INTO FOREVER is Matt Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra’s second album and it’s been rotation on my CD player since it dropped through the door.
There’s a real confidence about this latest record. ‘Into Forever’ continues Matt Halsall’s “spiritual jazz” trajectory and extends his already radical Gondwana Orchestra to embrace some lush string arrangements while maintaining a surprisingly strong song-based feel.
The rhythm section of bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Luke Flowers underpin these thoughtful compositions with gently rolling grooves while Rachel Gladwin delivers rippling waves of sound via her harp that are fluidly matched by Taz Modi’s piano. Keiko Kitamura is present on koto and it’s a joy to hear Lisa Mallet’s flute take flight on a spacey drum’n’bass-ish ‘The land Of’ and on the evocative composition dedicated to Taiwan’s ‘Longshan Temple’ and, in turn, the bodhisattva of mercy, Guanyin.
As the ensemble leader he focusses on the arrangements, creating space for all involved and allowing the music to breathe. It almost a surprise when Matt’s horn actually makes an appearance. on the title track of ‘Into Forever’ He shares shares writing credits on the vocal cuts with vocalist Josephine Oniyama who delivers her compositions with soulful panache. On the penultimate track of ‘Dean Park’ Matt’s horn line echoes a spaced out ‘Take 5’ meets Don Cherry while final track , ‘Jamais Vu’, introduces Bryony Jarman-Pinto who adds a different vocal dimension and explores the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that one recognizes in some fashion, but that nonetheless seems very unfamiliar.
Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra’s perform at Union Chapel in London on Thursday 29th October.