Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019





by Ian Mann

September 03, 2012


An impressive piece of work with some excellent playing from all six members of what is effectively a Welsh "supergroup". Jazz/folk fusions don't always work but on the whole this succeeds brilliantly



(Recordiau Bopa BOPA 001)

“Caniadau” is the second album from the Welsh band Burum and consists of a collection of traditional Welsh folk tunes performed in a style that mixes folk elements with a broadly bebop, often modal, based jazz approach. The project is led by trumpeter Tomos Williams who appears alongside his brother Daniel on tenor sax plus three of Wales’ finest jazz musicians in pianist Dave Jones, bassist Tim Harries and drummer Mark O’ Connor. In Burum’s own words their “joker in the pack” is folk musician Ceri Rhys Matthews who appears on pipes and wooden flute and brings a wholly distinctive element to the music.

“Caniadau” (Welsh for “Songs”) is the follow up to 2007’s acclaimed “Alawon” (“Tunes”) recorded by a very similar line up (Harries replaces the currently indisposed Chris O’ Connor). The Burum project has its genesis in the Welsh folk group Fernhill which includes Tomos Williams and Matthews alongside singer Julie Murphy and others. To complete the language lesson Burum is Welsh for “yeast”, perhaps an appropriate moniker considering the transformative nature of the group’s music.

I recently saw the core jazz quintet (in this instance the Williams brothers, Jones on keyboard and the young Cardiff based rhythm team of bassist Aidan Thorne and drummer Lloyd Haines) give an enjoyable performance of this music at the Queens Head in Monmouth. Unfortunately Matthews was unable to appear that evening but I was told by Roger Warburton of Cardiff Jazz that his performance at Café Jazz in Cardiff the previous week had been little short of brilliant. Nonetheless the quintet acquitted themselves well and there’s always Matthews’ superlative contribution to enjoy on this excellent recording. The mix, by engineer Jens Schroder of the Fflach Studio in Aberteifi in conjunction with the Williams brothers,  captures the nuances of the music superbly and ensures that everybody sounds their best. 

The album commences with an extended version of the tune “Pontypridd” arranged by Tomos Williams and with Matthews’ pipes immediately establishing a unique atmosphere. Subsequently the jazz contingent bring the sound of “Kind Of Blue” to the Welsh Valleys with first Daniel Williams and then brother Tomos soloing effectively above a Miles Davis style modal backdrop. Port Talbot based pianist Dave Jones has established a considerable reputation on the national scene with his albums “Impetus”, “Journeys” and “Resonance” and he is in sparkling form here and throughout the rest of the album. “Ponypridd” also includes a substantial feature for drummer Mark O’Connor who also impresses throughout, particularly with regard to his inventive and atmospheric cymbal work. 

Played by the jazz quintet only Daniel Williams’ arrangement of the traditional tune “Lisa Lan” (“Fair Lisa”) features the warm tones of the Williams brothers and the resonant but lyrical bass of Tim Harries, another player with a foot in both the jazz and folk camps. He has worked with artists as diverse as folkies Steeleye Span and June Tabor and experimental jazzers Bill Bruford’s Earthworks and Martin France’s Spin Marvel. Meanwhile Jones makes another supremely lyrical contribution at the piano.

The title track is a segue of the tunes “Dyffryn Cletwr” as arranged by Tomos Williams and “Priodas” written by Ceri Rhys Matthews, the only original tune on the album. Matthews returns to add the plaintive sound of the pipes, there’s something almost primal about the instrument that demands an emotional response. Daniel Williams on tenor sax is similarly emotive and Jones is typically flowing and lyrical. Matthews then intertwines superbly with Tomos Williams before a stunning passage of solo pipes takes us into the second half of the segue with Matthews and Tomos Williams again linking up well as the earlier lyricism is superseded by something altogether more rousing and stirring.

“Trio” is a charming, jointly arranged performance by the trio of Matthews on wood flute, Harries on bass and O’Connor at the drums. It’s more obviously a folk/world performance than pretty much anything else on the album.

Daniel Williams’ spirited arrangement of “Hen Ferchetan” (“Old Maiden”) adds the skirl of the pipes to the quintet’s modal approach. It’s the first of four successive Daniel Williams arrangements. Here Matthews functions as a jazz soloist in a performance that manages to be both stirring and innovative with Tomos Williams, Harries and O’ Connor also featuring strongly.

The ballad “Mil Harddach” (“A thousand times more beautiful) is one of the most lovely items on the record with Tomos Williams’ velvety flugelhorn teamed with his brother’s tender tenor and Harries’ softly plucked bass. Jones provides gentle chording and O’Connor sympathetically brushed accompaniment.

“Ar Ben Waun Tredegar” (“On Tredegar Moor”) is unpretentiously jolly and features the Williams brothers trading joyous solos above a breezily swinging rhythm section. Jones matches the brothers for sheer joie de vivre and there’s a suitably rumbustious cameo from O’Connor.

Harries’ bass introduces “Beth yw’r Haf I mi?” (“What is summer to me?”), another beautiful ballad performance featuring Daniel Williams’ smoky tenor and, Tomos’ muted trumpet with Matthews wood flute subtly altering the timbre of the ensemble passages. Tomos’ solo is outstanding and his brother and the always excellent Jones also acquit themselves well. 

The album concludes with Tomos Williams’ setting of “Lloer Dirion”  (“Tender Moon”) which announces itself with a fanfare of horns before settling down to brood darkly and effectively with timbres varying from the trill of the wood flute to grainy arco bass. It’s a dramatic and atmospheric end to a consistently absorbing album.

“Caniadau” is an impressive piece of work with some excellent playing from all six members of what is effectively a Welsh “supergroup”. These timeless melodies lend themselves well to the group’s jazz adaptations and the resultant album is hugely enjoyable with tunes that stick long in the memory. Jazz and folk fusions don’t always work but on the whole this succeeds brilliantly.

Plans are currently afoot for the group to tour Wales in Autumn 2012 with the support of the Arts Council of Wales in a collaboration with Jean- Michel Veillon, the eminent Breton flautist.

More on that when we have it, this is a collaboration that should be well worth seeing.   

blog comments powered by Disqus