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Edition Records: A Guide To The First Fifteen Years


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Edition Records celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2023. The label founded in Cardiff in 2008 by keyboardist Dave Stapleton has come a long way in that time. Initially conceived of as a means to release his own music and that of his friends, Edition Records went from being a cottage industry to a position as one of hottest European jazz labels in just a few short years.

Since 2014, when Stapleton signed tenor saxophonist Chris Potter to the label, many more major North American artists have joined the roster, including Kurt Elling, Gretchen Parlato, The Bad Plus, Nate Smith and Mark Guiliana. Edition Records' profile, and its reach, is now more international than ever.

In a separate interview with All About Jazz, Edition Records founder Dave Stapleton gives the inside story on the label, the early days and struggles, its growth, defining moments and guiding philosophy. Below is a sample of some of the finest recordings among Edition Records 200-plus releases to date.

Bourne, Davis, Kane
Lost Something
Edition Records

Every so often a piano trio recording emerges that seems to up the ante. Pianist Matthew Bourne, drummer Steve Davis and bassist Dave Kane's Lost Something was one such, hitched to the tradition but forging an undoubtedly modern trajectory. Yes, there are strong hints of Cecil Taylor's groups, particularly on the frenetic interpretation of Annette Peacock's "Kid Dynamite," and traces of Thelonious Monk's angular funk on Carla Bley's abstract "Donkey," but BDK is defined not so much by its potential influences as by its thrilling interplay.

Virtuosic and in essence free, the trio's dialogs nevertheless feel structured, built upon logical foundations, organic in their development. Hushed delicacy and tension co-exist on the brushes-steered "Melt," while the trio embraces outré adventurism on "Paul," a dazzling journey into knotty rhythmic and melodic maelstrom. Pick of the bunch, perhaps, is the wholly original deconstruction of "Round Midnight," reimagined as a—nightmarish—dreamscape. Music of depth that keeps on giving.

Marius Neset
Golden Xplosion
Edition Records

The album that announced the arrival of Norwegian tenor saxophonist Marius Neset as a major new voice, Golden Explosion showcases both his compositional flair and breath-taking improvisations in equal measure. Neset is joined by former mentor Django Bates—Neset played in Bates' StoRMChaser big band—on keyboards, his JazzKamikaze band mate Anton Eger on drums and Phronesis bassist Jasper Høiby—an all-star line-up that lives up to its billing.

As a leader, Neset brings out the best in the individual talents while molding a powerful collective sound, notably on the punchy title track and on "City of Fire" where saxophone and keys carve dashing unison lines over propulsive rhythms. Shades of Frank Zappa's devilishly intricate melodic lines abound, but Neset is capable of great nuance, as witnessed on the ballad "Sane" and the elegiac saxophone soundscape "Saxophone Intemezzo." There's jazz-funk for the 21st century on "The Real Ysj," anthemic power on "Angels of the North" and meditative reverie of quiet beauty on "Epilogue."

Also well worth checking out are Neset's other releases on Edition Records: Neck of the Woods (2012), a sublime duo collaboration with tuba player Daniel Herskedal that explores Norwegian folk and choral influenced church music; and Birds (2013), an epic work for twelve musicians that signalled Neset's nascent orchestral ambitions.

Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, London Vocal Project
Edition Records

A project long in the making—trumpeter/flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler wrote the music twenty years previously—Mirrors takes as its inspiration the poetry of Stevie Smith, Lewis Carroll and W.B. Yeats. Poets of such different stripes naturally result in contrasting imagery and emotions that are, in turn, surreal, touching and profound. But at every step of the way the music is blissfully hypnotic. Norma Winstone is in fine form, delivering a masterclass in vocal shading and texture, while the London Vocal Project, led by Pete Churchill, brings an epic quality to proceedings. The LVP's seven sopranos, eight altos, five tenors and five bass voices lift every tune they color, notably the bright and breezy "Humpty Dumpty" and the jaunty swinger "Tweedledum."

And with a rhythm section of bassist Steve Watts, drummer James Maddren and pianist Nikki Iles, this is music that swings. Saxophonist Mark Lockheart impresses throughout, as does Wheeler, who turns back the clock with a poignantly bluesy solo on "The Broken Heart." A glorious project from start to finish and one of the great Kenny Wheeler's last hurrahs.

Tim Garland
Songs To The North Sky
Edition Records

Saxophonist/composer Tim Garland's served notice of his orchestral elan with the sweeping, four-part "Frontier" suite on the excellent double disc Libra (Global Mix, 2009). Songs to the North Sky is another double disc feast. The first CD sees Garland lead small ensembles—from a combination of Asaf Sirkis, Geoffrey Keezer, Ant Law, Kevin Glasgow, John Turville and Jason Rebello—on compositions of widely varying character. The energized ""Uplift!" recalls Garland's days in Bill Bruford's Earthworks, while the dramatic "Lammas Days" draws on the Celtic roots of former band Lammas. The ballad "She's Out of My Life"—a duet with Rebello—is a highlight, the burning intensity of "On the Perth Flight" another. Whether on tenor or soprano saxophone, Garland's playing is compelling.

