Aagre set the musical agenda for her working group with Andreas Ulvo (piano), Audun Ellingsen (bass) and Freddy Wike (drums). With Sigrun Eng (cello) added on four pieces, and Trude Eick (French horn) and Øyvind Brække (trombone) guesting on two more, the results are charming: melodic, resolutely tonal and full of deft counterpoint impeccably delivered, as befits an admirer of Bach.
There’s a flow and sense of proportion to it; nothing’s overdone, and the soloists are so well integrated into the written material that it’s difficult at times to hear where the boundaries lie. And Aagre’s sound is gorgeous, pure, rounded, expressive and, like her writing, full of that very Scandinavian blend of melancholy and celebration. This essentially composer’s album runs out of steam a bit, but it has a gentle beauty that grows on repeated hearing. www.actmusic.com
Kind of Blue ***
Although Hutcherson was an avant gardist at the start of his career in the 1960s, he soon settled into the earlier bop idiom and remained there. It’s no surprise, therefore, that this tribute to Coltrane burns no boats and stays on solid ground, where the vibist is easily the best soloist in a quartet featuring Anthony Wilson (guitar), Joe Gilman (piano), Glenn Richman (bass) and Eddie Marshall (drums). Craftsmanship, rather than surprise or daring, is the aim, so there are respectful treatments of Coltrane pieces such as Wise One, Spiritual, Like Sonny and Dear Lord , and standards such as Nancy and All or Nothing at All . Hutcherson does raise the temperature on Equinox (a blues) and Out of This World , but overall the sessions produced the kind of solidly professional performances that, however attractive, tend to leave no lasting footprints.