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Julian Arguelles - Tonadas Rating: 4-5 out of 5 The writing is rich and melodic, sometimes complex but always engaging, and the standard of playing from all four musicians is exceptional. Another milestone in Arguelles’ glittering career.

Julian Arguelles

“Tonadas”

(Edition Records EDN1116)

The Birmingham born saxophonist Julian Arguelles first came to prominence in the late 1980s/early 1990s as a member of the seminal Loose Tubes, the young twenty plus ensemble that also spawned such significant British musicians as Django Bates, Iain Ballamy, Mark Lockheart and Martin France.

Like Arguelles all these have charted a path from young tyros to comparative elder statesmen, but all have done so by following a consistently creative path, and none more so than Arguelles whose solo career has found him releasing a string of excellent albums in a variety of formats ranging from solo to big band and working with leading jazz musicians from the UK, Europe and the US,  maintaining a remarkably high standard of creativity throughout. 

Arguelles’ début recording as a leader was released in 1991 and announced the arrival of a major new presence on the British jazz scene. “Phaedrus” was a quartet album that revealed Arguelles’ huge talent as a writer as pianist John Taylor, drummer Martin France and bassist Mick Hutton helped to give voice to his multi-faceted compositions. 

Subsequent releases saw Arguelles successfully exploring a wide range of instrumental configurations as he turned his back on the classic quartet format until 2014 and the release of the album “Circularity” on the Italian Cam Jazz imprint. This superb recording featured an all star British cast of France at the drums, US domiciled Dave Holland on double bass and the late great John Taylor on piano. 

This was hardly the kind of line up that was likely to go out on the road and with his passion for the quartet format renewed Arguelles set about about forming a new group featuring some of the UK’s top up and coming musicians. The new band was called Tetra and featured Kit Downes on piano, Sam Lasserson on double bass and James Maddren on drums, a pride of young lions who these days are nearly as busy as their illustrious predecessors.

In 2015 the new quartet released “Tetra”, the album, on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label. The record was right up there with Arguelles’ best, a beguiling mix of sophisticated writing and great playing. I was also fortunate enough to witness a superb performance of the album material at the Parabola Arts Centre as part of the 2015 Cheltenham Jazz Festival by an extended line up which saw the core quartet augmented by George Crowley (saxophones, bass clarinet), Percy Pursglove (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Kieran McLeod (trombone). The core group also gigged regularly and I subsequently enjoyed a performance by the four piece Tetra at The Hive Arts Centre in Shrewsbury in June 2016.

It’s tempting to see the quartet that appears on “Tonadas” as an extension of the Tetra group, but the new album sees the dropping of the ‘Tetra’ name, a move to the Edition record label and a change in the piano chair with Downes replaced by Ivo Neame, of Phronesis fame.

Arguelles and Neame first worked together when the saxophonist guested with the collaborative trio Escape Hatch, featuring Neame, bassist Andrea di Biase and drummer Dave Hamblett.  Arguelles was also responsible for the big band arrangements of a selection of Phronesis tunes that appeared on the live recording “The Behemoth” (2017), a collaboration between the Phronesis trio and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band conducted by Arguelles.

The in demand rhythm section of Lasserson and Maddren remains in place and in many ways it’s business as usual for Arguelles who delivers another set of excellent compositions with the writing further enhanced by the superb playing of all concerned.

The album title simply means “Tunes” and the individual track titles are also all in Spanish as Arguelles continues to explore his Iberian roots, a process that began with “Asturias” and other pieces on the “Tetra” album. The press release mentions the influence of Nordic jazz too, perhaps in an oblique reference to Arguelles’ previous outing on Edition, an international trio collaboration with Portuguese pianist Mario Laginha and Norwegian percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken that released the beautiful album “Setembro” in 2017.

The music on “Tonadas” is generally more robust than the chamber jazz of “Setembro” and that Spanish influence is immediately apparent on the lively opener “Alala” which is introduced by the sound of Neame’s unaccompanied piano but which soon expands to embrace the leader’s supremely fluent and pure toned tenor allied to Maddren’s busy, colourful drumming and Lasserson’s grounding but propulsive double bass. The leader’s tenor swoops and soars as arresting melodies combine with complex rhythms to create a sophisticated, beguiling blend of contemporary jazz. Arguelles takes the first solo, probing deeply but always remaining eminently accessible. He’s followed by Neame who brings with him something of the feverish creativity that informs the music of Phronesis in addition to his own solo projects. Lasserson is also featured, his melodic sense and huge tone revealing why he has developed into one of the UK’s most sought after contemporary bassists.

