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Sam Newbould Quintet: Blencathra

Jack Bowers By

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Blencathra, the debut album from British-born, Amsterdam-based saxophonist Sam Newbould's quintet, presents half a dozen of the leader's forward-leaning compositions and arrangements whose general point of view may be subdued, at times veering toward melancholy, but is never less than engaging. One of Newbould's strengths, even when the music is leisurely and pensive, lies in his ability to fully engage every member of the quintet in the ardent expression of its finer points. In other words, the group dynamic is superb, allowing Newbould's music to breathe, and underscoring its inherent charm on every number, even those whose perspective is less than upbeat.

To carry out his plan, Newbould assembled an international crew of topnotch sidemen from Spain, Israel, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, who first met in 2017 at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, every one of whom is on the same page musically. Newbould's writing, influenced by the likes of Kenny Wheeler, Django Bates and Wayne Shorter, draws inspiration from a number of sources including jazz, English folk music, contemporary classical themes and progressive rock. For its part, Blencathra encompasses Newbould's reminiscences of life growing up in the mysterious yet lovely north of England.

There are seven numbers in all, with the tenebrous curtain raiser, "Ownerless Gardens," briefly reprised mid-album. Newbould's burnished alto sax is showcased on "Gardens," Bernard van Rossum's cool-headed tenor with Newbould on the more gregarious "Mode VI," which follows. The duo then combines to frame the handsome melody on "Northern Quarter" before van Rossum and pianist Tommaso Perazzo unlimber their improvisational chops. Drummer Guy Salamon introduces the bright and fast-moving "Brexit Means Brexit," which comes as close as anything on the menu to "free jazz" (but does no more than nod in that direction) before the group redeems its more introspective persona on "Blencathra" and "Sideways," on the last of which Perazzo forges another admirable solo.

Newbould writes well in a modern and accessible groove, and his teammates are astute and supportive all the way. If there's a conspicuous shortcoming it lies in the album's meager thirty-two-minute running time, which is hard to gloss over and unhappily lowers the album's over-all grade.

Track Listing

Ownerless Gardens; Mode VI; Northern Quarter; Ownerless Gardens (reprise); Brexit Means Brexit; Blencathra; Sideways.

Personnel

Sam Newbould: alto saxophone; Bernard van Rossum: tenor saxophone; Teis Serney: guitar; Tommaso Perazzo: piano; Daniel Nagel: bass; Guy Salamon: drums.

Additional information

Title: Blencathra | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced

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