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Monday, March 23, 2020

CD Review: Julian Costello - Connections without borders


Julian Costello (saxophones), Maciek Pysz (guitar), Adam Teixeira (drums), Jakub Cywinski, (double bass)
(Review by Chris K)

Simultaneously a joy and a loss - this great band were due to play at the Jazz Coop, Newcastle, and Zeff's in Ambleside in April, where I was looking forward to hearing the 3D realisation of the recorded version.  At least due to Covid-19 I've had more time to listen to this delightful slice of musical magic.  

The multi-national band recorded the album in Norway with the aim of promoting and celebrating multicultural collaborations. Costello's works were new to me and so it's tempting to make comparisons with other sax-led bands in similar spaces, e.g. Oded Tzur's album recently reviewed here on BSH as well as Trish Clowes and Tori Freestone's bands.  


While there are some similarities, Costello has his own distinctive voice on tenor and soprano, with inventive but wholesome compositions with melody in abundance, covering a wide variety of idiom and mood.  A luxuriant and spacious feel pervades, with room not only for the excellent  Maciek Pysz on guitar, but top bass and drums doing more than supporting.   The classically trained Cywinski on bass has the hard act to follow of Yuri Goloubev who starred on the previous album, but he pulls it off with aplomb. Teixeira tastefully alternates between conventional beats and shimmering percussion when needed.  

Pysz is an established star in his own right, and alternates here not only between accompaniment and duelling lead, but also between electric and acoustic as the mood changes, with plenty here for the guitar aficionado.
Everyone Has a Story opens the album strongly in relaxed style, but with enough propulsion to avoid somnolence, followed by the more upbeat Sunflowers, with tones of Sulzmann and Metheny shining through. Connections looks to the east, building on Arabic scales and a motif recalling Yazz Ahmed's Jamil Jamal on La Saboteuse (to have been played by Jambone at last weekend's cancelled Gateshead Jazz...). 
Nord Wind evokes the Norwegian setting, with icy but emotional shimmers immaculately recorded, challenging ECM's ground!  Rainforest sees Costello directly engaging Garbarek territory, as does Splashing in Puddles,  complete with gorgeous cymbal landscapes.
The standout track for me is Bridges where Pysz turns up the volume and sustain to set off into a substantial proggy interlude.  Fear not though, excess is avoided in a supremely well-crafted work out for the whole band.
All in all, masterfully written and played, elegant and expressive.  While we pray for the return of both the band and the album's sentiment of Connections: without borders, I'd wholeheartedly recommend giving this a listen. 
Chris
Buy at 33 Records 33JAZZ283.

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