Misha Mullov-Abbado: Cross-Platform Interchange
Edition Records

The son of celebrated violinist Viktoria Mullova and the late conductor Claudio Abbado, British bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado demonstrates a remarkable degree of maturity as a player, composer, and arranger on this exceptional follow-up to his 2015 debut New Ansonia. Inspired by the bassist's love of trains, traveling, and musical adventure, Cross-Platform Interchange presents eight compositions refined by the bassist and his band over a two-year period that draws from multiple traditions, among them Western, Middle-Eastern, Brazilian, and Eastern-European cultures.

Though Cross-Platform Interchange is fundamentally jazz, Mullov-Abbado's writing is informed by a classical sensibility, and not simply because of his parents' influence. He studied music and composition with Robin Holloway and Jeremy Thurlow at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and has seen his compositions performed by classical soloists and ensembles besides his quintet; his Clarinet Concerto, for example, was premiered in Cambridge by Joseph Shiner. Supplementing his outstanding command of the bass, Mullov-Abbado's also an experienced horn player who performed works such as Schumann's Konzertstück and Britten's Serenade during his student days.

Though Mullov-Abbado's band is smaller, it resembles Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra in certain respects. Mullov-Abbado and his musicians tackle Western and non-Western musical styles with consummate skill, and the bassist's compositions at times evoke the romantic strain that emerged in his late counterpart's music, during his later years in particular and most explicitly in Quartet West; further to that, the arrangements on Cross-Platform Interchange are in places reminiscent of Dream Keeper, in those moments in particular when the music draws from Cuban and South American forms. With the leader on double bass and bass guitar, the band's a first-rate outfit powered by saxophonists Matthew Herd (alto), Sam Rapley (tenor, clarinet), trumpeter James Davison, keyboardist Liam Dunachie, drummer Scott Chapman, and percussionist Elad Neeman. Adding to the ensemble's rich sound, guests such as electric guitarist Rob Luft and cellist Matthew Barley join in now and again.

The project's global spirit is immediately invoked when “Shanti Bell” inaugurates the album with a driving percussion-and-bass intro, the leader's double bass lines accompanied by hand drums, shakers, and, of course, bells. As rhythmically forceful as the intro is, it's bettered by the uptempo thrust the full outfit brings to the anthemic “No Strictly Dancing.” With Nick Goodwin's acoustic guitar helping to animate the music, the tune sees the music take wing with joyous abandon, its locomotive roar strengthened by the front-line's exuberant soloing and unison playing: a remarkable performance all around, even if the end's a tad abrupt. That sense of locomotion re-surfaces, albeit in more controlled manner, during “Still, Hidden Morning” when the bassist and drummer power the band's warm textures with a breezy, subtly funky swing.

An even better showcase for the group, “Waves” unfolds with a deep romantic languor that's well-nigh impossible to resist, especially when the horn and woodwind textures are so luscious. As this masterful eleven-minute ballad performance unfolds, memorable solo turns by the leader and tenor saxist receive sensitive support from the others, the pianist and drummer in particular deserving mention. Languor of a different kind emerges in the band's sunny rendering of “Pure 100% Nunnery,” which segues surprisingly from wailing blues to free playing before ending with Ellington-like flourishes. Speaking of which, seeming echoes of “Prelude to a Kiss” shadow the melodic progression with which the title track begins before it likewise shifts, in this case into a smooth jazz-funk mode. And while we're on the subject of American icons, Mullov-Abbado and company dig into rapid-fire bebop (replete with round-robin soloing no less) on “Gromit's Grand Outing” with a conviction that would do Dizzy Gillespie proud.

July 2017