Jim Hart is one of a select group of UK musicians who’s as well established in Europe as his original homeland (he’s lived in France since 2014) and as comfortable in the role of sideman (for Marius Neset, Ivo Neame, Stan Sulzmann and Vula Viel to name but a few) as he is leading his own projects. This album presents an expanded version of his acclaimed Cloudmakers Trio; Hoang adds a reedy, soprano-like alto and Riepler’s contributes Terje Rypdal-style washes of echo and delay as well as considered, fluent single-note runs. The compositions are wide-ranging and impressionistic, with plenty of space for group improvisation, taking full advantage of the open sound afforded by a vibes-based rhythm section. Travelling Pulse starts with a Ghanaian clave pattern, swiftly built up with layers of complementary textures into a very contemporary piece of euro-jazz; The Past Is Another Country builds through a series of improvisations to a quizzically unresolved, harmonically ambiguous closing unison; Golden is described as a lullaby in the liner notes, but would probably only soothe a child with a highly sophisticated ear attuned to it’s mix of chromaticism and bluesy intonations. The Road provides a feature for the superb Dave Smith before a plaintive, Ornetteish melody floats incongruously over the driving pulse – The Exchange is a complex, through-composed piece with some mellifluous clarinet work from Hoang that perfectly suits its buoyant tone, and Cycle Song is a rhythmically intricate tribute to the late lamented John Taylor that also evokes something of the spirit of early weather Report and allows Janisch a typically virtuosic statement.
This is complex, sophisticated music and all the players are eminently in tune with each other’s creative voices and with the spirit of the compositions themselves – all the pieces were recorded live at the Vortex in 2017, and the level of musicianship displayed is truly formidable. While all the pieces are powerfully propulsive, Hart isn’t really interested in writing melodies that stick in the head – each piece is more like a journey towards an unknown destination, and it’s the spirit of exploration that’s so exhilarating about this record which is sure to add to the leader’s already impressive reputation.
Jim Hart, vibes; Antonin-Tri Hoang, alto sax/clarinet; Michael Janisch, bass; Hannes Riepler, guitar; Dave Smith, drums.