The Jazz Mann | Stan Sulzmann / Nikki Iles with special guest Dave Holland - Lush Life | Review | The Jazz Mann

Accessibility Menu

REVIEW

Stan Sulzmann / Nikki Iles with special guest Dave Holland - Lush Life Rating: 4 out of 5 The standard of the playing, by three world class musicians, is excellent throughout.

Stan Sulzmann / Nikki Iles with special guest Dave Holland

“Lush Life”

(Jellymould Jazz JM – JJ031)

Stan Sulzmann – tenor saxophone, Nikki Iles – piano, Dave Holland – double bass


This recording brings together three of the UK’s leading jazz musicians to perform a selection of jazz standards, plus original compositions by the co-leaders, Sulzmann and Iles.

Sulzmann and Iles first worked together in a duo setting as far back as 1995, recording the album “Treasure Trove”.  In 2016 they revived their partnership on the Jellymould Jazz imprint, releasing the excellent “Stardust”, an intimate, primarily standards based set. My review of the “Stardust” recording can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/stardust/

For their second offering for Jellymould Sulzmann and Iles have placed a greater emphasis on original material with each musician contributing two compositions to the repertoire, just under half the programme on this nine track recording.

The new album is also significant for the presence of a very special guest, the great Wolverhampton born bass player Dave Holland, famously head-hunted by none other than Miles Davis, and an artist who has become one of the UK’s greatest musical exports, a major figure on the global jazz scene as both a musician and a composer.

Holland’s involvement represents quite a coup for Sulzmann and Iles, themselves two of the UK’s most respected jazz musicians, although arguably even now artists whose talents deserve wider recognition.

Sulzmann, born in 1948, has been on the scene since the late 1960s and first came to prominence in bands led by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and pianist John Taylor. A skilled and highly individual composer he has been leading his own groups since the 1970s and has recorded in formats ranging from duo to big band. In recent years Sulzmann has worked with a younger generation of musicians such as pianist Kit Downes and vibraphonist Jim Hart in the acclaimed Neon Quartet, an outfit subsequently expanded to form the large ensemble Neon Orchestra.

Iles first emerged as a jazz pianist in the 1980s and made her recording début in 1992. She has led a number of successful trios and currently leads the acclaimed Printmakers group featuring vocalist Norma Winstone. Indeed Iles seems to have a particular affinity for working with singers and has recorded several albums with Tina May, some of these also featuring Sulzmann. An acclaimed educator Iles holds a teaching post at London’s Royal Academy of Music and was the winner of the Jazz Education Award at the 2019 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

The packaging for “Lush Life” includes brief liner notes from Sulzmann and Iles describing the inspirations and influences behind each performance, many of these revolving around very personal memories.

The opening “You Don’t Know What Love Is” was selected by Sulzmann in recognition of the influence of the Billie Holiday album “Lady in Satin”, a record Sulzmann first heard as an eighteen year old on a visit to New York back in 1967. This instrumental arrangement offers evidence of the easy, long established rapport between Sulzmann and Iles and also adds the bonus of Holland’s immaculate and unfailingly melodic bass playing. His rapport with the co-leaders is no less miraculous and helps to provide the fulcrum around which Sulzmann and Iles spin their improvisations, their solos thoughtful and ruminative, combining melody and lyricism with a gently questing spirit.

Iles’ first selection is the standard “Who Can I Turn To”, a song written by Anthony Newley that the pianist first heard on albums by vocalist Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans. These records influenced Iles’ work as an accompanist and she remains particularly adept at working with singers. This instrumental version is introduced by an exquisite passage of solo piano and Iles describes her arrangement as “taking a journey through some new twists and turns”. Sulzmann stretches out at length as his fluent and pliant tenor explores the contours of the piece and he’s followed by Iles, who sparkles at the piano, as Holland provides subtly propulsive support, eventually taking over with a highly dexterous solo of his own.

