RONNIE SCOTT’S | JANUARY 24TH
Virtuoso trumpeting sensation Matthew Halsall ensured he will remain well in front of the chasing pack again this year after an incredible full-house gig during which he revealed a clutch of new tracks and featured the koto – an ancient Japanese instrument seldom heard in Europe.
It is an exotic, wonderful and captivating object dating back to 700AD. The koto’s 13 strings are plucked horizontally and it’s magical to behold, let alone listen to. Manchester-based Halsall chose this concert at Ronnie Scott’s to introduce it – and some fresh material – to his audience.His timing was well judged. Mid-way through his top-billing set at the famous Soho jazz venue, after Halsall’s more-regular quartet – joined by harpist Rachael Gladwin, who provides an enchanting liquidity to his modal jazz – had wowed the capacity crowd with the first five tracks of his acclaimed 2011 album On The Go, the behatted (and more-recently bearded) maestro announced: “There should be a couple of other musicians joining us now.”The 29-year-old looked around hopefully, and before long silver-haired Clive Bell hopped on to the stage with a grin, armed with his Japanese flute. “There should be one more,” Halsall offered bashfully. Five seconds or so passed before Keiko Kitamura, dressed cap-à-pie in a stunning kimono, breezed past us and settled herself over her koto.The Hiroshima Prefecture-born Kitamura started alone, listeners shifted forward in their chairs to gain a better view, instantly mesmerised by the rich, haunting melody being strung out. The rest of the band – jaunty pianist Taz Modi, Rob Turner (also of GoGo Penguin) on the sticks, double-bassist Gavin Barras – joined in, before Halsall uncoiled from his ducked-down crouching position and blew us away.
Just as we thought the night had reached its peak, Halsall beckoned Zara McFarlane, the evening’s earlier performer, back on to sing another new track entitled When The World Was One.
In his four solo albums – the last of which, Fletcher Moss Park, he released on his own Gondwana Records label in October – Halsall has never before used a singer, so the powerful McFarlane opened up yet another dimension to his growing spectrum of work and nudged his star a notch higher. It was a taste of what Halsall’s excited fans can expect later this year; a new direction which will indubitably be gobbled up by the taste maker Gilles Peterson and his cohorts. And deservedly so.
Peterson was in attendance at Ronnie Scott’s but slipped away before Halsall’s encore, a homage to one of his greatest influences, Alice Coltrane, the avant-garde spiritual jazz composer, second wife to saxophone extraordinaire John Coltrane and great-aunt to Flying Lotus. However, the BBC Radio 6Music presenter later took to Twitter to offer his congratulations to Halsall and thank him and McFarlane, whose debut album was produced by his Brownswood Recordings label, for “a stupendous night of music”. He added: “Kotos and harps = the future!”
The immediate future it may well be for Halsall, and we can’t wait to hear much more. Intriguingly, though, there are also whispers that he will concurrently be serving up more goodness on a completely different, electronic vibe. That’s all hush hush at the moment, but what’s for certain is that 2013 should further elevate this supremely talented musician’s reputation and rapidly increasing popularity.
Words: Oliver Pickup (@CulturedClown)
Thanks to Tim Cumming’s for reviewing my performance @ Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
Matthew Halsall/Zara McFarlane, Ronnie Scott’s
Young Mancunian trumpeter holds the audience rapt, while accomplished vocalist offers spirit and charm
by Tim CummingFriday, 25 January 2013
Halsall: a low, strong and lingering power
Fronting her four piece band – pianist Peter Edwards and saxophonist Binker Golding among them – the young jazz/soul singer Zara McFarlane performs a mix of new songs and tunes from her album, Until Tomorrow. Among the former, “Woman in the Olive Groves” is inspired by a midnight taxi ride through southern Italy, passing an African woman by the highway, among the olive groves, trading her sex.This is set beside “Chiaroscuro” – what a word to get your jazz chops around – which gives Golding the chance to demonstrate the effect of light against dark in sound. There’s a fine version of her album’s title song, and a cover of “Police and Thieves” that wrings the street poetry and stature from it. McFarlane has the voice, the spirit, and the charm; you can tell, and it has an impact.
He demonstrates a sky-blue tone smeared with cloudy spirits, a full-cream sound in an astral body
Halsall, the young Mancunian trumpeter now on his fourth album, Fletcher Moss Park, takes to the stage to a sold out house, with a four piece line-up up of pianist Taz Modi, Rob Turner on drums and bassist Gavin Barras. Halsall stands only when he plays, otherwise crouching on the decks as pianist Modi plays in with an elegant, percussive solo on “Music for a Dancing Mind”, the first of several tunes from his On The Go album. When Halsall plays, he demonstrates a sky-blue tone smeared with cloudy spirits, a full-cream sound in an astral body, a spectral element.
