Posts Tagged ‘James Macaulay’

Josh Kyle‘s new album has me jumping for joy.

Not only because it is music worth jumping up and down about – which it is – but because it also reminds me in the best way that there is still adventurous and exciting music out there, with adventurous and exciting artists seeking it.

For Trombone Song Cycle, Kyle has taken the inspired step of performing with the accompaniment of four trombones around his voice, and nothing else. At first, once might think it risky – a misstep of arrangement or vocal approach here or there could spell murky or misguided disaster.

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But on hearing Andrew Murray‘s challenging yet simpatico arrangements under and around Kyle’s unique voice and singular vocal approach, one wonders why this has not been done before. You see, the trombone is one of the the instruments closest to the human voice in its ability to slur, bark, snap and whimper. Its range is also very close to the range of the human voice.

Opener ‘Get Out of My Head’ sets the soundscape – Kyle’s long-note melody repeats over counterpoint in the four trombones, setting a tension that releases slowly as one senses the overlaps and cross currents in the harmonic lattice. The result is mesmerising.

Kyle’s falsetto here – the top of a remarkable range – is luminous; there are times across the whole album where it is difficult to say where the voice finishes and the trombones begin. The voice is used often by Murray as a fifth trombone, as where that same falsetto is nested into the trombones on the piece ‘No 5’ . Kyle1

The aspiration chant ‘I Can’ (“I can be stronger/I can be higher”) has brassy blare and greasy gliss in unison with the voice. A solo is played over the lightest harmonic gossamer pedal below. I would not like to try to pic the soloists across Trombone Song Cycle, though I think I detect James Greening‘s big spirit here or there and James Macaulay‘s sass on one track, though it equally could be Adrian Sherriff or Jordan Murray.

But the scape is not all indigo dream and counterpoint – the spitting syncopation of ‘The One’ has the trombone quartet setting up a charging rhythm against Kyle’s voice,  the percussive ‘crack’ of the trombone’s bell splitting the rhythm.

Album closer is the love song ‘Song For Meg’, a high point for me. Here the trombones lend a bed of crackle-edged dissonance under Kyle’s hymn-like melody, with the tenderness palpable in his delivery. It is this tenderness which elevates Josh Kyle’s vocal artistry; it is always gratifying to see technique subsumed to emotion and ‘the story’ in an artist with so many years ahead of him.

With its artistic courage and truly inspired approach, Trombone Song Cycle would be the jewel in any other artist’s crown. Yet, I have a strong and good feeling that it is another strong port-of-call in a life that will take Josh Kyle – and any of us who want to listen – to some truly wonderful places.

 

Josh Kyle’s website is http://www.joshkylemusic.com

 

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I recently had the sinful pleasure of hearing traditional jazzer Geoff Bull in full flight with his energetic band, The Finer Cuts. The ribald energy of the band, especially when the horns went tutti, had that anarchic joy shout that is one of the great charms of early jazz.

Even though the aesthetic is markedly different, I hear that same anarchic shout on the second release by Melbourne trombonist/composer James MacaulayToday Will Be Another Day. That said, maybe the shout comes from a similar place to Bull’s, as Macaulay also performs with his own traditional jazz group, The Lagerphones.

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Today Will Be Another Day was recorded in Tokyo with a dream team of Melbourne and Japanese musicians. The band rumbles out of the gate on opener ‘Mashigo Jukja’ with stabbed piano from long-time Macaulay cohort Aaron Choulai leading the charge into a dense thicket of horns. The texture thins into sinewy Ornette Coleman freedom, with trumpeter Ben Harrison playing some stunning virtuoso passages. Harrison’s playing across the album is a stand-out – he pulls sounds from the horn that startle in their abrasion, vocal-like textures and imagination.

The warm shadow of dear departed drummer and guru Allan Browne continues to lie across Australian jazz and Macaulay’s beautiful reading of Browne’s ballad ‘Prednisolone’ is a touching tribute to the man. The only cover here, its arrangement is build from the heart up and deeply affecting. James-Macaulay2

The rhythm section of ex-pat drummer Joe Talia and Melbournian Marty Holoubek on bass are a delight throughout – at times they kick it, perfectly interlocked on the groove, as on spicy tango ‘Chicken Liver’ (Scott McConnachie‘s alto a knockout here); on other tracks they play almost entirely free or in complex dislocated rhythmic counterpoint. Holoubek’s extended solo on vehicle ‘Freedom Jazz Girls’ is mesmerising.

‘Freedom Jazz Girls’ also features the bass koto of Miyama McQueen-Tokita. The instrument’s exotically evocative voice gives the polytonal ‘Square Dance’ a feeling of, oddly enough, rural blues guitar – its slides and moans mirrored in Macaulay’s exceptional slipping-and-sliding trombone solo.

The two chorales here both have a pang of nostalgia (that bittersweet sister of homesickness). ‘Tokyo’ is rain-soft and impressionistic, Choulai’s piano perfect in its wistfulness. Album closer ‘Spring Chorale’ – a collaboration with singer Lisa Salvo – has the added emotional lift of three part vocals. It leaves you on a cloud.

The title track, ‘Today Will Be Another Day’ (named not for a Zen Buddhist aphorism but taken from a mysterious T-shirt slogan) encapsulates all that is good about James Macaulay’s playing, writing and musical vision. Over its 12 minutes it moves from Ellingtonian dissonant blues (and aubergine blacks and moody indigos) through various tempos and feels; all built around two duos – one of alto sax and bass koto, the other of trumpet and piano. Its cohesion reflects the intelligent cohesion of its parent album.

And that anarchic joy shout, while not always jumping out, is definitely always grinning in the background.

 

Today Will Be Another Day is available from Earshift Music  https://www.earshift.com

James Macaulay’s website is at http://www.jamesmacaulay.com.au