“Between Moons” is a John Taylor tune that Sulzmann brought to the session. Several years ago the late Taylor asked Sulzmann to arrange the piece for big band, a task that the saxophonist considered to be a great honour. Following Taylor’s passing this pared down trio arrangement acts as a fitting tribute to his memory and talent. There’s a suitably nocturnal quality about the opening exchanges between Sulzmann and Iles as the beauty of Taylor’s melody gradually emerges. Sulzmann solos with a quiet authority and an effortless fluency, his tone warm but gently incisive. Iles follows with a passage of flowingly lyrical piano, again skilfully supported by Holland’s underpinning bass. The illustrious guest then takes over once more with a typically immaculate bass solo.

The first original tune of the set is Sulzmann’s “Pip”, a tune dedicated to a lively Cocker Spaniel, for whom Sulzmann and his wife acted as house-sitters. The music is actually gentler than might be expected, reflective perhaps of the Cornish location where this episode took place. There’s a nostalgic, wistful, gently lyrical feel to the music which expresses itself through the playing. Iles and Holland combine neatly and melodically on the intro before Sulzmann’s tenor briefly assumes the lead. Holland takes the first solo at the bass, accompanied by Iles. These two complement each other superbly throughout the album and their rapport sometimes reminds me of Holland’s partnership with the great American pianist Kenny Barron. Sulzmann and Iles then trade lyrical solos as the piece gently wends its way.

Iles’ first original is “Iris”,  a dedication to the writer Iris Murdoch, a piece that finds the trio working in perfect synchronicity before diverging to deliver superb individual statements, then finally converging as a single entity once more.

The standard “The Night We Called It A Day” is an Iles selection, inspired by vocal versions by Frank Sinatra and Carmen McRae and a piano trio interpretation by Oscar Peterson. The chemistry between Iles and Holland is again apparent on a ballad style arrangement that also includes some of Sulzmann’s most emotive playing of the set.

The Sulzmann original “Odonata” is named for a species of dragonfly that is found in his garden, and the title of the piece also seems to inform Frazer Marr’s album artwork. It’s an attractive piece, and one that like many of Sulzmann’s compositions, has something of the feel of a jazz standard about it, albeit with a modern twist. There’s a real joyousness about the playing here with the composer’s effusive tenor solo followed by Iles’ vivacious pianistics and Holland’s vigorous and agile bass plucking.

Iles’ second original tune is “Moontide”, dedicated to vocalist Norma Winstone, her collaborator in the acclaimed Printmakers group. The piece is also dedicated to the memories of John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler and there’s an air of melancholy and nostalgia about the music that finds expression in what the composer describes as “Stan’s wonderfully plaintive and expressive playing”. Sulzmann’s playing here is undeniably beautiful and he receives sympathetic support from Iles and Holland, both of whom make lyrical and melodic contributions of their own.

The album closes with the title track, Billy Strayhorn’s famous composition “Lush Life”, a piece selected by Sulzmann. Sulzmann first heard it at the age of fifteen on the album “A World of Piano” by Phineas Newborn. “I’ve been fascinated by this tune ever since”, he explains, “but rarely got the chance to play it”. Given his opportunity Sulzmann rises to the occasion with yet another example of his fluent, emotive, intelligent playing. He really gets inside the tune, as do Iles and Holland, with the pianist delivering a fine solo of her own.

“Lush Life” is a worthy follow up to the earlier “Stardust” and the presence of the peerless Holland as a special guest adds an extra perspective to the music, elevating it into another dimension. I’m also pleased to see a greater emphasis being placed on original material, both Sulzmann and Iles are highly accomplished writers whose own compositions deserve to be widely heard.

The absence of drums ensures that this will be regarded as a ‘chamber jazz’ recording and its possible that some listeners may regard it as being a little ‘bloodless’ as a result, but with a well balanced trio of this calibre I suspect that any complaints of this nature will be very few and far between.

The relaxed but gently rigorous rapport between Sulzmann, Iles and Holland is well captured by an engineering team consisting of Ronan Phelan, Stewart Worthy and Curtis Schwartz and the standard of the playing, by three world class musicians, is excellent throughout.

Lush Life

Stan Sulzmann / Nikki Iles with special guest Dave Holland

Monday, January 06, 2020

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Lush Life

The standard of the playing, by three world class musicians, is excellent throughout.

