CD REVIEW: Ivo Neame - Moksha (Released 23 March)

Ivo Neame Moksha
(Edition Records EDN1108. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Beer and jazz usually go well together, but thank goodness Ivo Neame decided not to go into the family brewing business (Shepherd Neame). Not that he wouldn’t have been great at making beer; it’s just that, on balance, beer’s loss has been jazz’s gain: Neame is one of the UK’s very finest pianists, bandleaders and composers, and he keeps himself busy. Not long ago, he was treading the boards with his Quintet project, featuring Tori Freestone and Jim Hart. He is also the pianist in Jasper Hølby’s trio Phronesis, and works with Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset.

This new album, recorded last summer, features Neame’s Quartet, with a different line-up to all the other bands, but suffused with the same confident fire and passion we find in the others. His sound is bracingly modernist, characterized by complex uptempo rhythms, a hard, attacking approach to the keyboard, and a fluent, usually melodic style that occasionally breaks down into free-form improvisation, as in Moksha Music, where it then melts seamlessly back into the original form, with a shimmering wash of (I’m guessing) Nord keyboard.

On this album, Neame’s augmentation of the acoustic piano with Mellotron (a digital version of the original tape-loop device), Hammond organ, Nord and Fender Rhodes helps to keep everything fresh and contemporary. Pala is a good example of the richness and beauty he achieves by mixing together these other keyboard sounds, in a way reminiscent of mid-70s Herbie Hancock albums like Thrust and Man-Child.

George Crowley is an excellent choice of tenor saxophonist for this material: he plays with the same sinuous ease and robust authority as Tim Garland, sharing the latter’s enjoyment of adventure. His creative interplay with Neame is the bedrock of the album, along with drummer James Maddren’s often thunderous accompaniment. And yes, there are times of reflection, as in the sweet, drifting Outsider, where bassist Tom Farmer gets a bit of solo time.

I’ve been playing Moksha a lot at home. It’s flawlessly conceived and executed, endlessly intriguing, and beautiful to listen to. Expect to hear of it again at the end of the year, when the votes for Best Album of 2018 are counted. Moksha is officially released on 23 March.

LINKS: Vegetarians, from Moksha

Pre-order the album here

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