Delay 45, the Australian quartet with a taste for old-style jazz, combine their favourite genre with plenty of ambition in this new recording. Throughout the 45 minutes of continuous music, the flow never stops. Attempting to avoid pre-planned structures (‘head-solos’ etc etc …), improvisation is the key to this LP, taking a series of ideas as far as they’ll go, with impeccable musicianship doing the rest.
Beginning with rippling piano arpeggios that milk the sustain pedal, it’s already clear this is darker than your usual chamber jazz. The harmonies are more menacing, with dissonances in the left hand chiming against the right. Swanning, elegant melodies in the trumpet sound as if they’re projected from some seventies wine-bar in a Woody Allen rom-com, showing they harbour no grudges against the old sentimental tropes surrounding the genre.
The timbral control and variety on the trumpet is second to none, with group leader Tom Avgenicos using deep breathy pitches, the buzz of the bottom lip providing an airy warmth to the more intimate moments out there. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Dagger-like flutter tonguing and the ethereal whistles to which it ascends in the first Interlude are just some of the ways the sound is transformed. Tracks like Impermanence fit the bill of the lone jazz player, sitting in a darkened room, hunched over a stool and playing in a narrow spotlight. It’s whiskey-drinking jazz, Blue in Green and all the same, floating along like the sixties never ended.
Part of the overall appeal is how far back it looks. There’s almost a Coltrane-style level of spirituality surrounding it all, feeling timeless and non-committal to the outside world. Cyclical piano harmonies and irregular metres (as with the piano break during I’ll Come to the Next One) are a good example, having a similar calm to some of the more abstract moments in A Love Supreme. There’s little in the way of cadences or direction, just smooth modulations and a sultry 5/4 rhythm as the music slips back into itself, breathing the last breaths of an old age.
This dazed quality follows through like a stream of sound, going nowhere in particular and not very pressed to find out. Impermanence lives out its title, with the layers dissolving and dissipating until only the piano remains, finding some of its most eery dissonances in Interlude 2. When the trumpet rejoins, these chords are tempered and made more comforting, allowing the soloist to look back on the past more fondly in Hindsight, as if nostalgia has finally set in.
This album’s got a lot of beauty to it. It’s ambitious and easily captivating, churning out the quality ideas over and over. Simply put, it’s difficult to ask for more. If you like jazz that doesn’t try to be anything else, look no further. This is your guide.