Second album from Edinburgh trumpeter Colin Steele; a mix of hard bop, impressionist...
Peter Marsh 2004
While jazz musicians haven't been slow to absorb musics from other cultures, they've been more reluctant to plunder their own folk music traditions for inspiration. There are exceptions (particularly in Europe), but it's a phenomenon that's only recently been noted on our own shores, and even then it's not happening much.
This is the second album from trumpeter/composer Steele. He'sturned to his homeland for inspiration, partly to solve the oldproblem of finding a musical identity ina n essentially American music, but his incorporation of Gaelic folk elements is subtle to a fault. It's felt in the clarity of his melodies, the occasional pedal point drone from an arco bass or the flurries of Julian Arguelles' soprano (sounding uncannily like a set of Uillean pipes at times), but you'd never take this for some lame folk/fusion attempt.
The inspirations are many; crisp, hard bop a la Lee Morgan; the impressionism of Miles or Shorter and the poised, precise counterpoint of the West Coast mesh sweetly with the occasional highland airs (and the odd Burt Bacharach pastiche). Arguelles brings a slightly bucolic presence with his fleet, agilesoprano, and his blurry tenor is equally evocative on the few occasions it's heard.But it's Steele's graceful lines that dominate; he has a luscious, even tone reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard and a leaning towards the 'walking on eggshells' delicacy of Miles or Chet Baker. Not an original template perhaps, but who cares when the music is this engaging -the solo on the title track is a yearning, gloriouslyheart-tugging excursion that could bring tears to the eyes.
Dave Milligan's piano provides sensitive harmonic underpinning and swelling rhapsodic solos, while bassist Aidan O' Donnell looks like a name to watch; there's a hint of Dave Holland about him (particularly in his fat, punchy tone). Scotjazz veteran John Rae provides, crisp rhythmic support. Steele's tunes have that rare quality of sticking around in your head long after the CD's back in its box (the closing "Variation on a Dream" is languidly infectious); that's a rare thing in itself, and enough reason to check out this wee gem of a record.