Fractus: Fractus

A Greek, five Scots, one German and an Englishman walk into a recording studio and set in motion Keats' idea that beauty is truth


A Greek urn inspired poet John Keats to declare that beauty is truth. A Greek, five Scots, one German and an Englishman set that poetry in motion on Fractus. Six compositions from bassist Mark Hendry reveal deep-soul sensitivity with no dressing up or showing off. The sadness is sweet. The euphoria is hard to trust. Emotions overlap, just like in real life.

Hendry’s octet combines rising stars who mix jazz with folk and classical elements. The EP features Greek vocalist Irini Arabatzi, German violinist Bernadette Kellermann and English accordion player Dan Brown. Scottish players Juliette Lemoine (cello) and Greg Irons (drums) join Matt Carmichael’s tenor saxophone, with Mercury Prize shortlister Fergus McCreadie on piano.

Harbour opens with long-notes from strings and accordion. Lyrics announce the return to a beloved homeplace. Carmichael’s serrated saxophone twirls across the shoreline. The music patiently unfolds and enfolds Arabatzi’s crystal-glass vocal. Hendry sprinkles heavy bass notes into the blend with a light touch.

Strings shape the initial moments of Horizon, too. The cello adds an urgent, bow-drawn figure. Drums bust out a rockish beat halfway through. Then comes the saxophone with a stripped-back riff that becomes a screaming improvisation. The group strikes a perfect balance behind the howling horn.

McCreadie’s piano offers a pretty opening to Sifting Tides, a pop-adjacent ballad with worldly-wise lyrics. A false ending opens up to a new rhythmic landscape, with long notes sung over pulsing piano chords.

Fractus is the latest heart-stoppingly gorgeous release from Scotland’s gifted community of young jazz-folk artists. The group brings together exciting talents with lots to say and nothing to prove. At less than 30 minutes, it is perhaps too short – but so is life. This is a record that speaks plain truth in every beat and syllable. It is truly beautiful.

Harbour; Tallinn; Plastic Vortex; Horizon; Smog; Sifting Tides (28.02)
Matt Carmichael (ts); Fergus McCreadie (p); Dan Brown (acc); Bernadette Kellermann (vn); Juliette Lemoine (clo); Mark Hendry (b); Greg Irons (d); Irini Arabatzi (v). Glasgow, Scotland 2023.