CD review

Nick Malcolm and Corey Mwamba – “Chat”

Nick Malcolm and Corey Mwamba – Chat
(Green Eyes, GE003. CD review by Jon Turney)

Chat album coverTrumpeter Nick Malcolm and vibist Corey Mwamba share an interesting common ground as improvisers. Both are drawn to free playing, but happy to create new melody on the fly – as long as they can give it a twist. The result is often a slightly fractured lyricism, a touch of astringency balancing any sweetness – I’m reminded Malcolm was once a keen student of Steve Lacy, and has ears for Leo Smith.

Together, they are a wonderfully compatible pairing – their duo a spin off from Mwamba’s playing occasionally with Malcolm’s quartet, and in trio. As the trumpeter explains in the notes, the two of them alone offered a new level of connection, and a live set at St George’s in Bristol left him resolved to record.

This session, released on Malcolm’s own label, is the fascinating result. Conversation is an oft-used metaphor in this music, but as the title suggests, it’s worth elaborating here. It’s a meeting of musical minds, thoughtful rather than garrulous, each responding to the other – sometimes to reinforce what was just said, sometimes to contradict it or propose another topic entirely.

It’s more dynamic than that, though, as musical chat, unlike regular conversation, is enhanced by two voices sounding at once. There is turn-taking here, but more often they pause in the same places, then take off again together, intertwining the development of the piece.

Sometimes, the chat peters out quite soon, in a minute and a half. Mostly, it extends further. (R)each begins with chords from the vibes eliciting single note lines from Malcolm, his love of unusual intervals sounding playfully provocative. A few minutes later Mwamba has been prodded into helter-skelter single-note responses to the continuing flurry of trumpet invention, before the piece fades out with soft chords thrown against gently smeared brass notes.

The next item, by contrast, explores the same mood throughout, with the trumpet sustaining a succession of more conventionally melodic ideas, vibes offering approving commentary. And so it goes on, each piece taking a different turn; some where we seem to be overhearing exchanges of small gestures so light they are only just audible, some where the conversation is altogether more animated; all absolutely worth repeat listening. The running time, at 40 minutes, is just right to sustain the interest of two voices. As with many current releases, it leaves you feeling it would be splendid to hear them being so spontaneous live again, but pleased their mutually reinforcing creativity has been documented here.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol: website and Twitter.

LINK: Chat on bandcamp

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