Alluvium Records AR003
Reviewed by Eugene Ball, August 1st, 2015
Navigator is the second release from drummer Paul Derricott under the ensemble name Arrow. Given that he penned over 50% of the album, however, perhaps credit belongs equally to Derricott’s long-time collaborator, trumpeter Eamon Dilworth.
Navigator is, in fact, a recording built on the notion of collaboration. This is not an album of tunes that conform to the ‘head-solos-head’ model (with the exception of Derricott’s Missed Ya), but rather one of synchronous improvisatory gestures. We hear this in guitarist Ben Hauptman’s superbly understated comping, as it often blooms seamlessly into co-soloing with the accompanee. We hear it too in the textural collectivity of The Lady and Du-ma acasa mai trambai, Dilworth’s nods to the European doyens of timbral manipulation, trumpeters Tomasz Stanko and Arve Henrikson.
In addition to these brooding textures, Dilworth also contributes The Maurice Effect, a groove somewhat reminiscent of mid-2000’s Roy Hargrove. Here Derricott, Hauptman and bassist Thomas Botting generate fragmented beats and a sense of build that add structural integrity to the piece’s ‘acid jazz’ facade.
Derricott’s compositions too, are offerings of groove. The title track, Navigator is the stronger of the two: its humble melody and clean indie-rock groove provide a refreshing context for a commanding solo from Botting.
A notable feature of this album is the aesthetic values that underpin it. The (very difficult to track down) liner notes tell us that: “This album is part of Alluvium Records ‘Sustainable Recording Project’. No overdubs, all played live and created in the moment.” Reading between the lines, one senses in this philosophy a reaction against recordings of jazz that strive for precision and perfection above all else.
Recording engineer Richard Belkner from Free Energy Device Studios has managed to capture this improvisatory feeling, this sense of risk and acceptance. Yet the end product is an exemplar of audio excellence. Be warned, however – Navigator is an incredibly dynamic recording: You may have to ride the volume control more than a little.
Dilworth’s playing is itself a manifestation of this underpinning philosophy. His wonderfully broad palette of sounds (think Stanko, Henriksen and the great Lester Bowie) comes at times at the expense of control and intonation, but it is the expressiveness of his performance, not the flaws, that leaves the most lasting impression.
Considered in the context of his previous work, Navigator reveals that Derricott’s approach to music making is becoming more broad and more rich. This is a collection of music driven more by principles of collective expression than by instrumental technique (though it abounds). The result is an approachable album with potential for broad appeal.