Saxophonist Julian Costello has been around the UK jazz scene for a while, but for some years he decided to give up the world of the gigging musician and take up a teaching career. In recent years he's been gigging again and he now leads his quartet on Transitions, a collection of his original compositions recorded at Artesuono Studios in Italy. It's an inventive, good- humored album full of warmth and humanity, a welcome return to the scene for Costello and a powerful recording debut from the band.
The quartet in question consists of Costello, guitarist Maciek Pysz, bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Adam Teixeiraan international lineup now based in the UK. The music encompasses free-form passages, flowing and often romantic melodies, insistent hooks (the lovely "Earworm" isn't the only earworm on this album) and inventive soloing.
Costello's sound, on tenor and soprano, is warm and inviting. On "Waves" and "Ducks" Costello's soft, almost ethereal, saxophone tone bears a resemblance to that of Andy Sheppardalthough Costello doesn't list Sheppard as one of his influences, he does name-check another ECM reeds player, Jan Garbarek, alongside Ralph Towner, Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix.
Goloubev and Teixeira form an excellent rhythm section. Their interplay on "A Manic Episode," bass doubling guitar, Teixeira providing understated yet propulsive percussion, is crucial to the tune's atmosphere: on the melancholy "Patience" arco bass and brushed drums provide a beautiful introduction and Goloubev's bass solo carries the tune neatly into "Earworm." However, it's the playing of Costello and Pysz that really stands out. It may be Costello's band, but he's unselfish enough to give Pysz a major share of lead lines and solos. Pysz switches smoothly between electric and classical guitars, strikingly fluid lines emanating from either instrument.
"Corners" is a solo feature for the leader, the soprano melody floating on a foundation of tenor saxophones. "Corners Reprise" is equally short but features all four players, expanding the tune's tonal range but retaining its fragile beauty. "Tongue In Cheek" is as light-hearted and fun as the title suggests, shifting between free-form interactions and slinky and seductive tangoesque rhythmsfun enough to generate a sudden burst of laughter from an unidentified band member.
Waves; Ducks; Corners; A Manic Episode; Tongue In Cheek; Patience; Earworm;
Buraki I Ziemniaki; Mirage (Intro); Mirage; Panettone; Walking Through The Jungle;
Julian Costello - Soprano and Tenor Sax
Maciek Pysz - Electric and Classical Guitars
Yuri Goloubev - Double Bass
Adam Teixeira - Drums and Percussion