With the release of Statement Of Intent (Edition Records, 2011) everything seemed to be coming together for Kairos 4tet. That abum, the band's second, was critically acclaimed; the band won the 2011 MOBO Award for Best Jazz Act. Then a trapped nerve in bandleader Adam Waldmann's elbow necessitated surgery shortly after the MOBO success and the saxophonist was unable to play for some months.
Fortunately, by the sound of his performance here, Waldmann's recovery is complete. Everything We Hold is the sound of a band building on those earlier successes, a beautifully-crafted work that takes the quartet's sound onward and upward.
Waldmann's sax playing, whether tenor or soprano, has a warm, melancholy, tone often close to the sound of another great UK saxophonist, Andy Sheppard. As a composer, he's adept at creating immediately engaging melodies underpinned by strong rhythms. "J-Ho From The Block" is not a disparagingly sexist ditty. It's a tight, punchy, groover that gives bassist Jasper Hoiby due recognition and the chance to showcase his talents. Waldmann gives the nod to drummer Jon Scott ("The 99 Part 1 [Great Scott]") and multi- instrumentalist Ivo Neame ("Finding Neamo") as well. As he should, for all three players constantly surprise and delight with their contributions. But the success of Everything We Hold isn't just down to the four members of the quartet. There's the vocalists for a start, and a coterie of excellent guest musicians.
On past Kairos 4tet albums Waldmann's shown a talent for songwriting, in partnership with long-time friend and lyricist Rupert Friend (for acting buffs, the same Rupert Friend who stars in The Young Victoria (2009) and the TV series Homeland). This time round almost half the album is devoted to songs, often characterized by a folk sensibility both musically and lyrically.
Emilia Martensson appeared on both previous Kairos 4tet albums. She makes three appearances on Everything We Hold. Her first is rather low- key: wordless vocals on the second half of "The 99 Part 1" that are set low in the mix. Her next two are more upfront. She joins UK soul star Omar for the beautifully-told but opaque story of the "Song For The Open Road" and Irish singer Marc O'Reilly for the Damien Rice sounding "Narrowboat Man," which features Neame on harmonium and accordion.
O'Reilly appears on "Home To You," a pretty tune whose lyrics come a bit too close to folk cliché at times, and on the album's finest track, the beautiful "Ell's Bells." Waldmann pulls out all the stops for this one, adding string quartet, harp and French horn on an arrangement by Jules Buckley. Gentle, easy and sweet, Buckley's arrangement, John Turville's piano and O'Reilly's plaintive vocal give it an almost hymnal quality.
Everything We Hold is brim full of great ideas, brought to fruition by great musicians. It sees the maturing of Waldmannand Friendas songwriters, and a welcome return to health for Waldmann the musician.
The 99 Part 1 [Great Scott]; Home To You; J-Ho From The Block; Narrowboat Man;
Reunion; Song For The Open Road; The 99 Part 2; The 99 Part 3; Ell's Bells; Finding
Neamo; The 99 Part 4.
Adam Waldmann: saxophones; Ivo Neame: piano, harmonium (4), accordion (2, 4, 6),
bass clarinet (7, 8, 10); Jasper Høiby: double bass; Jon Scott: drums; Ben Davis: cello
(2, 5); Rupert Friend: glockenspiel (8); Jules Buckley: piano (4), metal drum (2); John
Turville: piano (9); Tom Mason: bass (9); Kate Robinson: violin (4, 9); Matthew Elston:
violin (4, 9); Becky Jones: viola (4, 9); Julia ale: cello (4, 9); Tori Handsley: harp (4, 9);
Tim Anderson: French horn (9); Omar: vocals (6); Marc O'Reilly: vocals (2, 4, 9); Emilia
Martensson: vocals (1, 4, 6).