Theo Erskine & Mark Kavuma: UltraSound

Thelonious Monk is a substantial influence in a set led by saxophonist Erskine and trumpeter Kavuma and featuring pianist Noah Stoneman


Trumpeter Mark Kavuma’s Banger Factory Records goes from strength to strength, its fifth release featuring Kavuma’s new partnership with saxophonist Theo Erskine and a rhythm section including on-form pianist Noah Stoneman.

This new album arose out of the necessities of the pandemic, when collaboration was put on hold and personal meetings were off limits. Long-starved of creative music-making, the musicians responded to the lifting of restrictions when they eventually met up again with a palpable joy but also some obvious reflection.

The opening track encapsulates their delight at the reunion, inspired by their shared love of Monk’s Live At The It Club set, recorded in 1964. Written by bassist Michael Shrimping, the piece captures Monk perfectly in its angular leaps and unexpected rhythmic stutters, Erskine and then Kavuma returning to the 1950s and 60s in shared devotion.

Stoneman’s Monkish piano then guides the gentle melody of The Loneliest, his solo a model of inventive delivery, Kavuma again an effective soloist. The Return Of Johnny Bravo, a Kavuma composition, is hard bop at its best, a whirlwind performance that brings out the best in everyone. Stoneman’s June is an engaging melody with repeating bass hook, the concluding The Day After Tomorrow a feature for Erskine’s powerful tenor.

I always expect the best from Kavuma, and yet again I am not disappointed. At just over 30 minutes, this set could easily have been twice the length and just as meaningful, for it leaves me wanting more. The pandemic continues to deliver the goods.

IT; The Loneliest; The Return Of Johnny Bravo (20.15) – June; The Day After Tomorrow (11.24)
Erskine (ts); Kavuma (t); Noah Stoneman (p); Michael Shrimping (b); Shane Forbes (d). London, 2022/23?
Banger Factory Records BF006