The second disc sees Garland's small ensemble integrate with the Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings on a song cycle of some grandeur. Sparse, brooding, lyrical, intense—the music runs a gamut of emotions. A series of interludes—or bridges between movements—feature John Patitucci on solo bass, but it is the striking dramaturgy and stark juxtapositions relayed by the larger ensemble that proves most seductive. A high point in Garland's career.

Verneri Pohjola
Edition Records

Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola's debut for Edition Records is a stunning affair. Bursting with memorable melodies, infectious grooves and dynamic contrasts, it confirms the widely held notion that Pohjola is one of the most exciting jazz talents of his generation. With core band members Aki Rissanen (piano) and Antti Lotjonen (bass) augmented by Teppo Mäkynen (drums), this is a quartet with a strong identity. Pohjola's own sound is unique—vibrato-less and with a slightly rasping edge, his lyricism wavers tantalizingly between bright and darker emotional hues.

From sotto voce intimacy to adrenaline charges, the contrasts within compositions, and from one composition to the next, make for a consistently rewarding listening experience. The quartet is equally at home plying ostinato-driven grooves ("Girls of Costa Rica") as it is on more intimate and melancholy material ("He Sleeps, I Keep Watch"). There is also no shortage of surprises, such as the trumpet and drum duet "This One is for You" and the strangely industrial rhythms of "Nanomachines." Guest musicians Jussi Kannaste (tenor saxophone) Ilmari Pohjola (trombone) and Lida Laine (cello) lend additional, enriching textures on several tracks.

On the subtly bluesy "Ouroboros" —a lyrical delight—and the highly melodic "Cold Blooded," Pohjola exercises masterly use of space as a dynamic element in itself. The slow burning "The End is Nigh" provides an elegant and ultimately stirring climax to a consistently strong album.

Girls in Airports
Edition Records

Copenhagen outfit Girls in Airports' fourth album—and its debut on Edition Records—is an alluring potion of dreamy lyricism, ecstatic release and infectious, percussion-laced funk grooves. Saxophonists Martin Stender and Lars Greve—who doubles on clarinet—veer between whispered incantations on "Sea Trial" and howling gale on the title track—airily melodic one moment, ragingly coarse the next.

Keyboardist Mathias Holm's minimalist impressions lend striking ambient and sci-fi textures, while drummer Mads Forsby and Victor Dybbroe concoct wicked rhythms—African-flavors lighting up "Randalls Island," industrial pulses shaping "Aleki." A band that sounds like no other. Its juxtaposition of ethereal airs and primal impulses is irrisitible.

Morten Schantz
Edition Records

Danish pianist/keyboardist Morten Schantz had released several albums with the exhilarating, pan-Scandinavian quintet JazzKamikaze, before gaining wider attention for the impressive solo album Unicorn (Calibrated Music, 2014). That album blurred genres with its organic mash-up of blues, swing, North African and Middle Eastern flavors, and whilst Godspeed also escapes easy categorization, its fusion feels more coherent and focused, inspired by electro-pop and rock idioms every bit as much as jazz.

Occasional echoes of JazzKamikaze surface, perhaps unsurprising considering the trio also comprises his JazzKamikaze bandmates Marius Neset (saxophones) and Anton Eger (drums). There are clearer signposts to Weather Report and Joe Zawinul, particularly on the vibrant "Escape Velocity," with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and Radiohead other points of reference.

Despite the more overt influences Schantz's trademark melodicism and a penchant for the anthemic prevail, notably on the bluesy ballad "Growing Sense," the delicate piano and soprano saxophone duet "Cathedral" and on the vibrant tunes "Martial Arts" and "Dark Matter"—all which bear the leader's indelible stamp. A fine, multi- layered album that strikes a balance between uplifting melody, unfettered improvisation and powerful grooves, Godspeed rewards repeated listening.

Thought You Knew
Edition Records

Essentially the song-writing vehicle for vocalist Lauren Kinsella and bassist Chris Hyson, Snowpoet gigs in anything from a duo to a quintet setting. For its second album, Kinsella and Hyson's sumptuous melodies are buoyed by regular Snowpoet collaborators Josh Arcoleo on tenor saxophone, Nick Costley-White on acoustic guitar, Matt Robinson on piano and Dave Hamblett on drums. The clarity and emotional weight in Kinsella's delivery on these explorations of love is exceptional.

