Andy Sheppard’s ECM debut – after a dozen albums with Carla Bley for WATT – is a bright and uplifting proposal, intensely melodic and rhythmically buoyant. Its title essentially its programme, the music moves outward from ‘jazz’ to touch on neighbouring cultures, and Sheppard’s longstanding affection for Indian, African and Latin pulses and grooves is evident in self-composed pieces that give the leader and an exceptional cast of supporting musicians plenty of room to move.
“Sometimes,” Sheppard says, “music comes to life through a wonderful game of chance. Being paired with new musicians for the first time can be a very rewarding and creative experience. Sometimes musicians are hand-picked and put together in order to create a specific texture, to realise a dream in sound - this is the case here.”
The featured line-up draws upon established and recent relationships. The British saxophonist plays regularly in duos with jazz guitarist John Parricelli and tabla player Kuljit Bhamra, and both are also members of his quartet. Sheppard wanted Bhamra to be central to this project, “rather than using tabla as an add-on or extra sound, and I encouraged him to expand his kit to include snare drum and cymbals and a range of other percussive instruments.” John Parricelli is, in the leader’s words, “an incredible musician and always a joy to play with but has only two hands - and I was hearing texture and colour as well as clean line, so it seemed logical to choose a second guitarist to create the possibilities of a giant guitar. It was while touring as a guest soloist with Ketil Bjørnstad’s band that I eventually got to play with Eivind Aarset - the perfect choice for the sound world that I was after.” UK tours with Bjørnstad also brought Sheppard and Arild Andersen together, and while writing the music for the present disc, Sheppard reports that he was “hearing melodies on acoustic bass and I knew that Arild’s sound and lyricism would make them sing as well as provide essential energy.“
Sheppard took up the saxophone at 19, highly motivated after encountering the music of John Coltrane, and three weeks after getting his first instrument was playing in public with the Bristol-based quartet Sphere. After a period in Paris where he worked with groups including performance art band Urban Sax, he returned to the UK in the mid-80s, recording the album “Andy Sheppard” for Antilles/Island, with Steve Swallow as producer, the beginning of a long musical association. Since then Sheppard has recorded for labels including Blue Note, Verve, Label Bleu and Provocateur and played and written trans-idiomatic music for ensembles small, large and very large (one recent work being for 200 saxophonists and electronics), as well as for theatre, film dance and mixed media. Collaborators over the years have ranged from Nana Vasconcelos to Han Bennink, from Joanna MacGregor to Keith Tippett, from L. Shankar to Kathryn Tickell. He has played with numerous key jazz artists, including the exceptional composers George Russell, Gil Evans and Carla Bley.
Like Sheppard, Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen played with George Russell in formative years. An ECM musician from the beginning, much of his outstanding work has been with sax players, from the Jan Garbarek groups of the early 1970s to his current trio with Tommy Smith (the acclaimed “Live At Belleville”).
John Parricelli was previously heard on ECM with Kenny Wheeler (“A Long Time Ago”, 1997). One of the founder members of the popular UK big band Loose Tubes in the 1980s he has since played with jazz musicians including Norma Winstone, Lee Konitz, Paul Motian, Annie Whitehead and many others. Earlier recordings with Andy Sheppard include the duo album “P.S.” (Provocateur Records, 2003).
Eivind Aarset can be heard on ECM discs with Nils Petter Molvaer, Marilyn Mazur, and Arild Andersen - and also appears on new albums by both Jon Hassell and Arve Henriksen, respectively “Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street” and “Cartography”. Aarset’s own discs include “Electronique Noir” (Jazzland, 1998) often instanced as a key document of electro-jazz, both for its deployment of club grooves and its swathes of effects.
Tabla master Kuljit Bhamra, amongst the most widely-celebrated musicians on the British Asian scene, was born in Kenya, moving with his family to London in 1961. At home in both Indian and Western forms, he was one of the instigators of the Bhangra movement and his own label Keda has been a prime mover for open minded transcultural synthesis in all directions. He has scored music for films and is also well-known as a record producer.
“Movements In Colour” was recorded in February 2008 at Studios la Buisonne, near Avignon – where Sheppard had previously recorded with Carla Bley (“The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu”, 2007).