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Lacuna - Talk On The Step Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Another impressive artistic statement from the young guitarist and composer Dan Messore. Lacuna has a distinctive group identity that draws on folk and world influences as well as jazz.

Lacuna

“Talk On The Step”

(Babel Records BVOR12109)

Guitarist and composer Dan Messore is a Masters graduate of the Jazz Course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Now based in London he made a big impression in 2012 with the release of his first album as a leader “Indigo Kid”, also available on Babel Records and reviewed elsewhere on this site.

“Indigo Kid”, also the name of the band, featured a quartet that offered a perfect blend of youth and experience with Messore and his fellow RWCMD graduate Gethin Jones (drums) teamed with comparative veterans Iain Ballamy (tenor sax) and Tim Harries (bass). The album is a quiet masterpiece with Ballamy in peerless lyrical form throughout but of even greater significance is the quality of Messore’s writing. “Indigo Kid” is a remarkably mature début and Messore later revealed that he was able to translate the album’s qualities into live performance. The 2012 Brecon Jazz Festival bore witness to a superb Indigo Kid performance by a quartet featuring the guitarist alongside Trish Clowes (tenor sax), Calum Gourlay (double bass) and Martin France (drums).

Messore is a prolific composer and also a born organiser and at the time of Indigo Kid’s release was concurrently running Lacuna, the quintet to be heard on this record. Once again the line up is a combination of experience and youth. Messore still makes regular visits back to South Wales to work with musicians from what is a pretty impressive local scene. These include the young rhythm team to be heard on “Talk On The Step”, bassist Aidan Thorne and drummer Ollie Howell. Multi instrumentalist Lee Goodall who appears here on flute and alto sax is a stalwart of the South Wales scene having moved to the principality from London many years ago (he’s been a regular at Brecon Jazz Festival for as long as I can remember). Also a talented guitarist and drummer Goodall runs Oakfield Studios near Newport where this album was recorded and also acts as a recording engineer and producer. The other experienced figure in the Lacuna quintet is trumpeter Steve Waterman who also doubles on flugelhorn. A supremely fluent player Waterman is at home in a variety of jazz contexts from the straight-ahead to the chamber jazz of bassist Ben Crosland’s Threeway trio which also features pianist/keyboardist Steve Lodder.

“Talk On The Step” is a set of eight Messore originals, the titled sourced from the enigmatic poem/short story by Joanna MacGregor that adorns the album cover. As far as I can deduce Ms. Macgregor is Messore’s partner, whether she is also the celebrated contemporary classical/jazz pianist I wouldn’t like to say (although I suspect not). In any event her words provide the inspiration for some typically colourful and interesting Messore writing with Goodall’s flute playing a prominent part in the arrangements and giving the music a highly distinctive quality. Messore has explained that in writing the music for this quintet he was looking for “landscape and strong narrative” and that he wanted the feel of the album to be “spring like and joyous”, qualities that Goodall helps to bring to the music.

The titles of the tunes are all taken from lines in MacGregor’s writing beginning with the Brazilian flavoured “Mariposa” (meaning “lone butterfly” in Portugese). Howell’s drums lead us in with Messore’s acoustic guitar plus the unusual blend of flute and muted trumpet subsequently establishing a signature group sound. Messore takes the first solo, his finger picking delicate but focussed. Goodall displays his abilities on flute before Waterman begins his solo in muted Miles like fashion before masterfully increasing the intensity aided and abetted by Howell at the drums. There’s a pictorial quality to the music as the band provide musical illustrations to MacGregor’s tantalising word images.

The title track features the warm sound of Waterman alongside Goodall’s flute and Messore’s acoustic guitar. There’s a relaxed feel about the music, a gentle breeziness that evokes a delightful series of exchanges between Waterman, Messore and Goodall above Howell’s gently propulsive brushed undertow.

“Wowge” begins with a delicate passage of featuring guitar, bass and drums before trumpet and alto combine on a surprisingly powerful riff backed by solid rock influenced drumming. The piece then quickly shades off into something more conventionally jazzy with Waterman soloing fluently above Messore’s jazz chording. Messore then follows, his solo adopting a more typical jazz guitar sound than his previous acoustic offerings. There is then yet another change in direction courtesy of an extended solo acoustic guitar passage which in turn leads into Goodall’s solo, atmospheric at first but subsequently more impassioned and forceful as something of a reprise of the earlier riff occurs.

“Digame” offers a pleasant contrast between the bop influenced sound of Waterman’s trumpet and the folkier timbres of Goodall’s flute. Messore bridges the gap with his nimble guitar picking and takes the first solo followed by Waterman. There are then a series of dazzling exchanges between Goodall on flute and Howell at the drums. Howell impresses throughout the album, perhaps not so surprising for a musician whose talents have been recognised by such an influential industry figure as Quincy Jones. 

