The new album by the Julian Costello Quartet is about “connections we have to place through music and how music transcends borders,” according to the band’s leader. And with borders closing all around us, through Brexit and a deadly virus, and the band’s promotional tour cut short as a result, it feels an appropriate time to be making such comments.
The Quartet, after all, transcends borders. Julian Costello (tenor and soprano saxophone) is again joined by the superb Polish guitarist, Maciek Pysz, fellow London-based Polish bass player, Jakub Cywinski, and Canadian drummer, Adam Teixeira.
Whilst the musicians transcend not just borders, but continents, the album has a distinctly European flavour to it, and that’s no bad thing. Whilst the album appears on 33 Jazz Records, it would not have sounded out of place on ECM. The album was recorded in Norway, which may have impacted the feel of the album; certainly Costello’s dreamy arrangements allow plenty of space for the music to breath, and the tunes conjure up images of travel and happier times.
Opening track, Everyone Has A Story, is a delicate, impressionistic piece. There’s a dream-like haze to Pysz’s playing, whilst Costello’s wonderfully improvised ideas are a delight, as always.
There’s a slight hint of the Minnie Ripperton soul classic, Loving You, about Sunflowers, which lends it a more commercial feel than some of the other tracks on the album. It does boast a summery vibe, as the title suggests, and there’s a delightful solo from the newest member of the band, Jakub Cywinski, who impresses throughout.
You can watch a preview of the album on YouTube here:
Costello plays soprano on Connections, but Pysz switches to his trademark acoustic guitar. Despite my earlier comments, this track has some Eastern influence, with Costello’s long lines and TeIxeira’s Indian-style percussion weaving an enticing spell.
Nord Vind (or North Wind) sounds like an ECM title, and there’s a Garbarek-feel to the sound too. Costello’s playing is spare and cool, Pysz adds some pedal effects, and there’s some delicate support from both Cywinski and Teixeira. Rainforest is a delightful duet by Costello and Pysz. Costello’s playing on the soprano is superb; the tune is built on a pretty melody, but allows plenty of room for him to explore the sounds of the forest, with Pysz responding to good effect.
Endless Train keeps with the general travel theme, and is a wistful ballad. Pysz plays some delightful support to Costello’s tenor solo, before delivering a delicate solo of his own. Lovely stuff.
Bridges, at almost eleven minutes, is the longest piece on the album. It begins with a playful melody from Costello, playing soprano, before giving way to a more exploratory passage, accompanied by shimmering electric guitar from Pysz, reminiscent of Bill Frisell, and some delicate percussion from Teixeira. The tune gradually shifts and evolves, like the changing countryside on a long car journey, Pysz delivering a fine solo.
The album closes with Rivers And Rapids, which suggests a dynamic piece, with faster passages, perhaps, but what we get here is more languid, a slow drift along the river on a summer’s day. Which is good, as there’s plenty to enjoy along the way as the scenery slowly evolves.
Connections is perhaps more reflective and mood-oriented than the band’s previous album, Transitions, and to that extent, it probably demands more of the listener. It does reveal new layers with each listen, however, and comes highly recommended. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to see the band back on the road.