“Song for Charlie” is a slow, mournful seata, a dialogue between lead trumpet, supple bass, brushed drums and piano. “The End of Dukkha” begins as the aural equivalent of a bas-relief in which half-recognisable figures emerge. The quartet picks up its weight and Halsall plays in the lower registers, with a low, strong and lingering power. They’re joined on “Shabata” by harpist Rachel Gladwin, embarking on a slow, heat-seeking groove. “The Journey Home” is a full-ensemble exploration with an emphasis on group spirit over solo voice, and they’re augmented for the last few, new and untitled numbers by Keiko Kitamura on Koto, and Shakuhachi player Clive Bell.
Bell’s Shauhachi takes the first solo against a pressure drop of bass, brushed drums and piano in a striking fusion of jazz and Japanese, and when it comes, Halsall’s solo is breathtaking. This is great stuff. The audience is rapt – even the waiting staff between table orders, turn their attention to the subtle magic on stage.
A lovely piece by writer Robert Ryan
A MODAL CITIZEN
Matthew Halsall: Fletcher Moss Park – The Guardian review
Manchester trumpeter Matthew Halsall has just signed the burning fusion energies of rising local stars GoGo Penguin to the label he runs, Gondwana, but his own soundworld is more contemplative. His group combines 1960s modal-jazz looseness with the meditative music of Alice Coltrane, thanks to the presence of fine harpist Rachael Gladwin in the ensemble. This set is Halsall’s heartfelt tribute to Manchester’s Fletcher Moss Park, an important personal retreat from his city’s turbulence. The leader’s trumpet sound is pure and his phrasing graceful (his interests span brass bands as well as electronica and trip-hop). The tracks range from the swirling piano and harp sounds of Cherry Blossom, to the title track’s glimmering harp sounds, arco bass and splashing cymbals, and the solemnly compelling low-trumpet epilogue, Finding My Way. That finale – joining the leader’s horn, Taz Modi’s alluring piano and Luke Flowers’ inventively drumming – unleashes a quiet drive; the rather passive playing elsewhere on the set could have used a shade more of that. JF
Matthew Halsall: Fletcher Moss Park – The Jazz Mann Review
“His most individual and personalised album to date – and arguably his best.”
“Fletcher Moss Park” represents Manchester based trumpeter and composer Halsall’s fourth album exploring the musical legacy of Miles Davis’ modal (“Kind Of Blue”) period and the later “spiritual jazz” of John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, and Pharaoh Sanders. “Sending My Love” (2008) and “Colour Yes” (2009) were followed by 2011’s “On The Go”, the first Halsall recording to be reviewed on this site.
All three have a deeply personalised sound and atmosphere which Halsall takes a stage further on “Fletcher Moss Park”, released on his own Gondwana label. Indeed there’s an almost Zen like calm about the music here, the mood of contemplation enhanced by the bucolic surroundings that inspired it. Fletcher Moss Park in suburban Didsbury was donated to the city of Manchester in 1919 by Alderman Fletcher Moss, a well known philanthropist. The park includes a walled rock garden laid out by the botanist Robert Wood Williamson plus a variety of wildlife habitats. Little more than a stone’s throw from the M63 the park represents a veritable oasis amidst Manchester’s suburban sprawl. The area has provided Halsall with a respite from the rush of city life, an area in which to meditate and write and the music on the album is evocative of this spiritual retreat, it’s the logical culmination of the journey documented on Halsall’s previous three recordings.
The personnel on “Fletcher Moss Park” includes many familiar faces from his previous releases with the nucleus concentrated around the regular members of his six piece working band. Fellow spiritual traveller Nat Birchall plays saxophone on the first three cuts, although his role is essentially textural, bassist Gavin Barras is a constant presence with piano duties being shared between Adam Fairhall and Taz Modi. Rachael Gladwin’s harp graces four tracks and the drum stool is shared between Gaz Hughes and Luke Flowers. Elsewhere Lisa Mallett’s flute is heard on the descriptive “The Sun In September” and an unusual string quartet (violinists Holly Simpson and Davinder Singh, cellist Adrianne Wininsky plus the double bass of Barras) appear on two back to back interludes.
