Bridges with Seamus Blake – Continuum
(AMP Music and Records. AT050. CD review by Mike Collins)
Continent-spanning quintet Bridges first came together in 2016. LondonJazz News covered their debut release and a live show at the Vortex and it was already evident that there was a special chemistry and a distinctive sound being forged, blending saxophone titan Seamus Blake’s fire and fluency with the rich, lyrical palette of Norwegians Espen Berg, Jesper Bodilsen and Anders Thorén, and originally English, now transplanted to Norway trumpeter Hayden Powell.
After tours and more time together, the band has evolved into a free-flowing, coherent unit. With writing from Berg, Blake, Powell and Bodilsen, the latest release Continuum is a varied, arresting and beautiful set.
Hayden Powell’s soft-toned trumpet and Blake’s urgent and astringent lyricism are at the centre of the sound, blending beautifully and striking the melodic arcs sketched by the writing. There are driving pulses and rock-tinged feels, interspersed with stately marches, lightly skipping waltzes and impressionistic rubato. A constant thread is melodic invention and distilled and carefully sculpted themes.
Introduction does its job, a crystalline ripple from Berg’s piano trumpet and sax soar and twist around each other, launching into The Clues which is built around declarative phrases. There’s fierce soloing over a bubbling and pulsating groove. Andromeda’s languid theme and cycling chords with surprising shifts evoke a soaring solo from Powell. Jesper Bodilsen’s resonant bass hangs in the air as a march-like ostinato underpins the slowly unfolding theme of Slightly Behind. The Jupiter Line is all urgent flow and a dazzling, rippling flight of fancy from Berg steals the show.
No Road for Readers has a country-ish tinge to the groove, set up by just piano and bass. The melody and moving harmony make the heart soar, Powell’s warm-toned flights nudged along by Blake’s murmuring sax. A perfectly judged entrance by Thorén’s drum lift the energy and Berg, at his most Jarret-ish, skitters and scampers through extended sinuous phrases.
This is top drawer, acoustic jazz with an introspective and quietly joyful edge. This set has joined the band’s first release near the top of my playlist.
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman
– AMP Music and Records
– Interview with Seamus Blake
– Seamus Blake will launch Guardians of the Heart Machine with his French Connection band at Kings Place tomorrow 8 March 2019
Categories: CD review