The album continues m-unit’s punchy sound and their live and direct style is superbly captured by this recording.

Edition: EDN1220

Release Date: 29th September 2023

Steve Wilson: alto sax, soprano sax, flute; Jason Rigby: tenor sax, clarinet; Jeremy Powell: tenor sax, clarinet; Andrew Gutauskas: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Jonathan Powel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam Unsworth: French horn; Tomoko Akaboshi, Ben Russell, Maria Im: violin; Atsuki Yoshida, Matt Consul: viola; Meaghan Burke: cello); James Shipp: vibraphone; Billy Test: piano; Sam Anning: bass; Jake Goldbas: drums; Christian McBride: bass; Immanuel Wilkins: alto saxophone.

Recorded February 4th, 5th & 7th, 2022 by James Farber at Power Station, NYC, USA

Celebrating their 10-year anniversary, M_Unit have released a scintillating large ensemble recording (some 5 or 6 years after their last). The punchy opener, ‘Abeam’, showcases the ways in which Hazama explores the legacy of Big Band Swing through contemporary rhythms and structures.

The piece, first and foremost, Swings. But the musicians also shift and swerve in directions that surprise. Following this, is ‘A Monk in ascending and descending’ in which strings and vibraphone join the horns in a tune that feels like it owes a twin debt to Thelonius and Meredith.

This highlights the elegant sophistication of Hazama’s compositions, as well as the wide range of musical styles in which she converses. One can hear hints of Meredith Monk’s ‘Songs of Ascension’ here, and some pointers to Thelonius Monk’s phrasing particularly towards the end of the piece.

The blend of instruments, as they join and leave the swirling melody, is hugely entertaining and repays many listens.

Central to the album is the three movement Exoplanet Suite (‘Elliptical orbit’, ‘Three sunlights’, ‘Planet nine’). The first of these had its genesis, in part, when Hazama watched McBride playing live and hitting a low open-string E which she knew had to form the basis for a composition.

Well, the piece itself begins with lush, romantic strings rather than a thundering open bass note. But the romance segues into an ominous four-note motif played by piano and bass which is then elaborated by the full ensemble and improvised around by the soloists as the piece gains momentum.

Beneath the ensemble, McBride plays a bustling bassline that, in the last third, erupts into a solo. The album continues m-unit’s punchy sound and their live and direct style is superbly captured by this recording.