Led Bib – Sensible Shoes

 Sensible ShoesIf London’s “maverick avant-jazz skronkers” Led Bib were a politician, they’d put John McCain to shame. But it’s not just skronkadelic mania and wall-to-wall noise: this twin-sax-led quintet presents a thorough exercise in structured collective improvisation, which traverses mood and dynamic with a delicacy that belies the fierce, free energy that so often possesses them.

A prime example is “2.4:1 (Still Equals None),” which features a gentle introduction from the saxes and spinning random keyboard sounds, before bass and drums come in with their own cautious, careful ideas. You wonder what’s going to happen next—will the tune suddenly take off into a stratospheric, gut-wrenching blast of hysteria? No. Situated as it is, perfectly midway through the 9-track CD, this is a welcome and admirable respite demonstrating commendable restraint from a group which clearly loves to play loud.

Drummer and leader Mark Holub believes Sensible Shoes represents a “coming of age” for the band. They’ve certainly succeeded in producing a disc which captures the inimitable firepower and charisma that frequently draws a small army of followers to gigs around the capital. It’s a very natural statement, made in a language that maintains accessibility while occasionally bordering on the extreme—not an easy thing to do without sounding forced or awkward.

Seb Pipe’s Life Experience – Shoot For The Stars
 Shoot For The Stars
Altoist Seb Pipe’s new release on 33Jazz has a sparkling effervescence that keeps you riveted. His rich, cultured, talkative tone guides the listener through 11 original compositions, including fresh arrangements of Romanian and Brazilian melodies—the classic “Tico-Tico” is instantly recognisable.

The CD opens with “Yonetsu (Residual Energy).” A sweeping sax line soars over drummer George Hart’s crisp, brisk backdrop, which then segues into “Yo Tico!,” Pipe’s adaptation of the famous tune written by Zequinha de Abreu in 1917. From there we have the more melancholy “Fortran,” a lyrical nine-minute offering that calms things down before “Balance and Contrast,” a breakneck semi-acoustic-fusion tune which almost seems to be a slower piece played back at double speed. A brief duel between Hart and pianist Arthur Lea is topped off by an unexpected injection of scat from Pipe.

The saxophonist is clearly well versed in his trade, with a wide palette of influences and knowledge. Indeed, the album title itself references a quote by the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Pipe comes across as a profoundly positive composer and player, with a lively mind and strong musical instincts—certainly a deserving recipient of the Arts Council England “Jazz Services” recording and touring grant which made this fine release possible.

Phronesis – Green Delay
 Green Delay
Avishai Cohen has heralded Jasper Høibyas a name to watch. It’s easy to see why: these two versatile instrumentalists share a penchant for bass-driven acoustic grooves and syncopated, staccato rhythmic motifs.

“Abraham’s New Gift,” the first track on Green Delay, will find Cohen fans in familiar territory, but subtle differences become ever more apparent as the record goes on. The Phronesis group atmosphere seems a little more open, less tied down; they relax and stretch out, taking a break from rigid charts and settling into their own thing.

Høiby and fellow Dane Anton Eger on drums form a cohesive foundation. The bassist always finds a simple way to anchor the music, not overcrowding his bandmates with too many notes and giving both considerable liberty. Pianist Ivo Neame is able to flow freely when the time comes, reaching impressively understated heights with his canny improvisations. He doesn’t slam, he doesn’t smash, but a clear stream of ideas is detectable through every solo.

“Phronesis” is the Greek intellectual virtue of moral thought, “the ability to think well about the nature of the world.” Prudence. So it’s a fitting name for Høiby’s band, as its three members communicate musically using precisely this kind of mentality. No one jumps to the front. It’s an extended dialogue between equal partners, the outcome of which is pleasurable for any jazz listener.

Kairos 4tet – Kairos Moment
 Kairos Moment
These days in London, it’s not a surprise when a completely unknown name turns up with an accomplished CD. Saxophonist/leader Adam Waldmann does just that with his Kairos 4tetand their debut album—you could be easily forgiven for thinking it was the product of a much longer musical relationship than a group formed only in spring last year.

Waldmann possesses a fluid, commanding compositional voice, asserted boldly on this set of a dozen originals. Singer Emilia Martensson joins the quartet for “Unresolved,” adding her ebullient, airy vocals to an ambient sonic mixture. It’s Jasper Høiby on bass again, with pianist Rob Barron and Jon Scott on drums.

Rippling beats and solid riffs are mixed with Waldmann’s intriguingly differentiating saxes—dreamy tenor; sharp, piercing soprano—and catchy, accessible tunes, delivered with a good degree of wit and guile. There is a contemplative, thoughtful aesthetic and a latent sense the musicians are playing happily within themselves, comfortable and at ease with each other and the material.

Published @ jazz.com, 16/7/09 – click here for original.