Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

November 27, 2006


There would certainly seem to be the potential for more fine music to come from this talented trio.

Arguelles recent show at The Midlands Arts Centre, part of a touring double bill featuring fellow Basho recording artist Liam Noble has already been favourably reviewed recently.

The tour was promoting this excellent album which sees Arguelles collaborating with the American rhythm section of Tom Rainey (drums) and Michael Formanek (bass). Co-operation between British and American musicians is actively encouraged by Basho Records and Arguelles travelled to New York to record the album. For the tour Formanek was replaced by his compatriot John Hebert who stepped into the breach admirably.

Arguelles first came to prominence in the 80’s as a member of the seminal big band Loose Tubes. He has subsequently had a distinguished solo career releasing a string of fine albums. Arguelles is a master saxophonist but is also an excellent composer who relishes a musical challenge. He has led his own quartets and has also written some superb music for octet, particularly on the brilliant album “Skull View”. His most recent album “As Above, So Below” found him writing for strings alongside more familiar jazz elements.

The pared down line up on “Partita” represents a considerable contrast. The trio take their inspiration from the saxophone trios of Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman and early Jan Garbarek. Without a chordal instrument this line up presents a considerable challenge to the players and Rainey and Formanek function very much as equal partners. The trio uses Arguelles’ characteristically sophisticated compositions as a jumping off point for improvisation. The results make for fascinating listening.

“Partita” has an unusual construction commencing with seven full-length compositions followed by eight shorter tracks all clocking in at under two minutes. It would appear that most of these vignettes are group improvisations.

“Evan’s Freedom Pass”, a dedication to Evan Parker one presumes, is a great opener. Arguelles’ tenor swirls and soars majestically over Rainey’s surging drums and Formanek’s busy bass.

“Warm Winter Coat Of Spruce” is as atmospheric as its title suggests. Arguelles’ meditative soprano entwines itself around Formanek’s warm, rich, arco bass and Rainey’s shimmering cymbals. Lovely.

“Peace for D” has a simple but beautiful theme and builds from quiet beginnings through a memorable Formanek solo to a lengthy and masterful improvisation from Arguelles himself. Arguelles has a highly individual tenor sound, seemingly relaxed but with a subtle power. Always in control he is an immaculate, and very English player.

From the live show we learnt that “Lesters” is a dedication to Arguelles’ young nephew of the same name and also to the late great Lester Young whose influence can be heard in Arguelles’ sound. This is more “free” than what has gone before but is still innately listenable.

“Arco Iris” is in similar territory but more forceful. Although Formanek solos effectively arco bass is not featured. The title comes from the Portugese for “sunrise” and is a reflection of Birmingham born Arguelles’ roots. Rainey provides a brief solo that demonstrates his awesome technique, a brilliant blend of power and musicality.

“Tide” finds Arguelles overdubbing his various horns in a drone over Formanek’s high register bass and Rainey’s subtle drumming. Like “Spruce” it’s a highly evocative mood piece.

“Which Way Out” is an energetic workout on an Ornette Coleman inspired theme with Arguelles again in peerless form on tenor. Formanek and Rainey match him every step of the way. The chemistry between the trio is palpable and there is a superb interaction throughout the album.

If Coleman seems to have been the main inspiration on the trio’s style thus far the miniatures that follow seem to owe more to Garbarek. Both “Sub Rosa”, a duet with Formanek and “Bottom Draw Pages” are brief and atmospheric. The latter finds Arguelles overdubbing himself again in the style of “Tide”. The use of overdubs and the overall feel of the miniatures sometimes brings to mind the duo album “Scapes” which Julian recorded way back in 1995 with his drummer brother Steve. Steve was involved in the engineering and production of “Partita” which has a very pure and clear sound throughout with Julian himself taking the producer credits.

“Stranglet” finds Arguelles briefly exploring the outer reaches of the tenor whilst “Again Again” is the briefest of duets with Formanek.

“Triagonal” is probably the best of the miniatures a genuine group dialogue with Arguelles’ mercurial soprano taking the lead.

“Speak Up” is nearly as fine with Arguelles on flute and Formanek on buzzing arco bass above Rainey’s rich percussion undertow.

“Leash” is a brief squall of tenor and rumbling drums and bass.

The closing “Tempus” is another multi-tracked piece for Arguelles only with his soprano underpinned by bass clarinet. There is a folkish tinge to the melody which perhaps reflects his move to Scotland after many years based in London.

The meat of the album is in its full-length tracks where the dynamics of the trio are heard at their best. The miniatures that follow are enjoyable enough but leave the listener frustrated and wanting more. They seem to be a taster for something more substantial. There would certainly seem to be the potential for more fine music to come from this talented trio. Indeed some new material was featured in the recent live shows.

Lets hope that those enterprising people at Basho Records can tempt them back into the studio to record a follow up to this very fine album.

blog comments powered by Disqus