CD REVIEW: Noel Langley – Edentide

Noel Langley – Edentide
(Suntara Records SUN7422002. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

When I first saw Noel Langley in 1988, he had not long graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and was just starting an amazing career in which he was to become one of the most ubiquitous trumpeters on the scene. He must be the only person to have worked with David Murray, Mark Ronson and Bob Monkhouse.

You know exactly what many albums are going to be like before you hear the first note, but the instrumentation of Edentide – Langley’s long-awaited début as a leader – really makes you wonder what’s in store. Among the horn, string and rhythm sections, which contain well-known jazzmen like Phil Todd and Asaf Sirkis, are waterphone, zabumba and kitchen utensils; and less familiar players including Kenny Dickenson on keyboards and percussionist Keith Fairbairn. And there is an important role for Ruth Wall’s harps.

Any thoughts of “where did that strange noise come from?” are overtaken by the arresting and absorbing sounds from the beginning of For The Uncommon Man. A low growl, percussion and desolate trumpet create brooding anticipation, and a brassy fanfare breaks through before a lovely melody for trumpet and harp emerges.

A lot happens on this session. It’s as if jazz, pop, commercial and classical music have suddenly collided with the ideas that Langley has been assimilating in his head for decades. Michael Gibbs, Neil Ardley and Gil Evans are all in there…as is trumpeter Uan Rasey (named-checked on the sleeve) who is reputed to have been heard on almost every MGM film between 1949 and 1974. But – far from being derivative – this stunning outlet for Langley’s intellect and imagination results in head-shaking delight.

Sven’s Island has a restless introduction by harp, piano, woodwinds and marimba, and The Stealth Horns (a dectet including Ashley Slater and Yazz Ahmed) rampage through a fabulous assymetric episode that you want to go on for ever. With On Haast Beach, another off-kilter dance is washed up, followed by some beautiful trumpet work. A bigger group is also used for Minami, which Langley somehow conceived in 20 minutes. This is lyrical, splendidly orchestrated and has fine solos by its composer and the pianist Alcyona Mick. Apart from the rhythm programming towards the end, it’s the kind of thing that Kenny Wheeler might have crafted. Wheeler himself is the writer of Four For One, a trumpet quartet where Langley plays all the (overdubbed) parts.

Some selections are more reflective. The Turning House is a calm, spontaneous duet for trumpet and mediaeval bray harp. Cornish composer Graham Fitkin contributes a substantial tune, Glass, which has a pastoral simplicity, rhapsodic piano, and an unexpected bit of oom-pah.

Despite the mixing bowls, rolling pin, bunch of keys and ultimately “The Lord is My Shepherd”, I found the title track that closes the album disappointing. But that’s a minor quibble when the rest of the CD is so very good.

Edentide contains enormous slabs of brilliantly recorded music, and Langley’s singular conception will entertain, satisfy and move you.

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