The seven track programme begins with “Cherry Blossom”, the lush introduction featuring the glistening harp playing of Gladwin, a musician who now seems to be a more fully integrated member of the ensemble following her previous “guest appearances”. The main body of the tune features Halsall’s mellifluous trumpet meditations above Hughes’ gently brushed grooves and Barras’ deeply resonant bass pulse. Fairhall’s piano is lyrical and flowing, capturing something of the fragility of the tune’s subject. A lovely start.
The mood is sustained by the introduction to the title track as Gladwin’s harp intertwines with Barras’ luxuriantly rich arco bass. The bassist then picks out a sturdy plucked groove which serves as the backbone for some richly textured ensemble passages plus unhurriedly eloquent solos from Halsall and Gladwin.
“Mary Emma Louise” (“a tribute to someone special” says the press release) features the leader’s long, wistful trumpet melody lines and a plangent solo above the quietly busy rhythms of Hughes and Barras. Gladwin’s harp adds its distinctive lustre to the proceedings and there’s also something of a feature for the consistently excellent Barras.
Halsall actually sits out on the two string quartet pieces “Sailing Out To Sea” and “Wee Lan” (translation “Little Orchid”) stating that the musicians involved captured his intentions perfectly without recourse to further embellishment. “Sailing Out To Sea” is a charming miniature full of delightfully rich string textures that evoke a certain poignancy.
“Wee Lan” sees Barras putting down his bow and creating a bass figure around which the others gravitate, sometimes bowing but also playing pizzicato as they evoke the oriental imagery suggested by the tune’s title. Like so much of Halsall’s music this delightful musical morsel has a strongly descriptive quality.
The final two pieces, “The Sun In September” and “Finding My Way” find Halsall collaborating with pianist Taz Modi and drummer Luke Flowers, musicians with whom he also works in an electronica influenced trio. The versatile Halsall also runs the occasional twelve piece ensemble the Gondwana Orchestra, works as DJ, producer and re-mixer, and has even collaborated with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, an experience that may have influenced the rich colours and textures to be heard on “Fletcher Moss Park”.
“The Sun In September” also features Gladwin’s harp and Mallett’s flute, the latter evoking both Oriental and Celtic images in a superb performance. Halsall’s rich toned solo sounds flugel like, with the understated accompaniment of Modi, Flowers and Barrass complementing the front line soloists superbly and with Gladwin also sprinkling some harp generated fairy dust on to the proceedings.
The closing “Finding My Way” features the skittering, electronica influenced grooves of Flowers, an extension of his role with the trio and also a nod to his work with the Cinematic Orchestra. Modi also comes into his own here alongside the slightly melancholy ring of Halsall’s trumpet. This is the most contemporary sounding item on the record but it still fits in neatly with the album’s overall mood and ethos.
“Fletcher Moss Park” is less obviously in thrall to Davis and Coltrane than Halsall’s previous offerings and as such represents his most individual and personalised album to date – and arguably his best. The mood of contemplation and spirituality is maintained throughout, it’s as if William Blake had taken up the trumpet and moved to Manchester.
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Matthew Halsall: Fletcher Moss Park – BBC Music Review
Manchester musician carves a strong individual identity on album four.
Daniel Spicer 2012-12-03
Since the release of his 2008 debut, Sending My Love, Manchester-based trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall has worked through his influences, album by album, in pursuit of an original voice.
His first few albums displayed a clear debt to the spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders et al, viewed through the post-trip hop haze of The Cinematic Orchestra; and 2011’s On the Go dipped into Art Blakey’s 50s hard bop. With Fletcher Moss Park, Halsall has nailed a compelling musical identity of his own.
The seeds had already been sown. On the Go’s Song for Charlie was a diaphanous ballad with sighing brushwork and melancholic melodies that made Halsall – along with guitarist (and Cinematic Orchestra member) Stuart McCallum – a key figure in a nascent Mancuniana, creating bittersweet, gently-grooving, down-tempo soundtracks for the city’s rain-soaked rooftops.
Fletcher Moss Park – named after a peaceful oasis of parkland in Manchester’s urban bustle – develops the idea still further. Pieces like the title track and Cherry Blossom use gentle rhythms, simple bass hooks and spacious themes to create understated, introspective moods that owe as much to Erik Satie as they do to Miles Davis.
Like Miles, much of Halsall’s skill lies not necessarily in his playing (which can seem a little tentative at times) but in his arrangements and knack for assembling a band. And here he’s aided by some of the most talented players in the north of England.
