Album reviews

Jasmine Myra- ‘Horizons’

Jasmine Myra – Horizons

(Gondwana Records GOND052. Review by Adam Sieff)

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Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana Records has become a valued record label as it consistently releases jazz music of the highest quality and emotional content. Their new release from saxophonist and composer Jasmine Myra is a little jewel that doesn’t initially demand too much of the listener’s attention but stealthily seeps into the consciousness until it becomes an important part of the soundtrack of the day.

Myra is a Leeds Conservatoire student and a member of the vibrant music scene there. She was a member of saxophonist and tutor Rob Mitchell’s Jazz Orchestra which explored the synergy between jazz music and hip hop. In 2017 her band Jasmine was awarded a Jazz North Introduces place which gave her the confidence and determination to be a solo artist and go on to inspire younger female musicians.

During lockdown she set out to compose uplifting and positive music, resulting in this, her debut album, which has at its heart jazz, electronica and a hint of English folk. Myra plays alto saxophone and flute and has assembled guitarist Ben Haskins and drummer George Hall (both former Jasmine members) and fellow Leeds musicians, pianist Jasper Green, harpist Alice Roberts and percussionist Greg Burns. On double bass is Gavin Barras a mainstay of Halsall’s Gondwana Orchestra.

The string quartet arrangements by Carmel Smickersgill fit Myra’s compositions and band arrangements perfectly and the album was produced and recorded by Matthew Halsall, mixed by Portico Quartet collaborator Greg Freeman and mastered by Peter Beckmann.

It’s well-sequenced and plays through like a journey, with the opening warmth of Prologue setting up the modern-edged Horizons with its strong opening guitar melody and solo, majestic horns and a subtle, propulsive lilt. The pastoral Morningtide intimates Myra’s love of Kenny Wheeler’s music and features a fine alto solo followed by a beautiful harp led section which makes you feel you’re listening in the open air. The bittersweet Words Left Unspoken is a farewell to Myra’s late grandmother with the string quartet allowing the sun to shine through the clouds. This music is beautiful and profound.

Jamine Myra. Photo credit: Emily Dennison

The ensemble playing is excellent, the musicians have clear roles to follow and little room for improvisation, one notable exception being Green’s wonderful piano solo (following Myra’s alto solo) on the final track New Beginnings, which slowly builds before dropping away for the theme to return and the album to end on a positive note.

This is very much Myra’s album, her compositions and voice on alto saxophone and flute are the focus. If this is just the start it will be exciting to hear what she does next.

Released 15 July 2022

LINK: Jasmine Myra at Gondwana Records

Categories: Album reviews

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