Nat Birchall Quintet - Live in Larissa / Divine Harmony in Duende Jazz Bar ★★★★
31.03.2014 Marlbank U.K.
At last. Nat Birchall scales the highest peaks and comes down the other side triumphant. It’s more than just keeping the Coltrane flame burning and paying tribute, something the saxophonist has been doing so well for ages. Maybe it’s the live aspect of this album that makes all the difference but I’m sure that’s not the only factor. Birchall just seems so much more convincing than he’s ever been. And there’s the palpable group rapport. Talk about being in the zone. Beginning with Bill Lee’s composition ‘John Coltrane’ this double LP also includes classic Alice Coltrane composition ‘Journey in Satchidananda’ with an airy introduction by pianist Adam Fairhall, tambourine, then Birchall entering softly. Avant vibes player Corey Mwamba is on sparkling form throughout while GoGo Penguin bassist Nick Blacka is as solid as a rock, free improv drummer Paul Hession teetering on the brink of Rashied Ali-like lift-off time and time again.
Divine Harmony was recorded in May last year over two nights in the Greek town of Larissa’s jazz bar the Duende. Beyond technique other tunes on the album are plucked from Birchall’s own back catalogue but stick close to the spiritual jazz idiom, a language steeped in mindfulness, communication with the unseen and the ancient rhythms that continue to nourish 50 years on. It’s not just a style, it’s a place only the most committed jazz musicians dare to seek out. Is Birchall Britain’s foremost Coltranian in the classic mould? Simply yes: snatching the title from long time heavyweight champion Alan Skidmore. The promise displayed on Birchall album World Without Form has been more than fulfilled in supreme fashion the lucky Greeks in the club were first hand ear witnesses to during these Duende nights, an experience we now can be privy to.
Released on 28 April