Album Review: Helena Kay’s KIM Trio – Moon Palace

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio

Moon Palace

(Ubuntu UBU 0018)

2018 has been a great year for female UK jazz musicians moving further into the public eye, and this exciting debut shows that there’s plenty more to come from this quarter. Helena Kay has progressed by stages through the jazz establishment, enrolling at Guildhall in 2012 and graduating with a fine complement of prizes and awards, one of which, the Peter Whittington, provided the funds for this release. However there’s nothing restrained nor academic about her big, full-voiced tone, or the assertive swing of the opening track L and D – punchy boppish riffs lead to a swaggering solo, an impressive break for the prodigiously dextrous Ireland, and a tricky rhythmic outro, while Ingamells swings away like the clappers. Feijão has a bossa tinge appropriate to the title, another extended Ireland exploration and another example of Kay’s big warm sound. Kim echoes Rollins’ famous duet with Philly Joe on The Surrey With The Fringe On Top by applying the same format and a lot of the same boppishly melodic sensibility to the Parker tune – Ingamells and Kay make a finely tuned partnership, with the leader turning out some really lovely spiralling phrases. There’s plenty of melody on offer on Strawberry Terrace, with Ingamells rolling on the toms like Ed Blackwell, and Perry Street has an almost cartoonish late-night feel subverted by some smart rhythmic displacements – Kay achieves a big toned braggadoccio that throws back beyond Rollins to earlier stylists like Ike Quebec, but her phrasing and language still seems contemporary. This is a highly accomplished debut by a young player with a distinctive personality; her playing is very much respectful of the tradition but the compositions have a sense of playfulness that shows she’s not in thrall to its monumental weight. Ireland and Ingamells are terrific in support; closing tune Stardust is taken solo and is an effective ending for this impressive demonstration.

Eddie Myer

Helena Kay, tenor sax; Ferg Ireland, bass; David Ingamells, drums.