A superb debut album by any standards, and one that features a fine sextet and a confident leader showing a maturity beyond his years.

NB001 – 12” vinyl and digital release: Available from Bandcamp

Nye Banfield (tenor saxophone); Mark Kavuma (trumpet); Wilf Diamond (trombone); Rupert Cox (piano, Rhodes); Hamish Nockles-Moore (double bass); Ewan Moore (drums)

Recorded 2021

While this is Banfield’s debut album, the saxophonist has been plying his trade around the London and UK scene for a number of years and released a five track EP in 2018 to critical acclaim. A cursory listen to the music immediately acknowledges the influence of the Blue Note Records of the 1960s and Wayne Shorter in particular.

What is impressive is that Bandfield knows what he likes, and what he wants to do himself as an improvising musician. The influences maybe discernible but he is not shackled by them, and there is a sure sense of care and attention to detail in the music presented. Banfield is therefore able to make his point without having to stand up and shout to be heard, and this admirable trait also spills over into his compositions

As such, there is a feeling that this is a jazz sextet with an agenda with carefully crafted material with which to work and not a whiff of a casual blowing date with the horns queueing up to solo. The solos when they do arrive do so organically out of the composition, and often are quite brief.

A case in question is the opening ‘Rockhopper’ with Banfield introducing his writing and arranging concept straightaway before delivering a solo that is full of colour and imagination. The group send is then subtly changed with the introduction of the Rhodes electric piano on ‘Bellarom Gold’ bringing a different dynamic. The saxophonist is again economical in his solo both in duration and the number of notes played. There is also an attractive solo from Mark Kavuma who also favours a clean limbed and lyrical approach.

The quieter and more reflective moments are handled in the lovely ballad, ‘Four Years Later’ and the wonderfully scored miniature ‘Song for Grandad’ that is quite exquisite and exceptionally moving and reveals Banfield’s passion for orchestral music.

One of the aspects of the music that is so compelling is that it is never allowed to settle into a groove or pattern but is always moving forward. ‘E11’ steers this course with some skilful arranging from Banfield. The tension and release is tangible and there is a genuine narrative to the music.

This is nowhere more felt that on the closing ‘Characters’ that at a whisper under fifteen minutes is the longest track, and a summation of the album as a whole. A fine performance that begins with arco bass and acoustic piano to sparse and sonorous effect leading to a gentle pizzicato bass ostinato before the tenor saxophone enters followed by horns with a plaintive and reserved theme.

Over this bass riff Banfield begins his solo accompanied by piano and drummer Ewan Moore’s delicate brushwork, in an expansive improvisation full of interest and surprises. Ewan Moore also gets to take his own neat, compact and highly melodic solo as the piece builds to its climax.

A superb debut album by any standards, and one that features a fine sextet and a confident leader showing a maturity beyond his years. In a double whammy, we have an exciting new tenorist in our midst and an outstanding small group composer.