About the album
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
This powerful international trio, led by UK reeds-player Siegel and featuring sometime Ornette Coleman bass partner Greg Cohen and New York downtown drummer Joey Baron, starts a UK tour next week. This double album (all Siegel originals apart from a radical remake of Alfie and a smokily bluesy One Mint Julep) was recorded at London's Vortex in January 2007. It triumphs in the tricky pursuit of making an unplugged horn-led trio sound varied (helped greatly by Siegel's rich resources on clarinets as well as tenor sax), and is a spectacular flyer for the upcoming gigs. Siegel's tenor inventiveness (reflecting, among many things, Coleman's dancing phrasing, the unflurried melody-building of Warne Marsh and the tonal range of Joe Lovano) is teased by Cohen's melodic twists and racing four-four pulse, and by Baron's fizzing cymbal-patterns and peremptory rimshots. The tunes are mostly strong (from Siegel's dark and rugged Atlantic to the captivating rhythm-shifting swinger Stop Go Man, the frisky MAB or the abstract Haunted Waltz), and the appetite for adventure of all three players means that almost every piece has an intriguingly evolving, spontaneous narrative.