Last year Matthew Halsall’s debut album ‘Sending My Love’ planted him firmly on the UK jazz map, with a release which earned him praise across the board. Solid airplay from Radio 1’s Gilles Peterson (the album figured in his top 40 albums of 2008), Stuart Maconie (BBC 6 Music), Tom Robinson (BBC 6 Music) and Mike Chadwick (Jazz FM) amongst others, culminated in a Maida Vale session for 6 Music. Halsall’s expressive playing style and compositions, rooted deep in the spiritual jazz tradition, combined with subtle arrangements and respectful production, led to the release becoming something far greater than just the sum of its parts – more than simply a debut from a skilled, young player – ‘Sending My Love’ offered a welcome return to form for UK jazz – it even grabbed the attention of Nitin Sawhney, and led to the pair collaborating in a week long session.
A committed performer and restless musician, Halsall now returns with his second full length album ‘Colour Yes’ delivering six brand new compositions. This time around Matthew recruited the talents of Nat Birchall (sax), Adam Fairhall (piano), Gavin Barras (bass), Gaz Hughes (drums), Marek Dorcik (drums) and Rachael Gladwin (harp) – the groups impeccable performances under Halsall’s direction, deliver yet another consistent and often brilliant release, authentic in every which way. The effortless swing of title track and album opener ‘Colour Yes’, really defines what it is about Halsall’s vision of jazz that gives him the upper hand; this is timeless music, it owes nothing to the past – sure, there are comparison points, but all lead to music which is indeed, already classic. An undeniable clarity is present throughout, themes are balanced and already sounding fully road-tested.
‘Together’ is a transcendental modal ballad which fuels the spirit of Stan Tracey’s ‘Starless and Bible Black’ and Neil Ardley’s ‘Shades Of Blue’ as performed by Don Rendell and Ian Carr’s Quintet. Utterly beautiful. ‘I’ve Found Joy’ and ‘Mudita’ are the jazz dance features that will be a hit with the Sleepwalker and Soil & Pimp crowd; the spacial rhythm section play like Bill Evan’s classic trios on ‘I’ve Been Here Before’, where the space between the notes almost mean as much as the notes themselves. This not only shows a great respect for the past masters of modal exploration but makes a bold step forward to re-establish ‘British jazz’ as a vital music as much in 2009 as it was in the mid 1960’s. The addition of Rachael Gladwin’s harp brings a sense of liquidity to the
band, take it as read that Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane are honoured forebears. By the close of this fine second Matthew Halsall album, the authoritative drive of this band truly seems to have transmitted to a whole new astral plane.