This month, three great albums, three different styles, but sadly all come with a sense of loss. Julien Wilson (pictured above) and Andrea Keller albums both feature the recently departed Allan Browne, one of Australia’s jazz legends, whilst Davis Ades died only weeks after this recording was completed. It was particularly tough on Wilson, as it was his decision to release two of these discs on his lionshare label.
– Michael Prescott, Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia
This Narrow Isthmus
Julien Wilson (ts), Barney McAll (p), Jonathan Zwartz (b), Allan Browne (d). Rec. 13 July 2014
Although recorded in 2014, it was only after Browne’s death that Wilson revisited the tapes and decided that this album should be released. Good decision! Recorded live in Sydney on a promotional tour for his Bell Award winning CD “This Is Always” with the same personnel, the group performed a completely new set of eight Wilson originals. Simply put, this was a fine quartet, bristling with class all the way with Wilson’s gorgeous fluid tenor; McAll’s luscious playing, supported by a dream rhythm section. All of which would add up to nothing if the compositions were not up to it. No problem here, Wilson is a gifted composer with melodic flair and he is able to compose in almost any style, the slow paced opener “Rainman” is followed by the up-tempo “McGod” and so on. He closes the album with the appropriately titled “Farewell” on clarinet and in doing so raises the question as to why doesn’t he play it more often. This CD is a welcome follow-up to the quartet’s award winning predecessor and establishes Wilson as one of, if not the, leading tenor saxophonist in the country. In combination with McAll and the late Browne, the outcome is simply marvellous!
A Life In The Day
loinshare Records ★★★★
It is a testament to Ades determination that this album was recorded at all, that it is as good as it is merely confirms that not even severe adversity could stop the creative process. The plain fact is that Ades was in the last stages of cancer induced illness, but that did not arrest his need to get this album in the can. Such is his playing the illness is totally absent from these recordings. Instead, we have about 60 minutes of sublime improvisation from a great quartet, recorded in just five hours. Most of the tunes were composed by Ades in the days before the session and are loose, giving plenty of space for both Ades and Malaby to weave intricate lines over a very free rhythm section. The spell is broken by three trios, Clever being the man left out and Helias providing a floating bass, sometimes using his bow to great effect. The ease that these musicians have with each other reflects a deep understanding of each other’s playing; they recorded Ades’s “A Glorious Uncertainty” in 2011. In the accompanying liner notes Helias waxes lyrical about Ades and the special bond between these friends and musicians is what makes this disc so special.
Keller / Murphy / Browne
This is the second album this month to feature the recently departed drummer, Allan Browne and it may have been his last session. Recorded live at Bennett’s Lane (rumours of the club’s demise are exaggerated!) just a few months before Browne’s death, this CD captures Keller and co in fine form. She has recorded with trio before, 2006’s “Carried By The Sun” and in the meantime she has released albums in numerous configurations, for example, 2012’s “Wave Rider”, reviewed in these pages, being a classic example. This album marks a big step forward from the aforementioned trio album, Keller plays with superb touch, economy and, most importantly, obvious emotion. This being a trio, Keller shares the writing duties composing three, Murphy (two) and Browne (one): plus some non originals, including Monk’s “Hackensack”. Strangely, Browne’s “Cyclosporin” is a vehicle for bassist Murphy to show off her considerable skills. As one expected from one of Australia’s most respected drummers, Browne knew how to play just right all the time and that’s a skill few percussionists possess. Keller should be appreciated by a wider audience than she is. Over several albums she has proven to be a consummate composer, arranger and performer, that is, the complete package.