Album reviews

Rebecca Nash – ‘Redefining Element 78’

Rebecca Nash – Redefining Element 78

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4796. Album review by Jon Turney)

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Pianist Rebecca Nash’s new project is a compositionally ambitious suite that began life at Bristol Jazz Festival a few years ago. There is some moderately high concept stuff behind it involving the atomic numbers of half a dozen rare metals, and saxophonist John O’Gallagher’s use of tone rows. But the listener need not know anything of this to enjoy the enticing results.

Nash’s pleasingly unified set of linked compositions are realised by a core sextet, with additional electronics provided by Chris Mapp and Nick Walters, as they did on Nash’s previous album Peaceful King in 2019. Nash and long-time collaborator Nick Malcolm on trumpet play alongside Jamie Leeming’s guitar, with Paul Michael playing bass and Matt Fisher on drums. And O’Gallagher joins the project to contribute probing alto sax as well as compositional inspiration. 

The through-written opening piece, Platinum I, introduces a theme that runs through the suite while the other seven pieces move between confident, considered composition and improvisation – starting with Malcolm’s freewheeling unaccompanied intro to Osmium. O’Gallagher brings intensity to Rhodium. Ruthenium sees a limpid, classically leaning piano intro giving way to a more emphatic band statement before the piano takes the lead again in freer style and a more angular solo from O’Gallagher. Iridium II foregrounds wistfully lyrical saxophone with a turbulent percussive undercurrent used to edgy effect. Platinum II has splendidly Wheeler-ish trumpet, as does the gorgeous closer, Palladium – Noble Heart

Here, as throughout, written and extemporised elements blend seamlessly so the band, like the suite as a whole, sound more than the sum of their parts. This is a long way from the oft-encountered jazz disc where the leader has come up with a few tunes or chord charts and thrown them at the band hoping for the best: here we have real small group writing and arranging developed with the utmost care. It’s a considerable achievement, that shows Nash’s writing and playing both reaching a new, appealingly distinctive, high point.

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

LINKS: Buy Redefining Element 78 from Presto / Available as CD or stream. Vinyl from April 2023

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