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AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE – OWL SONG (2023) (Nonesuch Records)

At the tail-end of last year, Akinmusire released this intimate and soul-enhancing album: just a trio with his trumpet playing alongside electric guitarist Bill Frissell and drummer Herlin Riley. Although a different approach is taken, there are similarities with MATTHEW HALSALL’s latest also reviewed this month in that, in Ambrose’s words, “is a reaction to being assaulted by information”, and the need for open space. As many of us know our world is being consumed by misinformation, trivia and noise, so listening to this beautiful album has been a nice release from me, like walking alone in the countryside. A poignant piece “Owl Song 1” sets the mood, and once our ears are calmed there is a lift-off of sorts with what must be regarded as a small modern jazz masterpiece in the haunting ‘Flux Fuelings’ (start there if you need convincing) - the way Ambrose yearnfully hangs onto trumpet notes is just amazing. Herlin’s role is fairly undemonstrative, essential for ‘relaxation’ music of this kind. Tracks like ‘Mr Frissell’ and ‘Mr Herlin’ are a nice touch, the latter affording an opportunity for the drummer to express himself more freely. ‘Henya’ is the longest piece at seven minutes and another opportunity for the musicians to stretch out a bit, lingering trumpet notes blend with Frissell’s guitar moves, making for a unique and intriguing listen.

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