The recording by the quartet Way North not inappropriately entitled Fearless and Kind comes as a refreshing change from much of the music we hear nowadays, which is intellectual and far too dilettantish and affected. It’s not that the music is not thoughtfully written and performed; it’s just that there is spontaneity in each of the originals – and in the interpretation of two Jelly Roll Morton’s works – that makes the music leap with the kind of joie de vivre that characterises what is often perceived as le jazz hot which is something that endures unto this day because by its very definition Jazz is the music of redemption, joy and freedom; the kind of music that makes New Orleans what it is and will always be; the kind of music that lives and breathes and is at its best when expressed by musicians who give body and soul to it.
Music such as “Boll Weevil”, “Lagoon”, “Airport to Nowhere” and “Fearless and Kind” reverberates with all of the above. The opener “Boll Weevil”, is a joyous dancing piece which engages you. It is followed by “Lagoon” a slow, slightly mysterious ballad edged with a rueful feel. It features a thoughtful, melodic solo by Rebecca Hennessy, as does “Airport to Nowhere” only here the fire of Miss Hennessy’s trumpet is matched bore and stroke for bore and stroke by Richie Barshay’s drums. “Fearless and Kind” by bassist Michael Herring features some discreet harmonics with a delicate curlicue of a bass line that underpins what sounds like a Gaelic lament. And Jelly Roll’s pieces are played with the characteristic fire that evokes the elemental magic of the originals.
Throughout the repertoire each of the members of Way North rings in the changes in mood, structure and tempo, making for a constantly interesting programme. The considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and (perceived) improvisation, of exploration, individuality and tradition is impressively highlighted throughout. Sadly, when you’re having as much fun listening to this music (as the players obviously did making it) it seems to end all too soon, even though this is an almost hour-long programme. But by the time it ends every song has been worth listening to; so you’re likely to spin the disc once again simply because you just cannot get enough of it…
Track list – 1: Boll Weevil; 2: Lagoon; 3: Airport To Knowhere; Jerry Roll Morton Medley 4 – Act i: Buddy Bolden’s Blues; 5 – Act II: King Porter Stomp; 6: Inchworms; 7: You Know A Song; 8: Ready Or Not; 9: Birds For Free; 10: Fearless And Kind; 11: The River’s Flow
Personnel – Rebecca Hennessy: trumpet; Petr Cancura: tenor saxophone; Michael Herring: bass; Richie Barshay: drums
Released – 2018
Label – Independent
Runtime – 51:37