One of the flag bearers of contemporary British jazz, Dinosaur's rise to more international renown accelerated with its signing to Edition Records, and the subsequent release of Together, As One
(2016) and Wondertrail
. (2018). Formerly known as the Laura Jurd Quartet, the band had already been going since 2010, releasing one album, Landing Ground
(Chaos Collective, 2012) to general critical approval. Each album displays significant personalitythe embrace of strings, or analogue keyboardsand Jurd's refusal to tread the same stylistic water. To The Earth
follows the quartet's onwards-and-upwards trajectory, despite reverting to the almost entirely acoustic sound of its early days.
Repeated listening reveals the depth in the arrangements, but what is immediately striking is the accessibility of Jurd's tunescatchy and memorable all. On the title track, Jurd and pianist Elliot Galvin
's simple unison motif, underpinned by Conor Chaplin
's grinding bass ostinato, provides the launching pad for short but engaging improvisations. Chaplin and drummer Corrie Dick
's propulsive rhythms leave space for Galvin to dabble in Latin-esque vamp, skittish flights, deftly placed grace notes and telling chords which, taken together, impart a looser underbelly to the quartet's disciplined choreography.
Synthesizer, bass, and bass trumpet combine in dirge-like step on the aptly named "Slow Loris," with Galvin unfurling a cubist solo which feels like a nod and a wink to Thelonious Monk. Jurd's smeary trumpet growlsthemselves a throwback to an older period of jazzare balanced by her bright, cleanly articulated solo. In the past, notably on Together, As One
, Jurd channelled Miles Davis
, but the reference points here are few and far between, and her playing more idiosyncratic than Davis, for example, when she uses a hand as a mute. Like Davis, however, Jurd's compositions are shaped to her bandmates' strengths, resulting in a strong group identity.
Even Billy Strayhorn
's "Absinthe"Jurd's first recorded cover versionis given the Dinosaur treatment. Rhythmically, Dinosaur's version has much in common with the original, but woozy electric keyboard is just the thin end of the mischievously modern wedge that Galvin and Jurd in particular drive through this classic of the Duke Ellington
songbook. "Mosking" is named after Norwegian trio Moskus
. On the face of it, the two groups are quite distinct but, like Moskus, Dinosaur seems to prize, above all else, improvising on ideas. Here, the knotty unison motif bookends solos of contrasting character from Jurd and Galvin, but it is perhaps Chalpin's noirish bass, and Dick's Tom Waits-esque scrapyard percussive textures that truly shape the narrative. Likewise, on the uber-catchy "Banning St. Blues," a playful romp laced with solos, groove is the key.
In an album clocking in at just over forty minutes, Dinosaur packs a lot into a short timeframe. The rhythmically arresting "Held by Water," and the slow blues adieu of "For the One" may be mere three-minute vignettes, but for atmosphere and emotional impact, both punch enticingly above their weight. To The Earth
is a compelling distillation of influences, and a potent manifesto of ideas. Dinosaur's next ten years should really be something.
To The Earth; Slow Loris; Mosking; Held By Water; Absinthe; Banning Street Blues; For One.