Album Review - Tom Syson - Green

In a jazz scene littered with creative talent, British trumpet players appear to be few and far between when compared with their woodwind playing colleagues. That is why it is all the more refreshing to hear a musician of Tom Green’s calibre release such a powerful debut album.   

Green eases in with the leader improvising lonesome lines, answered by atmospheric crashes from the rhythm section. The piece segues in to Bamberg which has an emotional melody line that manages to contain a subtle rhythmic intensity. The piano solo builds with help from the sizzling drum groove that underpins it. Taking over the lead while the intensity is peaking, Syson keeps the composition developing. The guitar and tenor sax play a subtle role, filling out textures and helping to give the piece its dynamic range.   

The band make an effective use of instrumental pairings throughout the album. Wary Warrior sees Syson and bassist Pete Hutchinson bring pastoral images to the minds eye. Hutchinson fills out the sound with chordal work while Syson utilises a Kenny Wheeler like tone.   

Far From Boundaries New has a menacing undercurrent which builds tension and releases in to a joyous melody. The guitar is integral to the dark atmospherics, using effects and extended techniques. Vittorio Mura’s sax solo moves like a bird in flight, switching between manic flutters and long bending notes. The trumpet solo settles in to a groove while the sax plays an effective counter melody underneath.   

On the title track, a beautifully light piano sequence opens proceedings and plays accompaniment to a breathy melody from the band leader. The bass rumbles underneath before creating countermelodies of his own. The whole piece is like an improvisational dialogue but one deeply rooted in tonality and melody. Each instrument appears like an animal going to investigate a loud noise. Leroy the Tiger is a wild improvisational stand off between trumpet and drums.  

Vocals are introduced on Raindrops courtesy of Lauren Kinsella. She first uses vocal sounds in a rhythmic manner before taking on a more traditional role, leading the piece with a folkish melody. Although the music on this album is anything but simplistic, it always maintains a harmonic accessibility which will be attractive to lovers of many musical genres.   

Farewell To Paradise drives along with a hypnotic bass line while the drums and tenor play staccato hits over the top. Things open up when the sax plays longer lines before the listener is returned to their state of hypnosis. The rhythmic feel evokes images of a beast lumbering along with heavy feet as the insects dance around it.   

Bluebells is a more gentle and atmospheric affair where the bass takes a lyrical solo. The sound of the instrument being captured beautifully. So often recorded double bass loses its acoustic charm but not here. The guitar takes a standout solo and is an integral part of the ensemble. Ben Lee’s playing uses a whole host of sounds and techniques without ever being intrusive.  

The album moves in a different direction on the final track. The electric keyboard and horn riff take the band towards the sound of 70’s Miles Davis. The straight groove is packed full of rhythmic interplay with the keys stabbing away under the solo. The duo between distorted guitar and drums is particularly energising.  

Green is a compositional and improvisational tour de force and it would be a crime if this young band do not receive the attention they deserve.   

John Marley 


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