Misha Mullov-Abbado Cross-Platform Interchange
(Edition EDN1091. CD review by Jon Turney)
Here’s the difficult second album from abundantly talented Misha Mullov-Abbado. So talented in fact that it doesn’t sound as if it was difficult at all.
The bassist, who won the Royal Academy’s Kenny Wheeler prize in 2014, presents a set of distinctly hummable compositions for a core septet most of whom are fellow graduates from the Academy. His skills include the one you can’t teach – producing pleasing melodies – as well as a flair for arrangement that takes different forms on each piece.
There’s a slight sense of working through genres about the programme. The stunning opener Shanti Bell features just bass and percussion and marks the leader as one who will, perhaps, offer satisfying solo recitals one day along the lines of those Dave Holland favours us with occasionally. There follow a Latin-leaning tune, a mildly humourous tribute to everyone’s favourite animated character, Gromit’s Grand Outing, a groover, a cool swinger that delves further back with a nod toward New Orleans as it goes on. Brazilian strains and an Eastern European flavour creep in once or twice too.
The septet has a rich ensemble sound, all the more so when augmented by Yusuf Narcin on bass trombone and Rob Luft’s guitar. The three main horns, James Davison on punchy trumpet, Sam Rapley on tenor sax and Matthew Herd on alto, all make good use of their solo space and play off each other to good effect. Pianist Liam Dunachie fills out thoughtful detail on most of the arrangements and has a lengthy excursion on the longest, mood-shifting piece, Waves.
The whole set has an impressive polish and is delivered with great confidence. Any reservations? Well, some pieces have more than a touch of pastiche, and flirt with cliché, but the cute tunes mostly avoid that pitfall. Still, the overall effect is sometimes just a little too polished. For those old enough to know what I mean, I’ll say the title track calls to mind lots of Creed Taylor productions from the 1970s: that feeling of meeting someone just a little too immaculately dressed, all the crinkles ironed out of every garment.
So for me this second release still qualifies as immensely promising but ripe for further development. Live, with less sheen and maybe a bit more grit, I’m sure it’ll be a different matter, especially if you get to hear more of that hugely resonant bass playing.