Sourpuss

COMPOSERS: Calderazzo,Kelly,Robson,Siegel
LABELS: Babel
ALBUM TITLE: Partisans
PERFORMER: Julian Siegel (ss, ts, cl, b-cl, perc), Phil Robson (g), Thad Kelly (b), Gene Calderazzo (d)
CATALOGUE NO: BDV 2029

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Although, in terms of instrumentation and – superficially – their overall sound, Partisans resembles the Blue Note John Scofield band that featured tenorman Joe Lovano, its roots have clearly been nurtured in British rather than American soil.

UK jazz rock has flourished since the late Sixties, pioneered by the likes of John McLaughlin and Colosseum, and Partisans’ combination of sheer gutsiness and an ability to make high-quality musicianship sound engagingly informal has characterised the genre since Robert Wyatt et al first imported detailed jazz knowledge and an enthusiasm for improvisation into rock.

In addition to jazz rock’s fierce bustle and visceral punch, however, Partisans are also interested in subtleties of texture and timbre: Phil Robson is as at home with the most delicate of acoustic picking as he is with the controlled electronic wailing and howling that mark the music’s climaxes; Julian Siegel intelligently intersperses abrasive, barrelling tenor work with softly warbling tenderness as appropriate.

Add a hint of Afro-Caribbean rhythm (Robson’s neat ‘Pearly Gates’), a touch of thumb piano (‘Nit de Nit’ – a witty look at the problems of communication) and a heartfelt, suitably questing Coltrane tribute (Siegel’s ‘Anniversary’), plus the odd quieter, more meditative moment (the lightly tripping ‘Passacaglia’), and the result is a perfectly balanced programme of cogent originals.

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It showcases not only the soloing and compositional skills of co-leaders Robson and Siegel – now firmly established at the heart of London’s thriving jazz scene – but also the propulsive deftness of bassist Thad Kelly and the explosive energy of drummer Gene Calderazzo. A rousing, wholly enjoyable but clearly carefully considered album. CP