Canadian trumpeter Simon Millerd is one of those musicians who effortlessly moves between genres. This new CD of his is a collection of work that mixes folk, jazz-rock, electronic minimalism and jazz in original and personal ways.
The opening track, "Looking Back" echoes the glitchy electronics of modern Norwegian music with Millerd's trumpet and Emma Frank's gliding, wordless vocal rising out of a solemn bed of whispery synthesizer and drums. The scene then abruptly shifts on "Lesson 39" to measured jazz-rock where turbulent bass clarinet and tenor saxophone duel with Pablo Held's piano and Millerd's trumpet. "Lesson 70" has the rolling urgency of some of Pat Metheny's music with clarinet, trumpet and piano laying out a calm, cruising melody over choppy, hip-hop drumming before everything goes temporarily abstract. This leads into ghostly interplay by Held and Mike Bjella's tenor on the ethereally pretty "Unwinding Road."
Emma Frank's gentle, wordless singing on "Wherever You Are" and "Montreal March" is a major factor in the tracks' overall beauty as it combines with the pulsing drama of the melody lines sketched out by Held. She brings in the same kind of haunting presence Norma Winstone had in the various bands of Kenny Wheeler and Michael Garrick. Frank also gets to sing an actual lyric quite affectingly with "Quiet Now," a forlorn ballad inspired by the breakup of her relationship with Millerd.
The jazz aspects of this CD come to the front in the final two tracks. "Gnome Home" is a agitated bit of blowing by Bjella and Held's trio that sounds like a latter day Wayne Shorter piece while on "Jonas and the Dragon" Millerd steps to the front and leads the rhythm section into a loose but swinging jazz groove with Millerd playing plush but soulful trumpet reminiscent of Tom Harrell over effusive piano, throbbing bass, and tense drumming.
Actually Millerd's trumpet is either absent or in the background for several of these tracks as others like Held or Bjella take center stage. Nevertheless the set feels like one unified project. Millerd's melodies sound simple but they stick in your head and the constant changes in musical styles feel natural. This feels like the result of a long, personal journey. It is a lovely piece of work.
Looking Back; ACIM Lesson 39 (My Holiness Is My Salvation); ACIM Lesson 70
(My Salvation Comes From Me); The Unwinding Road; Wherever You Are; Quiet
Now; Montreal March; Gnome Home; The Tale Of Jonas and the Dragon.
Simon Millerd: trumpet, synthesizer (#3); Pablo Held: piano, synthesizer (#1,5);
Robert Landfermann, bass; Jonas Burgwinkel: drums; Jacob Wiens: guitar (#1-
3,5-7); Emma Frank: vocals (#1, 5-7); Mike Bjella: tenor saxophone (#2-4,8);
Ted Crosby: clarinet, bass clarinet (#2-3).
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