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Wednesday, Jan 02 2013 | 17:17 Buy this now at GoodToGo (B2B)

Nat BirchallAptly hailed by Gilles Peterson as “one of the best musicians in the UK”, saxophonist Nat Birchall remains one of the UK’s hidden jazz treasures. Playing tenor and soprano saxophones, he is a band leader, composer and arranger (and occasional DJ) who has grabbed listeners attention with his soulful sound and inspirational spiritual music.

After his debut 1999 release “The Sixth Sense” he took the time to work on his music before recording a series of albums for Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana label starting with 2009’s “Akhenaten”. This album and the subsequent “Guiding Spirit” and “Sacred Dimension” were praised by reviewers and fans alike for their soulfulness, freshness and a harking back to a bygone era of Spiritual Jazz. These albums played an integral part in establishing the much celebrated new Northern Jazz scene.

“World Without Form” is Nat Birchall’s fifth album and it features the wonderfully sympathetic pianist Adam Fairhall, a long-term musical partner of Birchall’s, as well as the brilliant Corey Mwamba on vibes and percussion. Bassist Nick Blacka lends his deep groove and the great Paul Hession plays trap drums. On three tracks there are two basses, with special guest Jon Thorne adding his very special sound and Birchall also adds a second drummer to five of the pieces with Andy Hay adding drums and percussion. The extra weight and sound from the doubling of these instruments adds a level of intensity that serves to deliver the deeper message of Birchall’s music within a pulsing, rhythmically dynamic setting. The band is almost a ‘double trio’ plus saxophone: two basses, two drums and two harmony/rhythm instruments – piano and vibes. In European music the piano is usually seen as a harmony/melody instrument, but from an African perspective it often takes a role more like a percussion instrument. The vibraphone has a similar percussion role even in the European tradition. So the band in its full seven-piece mode is heavily percussive but also very melodic in concept, a sound that perfectly fits Birchall’s music.

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