Misha MOLLOV-ABBADO: Cross-Platform Interchange – Edition 1091, 56:28 (5/19/17) ***½
An exciting new voice on bass leads a folk-groove oriented ensemble on a set of original charts.
(Misha Mollov-Abbado; double bass/ James Davison; trumpet & flugelhorn; Matthew Herd; alto saxophone/ Sam Rapley; tenor saxophone/ Liam Dunachie; piano and fender rhodes/ Elad Neeman; percussion/ Scott Chapman; drums Nick Goodwin and Rob Luft additional guitars; Matthew Barley; cello/ Yusuf Narcin; bass trombone)
The patronymic of the leader of the recording under review is immediately resonant of musical promise even before you discover that, indeed, the 22-year-old, London-based bassist is the progeny of two giants in the world of classical music, Claudio Abbado, the famous conductor and Viktoria Mullova, the illustrious violinist whose recordings of J.S. Bach rank with the best of our time. It would be unreasonable to judge this recording by, say, the standard of Ms. Mullova’s performance of the six sonatas for violin and continuo or for that matter Claudio Abbado’s Brahms symphonies. Instead, we make our reference point the catalog of Editions Records, which now ranks as one of the best and most innovative in European Jazz. (See the review here of last year’s remarkable Jasper Hoiby, Fellow Creatures *****).
We expect a tightly-focused, medium sized ensemble playing original charts with a little pushing outward from a center of funky post-bop sensibility. This is about what we get, too. But the first track suggests it could have been otherwise. Shanti Bell introduces us to the agile muscularity of Misha’s bass on a groove-and-variations chart reminiscent of Avishai Cohen. The drums and percussion add melodic color and the bell in question rings at unpredictable times, producing a magical effect like a shower of light. It is a great start to what will be a far-ranging set in which reach will not always be matched by grasp.
No Strictly Dancing features the trumpet of James Davidson and a well integrated acoustic guitar. This is just the sort of tune that is becoming standard fare on this label. A simple folk-music theme swells up into a lively dance groove with backing horns, shifting rhythmic accents and a boisterous all-in chorus. It is a nice way to meet this bunch of congenial players, regulars of the London Jazz scene.
After this extroverted romp, we get a waltz ballad, Waves, which is more placid than its title. There is a handsome saxophone solo and a longish bass rumination, but thick ensemble textures and detail clutter an arrangement that seems short on musical ideas. We are enlivened by the following Mingus-like Gromit’s Grand Outing. Bass and drums tap out a brisk 4/4, while short solos trade off brilliantly, everything crisp and alert in the finest Bebop tradition. An ensemble squall at the end adds a frothy celebration.
The synthetic keyboard intro on Still, Hidden Morning bodes ill, and the little we get in the way of thematic material is buoyed up by a Muzak groove. Things drift along with noodling keyboards and smooth jazz stylings from the wind section. This track might be a bid for pop music crossover notice. In fact, one worries that vocals will break in at any moment.
Pure 100% corrects the indiscretions of the pop number. Sam Rapley plays a smart tenor solo on a old-fashioned, toe-tapping melody. There is an easy swing and lots of breathing space to hear the sweetness of the rhythm section. At over seven minutes, it doesn’t waste a note.
The title track, Cross-Platform Interchange, refers to the leaders “love of trains, travelling and movement.” It feels to the listener like the band got off at the wrong station, though, as we wade through another pop arrangement. The last track has yet another simple but attractive theme, gussied up with extra percussion and mariachi efforts from the trumpet player.
Overall, this record gives notice of an outstanding musician with great promise as a bandleader. There is little doubt that his next release will be better than this one. His band could use some paring down and his compositional skills some nurturing so as to venture beyond the at-times-generic ethno-folkloric vibe that pervades this outing. Label mates Eyolf Dale (his Wolf Valley reviewed here is a marvel) and Daniel Herskedal (The Roc *****) might provide worthy examples of the art of arranging as well. But the best moments on this disk already demonstrate his worthy place within the Edition Records family.
TrackList: Shanti Bell; No Strictly Dancing; Waves; Gromit’s Grand Outing; Still, Hidden Morning; Pure 100% Nunnery; Cross-Platform Interchange; Hair of Bop