In terms of an honest assessment of an artist's qualities, press releases are rarely worth the paper they are no longer printed on. An exception is the release accompanying Australian-born, New York-based trumpeter and composer Nadje Noordhuis' exquisitely lyrical Full Circle. It is an exception partly because it is written by Elan Mehler, the artistic director of audiophile label Newvelle Records and a pianist who first blew the mind of this reviewer with his quietly sensational sophomore album, The After Suite (Brownswood), back in 2009.
More to the point, it is an exception because Mehler's observations are spot on. "There's a feeling I get listening to Nadje Noordhuis' music that perhaps everything will be OK after all," writes Mehler at the top of the page. Five hundred words later, he concludes: "There's a very clear point of view in this music. A perspective hard-earned but not at all jaded. [It is] suffused with the knowledge that things will be alright. If we bring beauty to the world, the world will come and greet it."
Those five hundred words tell the story of Noordhuis' struggle, as a woman, to be accepted as a brass player, and the fact that her eureka moment regarding choice of instrument(s) came a year into her time at college in Melbourne when she was tasked with transcribing "Kind Folk" from Kenny Wheeler's chef d'oeuvre, Angel Song (ECM, 1998).
Roll all that data together and there is enough information to get into Noordhuis' ballpark. If in any doubt, factor in the accompanying rhythm section: pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston. Yes, here is another quietly sensational little masterpiece to file alongside Wheeler's.
Full Circle is the concluding release in the quartet of albums Newvelle has issued in autumn/winter 2022 under the title the Renewal Collection. First up was Elan Mehler's own There Is A Dance, followed by Michael Blake's Combobulate and Dave Liebman's Trust And Honesty. Quietly sensational describes each of them, though Blake's is at times closer to rambunctiously sensational.
Little Song; Hudson; Northern Star; Entwine; Full Circle; Ventura; Braidwood; Nebula.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz and editor of the style magazine Jocks & Nerds; he was previously the editor of Black Music & Jazz Review magazine; he is Afrobeat consultant for Partisan Records and Google Arts & Culture.