Saxophonist Nat Birchall and pianist Adam Fairhall both bring a depth that connects right back to the 60s and 70s spiritual jazz that helped form Halsall’s aesthetic – with Fairhall’s comping on the title track revelling in a stately, laid-back authority. And Rachael Gladwin’s harp solos on tracks like Mary Emma Louise show Halsall’s still happy to offer a respectful nod to Alice Coltrane.
On the most propulsive cut of the album, Finding My Way, Cinematic Orchestra drummer Luke Flowers offers a deceptively driving groove of sticks, snare and rim-shots that nips along like the late-90s acoustic drum’n’bass experiments of 4hero. But it still feels like a beautifully happy-sad afternoon drinking hot sweet tea and watching raindrops run down the windowpane.
Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) + GoGo Penguin (Live) + Nat Birchall (DJ Set) @ Band on the Wall in Manchester
Matthew Halsall: Fletcher Moss Park Mojo Review
Inspired by the beauty of local Didsbury greenery, the Manchester trumpeter again upsets the purists but delights romantics, adding harp, flute and string trio, for a meditative album of haunting eastern influenced spiritual jazz. AM
The Gondwana Records Story: Retro and Future Jazz Sounds
A small jazz label doing adventurous work is as newsworthy as dog bites man, I know, but to the roll-call of the worthy independents ASC, Babel, Basho, Candid, Edition and F-Ire, can be added the name Gondwana, which came about when Manchester trumpeter Matthew Halsall sat in at Matt and Phred’s jazz club, and decided that the talent on display needed an outlet.
Releases so far include four from Halsall, and three from saxophonist Nat Birchall. “When I first saw Nat play,” recalls Halsall, “he was playing ‘Journey in Satchidananda’, the Alice Coltrane tune, and I was [thinking], this guy’s exactly on the same wavelength as me.” The affinity between the two musicians is strong. They regularly appear on each other’s records and tend to draw on the same pool of players, including harpist Rachael Gladwin, bassist Gavin Barras, and pianist Adam Fairhall, giving the label an identifiable sound – the modal explorations of Miles and Trane reflected through Halsall and Birchall’s own deep feelings – and titles such as Birchall’s Sacred Dimension suggest a ready classification: Spiritual Jazz.
Halsall has no problems with the term. “I studied at the Mahareshi Meditation School, so I did a lot of meditation and studied a lot of philosophy and Indian meditation, and I’ve also studied Buddhist meditation, and Nat’s partner teaches Yoga, and he’s into all sorts of spiritual philosophies. So it definitely is a part of who we are as individuals, and it’s become part of the sound of the label.”
And, bucking the trend of the jazz economy, the venture is gratifyingly successful. “We haven’t lost a penny yet,” says Halsall. “We’re in profit on every single record and we’ve had enough profit to continue making future releases. The first ones from Nat and me made enough to get our money back and make another record. And then each time we’ve made another record it’s made more money, so we’re getting more and more money each time. Apart from slowing down, it seems that sales are increasing on every release.”
It helps that the music is immediately attractive: serene, quietly yearning, marked by restraint and space. Halsall’s latest, Fletcher Moss Park, embellishes with the textures of flute and harp and string quartet. If it sounds bucolic, it may be because the pieces were composed in nature’s bower: “I like to make music in different environments, so I’ll make music in the park, or in a nice pub somewhere. Wherever I take my laptop, I’ll make music there.”
Hence, the title of the album: much of the music was actually conceived in Fletcher Moss Park, Manchester’s most prominent botanical garden and wildlife habitat. But does he favour the nicely cultivated garden or the wilder bits?
“Both,” says Halsall. “Some of it was written in the top bit where the cafe is, because I like a good cup of tea, so I sit in the cafe area looking down on the botanical gardens, and then I’ll also write down in the wilder bits further up.”
Halsall elaborates on his working methods.”I tend to not think about what I’m creating. I just go with my gut instincts. If I’m liking the sounds of the notes I’m playing on the piano, or on a laptop than I go with it. Each month I’ll have ten tracks that really stand out and they’re the ones that I’ll take into the studio. They’re just ideas at that stage, bare melodies, bass lines and chords. Luckily, there’s always about six that work.”
If I have a criticism, it might be that the music offers a gloss on Miles’ Kind of Blue, and Kind of Blue is now more than half a century old. Halsall concedes the point and explains: “The artists I listen to, they always started in something that was either of the moment or [distilled from] past moments, and then they start to mould it into their own thing, expanding their influences and listening to new music. I’m still finding my way with various technologies and all sorts of new techniques with my trumpet. I want to make a stand-out record that people will look back to like they did with Miles’ electric, groundbreaking projects. But I’m not rushing to make the new sound because I want it to be really special when it comes out.”