“A Bit Of Light” offers more of an English folk style with the delicate filigree of acoustic guitar and lightly frothy flute offset by Waterman’s more rounded tones. Waterman tutored Messore in the skills of jazz arranging when the latter was college. This piece, and the album as a whole, offers compelling evidence that the master taught his pupil well. 

Thorne impresses with the opening solo on “Nights Of Sober Solitude” with its Lee Konitz/Lennie Tristano inspired theme. Goodall follows him on flute before handing over to Waterman whose coolly elegant Miles Davis like solo shades the instrumental honours, the trumpeter later trading fours with the excellent Howell. 

Messore cites Wayne Shorter as an influence on the modal “Shortcomings” which features the intertwining of trumpet and alto sax plus Messore’s own slippery chording.  Inventive and rewarding solos come from Goodall and Waterman and there’s also something of a feature for Howell at the drums.

The closing track “Missing” features the same combination of trumpet and alto with Waterman deploying the mute as Goodall adopts a more blues inflected tone. The exchanges between the pair in a gently unfolding dialogue are quietly captivating with Messore, Thorne and Howell providing subtle but understated support.

“Talk On The Step” represents another impressive artistic statement from Messore. Again the writing is remarkably mature and Messore resists the temptation to show off his undoubted guitar skills by concentrating on the overall sound of the ensemble. Having said that when he does choose to solo his contributions are excellent. The record is also a tribute to Messore’s arranging skills with the unusual combination of flute and trumpet the most common front line pairing. This imaginative use of horns allied to the guitarist’s essentially acoustic sound helps to give Lacuna a distinctive group identity that draws on folk and world influences (Messore has travelled widely) as well as jazz.

Overall it’s not quite as strong a set as “Indigo Kid”, which for me still gets the nod, but “Talk On The Step” is a further realisation of Messore’s huge potential and confirms that he is a musician with a strong individual voice who is prepared to do things his own way. 

Readers wishing to hear more of Messore’s music may be interested in his Sunday afternoon “View From The Tower” residency at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London or his regular Thursday night jams at the North Star in Cardiff. More at http://www.danmessore.com
 

Talk On The Step

Lacuna

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Talk On The Step

Another impressive artistic statement from the young guitarist and composer Dan Messore. Lacuna has a distinctive group identity that draws on folk and world influences as well as jazz.

Lacuna

“Talk On The Step”

(Babel Records BVOR12109)

Guitarist and composer Dan Messore is a Masters graduate of the Jazz Course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Now based in London he made a big impression in 2012 with the release of his first album as a leader “Indigo Kid”, also available on Babel Records and reviewed elsewhere on this site.

“Indigo Kid”, also the name of the band, featured a quartet that offered a perfect blend of youth and experience with Messore and his fellow RWCMD graduate Gethin Jones (drums) teamed with comparative veterans Iain Ballamy (tenor sax) and Tim Harries (bass). The album is a quiet masterpiece with Ballamy in peerless lyrical form throughout but of even greater significance is the quality of Messore’s writing. “Indigo Kid” is a remarkably mature début and Messore later revealed that he was able to translate the album’s qualities into live performance. The 2012 Brecon Jazz Festival bore witness to a superb Indigo Kid performance by a quartet featuring the guitarist alongside Trish Clowes (tenor sax), Calum Gourlay (double bass) and Martin France (drums).

Messore is a prolific composer and also a born organiser and at the time of Indigo Kid’s release was concurrently running Lacuna, the quintet to be heard on this record. Once again the line up is a combination of experience and youth. Messore still makes regular visits back to South Wales to work with musicians from what is a pretty impressive local scene. These include the young rhythm team to be heard on “Talk On The Step”, bassist Aidan Thorne and drummer Ollie Howell. Multi instrumentalist Lee Goodall who appears here on flute and alto sax is a stalwart of the South Wales scene having moved to the principality from London many years ago (he’s been a regular at Brecon Jazz Festival for as long as I can remember). Also a talented guitarist and drummer Goodall runs Oakfield Studios near Newport where this album was recorded and also acts as a recording engineer and producer. The other experienced figure in the Lacuna quintet is trumpeter Steve Waterman who also doubles on flugelhorn. A supremely fluent player Waterman is at home in a variety of jazz contexts from the straight-ahead to the chamber jazz of bassist Ben Crosland’s Threeway trio which also features pianist/keyboardist Steve Lodder.

