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Julian Arguelles: Momenta

Chris May By

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Following fast on the delicately wrought solo album Inner Voices (Tone Of A Pitch, 2008), on which Julian Arguelles played a panoply of overdubbed saxophones, clarinets and flutes, here's a more extrovert outing from the lyrical and emotionally engaged British reed player. Momenta was made with the 16-piece Frankfurt Radio Bigband, and has the added bonus of rising star Gwilym Simcock, more usually associated with the saxophonist Tim Garland, as featured pianist.



During the 1980s, Arguelles spent four years as a member of the fondly remembered, prankster-ish, 21-piece British band Loose Tubes, the finishing school for several other emergent talents including keyboard player Django Bates, saxophonists Ian Ballamy and Mark Lockheart, guitarist John Parricelli, and Arguelles' drummer and percussionist brother, Steve Arguelles. Less media attuned and more self-effacing than some of his fellow Loose Tubes graduates, Arguelles remains uncelebrated outside a relatively small circle of musicians and cognoscenti, despite making a string of superb albums with a wide variety of lineups, from small groups to a 20-piece string ensemble, since 1990.



Arguelles began working with the Frankfurt Radio Bigband in 2007, and Momenta was recorded live in Germany in 2008. The inclusion of Simcock, a gorgeously lyrical player, came about by chance, following the unexpected unavailability of the band's regular pianist. Arguelles made the most of the situation, adjusting several scores to feature Simcock, who solos on five of the seven tracks. Other soloists include trumpeter/flugelhornist Axel Schlosser and guitarist Martin Scales, each of whom solos on two tracks. Arguelles, who here restricts himself to tenor and soprano saxophones, solos on six tracks, mostly on tenor.



The tunes, a collection of originals old and new, are given suite-like cohesion by Arguelles' school of Gil Evans arrangements. Like Evans, Arguelles has a penchant for Hispanic flavors—after a pensive beginning, the arrangement of 1996's "Skull View" breaks into an intense second section punctuated by flamenco-like hand-claps and a wordless, soulful vocal refrain from trumpeter Tobias Weidinger—but unlike Evans, he's significantly informed by the European classical tradition, particularly its impressionist composers. Most of tunes are closely arranged, the exception being "Evan's Freedom Pass," which after a brassy, urgent opening section sounding like an updated 1950s TV cop show theme, evolves into an extended free-improv duet from Arguelles and Schlosser.



Arguelles and Simcock, who as soloists are the twin focus of the album, are well matched. Both are wonderfully melodic improvisers and Arguelles' occasional acerbic chromaticism is an effective complement to Simcock's unabating romanticism. Guitarist Scales, who contributes a flowing in-the-tradition solo to "Skull View" and some post-Jimi Hendrix, wah-wah soaked atmosphere to "Mish Mash," is another pleasure.



A sterling and absorbing disc which delivers the same sense of solace as a beautiful landscape.


Track Listing: Barcelona 1936; You See My Dear; Phaedrus; Evan's Freedom Pass; Skull View; Hi Steve; Mish Mash.

Personnel: Julian Arguelles: tenor and soprano saxophone; Gwilym Simcock: piano; Heinz Dieter Sauerborn: alto and soprano saxophone, flute, piccolo; Oliver Leicht: alto saxophone, clarinet; Tony Lakatos: tenor and soprano saxophone; Steffen Weber: tenor and soprano saxophone; Rainer Heute: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Tobias Weidinger: trumpet, flugelhorn; Martin Auer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Thomas Vogel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Axel Schlosser: trumpet, flugelhorn; Gunter Bollmann: trombone; Peter Feil: trombone; Christian Jaksjo: trombone; Manfred Honetschlager: bass trombone; Martin Scales: guitar; Thomas Heidepriem: bass; Paul Hochstadter: drums.

Title: Momenta | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Basho Records

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