Making connections and new discoveries is one of the joys of listening to jazz music. In most ensembles, each player will have different side projects or have played on numerous other records, so when you find a musician whose style you like, it’s fulfilling to follow up these links and see where you head.
I discovered Caroline Scott’s drumming through her role as stickswoman for Cygnus Flare, a fusion band which won the 2017 Yamaha Soho Jazz Session competition - her drumming was precise, exciting and created lots of different tones and textures. As well as being a drummer she’s a composer and Khoalesce is her debut under her own name. It’s a strong one; not particularly ground-breaking, but with plenty in there to suggest she has the song-making capacity for plenty more.
On this quartet album Scott plays with three contemporaries who all have solid reputations with their own instruments and successful projects of their own: Kevin Glasgow on electric bass; the super John Turville on piano, and guesting on saxophone, Duncan Eagles (who’s stylings have become prominent through his Partikel project). A tighter, more flexible and complete unit it would be hard to find. This album - recorded, by all accounts, in a bit of a rush over two days - showcases how the twin pressures of time and talent can produce musical diamonds.
The influences on this quartet’s sound are myriad and evident across the eleven short tracks on this album: Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Avishai Cohen, Nirvana (!), Radiohead (!!), Mahler, to name a few. While there’s a solid bedrock of contemporary European jazz on all tracks, there is clearly an openness to see jazz as a jumping off point, rather than feeling a need to stay ‘pure’ to this single genre.
Opener Orangutan is at the start all about the left-hand of Turville with a super-catchy bass motif which Glasgow then develops and pummels across this whole track, on top of which Eagles scales some significant heights without safety apparatus, but always in control. Scott’s drumming on this track - and most of the others - is precise and complex, but now showy - it’s a drummer’s album, sure, but it’s not an album that’s all about the drummer. I imagine Scott’s similarly generous with her Christmas gift giving too.
The pace is brought almost to a halt with second track Overflow, the slowest of slow ballads. Track listing is a mysterious art, but I would not have placed a ballad so early, as it rather cuts the impetus from the first track. The pace picks up again however with Wind Chimes, which has a slightly random, chaotic motif through which a melody develops - so the title is appropriate.
Top track is number four, Big Flashing Lights, which kicks off with the super tone of Glasgow’s six-string bass which offers up a straight-forward but hot-damn gorgeous riff over which Turville takes a simple melodic phrasing and, over four minutes, does all sorts of magical things to it. Again, on this track, you don't notice Scott until you choose to notice, and then when you focus on the drums, you hear some clever phrasing, time-jumps and off-beats that exemplify what drumming should do - drive the tune along.
There are two or three short-ish tracks on here, such as Zimmer and Khoalesce Interlude, which are each less than two minutes and have little time to develop: musical willo-the-wisps. They risk being seen as musical filler and I would have liked to have seen one longer flesh out the album instead. But, it’s a minor quibble; the quality of the composition is still strong.
Speaking to Scott about the album at a recent gig at Oliver’s Jazz Bar in Greenwich she said the mastering of the snare sound on one of the tracks was slightly different to the other tracks, and it had been noticed by a couple of people. Me? I had no idea. But it’s a good sign if as a musician your focus is creating absolutely the best sonic experience for the listener, whether in the studio or on stage.
That sort of dedication shouldn’t go unrewarded.