bluetouchpaper drawingbreath, A jazz album that enjoys being funky, introduces shades of world music, glows with colour and delights in the unexpected.

Label: Provocateur Records
Time: 12 Tracks / 72 minutes

While very much a solid band effort in its playing, this project is also based around the extensive talents of Colin Towns, who has played keyboards with Ian Gillan Band and written for film and TV soundtracks. Both of these sides show their hand during this jazz disc, either by a few rocky elements or the distinct atmospherics that the BTP brings into its sound. There is enough rockiness to appeal to listeners who enjoy the solos in classic or prog rock (try "Watch out" or the riff in "Yes But No," shared by sax and lead guitar, which could almost have come from a band like Coliseum II), while the textures they employ add colour and taste to the music just like spices powerfully impact food. Towns can create atmospheres that are wildly different to each other - and fortunately, not enough to spoil the cohesion of the disc.

It is the combination of all these elements that makes BTP such an enjoyable adventure. Having Stephan Maass on additional percussion (and electronics) adds a hint of Africa here and there, while "Drawing Breath" sometimes suggests the Middle East, "Juggling with Strangers" has a subdued Bolero quality and "Suddenly a Tango" introduces a Latin flavour. "Attention Seeker" and the title track are liberally laced with funk and there's even a bit of chanting from Macbeth at the start of "Fair is Foul."

But this is still essentially a jazz album; almost instrumental, often sax-led and with plenty of exploration around themes. For example, the opening "Attention Seeker" has a memorable riff and the sax solos on it, but for a spell in the middle everything slows down to loitering pace, so that it takes some concentration to spot just how much the players are still cleverly working around the theme, if in a somewhat blurred fashion.

Not everything seems to have reached its potential. The ten-minute "Isadora" has a key riff that could spark all kinds of solos and it comes with a pseudo-Parisian, Eliza Carthy-esque vaudeville spirit. An early part of it is almost ambient in its lovely pastel soundscape, but a middle section has more bluster than substance and it loses its way for a while.

In a case of restraint producing better work, you would be hard pushed to guess that the bandmaster is the keyboards player, such is Town's background presence on much of this. His work was done in the composition and here he simply brings out the sounds he had in his head. The players sound free to express themselves, though not too extravagantly. Edward Maclean's bass, for example, is more solid than playful.

When you get a jazz album that enjoys being funky, introduces subtle shades of world music and delights in the unexpected, you have a treat that gives you plenty of interest, play after play.

Derek Walker

{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}