It’s somewhere in the middle of Extinct, track six on this album, that I finally get close to articulating in my mind what has been increasingly clear since the first sounds have emerged from the speakers.
I’ve heard these players before, both on CD and live, and in various contexts, but the strongest memory is from a Birmingham Jazz gig in 2013 (see below). It was a performance by four exceptionally talented young players, fresh out of college (or maybe still there) performing compositions by their leader that were very sophisticated indeed. So what’s the difference between that performance and the one on this album? It’s something difficult to put one’s finger on and yet it’s a whole game-changer.
And then, as trumpet strings out long lines full of intriguing twists and turns over a bubbling brew of Hammond organ, pulsing electric bass and snickering cymbals the light bulb finally flickers on. The band I heard in 2013, excellent as it was, was still a “student band” in a way, one bubbling with personality and ideas but still forming, still in the act of becoming. Listening to Extinct there’s nothing still-becoming about it – this is a band that has reached another level, has really, in every sense, arrived!
This is young British trumpeter Laura Jurd’s third album as leader and the first with what was previously the Laura Jurd Quartet – Elliot Galvin on keyboards, Conor Chaplin on bass and Corrie Dick on drums.
Some of the folky themes are still there in her music – in Robin for example – but the harmonic range has increased considerably, as has the sound of the band which now puts the accent on more electricity: Galvin restricts himself to Fender Rhodes and Hammond, Chaplin has always concentrated on electric bass and Jurd adds synth sounds as well. The overall atmosphere sometimes hints at a pared down and more tightly focused Miles Davis band circa In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. And there are touches of dub reggae in there too.
The empathy between these four – a band for six years now – together with the sophistication both of the compositions and the playing elevates the music on this disc to a level where it can stand proudly with the finest contemporary jazz from anywhere in the world.
Even the short tracks on Together, As One (most apt title), Underdog, Steadily Sinking (which does just that with falling organ lines) and Interlude (which ends the album – perhaps an interlude to the future?) have a substance to them which belies their length. But it’s the meaty Awakening, Living, Breathing, Primordial and that real peach, Extinct, which give the band space to stretch and show their real depth.
This is music that could be made by no other band, that fully encompasses four very distinctive characters: clever in its harmony and melodic turns, catchy in its repeats and riffs, groovy in its rhythms, deeply soulful, clear in its aims but open to all kinds of risk – and witty with it, not taking itself wholly seriously. It’s a balance of things which suggests real maturity. It’s very much a group sound and concept, but special mention for the leader as composer and one of the strongest, most interesting new trumpet voices in jazz.
An album of the year to be sure.
- That Laura Jurd Quartet live review from 2013 is HERE.
- The band is touring in November with dates in Coventry, Frome, Aberdeen, Cardiff, London, Poole, York, Leeds, Brighton, St Ives, Cambridge, Southampton, Manchester and Nottingham. Find out more HERE.
- Dinosaur have added a Birmingham date to their activities. More HERE.
Categories: CD review