CD REVIEW: Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles Stardust

Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles Stardust
(Jellymould JM-JJ020. Review by Peter Jones)

Their first duo album since Treasure Trove in 1996 finds long-time friends and colleagues Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles still in perfect working order. Both teach at the Royal Academy of Music, and these tunes were recorded in September 2014 in its Concert Room, whose ambience gives the music just the right amount of ‘live’ edge.

An album like this is not designed to be challenging: almost every track is a delicate and perfectly judged rendition of a standard, the only exceptions being Sulzmann original Nikki’s Corner, dedicated to his partner in crime, and Iles’s Under The Canopy, dedicated to Sir David Attenborough.

The very gentleness of the arrangements throughout underlines the deep love and knowledge these two have for jazz melody.

The tracks are long enough at seven or eight minutes each to allow the solos plenty of rein, and for the tunes to evolve. Nikki’s Corner is a fine composition in 5/4, beginning with an ostinato piano bass figure and fading out with beautiful cascades of melody from Sulzmann. Another particular favourite for me is Bacharach’s You’ll Never Get To Heaven, a tune not played often enough in jazz. This version is based on an arrangement by Steve Gray. A third stand-out track is the ballad I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry a choice inspired, according to Iles, by the Sinatra version, and Sulzmann is in particularly fine form here.

Those wishing to hear a sample can download Nikki’s Corner free from Soundcloud (link below).


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