Thursday, May 11, 2017

Henry Spencer and Juncture - The Reasons Don't Change (WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS 2017)

We’re starting our 2017 releases with the debut album The Reasons Don’t Change from Henry Spencer.

Trumpet player and composer Henry Spencer is an up-and-coming name on the British scene. A recent graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he formed his quintet Juncture and crafted this debut album The Reasons Don’t Change specifically with his fellow alumni in mind. So the combined forces of Nick Costley-White (guitar), Matt Robinson (piano, keyboards), Andrew Robb (double bass) and David Ingamells (drums) intuitively interpret Spencer’s original work with a fervor to match his penetrating technique; and the inclusion of The Guastalla Quartet’s string sustenance brings another, integrated layer of richness.

The recipient of Best Newcomer Award at Marlborough Jazz Festival and Help Musicians UK’s Emerging Excellence Award, the trumpeter’s approach is derived from his formative years’ interest in songwriting. Beginnings in pairing music and words came to inform an especially lyrical, even emotional narrative to the mature artistry of his instrumental composition; so much so that, even now, his brand of rock-infused jazz can sometimes be constructed on a wireframe of received poetic phrases which are then discarded. 

It’s a method which Spencer finds rewarding – clearly heard in the fluvial, conversational melodies to Spencer’s earliest piece for the album, ‘Remember Why’ – his reasoning being that “lyrics allow us to be unambiguous and openly honest”. The same is true of introspective ballad ‘Never Draw a Line’, whose rising motifs are imaginable as a vocal line, expressing the trumpeter’s pervading themes of positivity, of transforming regret into liberation; and ‘Eulogy (Goodbye Old Chap)’ celebrates a life through contrasting reflection and exuberance.

Listen to the energy in ‘Still Open to Confusion’ or the gentler, coalescent lines of ‘On the Bridge’, and it’s easy to understand why Henry Spencer has always been drawn to the connective, overlapping timbres of brass and electric guitar which can invoke unpredictable tonal magic; and Costley-White, in particular, is establishing himself as one of the UK’s compelling, exploratory new masters of the fretboard, showcased elegantly in the luscious chordal blend with Spencer’s floating improv in ‘Knock Back, Knocked Forward’. Matt Robinson, too, is becoming a familiar collaborator in a brave new wave of jazz and jazz-related projects, and his imaginative pianistic flair in ‘Hindsight Can’t Wait’, along with an empathy for Wurlitzer and Mellotron, provides the band with so many textural options when combined with such a responsive, nuanced rhythm section as Andrew Robb and Dave Ingamells.

The physicality of the trumpet, along with its technical challenges, were what first drew Spencer to its possibilities for jazz improvisation. Across these ten tracks, an often blistering, flutter-tongued incisiveness is balanced with the serene depth of flugel, while his occasionally plaintive, bucolic solo personality – heard at the beginning of ‘Joanne’s Diary’ – is able to neatly segue into the fluctuating vistas that this band skilfully interprets. From the first few bars of ‘Hopeless Heartless’ emanates the lush warmth of The Guastalla Quartet, creating a wider soundscape reminiscent of orchestral jazz, and rocky closer ‘The Survivor and The Descendant’ consolidates the dynamic strength of this entire nine-piece as swirling, forte strings whip up a maelstrom of white-hot guitar and trumpet.

Regularly contributing to other projects – including performances with Stan Sulzmann, Jason Rebello, Julian Joseph and also the London Jazz Orchestra – Henry Spencer now brings his first album, as leader, to Whirlwind with a desire to fanfare contemporary jazz’s increasingly broader horizons: “My wish is that listeners might engage with the original emotional and lyrical context of the album, almost as if it were presented by a singer/songwriter, and then relate it to their own experience. That connection is what I find stimulating in improvised music.”

1. Hindsight Can Wait 08:21
2. On The Bridge 07:53
3. Eulogy 07:05
4. Joanne's Diary 05:13
5. Never Draw a Line 05:50
6. Still Open To Confusion 05:18
7. Remember Why 05:05
8. Hopeless Heartless 05:46
9. The Survivor and The Descendant 06:54

Henry Spencer - trumpet, flugelhorn
Nick Costley-White - guitar
Matt Robinson - piano, Fender rhodes, Wurlitzer
Andrew Robb - double bass
David Ingamells - drums

Featuring The Guastalla Quartet

Recorded by George Murphys, Philip Bagenal,
Charlier Morton and Paul Whalley
Mixed and mastered by Dave Darlington
Produced by Paul Whalley and Henry Spencer
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch

Henry Spencer and Juncture dates UK

12th May   Bourton Hall, North Dorset

13th May   Calstock Arts, Plymouth

14th May   Ashburton Live, Devon

15th May   North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore

16th May   St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall

17th May   Jazz at Dempsey’s, Cardiff

18th May     Jazz at Future Inn, Bristol

2nd June   Rays Jazz At Foyles, London