“Alfama” is altogether gentler and features Neame on supremely lyrical piano as Arguelles moves between tenor and soprano saxophones, soloing with customary grace and fluency on the latter. Based around one of Arguelles’ most seductive melodies there’s a relaxed quality about the performances but also a highly developed exploratory sense that gives the music some much needed grit, and which prevents it from ever becoming soporific.

Lasserson’s unaccompanied bass introduces “Bulerias”, setting up the groove that forms the backbone of the piece. The leader’s swirling tenor and Maddren’s busy, colourful drumming evoke images of flamenco while Neame positively sparkles at the piano with a vibrant, rhythmic solo. The leader then stretches out joyously and powerfully on tenor above the rhythmic ferment bubbling beneath as Maddren continues to feature strongly.

“Tonadilla” (meaning “Little Tune”) slows things down and is a beautiful ballad that commences with the sounds of Lasserson’s melodic but deeply resonant double bass and Neame’s thoughtful and lyrical piano. Arguelles features on soprano sax, his long notes behind the other players in the introductory stages deployed to great atmospheric effect. Later he solos plaintively on the straight horn, reaching ever more deeply into the melancholic beauty that imbues this lovely, folk tinged composition.

On this well programmed album “Barrio Gotico” (“Gothic Quarter”) increases the energy levels once more. The piece opens with a series of darting, fleet footed exchanges with Maddren’s drums particularly prominent in the arrangement. Arguelles then stretches out on tenor fuelled by Lasserson’s rapid bass groove and Maddren’s nimble drumming. The leader is followed by a tumbling solo from Neame, the pianist’s bravado complemented by the still hyper-active rhythm section. Finally Maddren is let loose with an effervescent drum feature.

Arguelles moves to soprano for the similarly lively “Alegrias”, with Maddren’s drums and percussion, including the sound of the cajon, again providing colourful support. Indeed part of the tune consist of a sprightly dialogue between the saxophonist and the drummer in the kind of set piece that must consistently ‘wow’ audiences at the quartet’s live shows. Neame’s piano solo is scarcely less animated, with Maddren continuing to act as the perfect foil.

“Sevilla” wells up from Arguelles’ opening sax incantations to lead the listener around the labyrinthine alleyways of the titular city in an energetic performance featuring the leader’s tenor and with Maddren turning in another dynamic performance. There are allusions to flamenco and other Spanish musics allied to lengthy, virtuoso solos from both Arguelles and Neame on the album’s lengthiest track – and one of its many stand outs.

The album concludes with “Tia Mercedes”, a beautiful ballad dedicated to Arguelles’ recently deceased aunt,  There’s a Moorish inflection in the cry of the leader’s soprano sax as he laments his loss, accompanied at first only by Neame’s measured and sensitive piano and later by bass and brushed drums.

I think that I’m correct in saying that this is Arguelles’ fourteenth album as a leader but the release of a new solo recording from Julian Arguelles always represents a major event in the UK jazz calendar and “Tonadas” is no exception. The album maintains the astonishingly high standards of creativity that Arguelles has continued to achieve from “Phaedrus” onwards and confirms his mastery of the classic saxophone plus piano/bass/drums format. The writing is rich and melodic, sometimes complex but always engaging, and the standard of playing from all four musicians is exceptional. The quartet make it all sound easy and effortless (I’m sure it’s not) and a classy production only serves to enhance their efforts.

Despite the Spanish influence the music avoids all the ‘Sketches of Spain’ and flamenco jazz clichés, the inspiration is implied rather than overt, and the music sounds all the better for it.
“Tonadas” is a superb contemporary jazz album and another milestone in Arguelles’ glittering career.

The Julian Arguelles Quartet will be touring in the UK and Ireland during September 2018, dates as below;

1st Sept, Leeds (Seven Jazz)
2nd Sept, Manchester (Band on the Wall)
5th Sept, London (Pizza Express Soho)
6th Sept, Leicester (Jazz House)
7th Sept, Craven Arms, Shropshire
8th Sept, Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire
20th Sept, Birmingham (East Side Jazz Club)
21st Sept, Brighton (The Verdict)
22nd Sept, Dublin

Go to http://www.julianarguelles.com/calendar for details on where to buy tickets and current gig list.

