English trumpeter Laura Jurd is a phenomenally creative composer and improviser who is unafraid to explore new musical ideas and defy genre boundaries. The 2019 addition to her intriguing discography, the multilayered Stepping Back, Jumping In is unique in its originality yet bearing Jurd's signature approach to stylistic fusion. Three performance spaces in the UK commissioned various parts of the album and one provided the recording studios for it. For the session Jurd has augmented her working band. Dinosaur, with additional musicians and unorthodox instrumentation for a stimulating and delightfully textured sound.
Jurd's own "Jumping In" opens with energetic symphonic refrains that usher in forlorn and wistful trumpet lines. The dramatic collective vamps have delightfully unusual hues courtesy of guitarist Rob Luft's twangy banjo, composer Soosan Lolavar's resonant santoor (Iranian hammered dulcimer) and euphonium player Martin Lee Thomson's warm tones. Alternating brass, percussion and the Ligeti String Quartet's nuanced performance gives the piece both a visceral passion and an intellectual edge. Jurd's expressive solo is freer flowing with a touch of rousing dissonance while the thunderous beats from dual drummers Liz Exell and Corrie Dick drive the rest of the band to fiery exchanges. Lolavar plays an eerie and poetic melody with her mallets before Jurd's eloquent conclusion.
Lolavar's melancholic and lyrical santoor opens the cinematic "Companion Species" that electronics artist Anja Laudval co-composed with Heida Johannesdottir. The ensemble rumbles within an angst-ridden ambience as various musicians overlap their individual instrumental voices in a riotous repartee. One of the standouts, among several, in this collective spontaneous expression is trombonist Raphael Clarkson and his inventive phrases. Jurd takes center stage with an undulating improvisation. Underneath her cool, soaring trumpet the rhythm section ardently rocks leading up to Luft's blistering blues chords.
Another band member's contribution to the program is pianist Elliot Galvin's tense and darkly hued "Ishtar." Laudval's electronic soundscapes buoy Galvin's provocative and atonal extemporization while sparsely percolating drums and bassist Conor Chaplin's thumps make for an expectant mood. Jurd's muted trumpet is full of mysticism and complements trombonist Alex Paxton's contemplative and eloquent soliloquy. The group closes the tune on a solemn note.
Stepping Back, Jumping In is a disc that leads to fresh discoveries with each spin. It is an impressive and captivating work that solidifies Jurd's position as one of the most promising artists on the creative music scene. Its boldly innovative character is engrossing, and its firm roots in the 20th century musical tradition satisfying, making this a record appealing in its adventurousness, while also holding an appeal for those who prefer relatively familiar territories.
Jumping In; Ishtar; I Am the Spring, You Are the Earth; Jump Cut Shuffle; Companion Species; Stepping Back.
Laura Jurd: trumpet; Raphael Clarkson (3, 5, 6), Alex Paxton (1-2): trombone; Martin Lee Thomson: euphonium; Elliot Galvin: piano; Soosan Lolavar: santoor; Rob Luft: banjo, guitars; Anja Lauvdal: synthesizer, electronics; Conor Chaplin: double bass; Corrie Dick, Liz Exell: drums. Ligeti Quartet: Mandhira de Saram, Patrick Dawkins: violin; Richard Jones: viola; Cecilia Bignall: cello.
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