The singer's layered harmonies on Gillian Welsh's "Dear Someone" are a delight, while the ghost of Samuel Becket touches the dreamy stream-of-consciousness that is "It's Better Than Ok." It's hard to pick out highlights on such a consistently compelling album, but the Erik Satie-esque instrumental "Two of Cups," where saxophone, Francesca Ter-Berg's cello and Alice Zawadski's violin intertwine to gorgeous effect, or the achingly delicate confessional "Another Step" are especially affecting. Poetry set to music.

Slowly Rolling Camera
Edition Records

Juniper marks a before and after for Slowly Rolling Camera. Its first two albums, refreshingly genre-slippery hybrids of jazz, trip-hop, electronica and soul, featured vocalist Dionne Bennett. With her departure, SRC resurfaces as an instrumental trio with original members Dave Stapleton, on keys, percussionist Elliot Bennet and Deri Roberts on electronics forging upwards and onwards, albeit with meaty contributions from eight guest musicians.

SRC's evolving identity, however, is very much the sum of its core parts. That said, the array of contemporary colors Stapleton draws from his keyboards is perhaps key. More subtle are Robert's electronic textures, which accentuate the band's ambient, sometimes dreamy textures, as on the intro to "Eight Days." But there is plenty of rhythmic heft as well courtesy of Bennett's uncluttered grooves, with the addition of saxophones and trumpet lifting the elegant "Helsinki." On "Hyperloop"—which sounds like a close cousin of Brad Mehldau's Mehliana: Taming the DragonNonesuch, 2014) guitarist Stuart McCallum sends sparks flying.

In turn cinematic, driving, mellow and hypnotically embracing, Juniper is the perfect soundtrack for when the journey and not the destination is the thing.

Lionel Loueke
Edition Records

Few are better positioned to tackle a solo recording of Herbie Hancock's music than Lionel Loueke. A regular fixture in Hancock's touring bands and on the pianist/keyboardist's latter-day recordings, the Benin-born guitarist imposes his highly personal stamp on eleven Hancock originals covering the years 1962-1983—arguably his mentor's most creative period. With his kora-influenced improvisations—primarily on acoustic guitar—Loueke makes the familiar, such as Watermelon Man," sound newly minted.

A veritable one-man band, Loueke juggles bass and rhythm guitar lines, percussion effects and melodic improvisation, not to mention his idiosyncratic vocalese. Standout tracks include a rhapsodic take on "Dolphin Dance," an African-folk reading of the jazz-funk "Actual Proof" and a wildly imaginative reinvention of Hancock's disco hit "Rockit." An album of bravura playing and no little charm.

Dave Holland
Another Land
Edition Records

Veteran English bassist Dave Holland marked his Edition Records debut with a new trio and an album of great power and beauty. Holland renews his acquaintance with guitarist Kevin Eubanks after their collaboration on Prism (Dare 2, 2013) and forges a new partnership with drummer extraordinaire Obed Calvaire. Holland makes a rare outing on electric bass on several tracks, of which the searing modern funk of "Gravewalker" is the pick of the bunch.

Eubanks channels his inner Jimi Hendrix on the infectious "20 20" but shows a more subtle side to his playing on the unaccompanied "Quiet Fire." A splendid Holland ostinato shapes "Passing Time," on which the bassist delivers a lyrical solo, but for all the individual fire—and there is plenty—it is the pronounced trio chemistry that makes Another Land so persuasive. The blues closer "Bring it Back Home" marries groove and virtuosity to handsome effect. A seamless blend of funk, rock, jazz and blues from one of the most exciting trios of the modern panorama.

Chris Potter
Got The Keys To The Kingdom: Live at The Village Vangaurd
Edition Records
2023 (2023)

Dave Stapleton's signing of tenor saxophonist Chris Potter marked a significant turning point in Edition Records trajectory. Within no time other major American artists followed suit, transforming ER from a distinctly British/European label to one that also represents some of the finest talent on the other side of the Atlantic.

Potter likes the Village Vangaurd, this being his third live album recorded at the legendary venue, not counting those previously recorded with Paul Motian. Joined by bassist Scott Colley, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Marcus Gilmore, Potter leads a mostly fiery session that draws deeply from the blues, gospel-folk, African-Brazilian and bebop roots.

Billy Strayhorn's "Bloodcount" and Chico Buraque, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes' touchingly plaintive "Ohla Maria" invite tender, nuanced playing from the quartet, reminders of Potter's sometimes undervalued emotional range. But it is the barreling intensity elsewhere, particularly on Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move," a searing version of Charlie Parker's "Klactoveedsedstene" and the epic gospel anthem "Got The Keys To The Kingdom" that sees Potter and co in their element. Small group jazz at its most vital.

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