Edition Records, Matthew Halsall and more Ezra Collective – 27/09/23

This show features music from one of our favourite labels, Edition Records. Based in the UK and founded by pianist Dave Stapleton, their artist roster is now truly international. Recent signings include well established musicians like Chris Potter, Dave Holland, Kurt Elling and Donny McCaslin, but the label also champions breakthrough artists too like Fergus McCreadie, Aki Rissanen, Kneebody and Rob Luft. But there’s more on our show too – we’ve also got brand new music from High Pulp, Matthew Halsall and another track from Mercury Prize winners Ezra Collective. It’s worth mentioning here that we are strong supporters of Bandcamp and that you’ll find links to all the music on this show on the Bandcamp website.

1. High Pulp – Dirtmouth feat. from Days in the Desert

We start the show with our good friends High Pulp, whose music we have featured over the last few years. The new album is a must and, of course, you can track it down most easily right here on Bandcamp. High Pulp have recruited some big name guests for this one – harpist Brandee Younger, guitarist Jeff Parker and, on our selection, tenor saxophonist and Cosmic Jazz favourite James Brandon Lewis. The Bandcamp site offers Days in the Desert in download, CD and vinyl formats but you can also buy a High Pulp teeshirt, their special hot sauce and a snapback hat. Merchandising is getting ever more enterprising it seems.

2. Josh Arcoleo – Love of the Music from K.O.K.O

One of the most recent signings to Edition Records, Arcoleo has sat in on a number of recordings for the label before this, his new EP for the label. Something of a multi-instrumentalist, Arcoleo began his touring life with the legendary saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis when he was sixteen before gaining a place on the renowned jazz course at London’s Royal Academy of Music, winning a Yamaha Parliamentary Jazz Scholarship and the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize – which included a recording contract with Edition Records. His debut album for the label, Beginnings, was released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim, receiving 4* reviews in the Guardian. Arcoleo is also a founding member of the UK band Native Dancer who released their own first record Live in London earlier this year. K.O.K.O references a mantra from Pee Wee Ellis  – Keep On Keeping On – and it reflects the big instrumental hooks, heavy beats and glitchy vocal samples found on the record – and on Pee Wee Ellis tracks like this take on Make it Funky, live at London’s Hideaway Club in 2017. To find out more and buy the record, just head to the Edition Records site or Bandcamp.

3. Ben Wendell – Wanderers feat. Terence Blanchard from All One

Ben Wendell is a Vancouver native but was raised in Los Angeles. He’s already recorded with jazz artists such as Tigran Hamasyan, Antonio Sanchez and Eric Harland and is a founding member of the Grammy nominated group Kneebody who also record with Edition. His new album for the label is, uniquely, a series of duets in which he plays with a different musician on each of the six tracks. His guests stick to their primary instruments, but Wendel fills in the space around them with multiple saxophone and bassoon parts, electronic effects, and percussion. It’s a really interesting concept and includes Cecile McLorin Salvant on a version of Gershwin’s I Loves You Porgy and Hamasyan’s dark piano voicings on the original tune In Anima. Blanchard’s trumpet is – as usual – processed against Wendell’s minimalist saxophone backing. Also on this eclectic record are guitarist Bill Frisell and flautist Elena Pinderhughes. The concept and arrangements across this new record are always interesting and it’s well worth a look. Check it out again on the Edition Records website or, of course, here via Bandcamp. For a good idea of how Wendell is developing this concept of multiple parts and electronic effects, have a listen to this live solo version of I Loves You Porgy. It’s strangely affecting…

4. Aki Rissanen – Love Song from Hyperreal

Finnish pianist Aki Rissanen has released seven albums as leader, including three excellent trio albums for Edition Records, featuring his long-standing collaborators, bassist Antti Lötjönen and drummer Teppo Mäkynen. He’s perhaps best known for his work with fellow Finn, trumpeter Verneri Pohjola (qv) on Edition and ACT Records, and Hyperreal, his latest release, will certainly consolidate his growing reputation. Rissanen switches between acoustic piano and electronic keyboards and Pohjola’s emotive and poignant trumpet sound is very much to the fore. It reminds us of other similarly ethereal trumpet players, most notably Arve Henriksen. Risannen has explained his thinking about the new album: With the rapid transformation of reality to the A.I. generated virtual reality or hyperreality, we have to be aware and adapt to these things and distinguish between what is real and unreal. Pohjola’s playing here is great. We would have expected it on the more atmospheric tunes but on others he’s clearly capable of a really funky approach too. Rissanen’s approach is as varied as we would expect – hushed tones on Code Indigo and dynamic chords and clusters on Breezy. Overall, Hyperreal is highly imaginative and a recommended listen. Check it out here on Bandcamp.

