CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Graham Costello’s STRATA – Obelisk

Graham Costello’s STRATA – Obelisk
(Self-release on Bandcamp and CD. Review by Rob Adams)

Drummer Graham Costello’s STRATA is a collective with strong connections to the jazz course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland but is reaching out to audiences of many persuasions with its confident, superbly well-rehearsed ensemble work, its instrumentalists’ variously soaring, roaring and cascading improvising and Costello’s unabashed liking for leading the listener into a joyous brassy earworm of a melody.

Following on from an EP that won an Album of the Year nomination at the Scottish Jazz Awards, Obelisk is STRATA’s first full-length release and is already making big waves, deservedly so. The compositions draw on minimalism, often building from hypnotic piano figures or dizzying sax and guitar riffs to create cinematic atmospheres guided by Costello’s crisp drumming and, notably on the title track, giving way to brilliant, urgently freewheeling exchanges between, first, pianist Fergus McCreadie and guitarist Joe Williamson and then trombonist Liam Shortall and the gloriously rambunctious Harry Weir on tenor saxophone. 

It’s no surprise that Costello is also a visual artist (he also created the album’s artwork) as the music is put together with a compelling awareness for detail and contrasts as well as surging energy that’s uplifting and life-affirming. Hotly recommended.

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