The recording of Up on the Downs offers a fresh array of original jazz-infused compositions which take their heritage from the same gene bank of contemporary European jazz music as the Esbjorn Svensson Trio (EST) and Lars Jansson from Sweden, and the Martin Tingvall Trio and Bernhard Schuler’s Triosence from Germany.
The album features strong melodic tunes and themes supported by complex rhythms and high quality sound recording mixed by Chris Turner of DB1 Studios, Brighton. The music swings with a driven groove, but not always in the direction you’d expect and as a result has a distinct, contemporary feel.
The album’s most recent compositions include Abdullah, a complex rhythmic piece which pays clear homage to Abdullah Ibrahim and draws on African township rhythms adapted by the band’s drummer, Simon Cambers.
5464 is a modern take on the territory of Paul Desmond’s classic track Take Five. The use of polyrhythms, with fast clear cut music licks, makes this a track which will force any audience to sit up and tap its collective feet. The track ends, as it begins, with crisp unison work which encapsulates the close musical understanding the three band members share.
Trinity demonstrates a more reflective mood through an even paced gospel-ballad reminiscent of early Jarrett tunes, but has at its centre a crisp middle eight passage and improvisations on bass and piano which give it a more funk-based orientation.
The title track, Up on the Downs, harks, and originally dates, back to the time and sound of Dave Grusin’s and Bob James’ heydays with its simple funk grooves, but it delivers a clear and pure melody line in both the piano and bass and a full-on unison passage which is evocative of some of the work performed by the peerless USA group Steps Ahead. It is like a classic wine of its time which has been carefully stored and opened in its maturity.
Other tracks include the upbeat, triumphant gospel-infused march of Clear Water inspired by the first GB Olympic Gold rowing win in 2012; a ballad, paying respect to the music of Thelonius Monk, captured in a slow waltz-time and emphatically entitled, After Midnight; an ethereal and atmospheric piece in 12/8 called Selangor Fireflies evokes a calm, lulling underlying pulse with repetitive piano figures and an anthemic tune, but with an off-centre turn of harmony reminiscent of the end of Ravel’s Bolero which disturbs the tranquillity of the pastorale; Short Straw provides another twist in the percussive palette using Cuban rhythms and a montuno to underpin its alternating minor/major melody; and Hymn for Icarus starts with a lilting 6-4 rhythm and melody reminiscent of Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies, but transforms into a more dynamically rhythmic piece with a thematic passage which pays more than lip service to the late-great Esbjorn Svensson.