Reina De La Pileta (We Large Productions)
Wanderlust Meets Simon Milman!
Reviewed by John Shand
This is a happy meeting of minds. Canberra bassist, composer and hip hop artist Simon Milman has teamed up with Wanderlust, one of the veteran Australian bands for exploring the intersection between jazz and other idioms. In fact under Miroslav Bukovsky’s leadership the group has now been doing that for 23 years, even though it has recorded sporadically. So here, finally, is a new Wanderlust album, but featuring Milman’s compositions and bass playing, and released on his label.
Bukovsky was never going to sell his band out to someone else’s vision were there not a natural synergy, and it is hard to imagine a more ideal composer for exploiting the improvising flair from the players on offer. Milman’s pieces tend to ride on slippery Afro and Latin grooves, have inbuilt airiness and be laced with lyrical melodies. Who better to breathe life into such material than Bukovsky (trumpet, flugelhorn), James Greening (trombone, trumpet, pocket trumpet), Jeremy Sawkins (guitars), Alister Spence (piano) and Fabian Hevia (drums, percussion)?
Of course the collaboration would fall at the first hurdle were Milman not a bassist to hold his own in this company, and he turns out to be the sort of player who loves staying in the instrument’s basement depths and adding little ornamentation. It is an approach that sits easily with Hevia’s buoyant or chunky grooves and flaring punctuations.
The album opens with Bukovsky and Greening’s duelling trumpets on the ebullient ‘Caracas’. The contrast with eerie desolation of the ensuing ‘Horror Movie Marathon’ (beginning with a plaintive bass solo) could not be greater. Anyone who cherishes Charlie Haden’s compositions on the magnificent Ballad of the Fallen album will also love ‘NLHT’, with its understated melancholy and glistening nylon string guitar contributions from Sawkins. ‘New Ballad’ is pretty enough, but less distinctive than the other pieces, and more inclined to tread water.
The cause is immediately saved by the swaying groove of the amusingly titled ‘Orchestral Man-hoovers’, the melody of which is beautifully smeared across your eardrums by Greening’s trombone, before another telling nylon-string feature from Sawkins. The latter’s echoing electric guitar then helps establish the mood of the reggae-based and inventively-structured ‘Put Leg For Hume’, which boasts a glorious little Spence piano solo and wicked drumming from Hevia. ‘Reggie’s Vamp’, which hovers between swampiness and more airy jazz, is a weaker composition, although it does spawn a crackling piano solo. ‘Sketches of Damper’, a wistful traditional tune that Milman has dug up, has a floating time feel that spawns engaging collective improvising behind the yearning cries of Greening’s trombone. Finally the band explodes across the wild celebration that is ‘Tarifa’ (a Spanish town just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco), with its bullfight brass and dense, handclap-laden African groove.
Produced by Richard Lush, the album has been expertly recorded and mixed. Fans of the opulence of Greening’s trombone sound may find it has never been better recorded. Bukovsky, meanwhile, found the right main with whom to collaborate.
Miroslav Bukovsky – trumpet, flugelhorn
James Greening – trombone, trumpet, pocket trumpet
Jeremy Sawkins – electric and nylon string guitars
Simon Milman – double bass
Fabian Hevia – drums, congas, cajon
We Large Productions on the web www.welargeproductions.bandcamp.com >
Wanderlust website www.wanderlust.com.au >
Listen and purchase on Bandcamp