Julian Siegel Jazz Orchestra: Contes du Jacquard – designed with love

The centerpiece of Julian Siegel’s orchestral jazz release With Love, recorded at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts in 2017, is a three-part work inspired by the local lace-making process. The album title “jacquard” refers to the jacquard punch cards that define the patterns of the lace machines; detailed cover notes explain how Siegel used them as inspiration for melodies and rhythmic form.

The album begins with a sound sample of moving lace-making machines. As the clicking sound fades, pianist Liam Noble, alone, introduces the soaring opening theme, stroking each note to float in space. The brass enters, like bells, sparse and filling out the lines of the piano, the drums guide the rhythm section. There is a long trumpet solo from Henry Lowther and the piece ends on a cheerful beat.

Siegel’s intriguing score leaves room for soloists to breathe and gives an original twist to the best of orchestral jazz. Thus, “Part 2” opens with densely expressed trumpet ribbons alternating with a combination of flute, tuba and trombones by Tori Freestone; “Part 3” orchestrates the rhythm of the lace machines in 20 minutes of high-end jazz. Here, a fiery trombone struts on a modal waltz, the leader’s tenor saxophone sails over brass tiles and the strummed double bass introduces a passage to rapid swing.

The rest of the ensemble develops compositions originally written for a smaller group. “Blues” features moving solos over a surreal mix of raggedy brass phrasing with precision. In contrast, the lyrical song “Song” maintains its bucolic mood through changes in texture and pulse, and “The Missing Link” finds the horns jumping through hoops.

The ensemble ends with “The Goose”, a nod to gospel soul, and “Fantasy in D”, the closest to the ensemble is close to the sinuous lines and orchestral smears of the modernist orthodoxy of the big bands. It complements an impressive live showcase of Siegel’s imaginative orchestral range. And, with compelling solos from trombonist Mark Nightingale, Stan Sulzmann on tenor saxophone, and trumpeters Lowther and Percy Pursglove, the album reveals the deep strength of British jazz.

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Tales of Jacquard‘is published by Whirlwind Recordings


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Henry R. Wright