Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Indigo Kid II: Fist Full Of Notes (2015)

Indigo Kid II: Fist Full Of Notes
At the risk of implying that the very selective UK-based Babel Label has gone "mainstream," they have—of late—issued a number of releases that certainly have a broader appeal. A homage to Bill Evans Postcard to Bill Evans (2015) and vocalist Emilia Martensson's fine Ana (2014), now share a catalog with cutting edge artists like pianist Alexander Hawkins and groups like Woven Entity
. To be fair, Babel has long produced more genre-agnostic talent like vocalist Christine Tobin (the best known artist on the label) and guitarist/vocalist Billy Jenkins, so they have always been more eclectic than uniform. Fitting in to the former classification is guitarist Dan Messore, who leads Indigo Kid II with a second release Fist Full of Notes.

Messore, relatively unknown in the US jazz market, is a UK native who lived in Costa Rica for several years, absorbing the cultural influences and working them into his strong inherent inspirations. Not limited to jazz, he has incorporated folk and theatrical themes in his inventive compositions. Following up on the self-titled debut (Babel, 2012), Messore returns with bassist Tim Harries, formerly of Bill Bruford's Earthworks and Steeleye Span. The other returning player is the esteemed saxophonist/composer Iain Ballamy whose work with Thomas Stønen (Food), Earthworks, composer/pianist and horn player Django Bates, pianist Kenny Werner, Gil Evans and Carla Bley, make him the household name in Indigo Kid.

New additions to Indigo Kid II include UK saxophonist/composer Trish Clowes, a rising star in her own right, with three leader recordings and glowing reviews in the British press. On Fist Full of Notes she essentially takes over the reeds from Ballamy whose participation is limited to two of ten tracks. English drummer Martin France has been a pillar of rhythm on nearly one-hundred recordings and dates with Loose Tubes, Human Chain and Delightful Precipice, cross-genre icon Elvis Costello 
as well as orchestrated projects with The London Sinfonietta and BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra.

The compositions on Indigo Kid's debut album were spare in comparison to Fist Full of Notes where there is a pervasive sense of business. More texturing applies throughout, whether in the Celtic jazziness of the opener "Snow On The Presellis" or the eerily electronic "Mr. Randall." Clowes' melodic tenor, on the first piece, and France's Bill Bruford-like drumming on the latter are good examples of the broad scope of music on the disc. Ballamy makes the most of his involvement, especially on the darkly cinematic "The Healing Process." "Carpet Boys"—the only long piece at nine-plus minutes—and "From Here to Our Place" are the best places to appreciate Messore's guitar.

Messore is a broadly talented composer and his playing often conjures up Bill Frisell's work on Ghost Town (Nonesuch, 2000). Messore is capable of drenching a piece in atmosphere and while he is as gifted technically, he wisely avoids showpieces, opting for group dynamics. Fist Full of Notes at times feels like too many stylistic variations for one album, but all are very good individually as are the veteran and younger artists themselves.
Track Listing: Snow On The Presellis; Waiting For Paula; Carpet Boys; All Hands To Dance And Skylark; From Nowhere To Our Place; The Healing Process; Mr Randall; Quiet Waters; The Bay; Sketches In The Fabric.

Personnel: Dan Messore: guitar; Trish Clowes: tenor saxophone; Tim Harries: bass; Martin France: drums; Iain Ballamy: tenor saxophone (6, 10).
Record Label: Babel Label

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