 

Tonadas

Julian Arguelles

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Tonadas

The writing is rich and melodic, sometimes complex but always engaging, and the standard of playing from all four musicians is exceptional. Another milestone in Arguelles’ glittering career.

Julian Arguelles

“Tonadas”

(Edition Records EDN1116)

The Birmingham born saxophonist Julian Arguelles first came to prominence in the late 1980s/early 1990s as a member of the seminal Loose Tubes, the young twenty plus ensemble that also spawned such significant British musicians as Django Bates, Iain Ballamy, Mark Lockheart and Martin France.

Like Arguelles all these have charted a path from young tyros to comparative elder statesmen, but all have done so by following a consistently creative path, and none more so than Arguelles whose solo career has found him releasing a string of excellent albums in a variety of formats ranging from solo to big band and working with leading jazz musicians from the UK, Europe and the US,  maintaining a remarkably high standard of creativity throughout. 

Arguelles’ début recording as a leader was released in 1991 and announced the arrival of a major new presence on the British jazz scene. “Phaedrus” was a quartet album that revealed Arguelles’ huge talent as a writer as pianist John Taylor, drummer Martin France and bassist Mick Hutton helped to give voice to his multi-faceted compositions. 

Subsequent releases saw Arguelles successfully exploring a wide range of instrumental configurations as he turned his back on the classic quartet format until 2014 and the release of the album “Circularity” on the Italian Cam Jazz imprint. This superb recording featured an all star British cast of France at the drums, US domiciled Dave Holland on double bass and the late great John Taylor on piano. 

This was hardly the kind of line up that was likely to go out on the road and with his passion for the quartet format renewed Arguelles set about about forming a new group featuring some of the UK’s top up and coming musicians. The new band was called Tetra and featured Kit Downes on piano, Sam Lasserson on double bass and James Maddren on drums, a pride of young lions who these days are nearly as busy as their illustrious predecessors.

In 2015 the new quartet released “Tetra”, the album, on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label. The record was right up there with Arguelles’ best, a beguiling mix of sophisticated writing and great playing. I was also fortunate enough to witness a superb performance of the album material at the Parabola Arts Centre as part of the 2015 Cheltenham Jazz Festival by an extended line up which saw the core quartet augmented by George Crowley (saxophones, bass clarinet), Percy Pursglove (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Kieran McLeod (trombone). The core group also gigged regularly and I subsequently enjoyed a performance by the four piece Tetra at The Hive Arts Centre in Shrewsbury in June 2016.

It’s tempting to see the quartet that appears on “Tonadas” as an extension of the Tetra group, but the new album sees the dropping of the ‘Tetra’ name, a move to the Edition record label and a change in the piano chair with Downes replaced by Ivo Neame, of Phronesis fame.

Arguelles and Neame first worked together when the saxophonist guested with the collaborative trio Escape Hatch, featuring Neame, bassist Andrea di Biase and drummer Dave Hamblett.  Arguelles was also responsible for the big band arrangements of a selection of Phronesis tunes that appeared on the live recording “The Behemoth” (2017), a collaboration between the Phronesis trio and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band conducted by Arguelles.

The in demand rhythm section of Lasserson and Maddren remains in place and in many ways it’s business as usual for Arguelles who delivers another set of excellent compositions with the writing further enhanced by the superb playing of all concerned.

The album title simply means “Tunes” and the individual track titles are also all in Spanish as Arguelles continues to explore his Iberian roots, a process that began with “Asturias” and other pieces on the “Tetra” album. The press release mentions the influence of Nordic jazz too, perhaps in an oblique reference to Arguelles’ previous outing on Edition, an international trio collaboration with Portuguese pianist Mario Laginha and Norwegian percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken that released the beautiful album “Setembro” in 2017.

The music on “Tonadas” is generally more robust than the chamber jazz of “Setembro” and that Spanish influence is immediately apparent on the lively opener “Alala” which is introduced by the sound of Neame’s unaccompanied piano but which soon expands to embrace the leader’s supremely fluent and pure toned tenor allied to Maddren’s busy, colourful drumming and Lasserson’s grounding but propulsive double bass. The leader’s tenor swoops and soars as arresting melodies combine with complex rhythms to create a sophisticated, beguiling blend of contemporary jazz. Arguelles takes the first solo, probing deeply but always remaining eminently accessible. He’s followed by Neame who brings with him something of the feverish creativity that informs the music of Phronesis in addition to his own solo projects. Lasserson is also featured, his melodic sense and huge tone revealing why he has developed into one of the UK’s most sought after contemporary bassists.

