Jazz in the UK: April 2023 Album Releases

We welcome Nick Lea, editor of Jazzviews.net, for a monthly column recapping some of the key releases from the UK jazz scene this April. Want to know more about any of the albums? Head to his site for the full reviews.

Spring arrives in the UK with a spate of new releases that take pleasure in mixing things up and showing the variety of music that is being produced.

The months ahead also promise some further interesting new releases but, in the meantime, here are some of the albums that Jazz Views have been listening to over the last month.

First up a couple of albums that are firmly in the straight ahead jazz format, but all very different.

Each of these groups place their own take on the tradition while also being able to make the music stand out as something special with some interesting compositions and solos that steer clear of cliché.

Tenor saxophonist Fraser Smith plays straight out of the bebop school with a healthy acknowledgement of swing era.

TipTop! by Fraser Smith

Citing influences such as Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine, Al Cohn and Illinois Jacquet give an indication of what to expect, but then Smith throws in a big helping of his own voice honed over countless hours of practice, and more importantly time spent on the bandstand.

His new album Tip Top! with the Fraser Smith Quartet is a bristling recording that places the tenorist’s music firmly in its context. Except for ‘Prisoner of Love’, all the titles are originals by Smith, albeit contrafacts on other tunes from the bebop/hard bop era.

So cleverly are these compositions conceived, rather than an impression of ‘heard somewhere before’ melodies the music works as a fully realised Quartet sound.

For deeply swinging heartfelt piano jazz you should look no further than the latest offering from pianist Gabriel Latchin and his latest trio album, Viewpoint. 

Viewpoint by Gabriel Latchin Trio

Another album featuring all original compositions, and a leap of faith in doing so for Latchin as the pianist has built his reputation as a fine interpreter of the standard repertoire the music is an exceptional blend of ballads and more up tempo swingers, all with a passion and conviction that makes the compositions sound fresh and exciting. 

Changing the mood and feel completely are a couple of releases featuring vocalists, Diana Torti and Fiona Ross and the two albums could not be more different.

The first is by guitarist and composer Sabino de Bari and vocalist and lyricist Diana Torti on It’s All We Have in a stunning duo album that marries voice and guitar with some compelling lyrics from de Barri and Torti as well as featuring the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti.

This is quiet and reflective music that is utterly engaging.

Another engaging presence on the UK jazz scene over the last few years is vocalist, composer, arranger and bandleader Fiona Ross. Over the course of seven albums Ross has been constantly surprising and delighting her audience with her inimitable song stylings that deal with love, life, and everyday hang ups that we all deal with.

Her music is beyond classification as she seamlessly moves between jazz, blues, soul, pop music and even bringing in elements of her classical training on piano. Her new album, Thoughts, Conversations and To Do Lists, immediately resonates with most listeners as it deals with issues that we have all experienced and do experience as part of our everyday lives.  

Ross conveys her music with her by now firmly established group of musicians, and a newfound confidence in her writing that has allowed her to push her music still further with some wonderful arrangements for brass and horn section that adds a different dimension to her songs.

That’s your April recap from the UK! Thanks to Nick for putting this together, and feel free to hop over to Jazzviews.net for more reviews, or join their Friday newsletter for the latest in new album releases.

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