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Cloudmakers Five - Traveling Pulse Rating: 4-5 out of 5 A quintet at the height of its creative powers. The way they bounce ideas off each other is consistently thrilling and the individual solos frequently dazzling.

Cloudmakers Five

“Traveling Pulse”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4719)

The Cloudmakers project is the brainchild of vibraphonist (and sometimes drummer and pianist) Jim Hart.

Hart is in mallet man mode in this outfit which began as the Cloudmakers Trio with the leader joined by double bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Dave Smith, with whom he recorded the albums “Live at the Pizza Express” (2012) and “Abstract Forces” (2014), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

The live recording saw the core trio joined by a guest musician, the American trumpeter Ralph Alessi, with the latter making an excellent contribution to an exceptional evening of creative music making which was happily documented for the delectation of the jazz listening public.

The studio outing, “Abstract Forces”, was nearly as fine with the trio of Hart, Janisch and Smith proving they could cut it on their own as they tackled Hart’s often complex material with aplomb and made it sound easy.

The Cloudmakers have continued to work with guest musicians and in 2017 toured with the Austrian born, London based guitarist Hannes Riepler and the French saxophonist and clarinettist Antonin-Tri Hoang. Then billed as Cloudmakers Trio plus Two the new quintet played one of the last ever jazz gigs at the much missed Dempsey’s in Cardiff on January 17th 2017, a performance reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/cloudmakers-trio-plus-two-dempseys-cardiff-17-01-2017/

Two months later the quintet played two nights at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London where this live recording was documented on 10th and 11th of March 2017. All six pieces on the fifty five minute recording were also performed in Cardiff where the band also dipped into the standards repertoire with a remarkable version of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” plus “And Another Thing” , a clever mash up of “All The Things You Are” and Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology”. At Dempsey’s the group also performed the Hart original “Back Home” which does not appear on this recording.

Originally from Cornwall Hart lived in London for a lengthy period and was a founding member of the Loop Collective, alongside Smith and others. He has since moved to France, a fact mirrored in the title of the album opener “The Past Is Another Country”, which reflects on Hart’s new status as a ‘foreigner’ while also referencing Brexit and the Syrian refugee crisis. The piece begins in an atmospheric, freely structured manner featuring the eerie sounds of bowed vibes and the plaintive piping of Hoang’s alto. Gradually a melody emerges and the music begins to develop, growing in both complexity and intensity with Hoang’s playing becoming increasingly impassioned. The saxophonist combines effectively with Riepler’s enveloping, heavily processed guitar sound while the core trio of Hart, Janisch and Smith deliver fluid, but tightly meshed, pulses and rhythms. Despite the complexity of the music I noted that at Cardiff none of the players was reading sheet music suggesting that improvisation plays a huge role in the quintet’s sound. One suspects that no two performances of any one piece are ever completely alike. The opener also includes some dazzling four mallet vibes soloing from Hart in the tune’s latter stages.

The title track, which is subtitled “Somewhere North Of Ghana”, is derived from the polyrhythmic Dagare funeral music from Northern Ghana. Hart also plays with the Norwegian saxophonist and composer Marius Neset who arrived at the same rhythmic pattern systematically, with no prior knowledge of the Dagare music. “I was interested that this same rhythm could arise from such distinct origins and sound so different. This is my attempt to bridge the two worlds” the composer explains.
The music begins with Smith tapping out the rhythm on a woodblock and demonstrating the kind of mastery of African rhythms that has informed his own bands, Outhouse and Fofoulah, as well as earning him a lucrative gig as the drummer of choice for former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant.
The complex “8 over 9 over 12” rhythm helps to conjure a superb performance from the quintet with each member shining collectively as well as individually. In a fiercely interactive band like the Cloudmakers Five solos are less clearly delineated than in more straight-ahead forms of jazz but there are still marvellous moments from Riepler on guitar and Hoang on alto, including a stunning passage of unaccompanied saxophone. Despite the complexities this is still highly accessible music, uplifting and positively anthemic at times.

“Golden” is a lullaby for Hart’s young son Cosmo, who was born in Alsace, France in 2014. The piece begins with a suitably dreamy passage of unaccompanied guitar from Riepler that is sometimes reminiscent of Pat Metheny or Bill Frisell. It’s probably the closest this band gets to a ballad but there’s still plenty of gristle in the sound thanks to Hoang’s abrasive alto sax harmolodics. The reed man subsequently moves to clarinet, adopting a softer sound as he combines with Riepler’s guitar, the two instruments pirouetting delightfully around each other.

“The Road (for ED)” was written about a long drive from London back to Hart’s native Cornwall. The piece is dedicated to Hart’s brother Ed and also to the late, great drummer Ed Blackwell. Given that it comes as no surprise to find that this is a highly rhythmic and percussive work which opens with a bravura drum salvo from Smith. The drummer is explosive form throughout as he powers the garrulous sax and guitar dialogue between Hoang and Riepler and the chiming four mallet vibes solo from Hart.

