Malija - The Day I Had Everything
(Editions Records. EDN1064. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Malija comprises in equal measures Mark Lockheart on reeds, pianist Liam Noble and Jasper Høiby on bass. All three are familiar from their busy workload and prolific collaborations. They played together on Lockheart's quintet recording In Deep, but this is their first outing as a trio. Lockheart contributes more tunes than Høiby or Noble, but other than that the trio is very well balanced.
The music has an eclectic feel, bringing together several styles and influences, whilst keeping a singular voice. Indeed, the closing track is called In One Voice, a gentle, exploratory walk which allows each of the trio (and the guest violinist) to contribute to the whole.
The trio are joined on that track and on Mr Wrack by a string quartet who, though unobtrusive, provide a little nudge along. Mr Wrack starts with slightly off-kilter, Monk-like piano and some tender clarinet, and gradually gets more frenetic, until at the end it threatens to come off the tracks.
The band give their name to Høiby's Malija, a slow, contemplative number to which each contribute solos, full of space and light. Noble's Blues is in a similar vein, a slow, moody piece. Lockheart's languid solo takes up much of the tune, full of gentle, long notes. Beneath the reeds and bass, Noble adds subtle touches here and there.
Despite each tune having different inspiration – there are hints of New Orleans, tango (not so much a hint, since it's called Almost A Tango), Ellington, folk and classical genres – the whole recording is a very satisfying statement of what three musicians together can achieve.
Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.