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Beloved Bird: March 2010
Label: Lost Marble
Django Bates, piano, Petter Eldh, bass, Peter Bruun, drums.
Django Bates is not short of accolades. Founder member of his group, Human Chain, at the end of the 1970s, he has achieved formidable recognition among jazz musicians and fans alike. Formal recognition has been in the form of awards for ‘Best Composer in 1987, 1990 from the The Wire, and for the only international jazz award, the Jazzpar Prize, in 1997.
His latest offering, Beloved Bird, pays tribute to his childhood hero, Charlie Parker. The result is a heady mixture of pounding bebop, gentle ballads and moments of surreal introspection.
Listeners will have their own favourites, but among them will surely be the ever-familiar, Scrapple from the Apple, interpreted with a mixture of rhythmic patterns and his unique piano style which characterises the whole album.
Hot House receives similar treatment, perhaps slightly more ‘boppish’, with the theme trotting along at a fast pace one minute, then slower the next, before regaining pace once more, attentively complemented throughout by Eldh and Bruun.
It’s a return to the traditional ballad for Star Eyes, which starts with a driving rhythm before calming down for the theme. The emphatic bass solo over which his piano trickles is a delight to hear.
Perhaps the highlight of the recording is the final track, Ah-Leu-Cha, and also the most intricate and challenging. Lasting almost 20 minutes, it offers him the opportunity for a thorough examination of the piece. It opens with an almost classical movement from the piano and develops into a series of abstract and introspective sounds and images, particularly in his exchanges with Eldh’s bass, and towards the end. Yet the theme is unmistakably there, even when he is at his most adventurous, and for all its unorthodoxy, it is decidedly rewarding to hear.
This album is a remarkable and astonishingly creative achievement. It surely will be high up on the list of Django Bates’ triumphs when viewed in retrospect.