Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur: To the Earth review – eloquent and spirited

(Edition)
The British trumpeter’s third album with her Dinosaur quartet hooks your attention with the very first chord

Anybody accumulating evidence for the existence of old souls could do worse than check out the Hampshire-born trumpeter-composer Laura Jurd’s contribution to jazz in the eight years since her remarkable debut album, Landing Ground. Jurd seems unconcerned by transient fashions or enrolment in any kind of scene, and pursues a private muse that draws on jazz, folk traditions from Europe and the Middle East, and the harmonic language of Stravinsky – yet her work is always spiritedly accessible, and often suggests wordless songs. To the Earth is Jurd’s third release with her Dinosaur quartet, a closely bonded ensemble embodying the jazz axiom that composition and improvisation are an inseparable two-way stretch.

To the Earth album cover

These seven tracks run to barely more than than 40 minutes but Dinosaur make them all count. The title track hooks attention with its opening treble-chord piano splash from Elliot Galvin, signalling Conor Chaplin’s repeating bass vamp, the arrival of a vivacious trumpet melody of folk-dance triplet twists and coolly jazzy resolutions, and Corrie Dick’s implacable percussion pulse.

The dirge-like, ghostly Slow Loris finds Jurd in a voicelike early-jazz mood of muted trumpet sounds and growls (sometimes deepening the brass harmonies on tenor horn), while Galvin solos in unhurried Monkish dissonances. Mosking (also a Dinosaur single release) is a jubilant jig inspired by Norwegian piano trio Moskus. And the classic-Ellingtonian sound of Billy Strayhorn’s languidly slow-swinging Absinthe (the only cover) is tweaked by the most sparing of spacey synth tones from the otherwise unplugged Galvin. Blues and gospel colours seep through the later stages of Jurd’s jazziest Dinosaur album, but this is an open-handed celebration of jazz’s century of eloquence and influence, not its trade secrets.

Out on 15 May.

Also out this month

Former Miles Davis guitarist John Scofield rekindles a long association with the bassist/composer Steve Swallow on Swallow Tales (ECM), an all-Swallow repertoire with Bill Stewart on drums on which Scofield has rarely sounded so laid-back, playful and up for anything. Young UK composer/trombonist Tom Green releases Tipping Point (Spark! Records), an ingeniously contrapuntal repertoire for a septet that sounds twice the size, informed by composers from Maria Schneider to Avishai Cohen, and never forbiddingly intricate. And the ever iconoclastic African-American pianist and Cecil Taylor heir Matthew Shipp celebrates his 60th birthday with The Piano Equation (Tao Forms), a typically densely layered and sometimes inscrutable solo venture that, like all Shipp’s work, repays more than a nonchalant listen.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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