English pianist Alexander Hawkins is already established as a major force in improvised music, having worked with senior figures like Mulatu Astatke and Joe McPhee, He’s just released Song Singular, his first solo offering. It’s evidence of just how good he has become, with an artistic stance that embraces the history of the instrument from Debussy to Art Tatum to Cecil Taylor, and no apparent technical impediments to his fertile imagination.
Coherence and discipline are reconciled with exuberance and wit, old blues meet 20th century abstraction, and Hawkins reminds us at every turn that jazz is the cross road where many music styles meet.
There’s an admirable purity to HERD, an innovative trio from Helsinki, an adherence to the old school principles of building your music through crafting interesting lines, having a dialogue with your band mates and collectively working for the good groove. They’ve been laying it down since 2009, and have acquitted themselves favourably at major Finnish festivals like Pori, as well as winning the EBU Jazz Competition at The North Sea Festival. Panu Savolainen’s vibes playing purrs with accents and dynamics, bassist Miko Pellinen and drummer Tuomas Timonen propel the trio onwards with an insistent groove.
Violet Spin follow in the footsteps of previous 12 Points string quartets, Amsterdam’s Zapp and Vienna’s RSQV. They’re also from Vienna, that city at the meeting points of European culture, and its reflected in the music they make, straddling classicism, folk traditions and improvisation. Conceived by the award winning violinist Irene Kepl and drawing on equally open minded string players on the Viennese scene has, Violet Spin share a joyful, uninhibited approach to playing contemporary groove based music, drawn from disparate sources and stitched together with real improvisational authority. Joining Kepl are violinist Paul Dangl, violist Magdalena Zenz and cellist Fabian Jäger.