Before we dive into this stunning effort from the supremely talented Matthew Halsall, it seems only right that we pay due respects to the sensational releases Gondwana Records have been putting out over the last year or two. Gondwana have always been representative of offering an exceptional perspective on contemporary jazz but releases by Portico Quartet (‘Monument’), Jasmine Myra (‘Horizons’), Hanakiv (‘Goodbyes’) and Svaneborg Kardyb (‘Over Tage’) haven’t just been met with overwhelming praise but have delivered inspired pieces of music from definitive masters of their craft.
For anyone other than Matthew Halsall, the bar could very well be considered to be too high to even hold their music up against, but… we are, in fact, talking about THE Matthew Halsall.
Trumpeter, composer and Gondwana Records founder, Halsall has become adept at presenting music as varying facets of his own musical make-up. Whether those releases showcasing his distinctive subtle twinges of electronica, his spiritual jazz workouts like with his ‘Colour Yes’ album, or whether it’s music created in collaboration with vocalist Dwight Trible or with The Gondwana Orchestra, Halsall always finds ways to present a thoughtful, introspective and dynamic assessment that has gone some way towards solidifying his name as one of the UK’s most accomplished artists within jazz.
‘An Ever Changing View’, however, sees Halsall attempt to rethink his stance a little and approach the music through an intriguing new lens, perhaps best surmised on the album’s Bandcamp page by the artist himself who is quoted as saying, “I hit the reset button and wanted to have complete musical freedom”. The notion of an artist – who is revered in his ability to incorporate so many seemingly disparate musical elements into his compositions – subsequently seeking “musical freedom” is both head-scratching and riveting at the same time. Still embracing new ways to reinvent his music and present it within new contexts is absolutely inspiring but still seeking freedom with an already extensive catalogue under your belt, built upon said creative freedoms, does beg the question… “freedom from what?”.
Perhaps freedom from expectation? When everyone expects fusion-based and expansive masterpieces with each outing, the freedoms that give those very projects life can ironically become their own set of binds. The notion of, as suggested by the album’s title, altering the perspective and examining the music differently represents a milestone moment for Halsall.
And what a perspective! With song titles like ‘Mountains, Trees and Seas’, ‘Field of Vision’, ‘Sunlight Reflection’ and ‘Triangles in the Sky’… we may not be privy to the visual outside Halsall’s window but we’re gifted something considerably greater in the album’s ten tracks that paint elegant musical soundscapes amongst some of the best he has ever delivered. The absolute treasure that is ‘Water Street’ sets the project off perfectly before making way for further gems like ‘Calder Shapes’ and ‘Jewels’. Nothing is wasted here, each track forms a definitive piece of the album’s delicate and intrinsically woven tapestry.
‘An Ever Changing View’ not only sits highly amongst Matthew Halsall’s hallowed catalogue but also takes pride of place amongst the slew of Gondwana releases that serve as compulsory listening experiences. And long may the run continue.