Chris Baber, Jazz Views

The liner notes, by Neil Tesser, provide a nice argument about how improvised comedy and jazz share so much in common. The reason for this is that the title ‘yes, and…’ comes from a set-up for improv comedy; one person makes a remark and then next person has to agree with what was said before they embellish it or contradict it.  Of particular importance here is not only the way that the second person works with what was given to them, but also the way that the first person creates the opportunities –which, of course, is a nice metaphor for musical improvisation.  The improvisation on this set works around themes that Bradfield has composed.  He works from a set of scales first used by Olivier Messian, which give the tunes the feel of modal jazz, particularly on the four long pieces, and adapts the tunes to the intended soloists in each piece.  Trumpet solos, by Johnson on track 6, ‘Amamneses’ and by Hill on track 4 ‘Impossible charms’, show quite different sides to the instrument in the context of the group but capture a richness and warmth in the compositions and in the way the group works together.  Similarly, Adams trombone work, particularly on track 2 ‘In flux’ and on track 4, and Webber’s bass flute on track 6, create a depth to the music that draws the listener in so that the following solos (on trumpet or guitar) become even more rewarding.

In all of tunes, Bradfield’s sax is ever present, shepherding the players and encouraging shifts in theme.  The set begins with ‘Prelude’ from Bradfield, Sommers and Hall who are a long-time trio, specialising in post-bop, and Barfield throws several ideas into the mix for the rhythm section to follow. Following this the pieces alternate between the composed pieces, running for between 7 to 14 minutes, played by the full ensemble, and shorter, 2 minute or so, featuring smaller combinations, typically trios.  The longer pieces, which form a suite, are beautifully structured. This is not so surprising given Bradfield’s eclectic approach to music making (given previously recordings that have explored the relationship between jazz and African music or the blues).  What is a little more surprising it that, with all the emphasis on improvisation in the shorter pieces, how well structured and elegantly worked these pieces sound.  I think that this is partly testament to the overarching principles that Bradfield has brought to this set, but also speaks volumes for how well these musicians know each other and enjoy each other’s company.

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