Stan Sulzmann / Nikki Iles with special guest Dave Holland

“Lush Life”

(Jellymould Jazz JM – JJ031)

Stan Sulzmann – tenor saxophone, Nikki Iles – piano, Dave Holland – double bass


This recording brings together three of the UK’s leading jazz musicians to perform a selection of jazz standards, plus original compositions by the co-leaders, Sulzmann and Iles.

Sulzmann and Iles first worked together in a duo setting as far back as 1995, recording the album “Treasure Trove”.  In 2016 they revived their partnership on the Jellymould Jazz imprint, releasing the excellent “Stardust”, an intimate, primarily standards based set. My review of the “Stardust” recording can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/stardust/

For their second offering for Jellymould Sulzmann and Iles have placed a greater emphasis on original material with each musician contributing two compositions to the repertoire, just under half the programme on this nine track recording.

The new album is also significant for the presence of a very special guest, the great Wolverhampton born bass player Dave Holland, famously head-hunted by none other than Miles Davis, and an artist who has become one of the UK’s greatest musical exports, a major figure on the global jazz scene as both a musician and a composer.

Holland’s involvement represents quite a coup for Sulzmann and Iles, themselves two of the UK’s most respected jazz musicians, although arguably even now artists whose talents deserve wider recognition.

Sulzmann, born in 1948, has been on the scene since the late 1960s and first came to prominence in bands led by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and pianist John Taylor. A skilled and highly individual composer he has been leading his own groups since the 1970s and has recorded in formats ranging from duo to big band. In recent years Sulzmann has worked with a younger generation of musicians such as pianist Kit Downes and vibraphonist Jim Hart in the acclaimed Neon Quartet, an outfit subsequently expanded to form the large ensemble Neon Orchestra.

Iles first emerged as a jazz pianist in the 1980s and made her recording début in 1992. She has led a number of successful trios and currently leads the acclaimed Printmakers group featuring vocalist Norma Winstone. Indeed Iles seems to have a particular affinity for working with singers and has recorded several albums with Tina May, some of these also featuring Sulzmann. An acclaimed educator Iles holds a teaching post at London’s Royal Academy of Music and was the winner of the Jazz Education Award at the 2019 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

The packaging for “Lush Life” includes brief liner notes from Sulzmann and Iles describing the inspirations and influences behind each performance, many of these revolving around very personal memories.

The opening “You Don’t Know What Love Is” was selected by Sulzmann in recognition of the influence of the Billie Holiday album “Lady in Satin”, a record Sulzmann first heard as an eighteen year old on a visit to New York back in 1967. This instrumental arrangement offers evidence of the easy, long established rapport between Sulzmann and Iles and also adds the bonus of Holland’s immaculate and unfailingly melodic bass playing. His rapport with the co-leaders is no less miraculous and helps to provide the fulcrum around which Sulzmann and Iles spin their improvisations, their solos thoughtful and ruminative, combining melody and lyricism with a gently questing spirit.

Iles’ first selection is the standard “Who Can I Turn To”, a song written by Anthony Newley that the pianist first heard on albums by vocalist Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans. These records influenced Iles’ work as an accompanist and she remains particularly adept at working with singers. This instrumental version is introduced by an exquisite passage of solo piano and Iles describes her arrangement as “taking a journey through some new twists and turns”. Sulzmann stretches out at length as his fluent and pliant tenor explores the contours of the piece and he’s followed by Iles, who sparkles at the piano, as Holland provides subtly propulsive support, eventually taking over with a highly dexterous solo of his own.

“Between Moons” is a John Taylor tune that Sulzmann brought to the session. Several years ago the late Taylor asked Sulzmann to arrange the piece for big band, a task that the saxophonist considered to be a great honour. Following Taylor’s passing this pared down trio arrangement acts as a fitting tribute to his memory and talent. There’s a suitably nocturnal quality about the opening exchanges between Sulzmann and Iles as the beauty of Taylor’s melody gradually emerges. Sulzmann solos with a quiet authority and an effortless fluency, his tone warm but gently incisive. Iles follows with a passage of flowingly lyrical piano, again skilfully supported by Holland’s underpinning bass. The illustrious guest then takes over once more with a typically immaculate bass solo.