“Talk On The Step” is a set of eight Messore originals, the titled sourced from the enigmatic poem/short story by Joanna MacGregor that adorns the album cover. As far as I can deduce Ms. Macgregor is Messore’s partner, whether she is also the celebrated contemporary classical/jazz pianist I wouldn’t like to say (although I suspect not). In any event her words provide the inspiration for some typically colourful and interesting Messore writing with Goodall’s flute playing a prominent part in the arrangements and giving the music a highly distinctive quality. Messore has explained that in writing the music for this quintet he was looking for “landscape and strong narrative” and that he wanted the feel of the album to be “spring like and joyous”, qualities that Goodall helps to bring to the music.

The titles of the tunes are all taken from lines in MacGregor’s writing beginning with the Brazilian flavoured “Mariposa” (meaning “lone butterfly” in Portugese). Howell’s drums lead us in with Messore’s acoustic guitar plus the unusual blend of flute and muted trumpet subsequently establishing a signature group sound. Messore takes the first solo, his finger picking delicate but focussed. Goodall displays his abilities on flute before Waterman begins his solo in muted Miles like fashion before masterfully increasing the intensity aided and abetted by Howell at the drums. There’s a pictorial quality to the music as the band provide musical illustrations to MacGregor’s tantalising word images.

The title track features the warm sound of Waterman alongside Goodall’s flute and Messore’s acoustic guitar. There’s a relaxed feel about the music, a gentle breeziness that evokes a delightful series of exchanges between Waterman, Messore and Goodall above Howell’s gently propulsive brushed undertow.

“Wowge” begins with a delicate passage of featuring guitar, bass and drums before trumpet and alto combine on a surprisingly powerful riff backed by solid rock influenced drumming. The piece then quickly shades off into something more conventionally jazzy with Waterman soloing fluently above Messore’s jazz chording. Messore then follows, his solo adopting a more typical jazz guitar sound than his previous acoustic offerings. There is then yet another change in direction courtesy of an extended solo acoustic guitar passage which in turn leads into Goodall’s solo, atmospheric at first but subsequently more impassioned and forceful as something of a reprise of the earlier riff occurs.

“Digame” offers a pleasant contrast between the bop influenced sound of Waterman’s trumpet and the folkier timbres of Goodall’s flute. Messore bridges the gap with his nimble guitar picking and takes the first solo followed by Waterman. There are then a series of dazzling exchanges between Goodall on flute and Howell at the drums. Howell impresses throughout the album, perhaps not so surprising for a musician whose talents have been recognised by such an influential industry figure as Quincy Jones. 

“A Bit Of Light” offers more of an English folk style with the delicate filigree of acoustic guitar and lightly frothy flute offset by Waterman’s more rounded tones. Waterman tutored Messore in the skills of jazz arranging when the latter was college. This piece, and the album as a whole, offers compelling evidence that the master taught his pupil well. 

Thorne impresses with the opening solo on “Nights Of Sober Solitude” with its Lee Konitz/Lennie Tristano inspired theme. Goodall follows him on flute before handing over to Waterman whose coolly elegant Miles Davis like solo shades the instrumental honours, the trumpeter later trading fours with the excellent Howell. 

Messore cites Wayne Shorter as an influence on the modal “Shortcomings” which features the intertwining of trumpet and alto sax plus Messore’s own slippery chording.  Inventive and rewarding solos come from Goodall and Waterman and there’s also something of a feature for Howell at the drums.

The closing track “Missing” features the same combination of trumpet and alto with Waterman deploying the mute as Goodall adopts a more blues inflected tone. The exchanges between the pair in a gently unfolding dialogue are quietly captivating with Messore, Thorne and Howell providing subtle but understated support.

“Talk On The Step” represents another impressive artistic statement from Messore. Again the writing is remarkably mature and Messore resists the temptation to show off his undoubted guitar skills by concentrating on the overall sound of the ensemble. Having said that when he does choose to solo his contributions are excellent. The record is also a tribute to Messore’s arranging skills with the unusual combination of flute and trumpet the most common front line pairing. This imaginative use of horns allied to the guitarist’s essentially acoustic sound helps to give Lacuna a distinctive group identity that draws on folk and world influences (Messore has travelled widely) as well as jazz.

Overall it’s not quite as strong a set as “Indigo Kid”, which for me still gets the nod, but “Talk On The Step” is a further realisation of Messore’s huge potential and confirms that he is a musician with a strong individual voice who is prepared to do things his own way. 

Readers wishing to hear more of Messore’s music may be interested in his Sunday afternoon “View From The Tower” residency at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London or his regular Thursday night jams at the North Star in Cardiff. More at http://www.danmessore.com
 


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