Album Review: John Turville – Head First
John Turville has spent the last decade quietly establishing himself as the go-to pianist for the kind of thoughtful, multi-faceted modern jazz whose distinctly European sensibility was developed by composers such as John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, and continues to thrive today. His sensitivity, advanced harmonic concept and the fluidity and control derived from a thorough grounding in classical technique mark him out as a worthy successor to this tradition, and the esteem in which he’s held is reflected in the heavyweight line-up of this, his first quintet release. Recorded in the legendary Artesuono studio in Italy, the clear, crisp sound captures the delicacy and nuance in each performance. There’s a range of takes on the contemporary idiom – Almagro Nights is a storming, complex trio that showcases Turville’s two-handed virtuosity, Interval Music is a poised duet with Argüelles’ crystalline soprano, Head First has a brisk, delicate samba feel, Fall Out tempers post-bop angularity with the lyricism of the Taylor/Wheeler school.
There is a choice selection of material from high-end operatives like Michel Petrucciani and Toninho Horta, and Argüelles contributes the gently pulsing African-influenced rhythms of A Month In Tunisia (is the title meant as a gentle reproach to composers who take a shallow approach to incorporating influences from other cultures?). Needless to say, the A-list band rise to every occasion; Whitford has a notable solo statement in Head First and Maddren continues to astonish with his ability to excel in any musical setting. Argüelles is a powerhouse of ideas, and the lesser known Robson more than holds his own, particularly in the pastoral Ennerdale – but it’s the pianist’s project and he is firmly at the centre both as performer and composer. A really outstanding release from the forefront of contemporary UK jazz.
John Turville, piano; Julian Argüelles, tenor & soprano saxophones; Robbie Robson, trumpet; Dave Whitford, bass; James Maddren, drums.