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Noel Langley: Edentide

Roger Farbey By

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A deep and lugubrious ship's foghorn of brass wailing evolves into a fanfare rendition of a theme repeated throughout this debut (and long overdue) recording by trumpet maestro Noel Langley. In "For the Uncommon Man" Langley weaves a hypnotic solo surrounded by a variety of musical embellishments including delicate harp interwoven with resonant vibraphone. "The Turning House" is an improvisation featuring Langley and Ruth Wall playing a droning bray harp which manages to sound distinctly like a sitar at times affording a unique and fascinating sound (compare and contrast Don Cherry's trumpet solo on "A.I.R. (All India Radio)" from Carla Bley's seminal work Escalator Over The Hill).

The fractured quality of "Sven's Island" has a distinct late-period Frank Zappa (Jazz from Hell) feel courtesy of the percussive embellishments that were so characteristic of his middle to later works, but here the jazz idiom remains dominant, with the piece simultaneously beguiling and exciting with its freshness. Unlike the Zappa compositions, Langley is using real instruments as opposed to a Synclavier but the effect produced is a glorious melee of tonal colour. There's also a degree of aural collage with sound effects and even occasional vocal interjections and this device is used throughout the whole album to great effect.

"Glass" composed by Graham Fitkin, begins with swirling, fluid lines from piano virtuoso Alcyona Mick over which Langley solos in an open, warm and flowing style not dissimilar to that of one of his all-time heroes Kenny Wheeler and here accompanied by the augmented horn section.

The Kenny Wheeler-penned "Four for One" is a short but spectacular elegiac brass ensemble piece which segues into the oceanic introduction to "On Haast Beach" which swiftly develops pace to emerge as a percussively energised, exciting and irresistibly rhythmic groove, again over which Langley's confidently assured trumpet and Alcyona Mick's forceful piano interjections make their presence felt.

A delicate harp introduces the ballad-esque "Minami," enjoined soon after by the ensemble. Langley states the theme—which also closes the work—and provides yet another florid and captivating solo over an equally fascinating arrangement which weaves one way and then another. But always the ubiquitous harp is never far away and here brings the proceedings to an end, yet throughout this entire work this instrument plays a vital role and also reminds the listener of its comparative rarity in jazz, although the late Sir John Dankworth used it to good effect in his memorable album What the Dickens! in 1963 and in parts of his Zodiac Variations in 1964. Coincidentally, Langley played in Dankworth's big band from 1988, but nevertheless, Edentide continuously retains its originality, never sounding like an emulation of his former employer's works.

"Edentide," the longest track opens with an improvisation by Kenny Dickenson and Noel Langley and closes with a short arrangement of "Crimmond" (also known as the hymn "The Lord's My Shepherd") composed by Jessie Seymour Irvine. In between these two points, Langley again produces the theme and a beautifully constructed solo played over a wash of percussion, sound effects, bass and piano.

Perhaps the reason Langley has reached 50 years of age before producing an album in his own name is because he has been so busy as a seriously in-demand session player by everyone from Radiohead to Robbie Williams. He also teaches trumpet in the Department of Jazz Studies at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. But he found time to form the brilliant but relatively unknown London Jazz Orchestra in 1991 (and produce its album Dance for Human Folk) which included some major British jazz players, including Tim Garland, Stan Sulzmann, Henry Lowther and the late, great Ian Carr (another of Langley's trumpet heroes). Here though, Langley has composed all but two of the pieces here and set them into a novel big band soundscape all-too rarely attempted in jazz. The tracks neatly flow into one another (hence perhaps the title of the album?) and the overall effect is astonishingly successful in creating a new work that doesn't rely on cliché or safe conformity but dares to explore—pun intended—unchartered waters.

Track Listing: For the Uncommon Man; The Turning House; Sven's Island; Glass; Four for One; On Haast Beach; Minami; Edentide

Personnel: Noel Langley: trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, mellophone, handclaps, kitchen utensils; Ruth Wall: concert harp, bray harp, Chinese wire harp; Alcyona Mick: piano; Keith Fairbairn: glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, waterphone, zabumba, tamborim, shakers, handclaps; Zoltan Dekany: double bass, Asaf Sirkis: drums, udu; Kenny Dickenson: Hammond organ, piano, rhythm programming, Mustang P51; Laurence Cottle: bass guitar (3); The Stealth Horns (3,4 & 7): Kate Robertson: flute, piccolo; Phil Todd: flute, alto flute, bass flute, tubax; Duncan Lamont Jr.: flute, alto flute; Ben Castle: clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Yazz Ahmed: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Lovatt: trumpet, flugelhorn (3 & 7); Dave Lee: French horn; Ashley Slater: trombone, bass trombone; Trevor Mires: trombone; Oren Marshall: tuba (3, 4 & 6)

Title: Edentide | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Suntara Records


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