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Nick Walters: Active Imagination

Chris May By

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A rugged modal-based spiritual-jazz blowing session from the trumpeter Nick Walters, who has one foot in the underground London scene which is shaking up British jazz, and another in his home city, Manchester. Walters is a member of two Manchester bands, Riot Jazz Brass Band and Beats & Pieces Big Band, and leads the London-based Paradox Ensemble. Active Imagination's releasing label, 22a, founded by the flautist / saxophonist Ed Cawthorne (aka Tenderlonious) is a high-profile cog in the London scene. Also London-based is Tenderlonious' Ruby Rushton band, of which Walters is a member.

The septet assembled by Walters for Active Imagination draws on both his London and Manchester networks. Tenor saxophonist Jeff Guntren , born in the USA, moved to Manchester in 2015. Pianist Rebecca Nash—whose Peaceful King (Whirlwind) was a strong own-name debut in 2019—is part of Paradox Ensemble. Drummer Maxwell Hallett , under nomme de guerre Betamax, is a member of London-based The Comet Is Coming, the cosmic power-trio which also includes reed player King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) and keyboard player Danalogue (Dan Leavers), and which released two albums on US label Impulse! in 2019.

The album was recorded in a single day, largely unrehearsed, we are told, and pretty much live in the studio. It has a pleasingly loose and spontaneous vibe. The unfussy horn arrangements sit on bass ostinatos and groove-centric drums and percussion, and are tempered by Nash's rich two-handed chording. Walters takes most of the solos, but Cawthorne, Guntren and Nash get their shares of the spotlight. Some of the horn solos are lightly embellished with electronic effects, presumably realised by Walters (who contributed electronics, but not trumpet, to Nash's Peaceful King).

It all adds up to an enjoyable if rather uniform album. Halfway through, the muted trumpet and late night vibe of "Gordian Knot Part I" redials the mood, but the disc would have benefited from a longer exposition than the three minutes given here.

Track Listing

So Long Chef; Ahimsa; Gordian Knot Lart I; Gordian Knot Part II; Dansoman Last Stop.

Personnel

Nick Walters: trumpet; Ed Cawthorne: flute, soprano saxophone; Jeff Guntren: tenor sax; Rebecca Nash: piano; Nim Sadot: bass; Joseph Deenmamode: percussion; Max Hallett: drums.

Album information

Title: Active Imagination | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: 22a

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