London-based guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff's Between Lines (F-IRE, 2005) was a collection of edgy small group improvisations which delivered plenty and promised more. The recording placed Bratoeff's classically rooted but adventurous electric guitarsomewhere out of Jimmy Raney, heading in a more abstract directionalongside the leaders of Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear, respectively: Pete Wareham (tenor saxophone) and Sebastian Rochford (drums), and Tom Mason (bass). The compelling recording focused on extended real-time soloing and group interplay.
Points Of Perception paints on a larger canvas. The previous album's quartet stays in the lineup, this time augmented by three other outstanding stylistsTom Arthurs (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nick Ramm (keyboards) and Julia Biel (vocals on two tracks). Listening to this recording, there are times when you can't help wishing Bratoeff had left it at that and used this bigger dream lineup to explore the ideas he mapped out on Between Lines in more depth.
Most creative artists, however, have an aversion to standing still, and Bratoeff is as restless as they come. He rings the changes on this new album with the recruitment and foregrounding of hip-hop and drum 'n' bass studio-wiz Wampa, who also co-produces and replaces Rochford on some tracks.
At the planning stage, the collaboration would have promised a genre-bending, thrills 'n' spills adventure, but in practice, it doesn't always get there. Wampa's contributions are of the moment, but they sound imposed upon, rather than bonded with, what's happening around him. He doesn't sound like a fully integrated member of the band, and relatively few of his interventions bust current hip hop and electronica paradigms.
As you'd expect from a lineup of this quality, there is some fine music to be enjoyed here. Bratoeff rips off a handful of terrific solos, sometimes dreamy, other times agitated. Wareham and Arthurs are underemployed, but their duets on "Shrinking World" and "Idiom" are class A. Biel, who here sounds a bit like a warped version of Norah Jones, is divine on the ballad "Cloud Shapes Over A Purple Sky." There's also a good hidden track, which kicks off a couple of minutes after "Forgotten Dreams" and features Pharoah Sanders-ish tenor and agile acoustic bass.
Jonathan Bratoeff is a serious talent, and his desire to push boundaries is to be applauded. He'll likely find his focus and make our hair curl yet.
Farewell; Shrinking World; Starring At Stars; Blast Corruption; Reverie; Dialectic; Idiom; Cloud Shapes Over A Purple Sky; Rise; Pond At Dusk; Eulogyeyes; Forgotten Dreams.
Jonathan Bratoeff: guitar, keyboards, Fender Rhodes piano (9); Wampa: programming,
electronics, percussion, tabla, Fender Rhodes piano (11), drums (3,5,6,8,9,12); Tom
Arthurs: trumpet, flugelhorn; Pete Wareham: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone (9),
flute; Oskar Gudjonsson: tenor saxophone (4,8,10,12); Nick Ramm: Fender Rhodes piano,
piano, nord lead analog syntheziser; Tom Mason: double bass, electric bass; Seb Rochford:
drums (2,4,6,7,10,12); Julia Biel: vocals (8,10); Vital: scratch (6).
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.