Henry Spencer: The Defector review – dramatic musings on displacement

The British trumpeter and his quartet shift gloriously upwards with an impressive second album that muses on escape and despair

British jazz continues to grow in myriad forms. Trumpeter Henry Spencer (no relation of mine) swapped Wiltshire for London and the Guildhall a decade back, going on to play across the capital’s jazz scene while holding fast to his desire to combine jazz with classicism and rock, an ambition deftly realised on The Reasons Don’t Change, his 2017 debut.

The Defector is a bold, glorious shift upwards, combining Spencer’s trumpet – by turns languorous, soaring and acrobatic – with strings and a busy quartet. Spencer sets the bar high, with themes surrounding defection: displacement, escape, despair. He has said his compositions have “unsung lyrics” – as if he’s a singer-songwriter with a horn – and his music is dramatic and cinematic. The title track moves swiftly from contemplation into string-laden drive, the accompaniment for some Jason Bourne-style derring-do. Without a Voice, opening with a sombre string quartet led by Scottish composer George Stevenson, is anguished, while there’s room for more upbeat moods on Here – someone’s escape is clearly complete.

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