Well, the slightly over-the-top response would be to suggest that the day I had everything was the day three of my favourite London-based musicians got together to make a trio record. The three musicians in question are saxophonist Mark Lockheart, pianist Liam Noble and double bassist Jasper Høiby. (Yes, Jasper may or may not be based in London, he may be back in Denmark – I’ve lost track – but you catch my drift.)
The lovely thing about Malija (an amalgam of the first two letters of each’s first name) is it doesn’t sound like any of these musicians’ other projects – their collaboration clearly allowed them to explore tangential grounds to the kind they inhabit in their own bands. Or maybe that’s just what happens when truly open players respond to who is around them and what they are doing in the moment.
The compositional credits are shared out nicely, with five from Lockheart, and three apiece from Noble and Hoiby, while the mood and influence in each piece ranges from bluegrass (Lockheart’s Squared) to the blues (Noble’s Blues), taking in tango (Lockheart’s Almost A Tango) a kind of lop-sided waltz (Høiby’s Unknown) and a folky vibe (Noble’s Wheels). There are also tributes to Duke Ellington and Earl Hines (Lockheart’s The Pianist) and to Wayne Shorter (Høiby’s Wayne’s World). The Ligeti String Quartet joins the trio for the classically-inclined With One Voice, Lockheart’s closing composition.
The playing feels as liberated and relaxed as only one can when amongst much-respected friends. Listen to Lockheart get all barrel-housey on The Pianist, Noble revving up the circular motifs on Wheels, and Høiby working that infectious bass ostinato on Unknown. Høiby’s title track features not only a beguiling melody but a delicate, gorgeously finely balanced three-way interaction.
An album with some immediate appeal but a whole lot more depth and increasing rewards as the listening continues. A grower, to be sure.
- Malija will be launching this album at Kings Place in London on Saturday 12 December, and will be at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham on Friday 29 January 2016, with other dates to be announced. For more about the Birmingham gig presented by Jazzlines, go here.
Categories: CD review