This is one album that I keep returning to it and certainly one of 2023’s best in the ‘Jazz’ category. There are two brief field recordings here: ‘Tracing Nature’ and ‘Field of Vision’ which reflect Halsall’s tranquil, get away from it all, locations at the time of writing. On the album he wanted to recreate the “feeling of openness and escapism” (and nature) he had experienced. On the whole then, this is a meditative album as might be expected, much influenced by ALICE COLTRANE whose works Halsall has covered, that brought to mind a visit I made to a Buddhist monastery in Canada many moons ago.
The most demonstrative pieces are ‘Water Street’, a real jewel in the crown, kalimba and glockenspiel making effective contributions, and ‘Calder Shapes’, on which the chemistry between Halsall’s trumpet solos and those of alto saxophonist Matt Cliffe can be heard. ‘Mountains, Trees and Seas’ has a neat little Rhodes electric piano solo, while ‘Jewels’ has a breathtaking percussive undertow on which Halsall solos at a leisurely pace, like sunlight filtering down through trees. Alice Robert’s swirling harp makes a welcome appearance at regular intervals, particularly effective on this piece, where Halsall’s sustained trumpet notes are things of great beauty, and Chip Wickham guests on soprano sax. A piano cameo is a nice way to end what could have become a sidelong piece in Alice Coltrane’s day. ‘Sunlight Reflection’ is another vignette, mainly piano, harp and percussion. The flute, harp and tinkling percussion work wonderfully on ‘Natural Movement’, while closer ‘Triangles in the Sky’ sparkles with winsome flute (Cliffe again) featuring atop sprinkles of electric piano, Afro percussion and harp. Halsall is a multi-instrumentalist and contributes to the range of percussion: bells, chimes, celesta, gongs etcetera on the album. He also wrote most of the music, except for two on which he was co-writer. “An Ever Changing View” is ambient, pastoral, meditative and quite magnificent music, a perfect antidote for these noisy, troubled times.
A pioneer of the modern Manchester jazz scene, and owner of his own label giving him full control, apparently Matthew got into jazz after hearing a DJ sample of PHAROAH SANDERS’s ‘You’ve Got to Have Freedom’ - it’s amazing how far he has come.