by Ian Mann
February 20, 2023
An immersive and often beautiful listening experience that features thoughtful and intelligent writing allied to superior production values and, of course, some excellent playing.
“Nurture The Child / Challenge The Adult
(Clonmell Jazz Social CJS001)
Harry Christelis – guitar, Composer, Christos Stylianides – trumpet, Andrea Di Biase – double bass, Dave Storey – drums
Harry Christelis (born 1988) is a young London born guitarist and composer. He has previously appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as the leader of Moostak Trio, a group that also features bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Dave Storey. The trio’s eponymous début album was released in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, which obviously curtailed their live appearances. They did however perform a livestream concert to an online audience from an empty Green Note in Camden as part of that year’s ‘virtual’ EFG London Jazz Festival. Both the Moostak Trio album and the Green Note livestream are reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.
Album Review here;
Livestream Review here;
In 2022 Christelis and fellow guitarist Pedro Velasco released the duo album “Scribbling”, which discretely and atmospherically blended the sounds of electric and acoustic guitars with electronics.
Christelis studied jazz at Middlesex University where his tutors included guitarist Chris Montague, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Hall, pianist Nikki Iles and trumpeter Chris Batchelor. He has since worked with an impressive array of musicians across a range of musical genres, among them singer-songwriter Jamie Doe, who performs under the name The Magic Lantern.
Now an educator himself Christelis also heads Clonmell Jazz Social (CJS), an organisation that stages jazz and improvised music events across London, including the Summer Jazz Weekender free festival in Greenwich, and much of the jazz programme at the Green Note. “Nurture The Child / Challenge The Adult” represents the first album release on the organisation’s own record label.
Christelis has acknowledged the influence of fellow guitarists Jakob Bro and Bill Frisell upon his music, plus that of drummers Elvin Jones, Paul Motian and RJ Miller. Perhaps less obvious inspirations are the rock groups The Beatles and Talk Talk. Among Christelis’ other projects is Rubber Walrus, a quartet dedicated putting a jazz slant on Beatles songs.
In many respects this latest quartet recording represents the follow up to the Moostak Trio release with Christelis retaining the services of Di Biase and Storey, two musicians who are also bandleaders in their own right as well as being busy and highly versatile sidemen on the London jazz scene.
The addition of the brilliant young trumpeter Christos Stylianides brings a new dimension to the band’s sound with Miles Davis and Jon Hassell added to the range of influences. These also include the ‘ECM sound’ and the New Zealand born avant pop musician Connan Mockasin.
Although the album is credited to Christelis and features his compositions exclusively the quartet are keen to point out that the group is a highly interactive unit with all four musicians helping to shape the music in terms of colour, shape and delineation. Group improvisation plays an important part in the quartet’s music making and Christelis has been quick to emphasise that prior to the recording he only gave the band very basic sketches of the tunes with regard to melody and harmony. Details such as tempo, feel, form and overall structure were subsequently worked out collectively.
The majority of the music was written during lockdown, a fact reflected in some of the tune titles. Of the album title Christelis says; “humans need a balance in their life of having their inner child nurtured and supported, while the adult side of themselves is challenged and questioned”.
The experiments with electronics that distinguished both the “Moostak Trio” and “Scribblings” releases continues on this new recording with both Christelis and Stylianides making judicious use of pedalboards to expand their sound via the use of a range of electronic effects.
It’s something that can be heard on the atmospheric opener “Horizons”, which simultaneously sounds as if it could be being transmitted from deep space or from the ocean depths. The sound of Stylianides’ high pitched, vocalised trumpet has been compared with that of whale-song while the immersive, low register sounds of Di Biase’s bowed double bass suggest the Stygian gloom of the ocean floor. The leader’s bleeping guitar effects are reminiscent both of dripping water and of space beacons, flickers of light in the darkness. As on the “Scribbling” album I’m again reminded of a darker version of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”.
