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Matthew Halsall: On The Go

Bruce Lindsay By

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Sometimes it's best to get straight to the point, to stop beating around the bush and avoid going round in circles. This is one of those times. On The Go is superb, a finely-crafted, emotionally and spiritually engaging work that stands comparison with anything the jazz world currently has to offer, and with plenty of the finest from the jazz world's past.

On The Go is the third album from trumpeter Matthew Halsall, one of a growing number of British jazz players who prefers to remain outside the London scene. Halsall's chosen base of operations is Manchester, in the north of England. His inspirations come from that city's own music scene (where he's also a DJ), as well as from the late-'50s/early-'60s sounds of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Art Blakey. He takes this mix of inspirations to create a unique, and beautiful, sound of his own.

Halsall has impressive control of his instrument, with every note sounding crystal clear, whether he's spitting them out in rapid succession or caressing them from his trumpet with considered grace. The latter approach characterizes the lovely "Song For Charlie," a tune that manages to be both heart-warming and heartbreaking in its stark and dignified beauty. Halsall's trumpet part is a masterpiece of precision, but imbued with real humanity—a lone cry in the wilderness. The backing; from pianist Adam Fairhall, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Gaz Hughes; is superbly complementary.

"Music For A Dancing Mind" opens with Barras' neat, fat, five-note riff, and swings like a laidback version of Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night In Tunisia." Nat Birchall's tenor is soft and smooth, while Fairhall adds some interesting and chunky piano. "Samatha" is another graceful tune, underpinned by Hughes' floating brush work and Barras' sparse bass line. Harpist Rachael Gladwin adds to the tune's trance-like quality, her exquisitely crafted solo melding perfectly with the rhythm players.

Birchall can also take a slightly wilder approach to playing. His edgier sound has its own beauty, and the resulting contrast between the two horn players is a joy to behold. Birchall's soprano solo on the first part of "The End Of Dukkha" has a rawness and tension that is suddenly relieved by Halsall's own soft-toned and emotionally more relaxed solo. His work on "The Journey Home," also on soprano, is sweeter, but there is always that slight edge. Halsall's trumpet on this tune has hints of Miles Davis, making for an evocative partnership.

Sometimes it's best to get straight to the point. On The Go is filled with beautiful music. This is a very special record.

Track Listing: Music For A Dancing Mind; Song For Charlie; The End Of Dukkha; Samatha; The Journey Home; The Move.

Personnel: Matthew Halsall: trumpet; Nat Birchall: saxophone; Adam Fairhall: piano; Gavin Barras: bass; Gaz Hughes: drums; Rachael Gladwin: harp (4).

Title: On The Go | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Gondwana Records

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