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Matthew Halsall - An Ever Changing View

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    Posted: 26 Sep 2023 at 10:30pm

recording of the week,Matthew Halsall - An Ever Changing View

by Barney Whittaker  

Trumpeter Matthew Halsall has always had his finger on the pulse of the Northern scene, and the current scope of his label, Gondwana, displays his impressive knack for scouting new talent to fit his roster of meditative jazz-based sounds. It’s safe to say that the Manchester-man has done it again with his ninth all-encompassing album, An Ever Changing View. Delivering on the creative promises he and his label have come to be known for, the bandleader returns with the same rule-bending attitude he has cultivated over the last decade and a half – his ability to employ the most intricate of musical palettes whilst retaining the fearlessness of saying ‘less is more’.

 Swapping his usual Mancunian milieu for more remote surroundings, nestled (as he puts it) amongst ‘Mountains, Trees and Seas’, An Ever Changing View represents the culmination of a performing career that has seen the stalwart musician graduate from the sweaty club setting of his monthly jam session-cum-workshop residency at Manchester’s Pink Room to a headline gig at the Royal Albert Hall (coming later this month) – all under the guise of pursuing an altogether more pastoral and ‘outdoorsier’ environment and feel. This is the kind of sound world Halsall is inviting us into now, one where emotionally charged trumpet lines and electric Rhodes meld with organic woodwinds, percussion and harp.

As is often the case with recordings of this ilk, it’s the album's sparsest tracks which are its most revealing. Three brief interludes bookend the album’s ternary chapters, beginning with the prelude, ‘Tracing Nature’, which offers a calming synchronicity of arpeggiated keyboard runs and far-off birdsong. What better way to open an album steeped in natural themes than with an overture taken directly from the world around us? There is also a stringent mbira motif that weaves its way across the record, its reliable presence coming as a welcome addition to Halsall’s melodies which are blended through intimate textures of featherlight orchestration. This notion is further strengthened via the tactile ringing of bowls (actually a custom set of tuned triangular gongs) and shimmering cymbals on the pause-for-thought meditation, ‘Sunlight Reflection’. Between this pair comes the ambient spell, ‘Field of Vision’, another fine example of the healing and restorative passages that underpin the album and serve as the common denominator of its narrative.

 Despite scaling down the ‘Gondwana Orchestra’ of yesteryear with which he recorded two respective albums in 2014 and 2015, Halsall’s ambitions are in no way diminished; rather, he and his ensemble at large have managed to conserve their brilliant philharmonic efforts. The soundscapes he is capable of manifesting range in scale and sonic proportion in a similar fashion to his most recently acclaimed labelmates, including the likes of the symphonious sax talent Jasmine Myra and Chip Wickham, the plucky musician whose woodwind contributions appear throughout An Ever Changing View (and whose latest album, Life & Love, is equally resplendent and refreshing).

As previously suggested, this album is more of an expansion of Halsall’s signature brand of low-key spiritualisms than a radical departure from them. But, please don’t presume this means the sudden inclusion of a filler album within a tremendous discography. Having already ‘found his voice’, so to speak, all that remains is for the Manc to carry on as he merrily leads us on the path to enlightenment. As the old adage goes, if ain’t broke… It is often the case that newcomers must approach jazz with an alarming deal of good faith, however, if they are to so much as glimpse the woods for the trees. Halsall and his new album contradict all that, offering a much needed antidote of accessibility to the relentlessness of today’s fast-paced world and cultural climate, which can often at times seem predictably moribund. Living in a time of digital information overload, I certainly heeded his call to take a few steps back in order to visualise an ever changing view.

Matthew Halsall plays his biggest headline show to date at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 21st and is also touring across the UK throughout Autumn.  

Barney Whittaker

from www.prestomusic.com 

Edited by snobb - 26 Sep 2023 at 10:32pm
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