Drawing inspiration from the music of Jan Garbarek “Zero Hours” is relatively more conventional as Storey enters the proceedings for the first time, drumming with great sensitivity alongside Di Biase on plucked double bass. Both guitar and trumpet are subject to a degree of electronic manipulation, but on the whole the sound is more orthodox, with Christelis embarking on a substantial solo, his tone cool and elegant. There’s a pictorial quality about the music and the sense of an epic journey being undertaken.
The title of “In These Places We Live” is suggestive of warmth and familiarity and this is reflected in the mellowness of the music with the leader’s cleanly picked, Metheny-esque guitar combining with the breathy whisper of Stylianides’ trumpet. Di Biase is featured as a soloist, his playing both resonant and melodic, but also highly dexterous. Storey’s understated drumming, plus a soupçon of electronica, completes the sonic picture.
“Walking Blue” begins quietly with the sound of unaccompanied guitar evoking a sense of melancholy. The piece unfolds slowly and organically, with trumpet, bass and drums eventually added to the equation. Stylianides’ trumpet weeps emotively while Storey deploys an effective combination of mallet rumbles and filigree cymbal work. Di Biase fills an anchoring role, while the leader’s guitar weaves gently in and out of an evocative piece that is again enhanced by the subtle use of electronica.
“Lu” is more playful and is introduced by the rhythm team of Di Biase and Storey, whose whimsical grooves form the platform for the eloquent and melodic guitar/ trumpet interplay of Christelis and Stylianides.
The brief “Prism” is largely improvised with interlocking short phrases played on guitar, trumpet and bowed bass and underscored by twinkling electronica. Storey subsequently joins in at the kit as the music becomes more abstract, the piece fading out with the sounds of looped electronica. It’s all over within two and half minutes but the quartet fit a lot into the running time. It’s an interesting and absorbing listen.
“Missing” opens with the sound of unaccompanied guitar, the spaciousness and purity of the notes intended to simulate the falling of teardrops. The melancholy whisper of Stylianides’ trumpet adds to the reflective atmosphere. Di Biase excels with another beautifully melodic double bass solo while Storey adds delicate brushed accompaniment. There is also a sprinkling of eerie electronic fairy-dust.
The intriguingly titled “Explorations Of One’s Self Inside A Caravan” represents the album’s most forceful track with its racing bass and drum grooves topped by incisive guitar and swirling electronica. But as the title suggests there’s room for reflection too as the music gradually becomes more abstract with the addition of Stylianides’ brooding trumpet. Di Biase’s bass comes to the fore, his plucked melodies augmented by woozy electronica. The leader’s guitar subsequently takes over, accompanied by an ambient electronic soundwash.
The CD and Digital editions of the album concluded with an alternate take of “Missing”, this time introduced by Storey at the drums. The melancholic mood of the piece remains and Storey’s combination of mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers is highly atmospheric, sourced from the Paul Motian / Jon Christensen ECM school of drumming. Cleanly picked guitar and brooding trumpet are added, plus double bass and ambient whorls of electronica. It’s a genuine alternative version that more than justifies its inclusion here.
Although some of its influences might be obvious the Christelis quartet is a group that has managed to create its own distinctive soundworld, building on the success of the Moostak and Scribbling projects. The addition of Stylianides widens the group’s sonic palette and he and Christelis have already developed an excellent rapport. The skilful use of electronics is also a distinctive component of the band’s sound and this element is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the band’s music with engineers David Holmes and Alex Bonney also deserving great credit for their roles in the production process.
“Nurture The Child / Challenge The Adult” is an immersive and often beautiful listening experience that features thoughtful and intelligent writing allied to superior production values and, of course, some excellent playing. It’s a recording that has garnered universally good reviews and it’s an album that Christelis and his colleagues can be justifiably proud of.
The album will be launched at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on 4th April, followed by a concert at the Lescar in Sheffield on 12th July, and another London date at the Green Note, Camden on the 10th November for the 2023 London Jazz Festival.
“Nurture The Child / Challenge The Adult” is available at;