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More Jazz

Iain Ballamy's Anorak

Digital format — Album / Tracks

buy at Jazz CDs UK

also feat.
Iain Ballamy, Gareth Williams, Orlando le Fleming, Martin France,
Basho Records
Catalogue no.
SRCD 22-2

Iain Ballamy rediscovers his jazz roots in an album that came out of a commission for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with support from the Jerwood Foundation. In the sleeve notes to the album he writes:

“Over the past 20 years my music has been described variously as ‘eclectic, contemporary and English’– certainly not as ‘retro, straight-ahead or in the American style’. So what marks this return to the ‘classic’ jazz format with ‘More Jazz’?

Although my true ‘jazz roots’ have never been too deeply concealed, some aficionados might argue that much of my past output is not strictly ‘jazz’. Who decides the criteria, I wonder, by which jazz can be deemed authentic? Regardless of the argument or the answer, it felt like the right time to look both backwards and forwards at the same time and to create ‘a modern jazz record with traditional sensibilities. By re-working classics such as ‘All The Things You Are’, ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Stella By Starlight‘, I’m striving to create a bridge between jazz past and present. I can empathize with a well seasoned jazz listener who might feel that in much contemporary jazz, discernable points of reference are rather thin on the ground or even absent altogether. Equally, forward thinkers could argue that the current re-kindling of ‘the tradition’ often lacks freshness, risk or originality – as if the music is simply stewing in the rich juices of its own history and crying out for re-invention. Re-invention is in the true tradition of jazz – the forward momentum that has always kept the music evolving and sounding ‘of its own time’.”


John Fordham. The Guardian

Maybe the saxophonist Iain Ballamy doesn't go out of his way to flatter his quartet by calling it Anorak - the idea seems to be that it nods to the jazz tradition more explicitly than some of his more eclectic world-music ventures do. But there's nothing nerdily inhibited or derivative about the music here, a mix of mazy postbop jazz lines with postponed resolutions and circus-music bounce.
Ballamy joins long-lined cool school melodic thinking to soulful smoky-tenor sounds; Of All the Things confirms how subtle a romantic balladeer he remains. His fellow Anorak-wearers (pianist Gareth Williams, bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Martin France) give him world-class support. The McCoy Tyner-influenced Williams may never have played more urgently on record, and a stunning France constantly disrupts Ballamy's long, murmuring lines with a barrage of contrary patterns. My Way is played as a preoccupied muse over a Latin pulse that turns into fast swing; a slow Coltrane tribute is beautifully paced and atmospheric; I Got Rid of Them is like a more convoluted Stan Tracey tune; The Worm suggests a Michael Brecker theme with more bars in it.

John Bungey, The Times

He was a star of the laddish big band Loose Tubes, he went Nordic with the avant-garde Food and he plays a mean Teddy Bears Picnic.

But what nobody associates the saxophonist with is traditional US jazz. Here, though, he slyly updates the tunes that he heard at his piano-playing father’s knee. The quartet’s playing is top-notch – listen to Ballamy and Gareth Williams on piano scorch through the bluesy bebop of The Worm. There will be nonanoraks who mistake the saxophonist on Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane for the great dead legend himself. This is a record that carries off the neat trick of having one foot planted firmly in the past and another in the present.

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