Julian Costello Quartet – Connections: without borders
(33 Jazz Records 33JAZZ283. CD review by Adrian Pallant)
It’s not difficult to warm to a recording whose character reflects that of its leader – and in Connections: without borders, Julian Costello and his quartet interpret the saxophonist’s original chamber jazz writing which meanders between wistfulness, adventure and perky mischief. There was plenty of that in 2017’s excellent Transitions, too. But here, with guitarist Maciek Pysz, drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira and new-to-the-fold double bassist Jakub Cywinski, there’s perhaps a greater introspective emphasis.
The album title counters the political wall-building of our times, celebrating the fact that this music is crafted by artists from different parts of the world who have so far been able to travel freely, becoming creatively inspired by their multicultural experiences (long may that continue). Costello imbues his instrumental pieces with emotion, space and lyricism – and it’s testament to both his character and musicality that, shortly before heading out to Norway to record this album, his beloved saxophones were stolen. However, light convincingly triumphed over darkness to bring us this elegantly-measured hour of conversational music where a sense of confident dialogue is shared amongst the quartet.
Over numerous projects, Maciek Pysz’s accomplished acoustic styles have been prevalent, but his sustained electric guitar textures (at times, Frisellian) add much to this album’s impressionism, such as slowly-lapping Everyone Has A Story and the aeolian-harp-suggested shimmers of expansive Nord Vind. Costello’s control, either on soprano or tenor, is a delight – and his rich, amiable vibrato in Sunflowers (with a motif reminiscent of Minnie Riperton’s Loving You) offers a radio-friendly, soft-jazz glimpse of summer. Tabla-like percussion is just one element of aromatic title track Connections, where Eastern-infused soprano and acoustic guitar gyrate amongst its increasingly fervent rhythms; and in delicately-duetted Rainforest, there‘s a certain impishness to the tentative tread of Costello and Pysz. The latter’s classical detailing on this track is so precise, as it is in luscious ballad, Endless Train – and just bask in the mellow vibrato of those long tenor lines.
Teixiera’s multifarious, softly-malleted cymbal effects pictorialise Splashing in Puddles, though there’s more of a dark, murder-mystery trail left by Costello and Cywinski than any childlike connotation. Across almost eleven minutes of Bridges, the quartet’s explorations become freer – and particularly impressive are Pysz’s electronic delays which escalate into rapid prog grandeur. Closing Rivers and Rapids, too, thrives on the smouldering, open vistas it creates – Costello clearly has a penchant for tenuti and atmospheres which lend themselves to TV/movie drama.
Music can, indeed, transcend borders – and myriad, often sensitive expressions on that theme can be savoured in this enjoyable album.