Matthew Halsall is a trumpeter, composer, producer, arranger and leader of the Gondwana Orchestra, based in Manchester. The vocals by Josephine Oniyama on the ethereal opening track “Only A Woman”, which has added, celestial harp courtesy of Rachael Gladwin, reminds me of the 60s recordings by Alice Coltrane. The esoteric atmosphere continues with the equally magical “As I Walk” where cello, viola and violin only add to the mystery and give the downtempo, soulful tune a divine touch.
The gospelly vocals of Josephine and her husky style are simply perfect for the jazzy “Badder Weather” where harp and piano brightly gel and turn this little gem into a soul/jazz hymn. Some beautiful, dirge-like instrumentals complement this album, like the haunting “These Goodbyes” or the oriental sounds in “The Land Of” with a soaring flute (Lisa Mallett) and a drum part which brings a lot of tension to the song (Luke Flowers).
The oriental theme continues with “Longshan Temple” where the flute part doesn’t really excite. Much more effective is the string-laden, but too short “Cushendun” and the harp-accompanied beauty of the title track where Josephine is back. Her splendid performance and Matthew’s trumpet make this another highlight of the album, even though I think most of the songs are simply too short.
Trumpet and harp work fantastically well together on “Daan Park” (Taipei’s central park) which has a healing, contemplative quality to it and ends up almost trance-like. Singer Bryony Jarman-Pinto is featured on the final “Jamais Vu”, hers a sparrow-like voice which staggers through the air, unsure where to land. Her flight ends too abruptly.
The group plays Hamburg’s Überjazz Festival tonight.