Pianist John Turville has been part of the European jazz scene for so long, that’s it’s hard to believe that this is his debut solo recording. He has assembled a fine quintet for the occasion, including saxophonist Julian Argüelles, trumpet player Robbie Robson – a new name to me, but one to watch out for – bass player Dave Whitford and drummer James Maddren.
Turville was influenced by his mentor, the late John Taylor, and trumpet player Kenny Wheeler, and that can be heard throughout Head First.
The album open with Fall Out, a brass-driven tune that was originally written for a quartet, then re-arranged by Turville for a big band. There’s a Wheeler-like warmth to Robson’s playing, and Turville’s playing is impressive. The Latin-tinged Almagro Nights sees the band stripped back to a trio, which showcases Turville’s piano to good effect.
Seahorses follows, inspired by the turbulent sea off of the Northumberland coast, rather than the delicate sea creatures. The knotty horn lines are a bit too free form for my taste, even with Turville’s piano underpinning, and I couldn’t help but think this tune would have been better placed a little later in the album.
Interval is lovely, with Argüelles switching to soprano, and waltzing around delicate piano lines by Turville. This leads into A Perfect Foil, which sees the quintet return. There’s some lovely interplay between Argüelles and Robson, followed by a delightful piano solo by the bandleader.
Listen to a clip of A Perfect Foil here:
Head First is a samba, which sees bass player Dave Whitford play a more prominent role, accompanied by Latin percussion from drummer Dave Whitford. Ennerdale, as the name suggests, is influenced by the majestic Lake District countryside, and there’s also a quote from John Taylor’s own Ambleside if you listen carefully.
Cancion 4, composed by Diego Schissi, has a Kenny Wheeler flavour, whilst A Month In Tunisia, composed by Argüelles, builds slowly into the burning tune that you would expect, given the name. The album closes with a swinging cover of Petrucciani’s Beautiful But Why.
Head First is an album that improves with every listen. Turville’s playing is superb, as one would expect, and his arrangements – in a variety of styles – work well. He’s assembled a fine band for his solo debut, and let’s hope he can persuade them to reunite for a follow-up in the near future. Head First is out now on Whirlwind Recordings.