Like Newvelle and SmallsLive, Edition Records is an artist-based jazz label. In this case the now ten-year-old pairing of pianist and composer David Stapleton and photographer Tim Dickeson has resulted in over 90 recordings. Located in the United Kingdom, Edition helps document the British jazz scene, with releases by such well-known artists as saxophonist Tim Garland and pianist Django Bates. There’s also a strong Scandinavian presence, and readers with an affinity for ECM or Rune Grammofon should make Edition’s acquaintance. With musicians from Switzerland, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the UK, and elsewhere, Edition is justified in describing itself as “a British record label with a European sensibility,” and as such it serves as an affirmation that European jazz is as vital as ever. Edition sells compact discs, downloads, and vinyl. Although there’s a plethora of small-group acoustic jazz on Edition, there’s also music that strays outside those boundaries, and in both cases clean, open, and natural-sounding recordings are the norm. Here my focus will be on some of my favorite Edition releases in a range of settings.
When the Mahavishnu Orchestra released its first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, the breakneck intensity of the music had a certain wow factor—even fans of the band leader, John McLaughlin, didn’t see that coming. The leadoff track for that LP, and a song that McLaughlin has returned to in both acoustic and electric settings, was “A Meeting of the Spirits,” which, in a slightly altered form, serves as the title of a 2017 release by pianist Gary Husband, who has worked extensively with McLaughlin in the Fourth Dimension. Along with some Mahavishnu and Shakti songs and solo material by McLaughlin, A Meeting of Spirits contains some Husband originals that are inspired by McLaughlin compositions. So what happens when music as aggressive and loud as the Mahavishnu Orchestra is distilled down to a single acoustic instrument? Something very interesting, as Husband manages to combine intensity with intimacy, deftly alternating between sparse, reflective passages and the jagged phrasing that has McLaughlin’s name written all over it. A moving tribute to a musical genius.
Phronesis is among the most popular acts on Edition, and I’m guessing that has something to do with the merits of the band’s live performances, while the energy level and keen use of dynamics on their studio recordings have the impact of a good concert performance. Highlights of 2016’s Parallax include “OK Chorale,” which continues to build and release tension until the dramatic ending, and “67000 MPH,” whose intricate unison lines and abrupt tempo changes also contain an element of suspense. On 2017’s The Behemoth the trio joins forces with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, and the result is a recording that’s as tempestuous as it is colorful.
You may associate late-period John Coltrane with aggressive and challenging jazz. But Denys Baptiste’s The Late Trane, on which eight of the ten tracks were penned by Coltrane, serves as a reminder that during his final years he continued to have a serene side. Playing tenor and soprano saxophone on tracks of modest length, Baptiste visits some lesser-known Trane, including compositions that appeared on original and expanded editions of Sun Ship, Transitions, and Kulu Sé Mama. While The Last Trane has its edgy moments, most of the album is lyrical, accessible, and warm, and it ultimately registers as a heartfelt tribute to one of the giants of modern jazz.
I could easily have devoted this whole page to musicians who, while drawing from the jazz tradition, are harder to pin down stylistically. Girls in Airports is a Danish quintet whose two horn players, Lars Greve and Martin Stender, play lovely-sounding unison lines that sometimes evoke folk music as much as jazz. Although Live often sounds ambient and pensive, Girls in Airports is capable of sudden bursts of energy, with explosive results. Mathias Holm’s keyboards lend a strange prog-like element, and the tribal drum-and-percussion rhythms of Victor Dybbroe and Mads Forsby may remind you of some jam bands. Led by trumpeter Laura Jurd, Dinosaur is a four-piece that features electric bass and keyboards (Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, synthesizer). The sound on their debut album Together, As One is open and spacious in a way that evokes early electric Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock along with a dollop of electronica. The playful musical adventures of the Elliott Galvin Trio and the trip-hop and jazz mix of Slowly Rolling Camera also defy easy categorization. More insight into the rich mixture of music on Edition can be gleaned from its website, editionrecords.com.
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