CD Review: Rachael Cohen - Halftime

Rachael Cohen - Halftime
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4644. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Born in the Shetlands and receiving her musical education in Edinburgh (playing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland and Tommy Smith’s Youth Jazz Orchestra) and at Birmingham Conservatoire, saxophonist/composer Rachael Cohen has called this album Halftime ‘not only because of the style of the music, but also [because] I liked the idea of half-time in a sports game, of pausing for thought and considering your next move’.

Not that there’s anything unfinished or tentative about the ten tracks (nine originals, plus Ornette Coleman’s bluesy lope, ‘Just for You’) on this debut recording; on the contrary, Cohen’s saxophone playing is fluent, contained and thoughtful, her tone an affecting warble, gentle and confiding in its quieter moments, but hardening where required to enable her to explore all the various nooks and crannies of her melodic, carefully wrought themes.

Guitarist Phil Robson proves an impeccable front-line partner (his subtly propulsive, insistent chording under her playing and his mesmerisingly deft, intense solo contributions are perfectly judged), Calum Gourlay provides elegant but full-bodied bass, and drummer James Bashford drives the proceedings with quiet power (although, oddly, the band’s full names do not appear anywhere on the CD sleeve), but it is Cohen herself who draws the ear throughout this lively and varied set.

Another canny signing for the enterprising Whirlwind label, she is, on the evidence of this wholly entertaining, absorbing album, a considerable compositional and instrumental talent.

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