This is an album that features a strong and interesting set of compositions

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Julian Costello (tenor & soprano saxophones); John Turville (piano); Andy Hamill (double bass & harmonica); Tom Hooper (drums); special guest Georgia Mancio (vocals)

Julian Costello has taken a new turn with his quartet for his latest album, firstly swapping guitar for the piano, and secondly bringing in the wonderful Georgia Mancio as a special guest on two tracks.

In a set of all original compositions by the saxophonist the emphasis is on structured and melodic pieces for the quartet to work from, and indeed the album’s title is a reference to Costello’s remit that the musicians be free to express themselves and able to fly.

This they certainly do as Costello’s writing whilst leaving plenty of space for improvisation is also detailed enough that the music is not caught up in the theme, solos and out scenario, but has written passages that feed the soloists. On top of this, the bass and drums axis keep the grooves tight yet flowing, and pianist and Julian himself relish the foundation and flexibility that they provide.

‘The Gecko’ is a prime example of this. In the hands of others this could be a rather leaden groove, but the quartet have a finely tuned sense of dynamics, and the piano and tenor caress the melody rather than belt it out. This in turn demands that the bass and drums reciprocate and this sets in motion a fine tenor solo from the leader, full of twists, turns and tonal smears but always lyrical.

‘London Blue’ opens with a wonderful drum intro from Hooper before the tenor enters with another of the melodic yet unpredictable themes that Costello seems able to conjure up from nowhere, while ‘No Dinosaurs Here’ is a delicate ballad that is marked out for Julian’s lovely tone on the tenor and some fine comping from Turville, as the beautiful ‘Song for Anna’.

The dinosaur theme is continued with ‘Dippy the Diplodocus’ that Costello imbues with a lazy and laid back melody. The tenor solo is pulling at the rhythm section with hints that Costello want to fly, but the restraint in the arrangement dictates otherwise and the saxophonist eases back in to the gentle and expressive tenor sound that he inhabits so convincingly. Credit should also be given to John Turville for his solo here too.

The two titles that feature Georgia Mancio fit seamlessly within the overall context of the album, and the voices of Georgia and Costello’s tenor provide a lovely contrast on ‘Sunflowers’ that was heard as instrumental on the previous album Connections, and now has lyrics courtesy of Rebecca Morse.

The other composition with lyrics is the opening number, ‘Why’ with words by Julian’s wife, Anna Stearman. A tender love song in which pianist John Turville immediately finds a connection with Georgia’s vocals contributing a superb accompaniment.

This is an album that features a strong and interesting set of compositions and performed by a quartet (and special guest) who instinctively know how to bring the best out of the music and bring a little something of themselves to the party too.

You can check out our interview with Julian here.