Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra, Fletcher Moss Park  
Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra
Fletcher Moss Park
GBR 1xLP 
Label: Gondwana Records
Release Year: 2015
Style: Jazz & Blues
 
  Tracks  
  1. Cherry Blossom
2. Fletcher Moss Park
3. Mary Emma Louise
4. Sailing Out to Sea
5. Wee Lan (Little Orchid)
6. The Sun in September
7. Finding My Way
 
  Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and band-leader Matthew Halsall is one of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene. His unique sound was brilliantly described as "Rain-streaked spiritual jazz from Manchester" by the Independent On Sunday and previous albums have found Halsall exploring the modal jazz of John and Alice Coltrane or paying heartfelt tribute to the hard bop of the late '50s and early '60s, but on Fletcher Moss Park he offers his most personal statement yet.

Written and recorded over the last couple of years, Fletcher Moss Park is inspired by one of Manchester's most beautiful places. A rambling, multi-tiered park of walkways and dreamy gardens that offers the contemplative Halsall a place of peace and respite from the city, a meditative space to think and write in. The stillness and beauty of the surroundings have steeped into his beautiful compositions for this album. Elegant and sincere, Halsall's compositions draw on his love of spiritual jazz, modern dance music and even his work with the award-winning Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band earlier this year. Halsall who has recently been exploring his music in a stripped-back, electronica influenced, trio (featuring Taz Modi and Luke Flowers who also appear here) as well as the 12 piece Gondwana Orchestra has always favoured an earthy honestly and direct communication over tricksy arrangements and it is this deceptively simple openness that gives his music such a unique flavour as the young composer and producer seeks to express his feelings and thoughts with his music.

Fletcher Moss Park opens with three tracks featuring saxophonist Nat Birchall, harpist Rachael Gladwin and pianist Adam Fairhall alongside bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Gaz Hughes all long running members of Halsall's sextet. The beautiful Cherry Blossom opens with a nod to Alice Coltrane before exploring it's own contemplative trajectory, the title track features a gorgeous opening from harpist Gladwin and one of Halsall's trademark slow but foot tappingly catchy grooves, Mary Emma Louise is an elegant tribute to someone special and features some beautifully wistful playing from the composer. Sailing Out To Sea and Wee Lan offer a change in mood, two short interludes for violin (Holly Simpson and Davinder Singh), cello (Adrianne Wininsky) and double bass (Barras), Halsall chose not to play here feeling that the brief musical sketches caught his intentions perfectly. Finally the album closes with the two most recent compositions, the reposeful Sun In September which features fine work from flautist Lisa Mallett, alongside pianist Taz Modi and drummer Luke Flowers and the uplifting Finding My Way, which with it's compelling groove and fine drumming from Flowers (best known for his work with Cinematic Orchestra) offers a nod towards Halsall's love of contemporary electronic music as well as a hint of future projects. But as with the writing here you can be sure that wherever Halsall's muse takes him his music will remain heartfelt and life affirming in it's elegant directness as he explores his own unique musical terrain that stretches from the bucolic stillness of Fletcher Moss Park to a world far beyond!
 
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