“Alfama” is altogether gentler and features Neame on supremely lyrical piano as Arguelles moves between tenor and soprano saxophones, soloing with customary grace and fluency on the latter. Based around one of Arguelles’ most seductive melodies there’s a relaxed quality about the performances but also a highly developed exploratory sense that gives the music some much needed grit, and which prevents it from ever becoming soporific.

Lasserson’s unaccompanied bass introduces “Bulerias”, setting up the groove that forms the backbone of the piece. The leader’s swirling tenor and Maddren’s busy, colourful drumming evoke images of flamenco while Neame positively sparkles at the piano with a vibrant, rhythmic solo. The leader then stretches out joyously and powerfully on tenor above the rhythmic ferment bubbling beneath as Maddren continues to feature strongly.

“Tonadilla” (meaning “Little Tune”) slows things down and is a beautiful ballad that commences with the sounds of Lasserson’s melodic but deeply resonant double bass and Neame’s thoughtful and lyrical piano. Arguelles features on soprano sax, his long notes behind the other players in the introductory stages deployed to great atmospheric effect. Later he solos plaintively on the straight horn, reaching ever more deeply into the melancholic beauty that imbues this lovely, folk tinged composition.

On this well programmed album “Barrio Gotico” (“Gothic Quarter”) increases the energy levels once more. The piece opens with a series of darting, fleet footed exchanges with Maddren’s drums particularly prominent in the arrangement. Arguelles then stretches out on tenor fuelled by Lasserson’s rapid bass groove and Maddren’s nimble drumming. The leader is followed by a tumbling solo from Neame, the pianist’s bravado complemented by the still hyper-active rhythm section. Finally Maddren is let loose with an effervescent drum feature.

Arguelles moves to soprano for the similarly lively “Alegrias”, with Maddren’s drums and percussion, including the sound of the cajon, again providing colourful support. Indeed part of the tune consist of a sprightly dialogue between the saxophonist and the drummer in the kind of set piece that must consistently ‘wow’ audiences at the quartet’s live shows. Neame’s piano solo is scarcely less animated, with Maddren continuing to act as the perfect foil.

“Sevilla” wells up from Arguelles’ opening sax incantations to lead the listener around the labyrinthine alleyways of the titular city in an energetic performance featuring the leader’s tenor and with Maddren turning in another dynamic performance. There are allusions to flamenco and other Spanish musics allied to lengthy, virtuoso solos from both Arguelles and Neame on the album’s lengthiest track – and one of its many stand outs.

The album concludes with “Tia Mercedes”, a beautiful ballad dedicated to Arguelles’ recently deceased aunt,  There’s a Moorish inflection in the cry of the leader’s soprano sax as he laments his loss, accompanied at first only by Neame’s measured and sensitive piano and later by bass and brushed drums.

I think that I’m correct in saying that this is Arguelles’ fourteenth album as a leader but the release of a new solo recording from Julian Arguelles always represents a major event in the UK jazz calendar and “Tonadas” is no exception. The album maintains the astonishingly high standards of creativity that Arguelles has continued to achieve from “Phaedrus” onwards and confirms his mastery of the classic saxophone plus piano/bass/drums format. The writing is rich and melodic, sometimes complex but always engaging, and the standard of playing from all four musicians is exceptional. The quartet make it all sound easy and effortless (I’m sure it’s not) and a classy production only serves to enhance their efforts.

Despite the Spanish influence the music avoids all the ‘Sketches of Spain’ and flamenco jazz clichés, the inspiration is implied rather than overt, and the music sounds all the better for it.
“Tonadas” is a superb contemporary jazz album and another milestone in Arguelles’ glittering career.

The Julian Arguelles Quartet will be touring in the UK and Ireland during September 2018, dates as below;

1st Sept, Leeds (Seven Jazz)
2nd Sept, Manchester (Band on the Wall)
5th Sept, London (Pizza Express Soho)
6th Sept, Leicester (Jazz House)
7th Sept, Craven Arms, Shropshire
8th Sept, Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire
20th Sept, Birmingham (East Side Jazz Club)
21st Sept, Brighton (The Verdict)
22nd Sept, Dublin

Go to http://www.julianarguelles.com/calendar for details on where to buy tickets and current gig list.

 


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