Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nat Birchall – Creation (Sound Soul And Spirit, 2016)

British saxophonist Nat Birchall has led powerful and evocative John Coltrane inspired sessions for several years now. This pithy and compact record continues that golden run of successful albums. The band features two drummers who, along with the rest of the five-piece group, create deep kinetic energy. Adam Fairhall accompanies Birchall on piano, with Michael Bardon on bass, and Johnny Hunter and Andy Hay on drums. “Love in the Cosmos” opens the album with taut saxophone declarations backed with stoic rhythm. Birchall’s yearning tenor tone calls through the air, with the rolling drums adding further momentum. There is a dark and imposing nature to the leader’s saxophone as it develops a raw and circling pattern that seems almost predatory in scope. The highs and lows of the music converge in a powerfully dynamic and unrelenting performance. Drums roll ominously on “Through the Darkness” and Birchall switches to a steely toned soprano saxophone, which gains power from the uneasy nature of the music. Strong, heavy drumming and ripples of piano are hallmarks of the music, and the soprano cries above the fray swirling and cutting through the air making for powerful company with a propensity for volume. Sturdy tenor saxophone enters on “Peace Be Unto Us” moving in open space provided by a more abstract rhythm section. The openness of the music suits them well, because no one is hemmed in, and the music has a spiritual quality to it, developing a wide panorama of sound. “Ocean of Truth” has a full band introduction with Birchall’s powerful tenor saxophone anchored by stout piano, bass and drums. The crashing drum duo adds muscle to the music encouraging peals of ripe saxophone making for a full band improvisation that is sleek and powerful, peaking with great fervor. Shaken percussion and bright piano chords usher in the concluding “Light of All Worlds.” Rolling drums and percussion engage with the patient tenor saxophone, and encourages the whole group to swell in intensity, culminating in scorching saxophone and roaring drums. There is an abrupt shift to a section where Birchall steps out and the remaining musicians develop a subtle rapport before everyone comes together for the moving finale of the album. This record worked very well, and the musicians were a tight and powerful unit that definitely took their inspiration from John Coltrane’s mid 1960’s band, but allowed themselves space to make their own statements, both individually and as a group. Creation -

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