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Neame seems to have leapt up a good few levels

Here is a musician who really has found his voice.

Pianist and saxophonist Ivo Neame seems to have leapt up not just to the next level, but a good few levels, since his last album (and his first for Edition), Caught In The Light Of Day. And that was by no means the creation of a slouch.

There is just an added confidence and and exuberance that leaps from the speakers with this one that suggests here is a musician who really has found his voice.

Perhaps it’s the increased musical palette that he now has, with a four-part woodwind section – Tori Freestone on flute and tenor, Jon Shenoy on clarinet, Jason Yarde on alto and Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet (to which he can add himself, of course, on clarinet and alto), in addition to the vibes of Jim Hart, the bass of Jasper Hoiby, the drums of Dave Hamblett and his own piano and accordion.

This gives Neame an almost mini-orchestra to work with – at least that is what it sounds like at times.

The rhythms tend to be jumpy and urgent – natural territory for Hoiby, and Hamblett matches him well – but Neame has always had the ability (we hear it in that other band he and Hoiby play in – Kairos 4tet) to lay a more serene mood on top of the fidgets, thereby setting up a complex and endlessly intriguing vibe for the listener.

What he ends up with is an album of striking modern acoustic jazz that sounds like no one else and is very much his own personal style. It’s the woodwind charts and the way they interact with the rhythm team that gives this individuality.

The solos – from Hutchings’s bass clarinet on Charm Defensive, from Freestone’s flute onAmerican Jesus, from Hoiby’s bass on the graceful Latin rhythm of That Syncing Feeling, Yarde on the madcap circus tune of Owl Of Me, from Hart on Unseen Coracle – are all strongly characterful.

In some ways the player I didn’t recall hearing so much from on the first few listens – out front anyway – was Ivo Neame himself. Maybe that was because I was so taken up with his overarching vision in the compositions and arrangements, because in fact he does manage to squeeze in quite a few lovely piano solos in between all the rich ensemble stuff.

So, Neame’s first album was a trio affair, the second was a quartet and now we have an octet… the Ivo Neame Jazz Orchestra next time? I’d certainly be excited to hear it…

– Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast, 24/09/2012