Album reviews

Jake Baxendale and Jasmine Lovell-Smith – ‘Sanctuary’

Jake Baxendale and Jasmine Lovell-Smith – Sanctuary

(Paintbox Records 003. Available from BandCamp. Album Review by Patrick Hadfield)

A collection of two large-scale suites and two shorter pieces, Sanctuary is a bold work. Through-composed with lots of space for improvised solos, the large ensemble provides a wealth of dynamics. The arrangements and playing bring to mind several works by the likes of Maria Schneider – particularly in the evocation of bucolic scenes – although it is the large scale works of Charles Mingus that seem most redolent, possibly because of the instrumentation, rhythms and dynamics involved.

Saxophonists Jake Baxendale and Jasmine Lovell-Smith, the co-leaders of this eleven piece band, provide one suite each, both comprising four parts (three major sections with an interlude). Baxendale’s Leaves Of Grass opens the record, taking its inspiration from the poetry of Walt Whitman. It flows along, gently nudging one soloist or another, and building in insistence and drive until it powers along.

Lovell-Smith’s Sanctuary is the second suite, the four sections played through as a single track. There are sections where the orchestra lets rip and others where slow repeated phrases build the energy and tension. Gil Evans seems to be the touchstone here, the orchestra punctuating a baritone solo by Blair Latham with powerful dynamic phrases in the final section, Inevitable.

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The two composers also provide one other track each. Lovell-Smith’s Noche Oscura separates the two larger works whilst Baxendale’s gentle Sleep (A Glimpse of Plimpse) brings the album to a close. Noche Oscura is full of reflective mood. It begins tentatively, the orchestra getting more imperative before closing with some long, gentle notes from the horns. Sleep (A Glimpse of Plimpse) is perhaps more melodic but had a similar dynamic arc. A muted trumpet solo from Ben Hunt rides over the lower horns taking the slow riff before an emphatic saxophone takes its place.

The writing and arranging by both composers is the album’s central force. It sparkles with energy, and lets the orchestra fly.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield

LINK: Sanctuary is on BandCamp

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