CD review: Oriole

Every New Day
(F-IRE Records)

I hadn’t listened to it for a while, but I spent a few days driving through the Scottish Highlands last autumn reacquainting myself with Oriole’s last album, Migration, which, I find, I have been listening to from time to time since 2006. It made that road trip down across from Pitlochry to just north of Glasgow really special; in fact it makes most occasions pretty special.

And I think Every New Day might just make things even better.

The brains behind Oriole is also its most reticent player – it seems acoustic guitarist Jonny Phillips is one of those band leaders who, having written and arranged all the music, feels he has had the lion’s share of the fun and now it’s the band’s turn. So his guitar is always there in the background, the fulcrum if you like of this strongly European/Latin music, and he even takes a couple of brief solos, but mostly it is the other musicians who take the limelight.

And what a bunch of musicians! On drums is Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford, on bass is Acoustic Ladyland’s Ruth Goller, on piano is Nick Ramm, on saxophone is Soothsayers’ Idris Rahman, and on cello is Basquiat Strings’ Ben Davis. Former Oriole saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock is still here for some tracks, and Adriano Adewale completes the group on percussion.

The addition of piano has in some ways given Phillips even less to do, but it has also added a lovely additional voice to the music, often stressing those Latin qualities.

Much of the music was written and developed by Jonny Phillips in Spain and Portugal, and the titles reflect this – Levante and Sintra, for example. Sounds, styles and rhythms come from Spain, from Portugal, from Brazil and Venezuela, but the overall mood and sound of the band is like nothing since the last Oriole album.

A lot of the magic comes from the gorgeous mix of timbre and texture of cello and tenor saxophone playing closely together, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in counter melodies, and sometimes in unison. And Seb Rochford’s particular take on all these Iberian/Latin beats is another magic ingredient.

And then, of course, there are the songs – each one incredibly strong with that way of hooking into your memory and consciousness, meaning they remain with you long after the  CD has been ejected from the player.

A rich, charming, deeply human and gloriously uplifting collection of songs, beautifully played. It should be available on prescription. Here’s Levante:



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