Halsall’s trio project, utilising trumpet, electronics, Rhodes keyboard, and drums, is more obviously bound for the outer limits, but has so far not been recorded. However, the latest release on Gondwana, marking a departure for the label, does offer a future sound of jazz, and a crackling, vital future sound of jazz too.
The rhythms heard on Fanfares by GoGo Penguin didn’t exist fifty years ago. Demonstrating that the piano trio is the most forward-looking vehicle in jazz today, Chris Illingworth’s rippling arpeggios vie with unexpected and spooky noises that can be traced to Grant Russell’s bass more by elimination than anything. Remarkably, Russell emulates electronic textures with just a bow, reproducing the shock without the synthetics. Drummer Rob Turner can turn rhythm on a hairpin, dividing and then sub-dividing the beat into discrete parts for spontaneous counterpoint. He is a marvel. Esbjorn Svensson is a reference point, yes, in the invigorating use of diminuendo and crescendo, but Queens of the Stone Age are in there too (their showstopping cover of ’Song for the Deaf’ is not included, alas).
Techno and rock influences abound in a sound that is essentially simple, melodically-based and brimming with positive energy. How Manchester!
Posted by Mike Butler on Sunday, 4 November 2012
GONDCD007 – Matthew Halsall – Fletcher Moss Park (2012)
Matthew Halsall’s new album ‘Fletcher Moss Park’ will be released on Gondwana Records on Monday 15th October 2012.
23/11/2012 – Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) – Soundcrash @ The Forum, London
Soundcrash presents a celebration of live Jazz in its many variants; from Seun Kuti’s devastatingly infectious Afrobeat to Jazzanova’s love affair with electronica and Matthew Halsall’s deep spiritual jazz. We’re in for a very special evening of music excellence. Join us!
10/11/2012 – Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) – Wah Wah Live @ The Scala, London
Matthew Halsall will be performing live at Wah Wah Live at The Scala in London on Saturday 10th November 2012.
Label Love Vol. 5: The Jazz Edition
Label Love is an eclectic yet unified bundle of unique sounds compiled simply for the love of sharing them with the universe – each track plucked and presented by Jazz heads from Tru Thoughts Recordings, Impossible Ark Records, Gondwana Records, Jazzman Records, Edition Records, Katalyst Entertainment, Revive Music Group, and Basho Records.
Label Love Volume 5: The Jazz Edition showcases a broad range of Jazz, with the goal of expanding minds to the magical genre and its many forms.
Each label and artist evokes its own signature giving this collection a diversified and interesting flow. Label Love consists of nostalgic jazz classics, unreleased gems, and exclusive selections.
Feel free to blog, play, tweet, blast, post, etc … please share the love of Jazz.
15/09/2012 – Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) @ Imperial Wharf Jazz Festival 2012, London
Mathew Halsall Trio will be performing live at Imperial Wharf Jazz Festival in London on Saturday 15th September 2012.
Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) @ Soundwave Festival 2012, Croatia
We had an amazing time @ Soundwave Festival 2012. Big ups to all who made it down to the festival and the people behind the scenes for making it such a special event!!!
22/07/2012 – Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) @ Soundwave Festival 2012, Croatia
Matthew Halsall will be performing live at Soundwave Festival in Croatia on Sunday 22nd July 2012 at 6pm.
Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) @ Worldwide Festival 2012, France
Wow had such an amazing time @ the Worldwide Festival in Sete, France. Theatre De La Mer has to be one of the best venues in the world!! Big ups to Gilles Peterson and all the people at the festival.
06/07/2012 – Matthew Halsall Trio (Live) @ Worldwide Festival 2012, France
Matthew Halsall with Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band (Live) @ Holmfirth Arts Festival (YouTube Video)
Matthew Halsall with Brighouse & Rastrick Band covering The Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘Ode to the Big Sea’ @ Holmfirth Arts Festival on 16th June 2012.
16/07/2012 – Matthew Halsall with Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band (Live) @ Holmfirth Arts Festival 2012
Matthew Halsall is currently working on a special project with a 28 piece brass band (Brighouse & Rastrick Band). In this project Matthew and the band will re-arrange his compositions and perform them live as part of the Homlfirth Arts Festival on 16th June.
Matthew Halsall (Live) @ Spring Festival 2012, Austria
We had an amazing time at Spring Festival in Graz, Austria. Big thanks to Gilles Peterson, Patrick Forge, Janine Dingwalls and all the people at the festival for making it such a special night.