86CD - Corey Mwamba - NTH
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The idea for putting together this group, at the time I did, represents a slow movement. This is a group of people that I had wanted to put together for a while; some of the music was written almost fifteen years ago. But then, as it began, we accelerated; we played live four times, the final time coinciding with my last time.
Andy, Johnny, and Laura have given so much in performing and dealing with the material. What these musicians and friends have done, to me, reflects a core tradition in jazz -- to deal and commit to the material and make new things, present new ways of listening and expressing: to move beyond the limits of the marks on the page, towards feeling.
Corey Mwamba - vibraphone, glockenspiel, beak flute
Laura Cole - piano
Andy Champion - double bass
Johnny Hunter - drums, small percussion
When he started making his own music, Corey Mwamba explains, it was mainly electroacoustic. But “any conversation about black British experimental music is a short one, even today, and I am never included in it”, he comments – so he focused on vibes, as a performer.
As a live performer, that career has now ended, he explains, in a statement somewhat reminiscent of Glenn Gould. Mwamba made the decision a few years ago, and his farewell gig was in his hometown of Derby on 23 March this year. But he will still be making home recordings, and continuing as creative director for Derby Jazz and Out Front!
Among the bands that he’s created or worked with, this quartet hasn’t performed a lot – just four times, the last time on Mwamba’s final date. The leader explains that this was a group he’d long planned to put out – and that some of the material was written as much as 15 years ago. He rightly applauds the way that the players “move beyond the limits of the marks on the page, towards feeling”, presenting “new ways of listening and expressing”.
I knew the participants as skilled performers, but their empathy and feeling on this date go beyond what I’ve heard before – making this a really outstanding recording. Mwamba’s sparkling, iridescent vibes and Hunter’s eager grooves are a highlight, but they are beautifully complemented by the bass playing of Champion and by Cole’s piano.
One of my favourites here is the opening track, Against All Known Things – which backs up the claim that this is rhythmically minded free improv. After a free opening, the vibes state a catchy theme that gets repeated through the performance, with the other instruments twisting and swirling around it, and Hunter providing a compelling groove. Sub(taste) is if anything even funkier, but also free; Orison, in contrast, is a quiet, fragmented exploration. A compelling release. – Andy Hamilton, JAZZ JOURNAL
NTH is a much more rhythmically minded beast. The beautifully rhythmic drumming of Johnny Hunter allows Corey’s searching vibes and the playful piano of Laura Cole full rein in chasing and tagging one another. To me the vibes always sound as though they are the precursor to something mysterious and unknown; a sense of expectation is always present in that soulful ring and it is never more so than here.
“Never A State” finds the double bass of Andy Champion slowing things down, moving like a sleepy river with so much space that when the sounds appear, exploding like bubbles on the surface, there is a soothing quality that Laura’s waterfall piano continues on “Sub(taste)”. It is a joy that takes it form almost post-rock territory and dips into ’60s jazz, with shades of Bill Evans. “Orison” is more sparse; a shake of bells, a hint of the vibes, it is like searching for raindrops after the sun has come out and started to dry the leaves. Here and there patches can still be seen, waiting for the sun to uncover them, and through it all, the bass retains an irregular heartbeat.
The album mainly moves at a languid pace, but the quartet can really play high-velocity jazz if they wish to and “Situations” is perfect. In fact, the bass and drums move at such a pace they seem to leave the piano trailing in their wake as it ascends and descends, striving to keep up and eventually losing its way. How it evolves into a West Coast workout is a mystery, but the following two pieces descend into mellow melancholy, slow and sweet yet slightly wistful.
They don’t like things to carry on for too long at a particular pace, so long penultimate track “Over Leagues” is vibes and drums jazz craziness. The drums are pushing the vibes, urging them to follow their pattern, but it doesn’t work — so they try with the piano instead, but the tag-team playing of the drunken, heel-dragging piano and the vibes seems to confuse the drums, and they eventually fold, allowing the others to set the meandering pace. The quartet really knows how to play to one another’s strengths and on final track “Vertumnal” the bass and piano circle like wary cats sizing each other up as the vibes try to intercede or just set something off. In this way, all the gaps that might appear in the sound are filled up, subtle drops squeezed into spaces, new directions taken, but without leaving the other players too far behind. It moves in lovely waves and is a joy to hear unfurl.
Once again, Discus have discovered more fresh angles for jazz and long may that continue. - Mr Olivetti, FREQ