“The Exchange” began life as a poem written, in French, by Hart’s wife Maud, describing a chance, wordless encounter on the London Underground.  Hart’s piece represents a musical setting of her words and features the quintet at their most impressionistic. With Hoang moving to clarinet the instrumental exchanges are gentle and whimsical, one can almost hear the musicians thinking. Hart describes the piece as “an illusive resolution – a melody trying to get somewhere but never quite does” - although the tune does quite animated during its later stages with the leader soloing in bravura fashion on vibes. At Cardiff this piece reminded me of the music of Claudia Quintet, which remains a viable comparison.

The final piece, “Cycle Song (For JT)”  is dedicated to the memory of the late, great British pianist and composer John Taylor, one of Hart’s musical heroes and a hugely influential presence on the British jazz scene. Introduced by an extended, but thoroughly absorbing, dialogue between Janisch’s bass and Smith’s drums the piece gradually accrues layers of melody and complexity as vibes, alto sax and guitar are added to the equation. Hart, Hoang and Riepler all solo briefly, but vivaciously, before embarking on a vigorous series of musical exchanges as the album ends on an energetic note.  This last piece is a genuine celebration of the man whose fellow musicians called him ‘JT’.

For me, personally, “Traveling Pulse” represents a great souvenir of that Dempsey’s gig in January 2017, my last at the venue prior to its much lamented closure. But the album is also a fine piece of work in its own right, documenting the music of a quintet at the height of its creative powers. In the true spirit of jazz the performances are substantially different to the ones I documented in Cardiff.
The music is complex and demands close attention but it remains accessible and in no way alienating. Hart’s writing is intelligent and open ended enough to give these five master musicians plenty of space in which to shine. The way they bounce ideas off each other is consistently thrilling and the individual solos frequently dazzling. But it’s the way the quintet comes together as a fabulous multi-limbed, multi-coloured entity that is perhaps the most exciting aspect of all. These guys are genuine virtuosos who use their prodigious skills in the service of some terrific music.

“Traveling Pulse” is the latest in a series of excellent live albums issued by Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label, although not all of them, including this release, are titled as such. A word too for the production and engineering team of Hart, Alex Bonney, Ali Ward and Tyler McDiarmid plus the distinctive, Magritte inspired, artwork of Sophie Moates.

 

Traveling Pulse

Cloudmakers Five

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Traveling Pulse

A quintet at the height of its creative powers. The way they bounce ideas off each other is consistently thrilling and the individual solos frequently dazzling.

Cloudmakers Five

“Traveling Pulse”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4719)

The Cloudmakers project is the brainchild of vibraphonist (and sometimes drummer and pianist) Jim Hart.

Hart is in mallet man mode in this outfit which began as the Cloudmakers Trio with the leader joined by double bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Dave Smith, with whom he recorded the albums “Live at the Pizza Express” (2012) and “Abstract Forces” (2014), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

The live recording saw the core trio joined by a guest musician, the American trumpeter Ralph Alessi, with the latter making an excellent contribution to an exceptional evening of creative music making which was happily documented for the delectation of the jazz listening public.

The studio outing, “Abstract Forces”, was nearly as fine with the trio of Hart, Janisch and Smith proving they could cut it on their own as they tackled Hart’s often complex material with aplomb and made it sound easy.

The Cloudmakers have continued to work with guest musicians and in 2017 toured with the Austrian born, London based guitarist Hannes Riepler and the French saxophonist and clarinettist Antonin-Tri Hoang. Then billed as Cloudmakers Trio plus Two the new quintet played one of the last ever jazz gigs at the much missed Dempsey’s in Cardiff on January 17th 2017, a performance reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/cloudmakers-trio-plus-two-dempseys-cardiff-17-01-2017/

Two months later the quintet played two nights at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London where this live recording was documented on 10th and 11th of March 2017. All six pieces on the fifty five minute recording were also performed in Cardiff where the band also dipped into the standards repertoire with a remarkable version of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” plus “And Another Thing” , a clever mash up of “All The Things You Are” and Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology”. At Dempsey’s the group also performed the Hart original “Back Home” which does not appear on this recording.

Originally from Cornwall Hart lived in London for a lengthy period and was a founding member of the Loop Collective, alongside Smith and others. He has since moved to France, a fact mirrored in the title of the album opener “The Past Is Another Country”, which reflects on Hart’s new status as a ‘foreigner’ while also referencing Brexit and the Syrian refugee crisis. The piece begins in an atmospheric, freely structured manner featuring the eerie sounds of bowed vibes and the plaintive piping of Hoang’s alto. Gradually a melody emerges and the music begins to develop, growing in both complexity and intensity with Hoang’s playing becoming increasingly impassioned. The saxophonist combines effectively with Riepler’s enveloping, heavily processed guitar sound while the core trio of Hart, Janisch and Smith deliver fluid, but tightly meshed, pulses and rhythms. Despite the complexity of the music I noted that at Cardiff none of the players was reading sheet music suggesting that improvisation plays a huge role in the quintet’s sound. One suspects that no two performances of any one piece are ever completely alike. The opener also includes some dazzling four mallet vibes soloing from Hart in the tune’s latter stages.

