Well, here be dragons for, and I quote the sleeve notes, the music on this album is “the story of the known world (The Walled Garden) and the unknown forces outside that threaten its very existence (The Dragon). The hero voluntarily goes out to face the danger head-on.”
I must admit to not having met a dragon recently on CD, to my shame, nor I am familiar with the “pre-cosmological chaos of the Uroboros”, apparently the very first stage of the creation myth, according to Jungian psychologist Erich Neuman. All of which, I suppose, makes this set a sort of concept album, of the type much beloved by ancient prog-rockers. Luckily, it doesn’t sound like one.
Pianist Andrew McCormack has been at the forefront of British jazz since his debut, Telescope, appeared in 2006. He has the great skill of writing catchy melodies, often with a nod towards repetitive minimalist and systems music, driven along by his insistent piano riffs and flowing lines.
Saxophonist Josh Arcoleo provides the edge, drummer Joshua Blackmore the drive, the two alternating bassists the solidity. Vocalist Noemi Nuti is interesting, her vocalised scat meaningful when that approach is so often irritating. A little bit of electronic enhancement keeps everything up to date, notably on Magic Mentor. As it does, too, on Crossing The Threshold, where the rhythms and wordless vocals slide in and out of sync with each other.
Best of all is the strident The King Is Blind, its belting vocals and melodic overdrive aimed firmly at club life. It all adds up to a highly engaging set in which each track springs its own surprise. The dragons will be pleased.
Uroboros; Walled Garden; The Calling; Magic Mentor; Crossing The Threshold; The King Is Blind; Fork In The Road; Belly Of The Whale; Dragon; Returning (48.55)
McCormack (p); Noemi Nuti (v); Josh Arcoleo (ts); Tom Herbert, Robin Mullarkey (elb); Joshua Blackmore (d). London, 3–5 November, 9 December 2018.
Ubuntu Music UBU0025