The latest jazz albums reviewed


Fabula Suite Lugano
ECM ***

With their elements of Swedish folk, church, baroque and contemporary clasical music, pianist/composer Christian Wallumrød’s miniatures still seem sui generis – though how much of their final form is owed to his own and his sextet’s ideas, and to improvisation, is uncertain. But he draws a rich range of colour from piano, trumpet, cello, Hardanger fiddle, baroque harp and percussion (with some added doubles) for a music that is, by turns, of the head and heart, celebratory and mocking. The ensemble’s lovely sound is generously deployed on a Scarlatti fragment, the Baroque- flavoured Jumpa and I Had a Mother Who Could Swim. But its close-knit interaction is best appreciated in the intricacies of a lovely Valse Dolcissima, the derisive Dancing Deputies and the uneasy, never-quite-resolved Snake. Is it jazz? No. It’s music that makes its own space. www.ecmrecords. com


Nearer Awakening

Laughing Lettuce ****

This vibrant album salutes the music of the late South African multi-instrumentalist Bheki Mseleku, whose unpretentious, deceptively simple compositions have an insistent inner strength that reflect his African and jazz roots. It’s served up in an engagingly ego-free spirit by pianist John Donaldson’s quartet, with Ian Price (tenor), Simon Thorpe (bass) and Tristan Banks (drums). Donaldson remains one of the finest mainstream/ modern pianists around, but it’s Price, who works in latin bands, who is a real surprise – an always musical soloist who lets you hear all the changes, yet makes his own of them in a logical and personal way. They’re consistently good here, especially on the title track, the slow burn of My Passion, and the grooving Joy, Angola, Suluman Saud and Timelessness, all handled with enviable authority by a quartet that lives up to its name. www.johndonaldson.org