The title track, which is subtitled “Somewhere North Of Ghana”, is derived from the polyrhythmic Dagare funeral music from Northern Ghana. Hart also plays with the Norwegian saxophonist and composer Marius Neset who arrived at the same rhythmic pattern systematically, with no prior knowledge of the Dagare music. “I was interested that this same rhythm could arise from such distinct origins and sound so different. This is my attempt to bridge the two worlds” the composer explains.
The music begins with Smith tapping out the rhythm on a woodblock and demonstrating the kind of mastery of African rhythms that has informed his own bands, Outhouse and Fofoulah, as well as earning him a lucrative gig as the drummer of choice for former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant.
The complex “8 over 9 over 12” rhythm helps to conjure a superb performance from the quintet with each member shining collectively as well as individually. In a fiercely interactive band like the Cloudmakers Five solos are less clearly delineated than in more straight-ahead forms of jazz but there are still marvellous moments from Riepler on guitar and Hoang on alto, including a stunning passage of unaccompanied saxophone. Despite the complexities this is still highly accessible music, uplifting and positively anthemic at times.

“Golden” is a lullaby for Hart’s young son Cosmo, who was born in Alsace, France in 2014. The piece begins with a suitably dreamy passage of unaccompanied guitar from Riepler that is sometimes reminiscent of Pat Metheny or Bill Frisell. It’s probably the closest this band gets to a ballad but there’s still plenty of gristle in the sound thanks to Hoang’s abrasive alto sax harmolodics. The reed man subsequently moves to clarinet, adopting a softer sound as he combines with Riepler’s guitar, the two instruments pirouetting delightfully around each other.

“The Road (for ED)” was written about a long drive from London back to Hart’s native Cornwall. The piece is dedicated to Hart’s brother Ed and also to the late, great drummer Ed Blackwell. Given that it comes as no surprise to find that this is a highly rhythmic and percussive work which opens with a bravura drum salvo from Smith. The drummer is explosive form throughout as he powers the garrulous sax and guitar dialogue between Hoang and Riepler and the chiming four mallet vibes solo from Hart.

“The Exchange” began life as a poem written, in French, by Hart’s wife Maud, describing a chance, wordless encounter on the London Underground.  Hart’s piece represents a musical setting of her words and features the quintet at their most impressionistic. With Hoang moving to clarinet the instrumental exchanges are gentle and whimsical, one can almost hear the musicians thinking. Hart describes the piece as “an illusive resolution – a melody trying to get somewhere but never quite does” - although the tune does quite animated during its later stages with the leader soloing in bravura fashion on vibes. At Cardiff this piece reminded me of the music of Claudia Quintet, which remains a viable comparison.

The final piece, “Cycle Song (For JT)”  is dedicated to the memory of the late, great British pianist and composer John Taylor, one of Hart’s musical heroes and a hugely influential presence on the British jazz scene. Introduced by an extended, but thoroughly absorbing, dialogue between Janisch’s bass and Smith’s drums the piece gradually accrues layers of melody and complexity as vibes, alto sax and guitar are added to the equation. Hart, Hoang and Riepler all solo briefly, but vivaciously, before embarking on a vigorous series of musical exchanges as the album ends on an energetic note.  This last piece is a genuine celebration of the man whose fellow musicians called him ‘JT’.

For me, personally, “Traveling Pulse” represents a great souvenir of that Dempsey’s gig in January 2017, my last at the venue prior to its much lamented closure. But the album is also a fine piece of work in its own right, documenting the music of a quintet at the height of its creative powers. In the true spirit of jazz the performances are substantially different to the ones I documented in Cardiff.
The music is complex and demands close attention but it remains accessible and in no way alienating. Hart’s writing is intelligent and open ended enough to give these five master musicians plenty of space in which to shine. The way they bounce ideas off each other is consistently thrilling and the individual solos frequently dazzling. But it’s the way the quintet comes together as a fabulous multi-limbed, multi-coloured entity that is perhaps the most exciting aspect of all. These guys are genuine virtuosos who use their prodigious skills in the service of some terrific music.

“Traveling Pulse” is the latest in a series of excellent live albums issued by Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label, although not all of them, including this release, are titled as such. A word too for the production and engineering team of Hart, Alex Bonney, Ali Ward and Tyler McDiarmid plus the distinctive, Magritte inspired, artwork of Sophie Moates.

 


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