“Silent Sea is an album of breadth and depth…a thing of beauty.’’
Brian Glasser, Jazzwise
Ubuntu Music – UBU0065
Album release (CD & digital): Friday 30 October 2020
“The nucleus of the project first took shape when I read a collection of twenty contemporary poems collated by Carol Ann Duffy,” explains Jaswon. “The project was an opportunity to engage with themes that have significant meaning for me and move beyond an exercise in abstract music making.” Each composition on the album is based on the text of a contemporary British poem by writers Jackie Kay, Maura Dooley and Rachael Boast and engages with some of the issues surrounding the climate crisis and Brexit. “It is moving, fresh and thought-provoking and the music perfectly mirrors the poem’s anxiety and satirical humour,” says Kay, Scotland’s Makar (poet laureate), commenting on Jaswon’s interpretation of her poem ‘Extinction’. “The jazz music fits the poem like a hand to a glove, and the rhythms and tempos capture the heightened sense of time running out, of seizing the moment.”
The Octet’s distinctive sound is lyrical, intensely rhythmic and steeped in the magic of storytelling. “One of the challenges in writing for an eight-piece group was to utilise the timbral and compositional possibilities afforded by a larger ensemble without losing the intensity that comes from small-combo interaction. The group’s rhythm-section powerfully shape the music’s narrative and momentum while being able to respond in the moment to it’s shifting contours,” says Jaswon. “The playing of Miguel Gorodi, Marc Doffey and Jan Landowski shows their exceptional ability as improvisers and ensemble musicians, and the music lives and breathes through Anna Serierse’s outstanding voice.”
BBC Music Magazine 5* Album Review
‘impeccably performed…a powerful soundtrack for desperate times’
Gramophone 4* Album Review
‘much to admire in this striking new recording from the Joshua Jaswon Octet’
Jazzwise 4* Album Review
‘Berlin-based sax player, composer and band leader, employs the full range of textural possibilities which this mul
Best Picks for Silent Sea
BBC Music – Best jazz albums of 2020 / 2021
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NQ Jazz The Listening Guide – December 2020
Original Album Liner Notes
This album is the second staging post on what promises to be a long and delightful journey: the recording career of Joshua Jaswon, saxophonist and composer. On ‘Ribbons’, recorded soon after he emerged from the hothouse of London’s Guildhall, Jaswon explored his relationship with a classic jazz line-up – the straightahead quintet. Having paid respect to his predecessors, he now sheds that first skin and emerges as a mature and distinctive voice in his own right, with music that is urgently contemporary. ‘Silent Sea’ is an album of breadth and depth; and an important document of both an internal and an external ‘Now’ of where Jaswon is at.
At a time when the world in general – and the UK in particular – appears to be sliding dangerously backwards towards unhealthy nationalism, this record has involved eight musicians from four countries working together to produce a thing of beauty. What better way to model harmony and co-operation! Just as importantly, this teamwork does not suppress individualism – check Jan Landowski’s thoughtful trombone solo on the first part of ‘Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide’ and the scorching tenor work of Marc Doffey on ‘Extinction’. Nor does the pan-European line-up submerge Jaswon’s own sense of identity – the three poems that underpin the album express facets of a Britishness to be celebrated, rather than ashamed of. The introduction of poetry – and with it, the human voice, provided with such careful calibration by Anna Serierse – also allows Jaswon to convey directly some heartfelt concerns about the ecological state of the planet as well as its politics. The Suite that forms the bulk of this album is titled accordingly.
Jaswon’s growing engagement with non-musical subject matter is paralleled by the increasing ambition of his writing. He has for a long time been interested – simply in musical terms – in reducing, reusing and recycling; and the Suite embraces these principles in unobtrusive ways that exploit the possibilities for permutations and combinations afforded by an octet. His aims are superbly realised, thanks to the high-grade musicianship of the ensemble – the rhythm section of Johannes Mann (guitar), Sidney Werner (bass) and Aarón Castrillo (drums) anchor proceedings throughout; and the four horns and voice are cleverly deployed as a harmonically-shifting unit.
The exceptionally lustrous tone of Jaswon’s alto was evident on his first album. His beautiful playing here shows that this has not diminished; and that his virtuosity has expanded to incorporate the soprano. His ego-free vision for this project should not mask that he is its leader. That attractive blend of selflessness and self-confidence augurs well for a fruitful future. Enjoy the staging post that is ‘Silent Sea’– there will surely be many more!
Brian Glasser, Jazzwise