Three Leaders

Three Leaders

Recent recordings by RedivideR, Lauren Kinsella and Alex Huber, and Francesco Turrisi's Zahr suggest three different leadership styles in improvised music.

Lauren Kinsella

Matthew Jacobson, Lauren Kinsella and Francesco Turrisi are three bandleaders based in and around Dublin. Through their groups — Jacobson with RedivideR, Kinsella with a duo collaboration and Turrisi with his new group, Zahr – each contributes a personal take on music that celebrates the act of the improvised moment. They are all still in the early stages of their performing careers, yet each has released original music in the past year that merits focused listening.

RedivideR, Never Odd or Even (Diatribe, Ireland)

Matthew Jacobson, a drummer, leads this non-harmonic quartet made up of electric bass (Derek White), trombone (Colm O’Hara) and alto saxophone (Nick Roth). The conceptual basis for Jacobson’s writing can be traced back to South Indian classical music, rhythmic palindromes, artists like Vijay Iyer and free jazz. The group brings exuberant individual performances and real muscle to this recording. 

The unusual capitalisation of RedividerR’s name is not coincidental: palindromes run through this music. Such devices, of course, can be elegant in theory, yet less than effective (or even audible) in practice. However, RedivideR’s rhythms generate a current of energy that guides the music’s flow in nearly all of the nine original compositions.

The dominance of the low end of White’s fretless bass throughout the album exposes a missing middle register at times when O’Hara’s trombone drops out. Consequently, the moments when the higher range of the bass is explored, filling in the gap, are then very exciting.

O’Hara’s trombone and Roth’s alto saxophone improvisations are melodically inventive, with a kind of controlled wildness that can explode at any moment, while Jacobson, as bandleader, writes for the whole group, placing himself in a supporting, texture-building role.

Lauren Kinsella and Alex Huber – All This Talk (WideEarRecords, Switzerland)

This is a warm, very listenable recording. Kinsella is a vocalist, here teaming up with the Swiss drummer Alex Huber in an unlikely pairing (the idea of listening to solely vocals and drums for an entire sitting must take even the ardent fan out of their comfort zone). Kinsella, like Matthew Jacobson, is a recent graduate of the Newpark Music Centre in Dublin, which places a strong emphasis on rhythm — note that, like RedivideR, Kinsella and Huber both omit a harmonic instrument from their groups, with the brief exception of a melodica on All This Talk.

Kinsella’s voice is luscious, expressive and is capable of covering multiple different tones, each one distinctive and rich. Taking inspiration from the poetry of Ted Hughes (who is also an important influence for Kinsella’s larger band, Thought-Fox), she navigates between speech and melody. Sometimes it’s just a squeak or gestural sound, other times a note emerges out of a spoken line that pauses mid-sentence, or a delicate breathy soprano melody transforms into a bluesy turn.

Huber is a superb orchestrator, and can pick pulses out of Kinsella’s improvisations when there appear to be none.

Francesco Turrisi – Zahr (Taquín Records, Ireland)

The Italian pianist and accordionist Francesco Turrisi, now based in Bray, met the percussionist Andrea Piccioni at the Bray Jazz Festival in 2008. Both then formed the core of Zahr, with Fabio Tricomi, playing the oud, vielle, kemenche and percussion, becoming the third permanent member. This is the first recording on Turrisi’s own label, exploring Mediterranean music and instruments — though a tinge of jazz chromaticism occasionally leaps from Turrisi’s right hand. Of the nine tracks, four are originals; the rest are adaptations of traditional melodies. The magic is in the sound, touch and economy of each performer, as well as the attention to orchestration that Turrisi tends to bring to each of his projects. 

Zahr stick to a single groove or simple harmonic progression, which makes for a meditative and luscious listening experience. Turrisi is more often than not the facilitator, with Piccioni and Tricomi opening up the sound world. And while Turrisi’s function is to establish a mood, his solo expositions are consistently elegant and fluid. Have a listen to ‘Fronni d’Alia’, which begins with a spoken introduction and develops with a slow hypnotic sway. Piccioni’s frame drum introduces an rhythmic pattern of four groups of three beats, followed by one group of four, extending this sense of a push and pull play with time.

When three further Italian guests are added — vocalist Lucilla Galeazzi, bassist Mario Rivera and Sicilian piper Pietro Cernuto — things are taken up a notch. Both tracks featuring Galeazzi, ‘Tammurriata’ and ‘La Tarantella dell’Avena’, highlight a focused and sensitive group effort, which is cut through by Galeazzi’s evocative, husky voice, rich in vibrato. In both instances the band members join in one by one and peak splendidly in unison.

Published on 19 March 2012

Patrick Groenland is an Irish guitarist and composer. Having studied at the Berklee College of Music, Boston, he is now based in Dublin.

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