Matt Carmichael: Marram
Ethno Jazz / Indie Jazz
premiera polska: 2023-03-08
opakowanie: Gatefoldowe etui
There’s something about the scenes outside of the capital cities that allows an additional spark of individualism and creativity to emerge. Perhaps there's a reduced expectation or peer pressure, that consequently drives and allows space for a greater innovation, creativity and experimentation, built with more individuality. For the UK, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester and Leeds are a few such scenes but recently Glasgow has been in the limelight and become a powerhouse of creativity and culture. One of the major new voices in that burgeoning scene is Matt Carmichael - a saxophonist and composer with an individual sound, who brings the focus of continuous melodic improvisation of Folk music to a Jazz landscape.
Marram takes its influence from the drama, moods and expansiveness of the coastal imagery of Scotland. But rather than the music being inspired by the landscapes, it's more the other way round, where the image of the sea encapsulates the openness and emotiveness Matt is trying to communicate in his music. The album also talks about escapism, of flow and the push and pull or drama that the sea evokes. For Matt, his music “wants to have a transportive element…the sea can be calm, but can also be tempestuous, a space where lots of different moods, emotions and energies can be conveyed, lots of different elements of nature found”.
Marram, his second album, is his first with Edition and follows on from his highly successful self-released debut ‘Where Will The River Flow’. Released in March 2021 to critical acclaim throughout Europe including a 5 star review in BBC Music Magazine, the bold and commanding debut gained over 2 million streams and was long-listed for the multi-genre Scottish Album of the Year Award. In Oct 2021 it prompted an invitation from GRAMMY Award-winning WDR Big Band to be a guest soloist performing Bob Mintzer’s arrangements of Matt's music.
His debut was the start of a long journey and an album that allowed his music to flow naturally to find its own path, much like the rivers do, hence the title ‘Where Will The River Flow’. It was about efficiency and unpredictability, about a voice finding his own individual path, meandering the obstacles, and searching for his identity. Marram is a natural development on Where Will the River Flow - they are connected yet have different goals. Marram sees Matt's compositional identity come into its own, represented perfectly by the story and emotion of what the Scottish landscape evokes.
As Matt explains: ‘It feels like with Marram, I have a clearer vision and confidence in the sound world I want to create and continue expanding on. Much like the Scottish coastline, I want my music to have drama, to evoke an emotional response, with an openness of to explore, to transport the listener away from everyday life, even just for a moment”.
For Matt, his experiences with Jazz and Folk music allow him to bring what he sees as the most interesting aspects of each genre to his music. Whilst studying, his discovery of Folk was almost a rebellion towards the expectation of having to focus on more conventional Jazz: playing with Folk artists offered a greater focus and purity of melody, and it’s this focus on melody that takes centre-stage in Marram: “I love the way folk musicians improvise - they are improvising all the time, but the melody is always the focus whilst the improvisation is more collective and less centred around one player”. Matt sees his role in this group more like a vocalist, to convey the melody, something that was instilled early on in his development playing hymn melodies on his saxophone to support church congregations.
Looking back at his career in 10-15 years time, Marram will without doubt be an album that marked a turning-point in Matt's career: the album that will have defined his sound and set him on his own path of discovery of larger ‘seas,’ ‘oceans’ and horizons. It’s honest and deeply individual, a vital hallmark that stands out in an ever-crowded landscape of new music. It’s a seminal record that will see him take strides to a more global audience.
All About Jazz
The first thing to register, within the opening few bars of Glaswegian tenor saxophonist Matt Carmichael's sophomore album, is how remarkably similar his sound is to that of New York's emerging saxophone colossus Oded Tzur. In an interview with All About Jazz in summer 2022, the Israeli-born Tzur named his primary formative influence as the great Dexter Gordon. Whether Carmichael cut his teeth on Gordon's Blue Note albums of the 1960s is not known, but it sounds well possible. Like Tzur, he mixes full-throated broken-note vocalisations with passages of lush romaticism.
The parallels do not stop there. Coincidentally, Carmichael's jazz, like Tzur's, inhabits a non-jazz tradition. Tzur's is classical Indian raga, Carmichael's is Scottish folk music. Both musics are lyrical, rhythmically charged, and scalar rather than chordal. There is a difference however. Raga's melodic resolutions are often unpredictable, while in Scottish folk music, in common with all folk music the world over, each resolution can be heard coming a mile away. Consequently, after a while the listener's interest may pall.
Most of the time, however, Carmichael, while staying broadly within its parameters, tweaks the tradition. His compositions— all nine tunes here were written by him—frequently take unexpected melodic turns. The result is music that does more than oil the wheels of social interaction, offering something to think about, too.
The band on Marram is the same as the one on Carmichael's well-received debut, Where Will The River Flow (Porthole, 2021), with one addition. The lineup is completed by pianist Fergus McCreadie, double bassist Ali Watson, drummer Tom Potter and a new member, fiddler Charlie Stewart. Stewart's role is in the main supportive, providing colour, and Carmichael is the chief soloist. McCreadie's big moment centrestage is on "Horizon," at 9:58 the lengthiest track, on which he takes the middle section, playing a solo which starts quietly and builds to a giddying intensity.
One comes away from Marram sensing that Carmichael is not done with developing his musical hybrid. Some fifteen years or so younger than Oded Tzur, his journey is still on its first steps. It will be interesting to follow its progress.
By Chris May
Matt Carmichael - Tenor Saxophone
Charlie Stewart - Fiddle
Fergus McCreadie - Piano
Ali Watson - Double Bass
Tom Potter - Drums
1. The Far Away Ones 06:26
2. Dune 03:13
3. Road to the Sea 01:29
4. Waves 06:24
5. Marram 04:48
6. Horizon 09:58
7. There Will Be Better Days 04:17
8. On The Gloaming Shore (pt.1) 02:28
9. On The Gloaming Shore (pt.2) 07:10
wydano: October 28, 2022
nagrano: Recorded by Garry Boyle at Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland, 19-20 October 2021
more info: www.editionrecords.com
- Edition Records (UK)
- Matt Carmichael
- tenor saxophone
- Data premiery