Drifter started life as the Alexi Tuomarila
Quartet, a band that was beginning to develop a reputation on the European jazz scene with its second album, 02
(Warner Jazz, 2003). Unfortunately, the label's parent company dropped its jazz list, leaving the quartet without a contract shortly after the album's release. Tuomarila carried onreleasing a trio album, joining Polish trumpet legend Tomasz Stanko
's Quintet and working across Europe in numerous ensembles.
A decade later, the UK independent Edition Records signed Tuomarila, releasing his second trio album Seven Hills
(2013) and now his third quartet album, Flow
, under the new group name of Drifter. Saxophonist Nicolas Kummert and bassist Axel Gilain
remain from the original quartet and are joined by drummer Teun Verbruggen
Apart from a rather cheery, up-tempo, version of Sting's "King Of Pain" all the tunes are originals, mostly by Tuomarila or Kummert. If any tune on the album epitomises its title, that tune is Tuomarila's beautiful "Crow Hill." The musical flow stems from the composer's tumbling piano phrases and Kummert's long, fluid, tenor lines. The pianist's "Vagabond" is built on a staccato three-note rhythm started by the piano then taken up by Gilain's bass: Kummert repeats the three note motif but plays legato. The result is an intriguing and engaging mix.
A few tracks feature Kummert and Gilain on vocals. The slow, languid, "Lighthouse" builds gradually on Gilain's bass riffa moody, tense, atmosphere is the result. The vocalnothing more than the repetitive chant of "Lighthouse, I'm looking for a lighthouse"detracts from this instrumental drama, which only returns when Kummert's solo replaces the vocal chant. "Nothing Ever Lasts" couples Gilian's lyrics with an '80s smooth jazz tenor solo: the result is rather bland, enlivened briefly by Tuomarila's fleet-fingered piano lines. Kummert's "Breathing Out My Soul" opens with a wordless wail. Once Tuomarila kicks in with his soulful, almost gospel, piano phrases, supported by Gilain and Verbruggen's funky rhythm, the song takes flight.
Crow Hill; The Elegist; Lighthouse; Harmattan; Nothing Ever Lasts; Breathing Out My Soul; Toueï; King Of Pain; Vagabond.
Alexi Tuomarila: piano; Nicolas Kummert: saxophone, vocals; Axel Gilain: double bass, vocals; Teun Verbruggen: drums.