Alex Bonney quartet - Halda Ema

Label/Year: Loop Collective, 2017

Lineup - Alex Bonney: trumpet; James Allsopp: clarinets; Olie Brice: bass; Jeff Williams: drums.

Alex Bonney is a London-based jazz trumpeter, sound engineer, and composer who also has a flair for electronic music, a genre that is not included in his latest work, Halda Ema. Instead, the record dives into modern creativity, coordinating counterpoint and euphony, and was recorded live with James Allsopp (Nostalgia 77) on clarinets, Olie Brice (Paul Dunmall Quartet) on bass, and the veteran Jeff Williams (Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz) on drums.

We are introduced to “Pangolin Husbandry”, the opening tune, through an ad-lib section of trumpet and percussion. In a while, Bonney lays anchor in a phrase that is almost immediately matched by Allsopp and firmly supported by the tickled groove laid down by the rhythm section. The clarinetist often resorts to that line until the beginning of the improvisational section. The tune swings and thrives with reverberant obliques as it controls the turbulence that may hit the collective improvisations. This state of affairs drives us to accessible avant-gardish zones.

Brice builds another cyclic lick on “Tri-X Dreams”, inviting the trumpeter and the clarinetist to shape the theme’s singable melody after their improvisations. By the end, the bassist speaks again confidently while pulling out a warm, woody sound from his instrument.

The quartet conceives interesting and more abstract contours in the introduction of “New Horizons”, a folk-jazz dance where the horn players have the spotlight. Williams embarks on an efficient demonstration of his rhythmic skills before the main statement resumes.

Mobiles” seems to ramble with no particular goal other than probing hooks with an experimental, free posture. The quartet’s game comprehends bowed and pizzicato bass techniques, highly syncopated drumming, trumpet air attacks and splitting tones, and winding, often cavernous clarinet blows.

While “Imaginary National Anthem” intends to bring some more happiness into the UK through its call-response interactions, the final track “Awakening Song” drags itself languidly until landing in an attractive 3/4 tempo.

Encircled by an upbeat attitude, Halda Ema showcases four like-minded roamers whose musical strategy treats tradition with respect, using it to pass on modernity. 
This is an upstanding one by Bonney.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Pangolin Husbandry ► 03 – New Horizons ► 04 – Mobiles