5. Verneri Pohjola – Wilder Brother from The Dead Don’t Dream

And so on to Pohjola himself. The Dead Don’t Dream is another great new album from a trumpet player who has carved a secure place in Finnish jazz, starting with his tenure in Quintessence – a group we have featured before on Cosmic Jazz. Pohjola has a fine musical heritage – his father Pekka Pohjola was an internationally known bass player, performing with the jazz rock group Wigwam and releasing the album B the Magpie (or Harakka Bialoipokku) in 1975 on the then nascent Virgin record label. It was re-released on the Esoteric label in 2010 and is well worth a listen – check out the final track Life Goes On right here. In May 2020 Verneri Pohjola released his fourth album The Dead Don’t Dream featuring Tuomo Prättälä on piano and electronics, Mika Kallio on drums and gongs and Antti Lötjönen on bass. Pauli Lyytinen guests on soprano and tenor sax on our choice, Wilder Brother. There’s a new record due in November this year – look out for Monkey Mind which will include British pianist Kit Downes on piano along with former Phronesis bassist Jasper Høiby. In the meantime, you’ll find The Dead Don’t Dream here on Bandcamp.

6. Chris Hyson – Golden Boy from Sidekick

Jazz or not? We don’t care – it’s just a great tune. Chris Hyson is another Royal Academy of Music alumnus who has appeared on recent albums by Jordan Rakei and Rosie Frater-Taylor. For Sidekick he’s assembled the core unit of Joe Webb on piano with Alex Haines on guitar and brother Lloyd Haines on drums. Saxophonist Josh Arcoleo guests on the rather beautiful and dreamy Honey Magnet and indeed the whole album is suffused with strong, sunny melodies – like our choice of the opening track Golden Boy. Both this record and Arcoleo’s K.O.K.O appear on Edition Records sub-label E2 and – yes – both are available from Bandcamp.

7. Eyolf Dale – The Wayfarer from The Wayfarers

The Wayfarers is the new trio album from Norwegian pianist and composer Eyolf Dale who is again joined by long-term collaborators Per Zanussi on bass (and saw!) and Audun Kleive on drums. Dale sees this album as a journey: Music helps me to understand and realise what my feelings or emotions are about. It helps me to make choices in life. To be in contact with my own compass he says. The music blends Nordic folk, jazz and some classical influences – and although this sounds like a typical ECM label description there’s enough individuality in harmonies and tones here to make this a really distinctive record. Of course, it’s on Bandcamp – check it out here in all formats including limited edition coloured vinyl.

8. Matthew Halsall – Water Street from An Ever Changing View

Halsall is another artist we’ve championed over the years at CJ. Derek and Neil saw Halsall at a small venue in Suffolk many years ago – a far cry from his recent show in the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London. His new album is an evolution rather than a revolution, but it is one of his best. Neil links it back to his similarly atmospheric Fletcher Moss Park from 2012, but with more of a new age vibe – and in a good way. Halsall has talked about the inspirations for the album in a recent Jazzwise magazine interview, noting that the birdsong heard on the opening track was his connection to the times of the day when you hear birdsong – sunrise, sunset – and I pulled out a couple of field microphones on a balcony, and just started playing. It’s not a composition, more of an improvised collaboration with nature. As the feature notes, Halsall’s Manchester-based Gondwana Records has become something of a northern musical powerhouse, establishing GoGo Penguin (before their move to Blue Note) and now hosting Mammal Hands, Chip Wickham and new recruits like Jasmine Myra. The new album was birthed in isolated rural locations in the UK: I wanted my brain to be clear and fresh… setting a tone and mood for the record says Halsall. Water Street genuinely reflects this with its soundworld of flute, harp, kalimbas and glockenspiel. An Ever Changing View is highly recommended and a great place to start if you’re new to Halsall’s music – just head to Bandcamp to listen and buy.

9. Marquis Hill – Stretch (the Body) feat. Joel Ross from Rituals + Routines

Back to Edition Records and something of a leftfield choice for the label. US trumpeter Marquis Hill has been ploughing a very new age furrow in his recent releases – and Rituals and Routines is no exception. In our view, it’s not his best work and the spoken word messages sometimes just feel intrusive, but the intention is clear: the Bandcamp notes state that The quality of the rituals and routines established in life is directly correlated with one’s meaningful success and the ability to manifest in this 3D realm. We’re not sure here at CJ what that really means but the addition here of vibes player Joel Ross is a very welcome inclusion. As always, it’s on Bandcamp.

10. Ezra Collective – Smile from Where I’m Meant to Be

Wow! They did it – earlier this month, Ezra Collective became the first jazz artists ever to win the prestigious Mercury Prize and richly deserved it is too. We’ve promoted Ezra as fine examples of the new wave of British jazz with its all-inclusive approach to influences from hip hop, drum and bass, broken beat, afrobeat and grime and the resulting album is by far the best thing they’ve ever done. We can’t recommend Where I’m Meant to Be highly enough and, again, it’s available on Bandcamp in all formats. But we can’t end this Cosmic Jazz without reflecting on the acceptance speech that leader and drummer Femi Koleoso gave on the night of the awards. It included these words on how the band met: Most importantly, Ezra Collective represents something really special because we met in a youth club. This moment that we’re celebrating right here is testimony to good, special people putting time and effort into [helping] young people to play music. Right now, this is not just a result for Ezra Collective – this is not just a result for UK jazz – but this is a special moment for every single organisation across the country ploughing their efforts and time into young people playing music. These are sentiments we’re fully behind here at Cosmic Jazz – supporting the opportunity for young people to play and engage with music is a fundamental basic in education.

 More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

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