Erskine & Kavuma: Ultrasound review – hard bop with soft notes

(Banger Factory)
Trumpeter Mark Kavuma and tenor sax player Theo Erskine join forces on an intimate, retro set that reflects on the pandemic era with sensitivity and soul

Over recent years, trumpeter Mark Kavuma has been a busy man on London’s jazz scene, establishing his own ensemble, the Banger Factory, cutting five albums with assorted accompanists, and generally rousing the capital’s diverse talents. Kavuma likes inclusion: lineups featuring both old and young, the odd gospel choir, and the community big band Kinetika Bloco, which he credits with nurturing his youthful interest.

His new album, in partnership with tenor saxophonist Theo Erskine, is a more intimate, small group affair, with the pair backed by pianist Noah Stoneman, bassist Michael Shrimpling and drummer Shane Forbes. Ultrasound follows on the heels of 2022’s Warriors, but reaches back to the era when the pandemic had closed down music. Opening track IT celebrates a moment of release. Named for the It Club where Thelonious Monk recorded, it captures Monk’s wry, oblique style. The rest of the album follows in similarly retro manner as it tracks the pandemic era; The Loneliest is wistful, enlivened by Stoneman’s contemplative piano. June welcomes lockdown release with sunny abandon, while The Return of Johnny Bravo and The Day After Tomorrow are exuberant, allowing Kavuma to reaffirm his hard bop credentials while showing his more reflective, soulful side. An enjoyable, upbeat tour.

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