Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1095

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Ollie Howell: Self-Identity (Ropeadope Records)

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UK release date 14.04.2017

You could never in a million years tell this was a drummer's album such is the skill and mastery of Ollie Howell. He lets his teammates shine magnificently...which in turn, makes this sophomore offering an exceptional and scintillating prospect. It's no wonder Quincy Jones has hailed him as an 'unbelievable drummer' and rightly so. Compositionally, this material is extremely strong, expressive and highly lyrical.

The group slowly build in layers, sometimes introducing heads/themes half way through ("Rise & Fall") a process which is evident throughout and increasingly expert at. Tracks like "Shadows", "Resurge", "Rise And Fall" positively shimmer with melody EST inspired piano (Matt Robinson) and emotive trumpet (Henry Spencer) coupled with Duncan Eagles' imperious tenor playing all hit the mark.

There’s a hypnotic quality to Howell's compositions that come to distinguish much of this excellent material. It sounds so fresh and intense, built around choice yet minimal sounding, harmonic progressions, however, the ensemble holds the listener right there with excellent soloing. Ant Law's serpentine guitar solos are wonderful too, a supped up John Scofield in the making! Howell's drum solo on "Shadows" cuts the mustard very groove orientated as the song fades out in glorious ECM style.

Robinson's absolutely dazzling piano leads on the horn-free "Almost Tomorrow", a beautiful sparse arrangement backed by Howell's deft brushwork underpinned by double bassist Max Luthert - who gets his chance in the spotlight, with a subtle yet measured solo giving way to the choppy sounding and evolving "Moving On" and the spiralling "Unknown" are yet another fine example of a unit totally locked in and free to express themselves. Again, Law steals the show with his bristling solo before the gorgeously long head comes in to close proceedings.

"Coming Home", a stunning rhythmic palette of a tune closes this peach of a modern jazz opus, sharp and incisive throughout, just like this body of work. Music to feed the soul in these dark, despotic days...
Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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