Trumpeter Matthew Halsall has been publishing his work for ten years now on Gondwana Records, a label founded for this purpose. Albums marked by what we usually call “spiritual jazz” – a label that takes on pleonasm, jazz without spirit being just pyrotechnics, notes placed end to end. Still, the native of Manchester has gradually widened his furrow, rather marked at the beginning by the modality of the 60s, as evidenced by a very “Davisian” first album before frankly opting for oriental fashions echoing in particular to Alice Coltrane to which he has also paid tribute. A solid instrumentalist, he has also practiced the tracks of electronic music, with Shadow or Mr. Scruff, of which his universe bears traces, which enrich the canvas of his compositions. Evidenced by this new album, where he surrounded himself with a renewed formation, having recruited a “young” team from Manchester (Matt Cliffe on flute and saxophone, Maddie Herbert on harp, Liviu Gheorghe on piano, Alan Taylor on drums. and Jack McCarthy on percussion) united around the unmistakable bassist Gavin Barras.
If, from the first theme, the harp recalls its ancient associations with music of Indian obedience, but also British folk; if the bass line is not unrelated to that which boosted the impulses of Pharoah Sanders, the very one that the saxophonist obviously listened to a lot, very quickly pierce other influences in this tribute to the sun. In this case, the title is not innocent: this time, it is to the radiant beauty of Don Cherry, when he approached the music of West Africa, among others, for the account of the A & M label, which returns the superb second theme, Joyful Spirits of the Universe which unfolds over more than ten minutes. There is here the same melodic grace, the same rhythmic sieve which provides the pulsation without imposing it, the same sense of the oblique which inclines the jazz towards a sophisticated form of pop, the same desire to be freed more and more any referencing. This is certainly not without paradox, like everything that follows, moreover, often inviting us to soar in similar volutes, like this very successful Tropical Landscapes, eight full minutes that sound like a Don Cherry decal.
Salute to the Sun from Matthew Halsall Gondwana Records.