Review: Since he released his first album 11 years ago, bandleader, trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall has proved to be one of British jazz's standout talents. In recent years he's delved into soul-jazz and big band jazz territory, so it's intriguing to find that "Oneness" is a much more spiritual, pared-down and minimalistic affair. Using a mixture of droning Indian instrumentation, languid and leisurely harp motifs, selective horn solos, melancholic trumpet lines and occasional traditional jazz instrumentation, Halsall has conjured up a series of meditative pieces that count among his most beguiling works to date. It may surprise a few listeners, but many more will find it enchanting, otherworldly and emotion-rich.
Review: 2018 has been a vintage year for those inspired by old Japanese ambient and new age jazz-fusion, with a plethora of reissues of obsure, sought-after albums from the '70s and '80s. Here's another. It comes from fast-fingered jazz bassist Motohiko Hamase, whose 1986 album "Reminiscence" has long been considered something of a slept-on gem. It's marked out by the prominence of Hamase's high register bass guitar lead lines and solos, around which are woven breezy Marimba melodies, new age synthesizer sounds, chiming metallic percussion and evocative classical orchestration. It's a magical blend of atmospheric and emotion-rich sounds, with "Childhood", "Tree", "Na Mo Che" and "Water Meadow" standing out.
Review: Japan's Motohiki Hamase, one of the nation's most revered jazz bassists, has primarily released music with the Isao Suzuki Quartet, but the output under his own name has always intrigued us - especially given that he's now out through Mule Musiq, and that this is his first solo outing since 1993! Intaglio strays way beyond the natural confinements of jazz, taking the gnere's heart and soul into an electronic voyage that seems to be totally undefinable. 'Organic ambient' seems to be the clearest way to describe these atmospheric experiments, a collection of rhythmic collages powered by Hamase's understanding of timing, acoustic balance, and the power that traditional jazz instruments can impose when processed in an innovative style. This is all about detail and aesthetic, so it comes recommended to fans of Cafe Oto's output, to cite one example. Warmly recommended.
Review: While he enjoyed a brief career as a musician in the 1960s, by the time he recorded debut album "Down On The Road By The Beach" in 1983 Steve Hiett was better known as one of the world's leading fashion photographers. In fact, it was at the suggestion of a Japanese gallery owner that he got back in the studio to record what has long been regarded as an impossible-to-find Balearic gem. Hiett's reverb and delay-laden Peter Green style guitar passages take centre stage throughout, winding in and out of languid grooves and ambient electronics to create what some have called "the ultimate desert island disc" - a record of such lazy, sun-kissed beauty that it sounds tailor made for drowsy days waking up on the beach.
Review: The latest volume in BBE's J Jazz Masterclass series is something of a stone-cold classic: then young Japanese pianist Makoto Terashita's 1983 album-length collaboration with legendary tenor saxophonist Harold Land. Somewhat surprisingly, this is the first time that the sought-after set has been reissued since, making it something of a must-have for serious jazz fans. Both players are clearly audible throughout the LP, with the accompanying bassist and drummer generally kept low in the mix. It's an approach that pays dividends from start to finish, with highlights including the poignant and picturesque "Dear Friends", the epic dancefloor flex of "Dragon Dance" and the raucous, high-octane thrills of "Crossing".