by Ian Mann
May 18, 2017
A real celebration of Mullov-Abbado’s love of jazz and his most mature and satisfying work thus far.
(Edition Records EDN 1091)
A former winner of the Kenny Wheeler Music Prize the young double bassist and composer Misha Mullov-Abbado is the son of the Russian classical violinist Viktoria Mullova and the late Italian conductor Claudio Abbado.
Despite his distinguished classical lineage Mullov-Abbado has opted to pursue a jazz career and has studied at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and at the Royal Academy of Music in London where his double bass tutors included such well known jazz names as Jasper Hoiby, Tom Herbert, Michael Janisch and Jeremy Brown. It was during his studies at the Academy that he met the majority of the musicians that appear on this, his second album as a leader.
Mullov-Abbado attracted a compelling amount of critical acclaim for his 2015 début “New Ansonia” (also Edition Records), a recording that referenced both his jazz and classical background and included a guest appearance from his stepfather, classical cellist Matthew Barley.
“Cross-Platform Interchange” is more obviously a jazz record than its predecessor and it consolidates the success of the first record while demonstrating Mullov-Abbado’s growing maturity as a jazz composer.
The new album features a core sextet comprised of James Davison (trumpet & flugelhorn), Matthew Herd (alto sax), Sam Rapley (tenor sax & clarinet), Liam Dunachie (piano & fender Rhodes) and Scott Chapman (drums). The album also includes contributions from percussionist Elad Neeman whose performances were recorded in Israel by new producer Duncan Bridgeman. Guest appearances come from cellist Matthew Barley, guitarists Nick Goodwin and Rob Luft and bass trombonist Yusuf Narcin.
The title of the new album references Mullov-Abbado’s love of trains and travelling with particular emphasis on his journeys with his bass around London’s underground system. The music is inspired by Middle-Eastern, Brazilian and East-European cultures as well as more conventional jazz and funk. Mullov-Abbado describes the results as “A celebration of different traditions”.
The album commences with the remarkable “Shanti Bell” a piece partly inspired by the playing of bassist Avishai Cohen and featuring Mullov-Abbado’s muscular but melodic bass playing in conjunction with Neeman’s exotic and inventive percussion.
This segues directly into “No Strictly Dancing” which brings the full sextet on board together with acoustic guitarist Goodwin. Lively and Latin tinged the piece features some excellent ensemble playing allied to sparkling solos from Davidson on trumpet and Dunachie on piano. In his liner notes Mullov-Abbado praises Davidson, Herd and Rapley for their tightness and expressiveness, and rightly so, they are all in terrific form here.
The eleven minute “Waves” exhibits something of the scope and ambition of the first album and includes contributions from Barley on cello and Luft on electric guitar. Multi-hued and richly textured the piece evolves slowly, logically and organically, a musical journey in which the solos act as staging posts. The composer is heard first on expressive, melodic double bass, his huge tone and virtuoso technique serving the music well. The emotive sound of Rapley’s tenor follows, reaching deep into the jazz tradition while remaining thoroughly contemporary, and he is followed in turn by the cry of Herd’s alto.
“Gromit’s Grand Outing” reveals Mullov-Abbado’s lighter side, this is a composer who is prepared to inject a degree of humour and have some fun with his music. The breezy arrangement is almost a swing era pastiche with the horn players and pianist Dunachie exchanging quick-fire phrases and with the three horn players briefly carousing collectively. Mullov-Abbado finds time for a short bass solo and there’s a very brief feature for drummer Chapman. Wacky voices and samples bookend a piece that is notable for its joyousness and its embrace of good old fashioned English eccentricity.
By way of contrast “Still, Hidden Morning” deploys a chugging hip-hop styled groove that harks back to the 90s acid-jazz era. The piece has a languid but unstoppable momentum with Dunachie emerging as the principal soloist as he deploys a combination of electric and acoustic piano sounds.
It’s strangely reminiscent of Shakatak – but in a good way.
“Pure 100% Nunnery” delves even deeper into jazz history as Chapman’s solo brushed drum introduction leads into some smokily seductive sax interplay as Herd and Rapley exchange solos. These two are later joined by Davison to create a bigger, more strident group sound that harks right back to New Orleans while simultaneously hinting at something far more modern. There’s a humour and richness to this music that once again transcends mere pastiche.
All the musicians of the core sextet play in the Patchwork Orchestra, a big band comprised of former Royal Academy students. The piece “Cross-Platform Interchange” is in the Orchestra’s repertoire and for this recording the core sextet is augmented by Patchwork members Narcin, on bass trombone, and Luft on electric guitar to form a kind of mini big band. The ensemble sound is warm and multi-textured but there are plenty of superb individual moments too with excellent solos coming from Dunachie on piano and Herd on alto.
The closing “Hair Of The Bop” begins with a vigorous passage of solo double bass before shading off into an infectious Latin infused romp with some excellent group interplay and superb individual features from both saxophonists plus Davison and Chapman. Dunachie’s Cuban styled piano is a distinctive feature throughout. And in a nice touch the album finishes with the sound of a receding London Underground train.
Less self conscious than its predecessor “Cross-Platform Interchange” is a real celebration of Mullov-Abbado’s love of jazz. The way in which he deploys humour and incorporates earlier jazz styles into his compositions has evoked justifiable comparisons with the work of the great Charles Mingus. Fortunately Misha’s personality is very different to that of the fearsome Mingus.
For me “Cross-Platform Interchange” represents Mullov-Abbado’s most mature and satisfying work thus far. The eight compositions are all consistently inventive and engaging and the playing by all the musicians involved exceptional.
The album is officially launched tomorrow night May 19th 2017, at Kings Place in London and Mullov-Abbado will be taking his sextet on the road in July and I hope to cover his performance at The Hive in Shrewsbury. I predict that the music on this album will go down a storm with audiences and recommend that you try to see this band if they play anywhere near you.
Details of Misha Mullov-Abbado’s live performances can be found at;blog comments powered by Disqus