The first original tune of the set is Sulzmann’s “Pip”, a tune dedicated to a lively Cocker Spaniel, for whom Sulzmann and his wife acted as house-sitters. The music is actually gentler than might be expected, reflective perhaps of the Cornish location where this episode took place. There’s a nostalgic, wistful, gently lyrical feel to the music which expresses itself through the playing. Iles and Holland combine neatly and melodically on the intro before Sulzmann’s tenor briefly assumes the lead. Holland takes the first solo at the bass, accompanied by Iles. These two complement each other superbly throughout the album and their rapport sometimes reminds me of Holland’s partnership with the great American pianist Kenny Barron. Sulzmann and Iles then trade lyrical solos as the piece gently wends its way.

Iles’ first original is “Iris”,  a dedication to the writer Iris Murdoch, a piece that finds the trio working in perfect synchronicity before diverging to deliver superb individual statements, then finally converging as a single entity once more.

The standard “The Night We Called It A Day” is an Iles selection, inspired by vocal versions by Frank Sinatra and Carmen McRae and a piano trio interpretation by Oscar Peterson. The chemistry between Iles and Holland is again apparent on a ballad style arrangement that also includes some of Sulzmann’s most emotive playing of the set.

The Sulzmann original “Odonata” is named for a species of dragonfly that is found in his garden, and the title of the piece also seems to inform Frazer Marr’s album artwork. It’s an attractive piece, and one that like many of Sulzmann’s compositions, has something of the feel of a jazz standard about it, albeit with a modern twist. There’s a real joyousness about the playing here with the composer’s effusive tenor solo followed by Iles’ vivacious pianistics and Holland’s vigorous and agile bass plucking.

Iles’ second original tune is “Moontide”, dedicated to vocalist Norma Winstone, her collaborator in the acclaimed Printmakers group. The piece is also dedicated to the memories of John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler and there’s an air of melancholy and nostalgia about the music that finds expression in what the composer describes as “Stan’s wonderfully plaintive and expressive playing”. Sulzmann’s playing here is undeniably beautiful and he receives sympathetic support from Iles and Holland, both of whom make lyrical and melodic contributions of their own.

The album closes with the title track, Billy Strayhorn’s famous composition “Lush Life”, a piece selected by Sulzmann. Sulzmann first heard it at the age of fifteen on the album “A World of Piano” by Phineas Newborn. “I’ve been fascinated by this tune ever since”, he explains, “but rarely got the chance to play it”. Given his opportunity Sulzmann rises to the occasion with yet another example of his fluent, emotive, intelligent playing. He really gets inside the tune, as do Iles and Holland, with the pianist delivering a fine solo of her own.

“Lush Life” is a worthy follow up to the earlier “Stardust” and the presence of the peerless Holland as a special guest adds an extra perspective to the music, elevating it into another dimension. I’m also pleased to see a greater emphasis being placed on original material, both Sulzmann and Iles are highly accomplished writers whose own compositions deserve to be widely heard.

The absence of drums ensures that this will be regarded as a ‘chamber jazz’ recording and its possible that some listeners may regard it as being a little ‘bloodless’ as a result, but with a well balanced trio of this calibre I suspect that any complaints of this nature will be very few and far between.

The relaxed but gently rigorous rapport between Sulzmann, Iles and Holland is well captured by an engineering team consisting of Ronan Phelan, Stewart Worthy and Curtis Schwartz and the standard of the playing, by three world class musicians, is excellent throughout.


blog comments powered by Disqus

JAZZ MANN FEATURES

EFG London Jazz Festival 2019, Day Ten, Sunday 24th November 2019.

EFG London Jazz Festival 2019, Day Ten, Sunday 24th November 2019.

Ian Mann on the final day of the Festival and performances by Led Bib, Asha Parkinson, Tara Cunningham. Isobella Burnham and Eddie Gomez.


EFG London Jazz Festival 2019 - Day Nine, Saturday November 23rd 2019.

EFG London Jazz Festival 2019 - Day Nine, Saturday November 23rd 2019.

"Super Saturday". Ian Mann visits five different venues for performances by Daylight Music, Gareth Lockrane Big Band, Jean Toussaint Sextet, Whirlwind Jazz Orchestra and Ben Williams & Sound Effect


JAZZ MANN RECOMMENDS