Album reviews

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio & Peter Johnstone – ‘Golden Sands’

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio & Peter Johnstone – Golden Sands

(Sulis Records. Available from BandCamp. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

From the very outset, you feel you’re in safe  hands listening to Helena Kay‘s new album. The seemingly easy, relaxed swing of Kay’s tenor and Calum Gourlay‘s bass which opens Amor y Amargo allows one to settle down and go with the flow, wherever these accomplished musicians want to take you. Kay’s trio of Gourlay and Dave Ingamells on drums is joined throughout by pianist Peter Johnstone.

Kay, Gourlay and Johnstone go back a long way as members of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its feeder band, the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra. The music on Golden Sands was honed on a short tour of Scotland before the quartet headed into the studio, and the record has a fresh, live quality to it.

All the tracks are originals. Kay’s writing, firmly in the modern post-bop school, has an assurance built on her studies at the Guildhall and on her subsequent experience in New York and London. The titles on the album reflect the various spaces in her life, from her family and Scottish heritage with the title track and Da Dratsie (the Shetland-Scots word for “the otter”), her time in New York (Amor Y Amargo and Tuesday Club) and London, Xian Impressions referring to a restaurant in Highbury.

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Carla, dedicated to Carla Bley, is an impressionistic piece with quietly rolling drums and cymbals and piano figures over which Kay’s solo flows. There’s a similarly quality to 20/20, with Kay’s saxophone lines wistful and yearning.

There is a strong rhythmic feel to Tuesday Club. Much of the tune features Kay backed just by Ingamell’s emphatic drumming.

Kay’s playing is playful, inventive and entertaining, subtly creative rather than showy. The music is thoughtfully optimistic – listening to it, I kept finding myself smiling. Johnstone, Gourlay and Ingamells make impressive contributions throughout the record, which make it such a pleasure to listen to.

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

LINKS: LJN interviewed Helena Kay during the crowdfunding phase for this album

Purchase from Bandcamp

Golden Sands is released today 6 October 2022

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