Recommended: Laura Jurd – “Landing Ground”


Laura Jurd - "Landing Ground"On her debut album, trumpeter Laura Jurd brings both her Jazz and Classical backgrounds to the table, and finds a way to highlight each while enhancing the depth of this beautiful album’s collective sound.

Leading a jazz quartet, and backed by the Ligeti (string) Quartet, a quirky modern jazz approach and the classical’s sweeping grandeur are both given room to breathe, and it makes for the sense of the expansive in a small enclosed area… like a city skyline in a snow globe.  Big, yet contained.

Opening track “Flight Music” matches abrupt punchy phrases with string harmonies, giving the song both edge and softness.  Jurd takes center stage on the opener with a confident solo that travels a long distance in a short time.

“The Lady of Bruntal” leads out with strings easing in nice and slow, then suddenly the jazz quartet joins in and, together, they establish a brisk gallop.  The song is marked by repeated ascensions and declinations.  The sudden shifts in both directions build some nice tension.

“Happy Sad Song” opens with some melancholic piano, the rattle of percussion, and the gentle sigh of strings.  When the song’s pulse rate increases with the arrival of trumpet, it’s flight pattern is matched by strings, offering up some uplifting harmonies.  The melody, which the ensemble returns to throughout in different variations, has the folky charm of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” and shares the lovely textures of it, too.  The interplay between piano and strings is one of the album’s highlights.

There are three duets spread throughout the album, each of them short interludes.  Some artists use interludes as a way of linking prior and subsequent tracks, utilizing the interludes to create a commonality and make for an elegant transition.  Others artists use their interludes as a way of cleansing the palate of the previous track so that the next one can be enjoyed on its own merits.  This is the route Jurd takes.  The danger in the latter method is to lose a sense of album cohesion and to interrupt a natural flow from one song to the next.  And, really, I’m not sure that Jurd avoided that danger.  In fact, she may have invited it.

The lovely somberness of “Happy Sad Song” leads into the second interlude, a duet between Jurd’s trumpet and Galvin’s piano.  They trade quick jabs, sharp right crosses, and the interlude’s sharp edges clash with the nighttime embrace that just preceded it.  But then Galvin and Ligeti Quartet lead out on “Landing Ground” with a sumptuous harmony that harks back to “Happy Sad Song”… which the ensemble immediately shatters with urgent sets of notes and phrases, reminiscent at first of the prior interlude, but then coalesces into a harshly stated, yet invitingly simple melody that takes the song, and thus the album, to an entirely new place.  It’s transitions like these that give an album a sense of something big, of distance traveled and journeys underway, and had Jurd not treated the various interludes as she did, I’m not sure the album could’ve pulled all of that off.

“Tales of the Old Country” has a weary, almost somber effervescence.  Apart from Chaplin’s notable bass solo, this track is all about the beautiful harmonies.  Its dreamlike presence almost dissipates into formlessness, making it easy to drift off in thought, swept away by music that intends to sweep the listener away.  The song is over before it even begins.  It acts as a seven minute interlude, a song between songs, and far too short for something so enchanting.

The album ends with, first, a nifty interlude (“Duet III”) of Jurd’s trumpet playing a rambunctious game of patty-cake with Corrie Dick on percussion.  This leads right into “The Cross-Atlantic Antics of Madame Souza,” a whimsical tune that looks less funny when it flashes sharp teeth.  The ensemble employs some music acrobatics that serves as a nifty rhythmic display on an album that spent most of its time on the harmonies and melodies.  It’s a bit of a jolt, following, as it does, on the heels of some serious moments of tranquility… but its these kinds of compositional wrinkles that lead to so much success on this recording, that it really sort of makes sense that this is Jurd’s send-off.

Just an excellent album.

Your album personnel: Laura Jurd (trumpet), Elliot Galvin (piano), Conor Chaplin (bass), Corrie Dick (percussion), and the Ligeti Quartet (Patrick Dawkins and Mandhira de Saram on violins, Richard Jones on viola, and Ben Davis on cello).

The album is Self-Produced, released on Jurd’s Chaos Collective label.

Jazz from the London scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3