Trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall is an inspirational figure on the British scene, as a musician and as the founder of the successful Gondwana Records label. Based in the northern city of Manchester, two hundred miles and a lifestyle away from London, Halsall debuted in 2008 with Sending My Love, on which he unveiled his distinctive spiritual-jazz take on the less-is-more modalism and lustrous sound of Miles Davis circa Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959). Since then, Halsall's bands have accelerated the emergence of some of the north of England's most striking musicians, including reed players Nat Birchall and Chip Wickham, pianist Adam Fairhall and harpist Rachael Gladwin.
With Salute To The Sun, Halsall's first album of newly recorded material since 2015's Into Forever, everything has changed and nothing has changed. His muscular young band is completely new aside from bassist Gavin Barras, who has both anchored and elevated the music since Sending My Love. The music itself, however, is as resplendently the same as ever, following the path first set out by Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Its signatures are a celestial vibe, melodicism and well-tempered grooves (in its way, the Gondwana aesthetic resembles that of Creed Taylor's CTI label, with whom it shares its high production values). New harpist Maddie Herbert fits seamlessly into the slot left by Gladwin and the gutsy saxophonist and flautist Matt Cliff brings Sanders' broken-note strewn tenor and Rahsaan Roland Kirk's pizzicato flute to the party along with himself. The most significant tweak to the studio sound is the foregrounded use of tuned percussion such as the kalimba and marimba. The album is balm for the soul.
A final thought. Salute To The Sun comes from a similar place as another trumpet led, premier league, 2020 British album, Laura Jurd's band Dinosaur's To The Earth (Edition). Both are playful, essentially acoustic and were conceived with environmental concerns in mind. If you enjoy one of them, you will almost certainly enjoy the other one, too.
Harmony With Nature; Joyful Spirits Of The Universe; Canopy & Stars; Mindfulness Meditations; Tropical Landscapes; Salute To The Sun; The Energy Of Life.
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