Julian Costello Quartet – Transitions
(33 Jazz Records 33JAZZ268. CD review by Adrian Pallant)
The three subtle soprano sax keys on Julian Costello’s album cover hint at the assiduous craftsmanship which he applies, both compositionally and in performance, to this new quartet release, Transitions; and entirely appropriate that he’s joined by the similarly focused minds of guitarist Maciek Pysz, double bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira.
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Stefano Amerio at Italy’s celebrated Artesuono Studios, many of these 13 original pieces are almost intangibly segued – transitions, as played out at their live gigs – with Costello’s romantic, often blithe soprano and tenor melodies (possessing a theme-tune redolence of Christopher Gunning) inspiring his players to improvise both intelligently and from the heart. Whilst the saxophonist leads from the front, the clarity of this particular instrumentation engenders an open, measured dialogue between the four… and importantly, across a full hour, the conversation is as varied as it is unpredictable.
In an earlier interview with LondonJazz News, Julian Costello revealed his eclectic musical beginnings, as well as a desire to not take music too seriously. So amongst the lyrical oases and pulsating guitar rhythms in this recording, there are also frequent glints of eccentric humour, illustrated especially by wonderfully furtive, tiptoeing samba, Tongue in Cheek; and the searching, Jan Garbarek-style opening to Waves unfolds elegantly into a chirpy, syncopated riff before evolving into free-flowing Ducks and canny, lush ‘sax ensemble’ miniature, Corners.
Costello’s band are also inveterate groovers, the mysterious, Eastern progression of A Manic Episode featuring frenzied soprano over Maciek Pysz’s John McLaughlin-style electric guitar riff, with Adam Teixeira conspicuous in creating its crackling yet controlled percussive undercurrent. Pysz is especially known for his acoustic guitar precision, and the flamenco fervour he generates here, as well as the detailing in edgy, chiaroscuro Mirage, is assuredly buoyed by Yuri Goloubev’s bass swell. Earworm’s delightfully halcyon soprano hook, over a descending bass figure, stays long in the memory; so too, the luxurious splendour of Patience, whose dance-band sentimentality is painted with extended, ornamented sax lines and cantabile arco bass.
The overriding emotional impact of this recording is a sense of warmth between the players, heightened by Costello’s penchant for a good tune, and enhanced by Amerio’s fine ‘chamber music’ engineering. The rich, voluble tenor lead to Buraki I Ziemniaki is just one element of a varied bossa outing ornamented by electric guitar improv and joshing unison motifs; Panettone’s darker, contra-key fluctuations find Costello’s tenor in a more inquiring, Iain Ballamy-like sound world; and breezy Walking Through the Jungle overflows with rhythmic progression, attractively showcasing each band member’s individuality.
Once in a while, an album like this appears on the horizon, becoming the unputdownable ‘earworm’ that Costello portrays at the heart of his colourful recording. The live-music experience (touring from 6 October to 8 November, with the official launch at Pizza Express, Dean Street, on 10 October) will surely be a real joy.
Transitions is released today, 15 September.
Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com