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Articles by Gareth Thompson

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Fabled: Short Stories

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Anyone who has ever pulled pints for a living probably has some stories to tell. Sam Rapley, the leader of Fabled, used to work behind the bar in Manchester's renowned Band On The Wall club. A favoured site during World War II, its jazz acts often played on during air raids. Legend has it that twenty-four thousand beers were sold there one public holiday. Rapley wouldn't know such excess on his latterday shifts, but he surely found the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Szun Waves: New Hymn To Freedom

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Pythagoras had this notion that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum. Put simply, as these orbs travel through space they produce certain sound waves. Ever wondered what that might actually sound like? Wonder no more, for this second album from vanguard jazz trio Szun Waves is surely what Pythagoras had in mind. That is, if he could have predicted the later inventions by Adolphe Sax and Robert Moog. Introducing them briefly, we have ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gilad Hekselman: Ask For Chaos

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Be careful what you ask for if chaos is on the wish list. Israeli-born guitarist Gilad Hekselman invited disorder on this, his sixth outing, by employing two distinct backing bands. And there is fun to be had in spotting discrepancies between the combos. Representing the more avant elements are Zuperoctave, whilst a touch of trad comes via gHex Trio who were urged by Hekselman to keep him on his toes. The album's title draws on the political climate ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Konstantinos Papachristou: The Darkness Of A Fairy Tale

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This is far from the first jazz album to send some wandering soul on a voyage. Among others, Chris Potter's record The Sirens (ECM, 2013) was inspired by Homer's epic saga The Odyssey. Now comes Greek artist Konstantinos Papachristou with a very modern quest, wherein a man seeks the meaning of life amid our material distractions. Papachristou has openly stated he kept ECM's legacy in mind when recording this work. Apart from Potter's classic, some others from the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Moskus: Mirakler

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Not every picture paints a thousand words, but some are more symbolic than others. Take the cover of Moskus's new album, which depicts a hip young hiker facing a two-horned beast in the wilderness. But is the animal real, a mere figment, or even an applied image? And what of that rock pile between them, painted a rather lurid yellow? This fourth album from the Norwegian trio also poses many questions. The first being, what the heck are ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Claudia Döffinger: Monochrome

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The turkey trot and tango became so popular by 1914 that the Vatican saw fit to denounce them. American ballrooms, once invaded by European dance steps, were now throbbing to these sexier moves. In his eminent book, The History Of Jazz, author Ted Gioia argues that such new currents in social dancing also forced a change on music. Jazz orchestras in New York were thus being dictated from the dance floor, not the bandstand. The great era of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Onyx Brass: Onyx Noir - Jazz Works For Brass Quintet

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Jazz has often been described as America's classical music, so hearing a British classical group tackling jazz is bound to intrigue. Even more so when it's a brass quintet and we recognise the key role of brass bands in the birth of jazz. Onyx Brass trombonist Amos Miller was at the Banff International Jazz Summer School in 1994. One of the tutors taking part was Kenny Wheeler. Move ahead to 2012 and Miller phoned Wheeler asking him to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Espen Berg Trio: Bølge

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The highest wave ever measured by a fixed installation hit a Norwegian gas transporter in the North Sea. The wave was marked at 25.6 metres high. Award-winning pianist Espen Berg would probably approve such statistics, having named his trio's second album Bølge--the Norwegian name for wave. Berg is also keen to point out the many levels that 'wave' can be perceived from, including the mathematical. None of which should imply that Bølge needs logical analysis. But it is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sarah Bernstein Unearthish: Crazy Lights Shining

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The concept of “free" is linked with jazz more than any other music genre. But “free" to do what, exactly? Free to think what you like, play what you want, express what you must? May as well throw in the freedom to live how you choose. Listening to violinist Sarah Bernstein's music, these questions occur as she delights in breaking conventions. Her avant-jazz Sarah Bernstein Quartet exudes calm control even as it induces awe and fear. Among her solo projects ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Skydive Trio: Sun Sparkle

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There are parts of Norway where the sun hardly sets for months on end. It stays bright all night and dawn is never dark. The essence of this strange polar light finds its way into Sun Sparkle, the second album from Norwegian act Skydive Trio. Its predecessor, Sun Moee, also referenced our great burning star, which can hardly be coincidence. There is something both mythic and solar about this trio's music. Fittingly it also comes over as equally retro and ...