Henry Spencer - trumpet, flugelhorn
Nick Costley-White - guitar
Matt Robinson - piano, Fender rhodes, Wurlitzer
Andrew Robb - double bass
David Ingamells - drums
Featuring The Guastalla Quartet
Recorded by George Murphys, Philip Bagenal, Charlier Morton and Paul Whalley
Mixed and mastered by Dave Darlington
Produced by Paul Whalley and Henry Spencer
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
released January 27, 2017
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Trumpet player and composer Henry Spencer is an up-and-coming name on the British scene. A recent graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he formed his quintet Juncture and crafted this debut album The Reasons Don’t Change specifically with his fellow alumni in mind. So the combined forces of Nick Costley-White (guitar), Matt Robinson (piano, keyboards), Andrew Robb (double bass) and David Ingamells (drums) intuitively interpret Spencer’s original work with a fervor to match his penetrating technique; and the inclusion of The Guastalla Quartet’s string sustenance brings another, integrated layer of richness.
The recipient of Best Newcomer Award at Marlborough Jazz Festival and Help Musicians UK’s Emerging Excellence Award, the trumpeter’s approach is derived from his formative years’ interest in songwriting. Beginnings in pairing music and words came to inform an especially lyrical, even emotional narrative to the mature artistry of his instrumental composition; so much so that, even now, his brand of rock-infused jazz can sometimes be constructed on a wireframe of received poetic phrases which are then discarded. It’s a method which Spencer finds rewarding – clearly heard in the fluvial, conversational melodies to Spencer’s earliest piece for the album, ‘Remember Why’ – his reasoning being that “lyrics allow us to be unambiguous and openly honest”. The same is true of introspective ballad ‘Never Draw a Line’, whose rising motifs are imaginable as a vocal line, expressing the trumpeter’s pervading themes of positivity, of transforming regret into liberation; and ‘Eulogy (Goodbye Old Chap)’ celebrates a life through contrasting reflection and exuberance.
Listen to the energy in ‘Still Open to Confusion’ or the gentler, coalescent lines of ‘On the Bridge’, and it’s easy to understand why Henry Spencer has always been drawn to the connective, overlapping timbres of brass and electric guitar which can invoke unpredictable tonal magic; and Costley-White, in particular, is establishing himself as one of the UK’s compelling, exploratory new masters of the fretboard, showcased elegantly in the luscious chordal blend with Spencer’s floating improv in ‘Knock Back, Knocked Forward’. Matt Robinson, too, is becoming a familiar collaborator in a brave new wave of jazz and jazz-related projects, and his imaginative pianistic flair in ‘Hindsight Can’t Wait’, along with an empathy for Wurlitzer and Mellotron, provides the band with so many textural options when combined with such a responsive, nuanced rhythm section as Andrew Robb and Dave Ingamells.
The physicality of the trumpet, along with its technical challenges, were what first drew Spencer to its possibilities for jazz improvisation. Across these ten tracks, an often blistering, flutter-tongued incisiveness is balanced with the serene depth of flugel, while his occasionally plaintive, bucolic solo personality – heard at the beginning of ‘Joanne’s Diary’ – is able to neatly segue into the fluctuating vistas that this band skilfully interprets. From the first few bars of ‘Hopeless Heartless’ emanates the lush warmth of The Guastalla Quartet, creating a wider soundscape reminiscent of orchestral jazz, and rocky closer ‘The Survivor and The Descendant’ consolidates the dynamic strength of this entire nine-piece as swirling, forte strings whip up a maelstrom of white-hot guitar and trumpet.
Regularly contributing to other projects – including performances with Stan Sulzmann, Jason Rebello, Julian Joseph and also the London Jazz Orchestra – Henry Spencer now brings his first album, as leader, to Whirlwind with a desire to fanfare contemporary jazz’s increasingly broader horizons: “My wish is that listeners might engage with the original emotional and lyrical context of the album, almost as if it were presented by a singer/songwriter, and then relate it to their own experience. That connection is what I find stimulating in improvised music.”
"His [Spencer's] great talent lies in his emotive, fluid and poetic sonority."
★★★★★ In Musik
"A striking debut... Spencer is a very promising arrival."
"A début album that impresses with its ambition, scope and emotional and compositional maturity."
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"This highly accessible and brilliantly cohesive debut album emanates from an exceptionally talented group of musicians and a leader from whom we shall undoubtedly hear much more."
★★★★ All About Jazz
“Trumpeter/composer Henry Spencer is a recent conservatoire graduate, but his spectacular technique and strong musical character make him sound like an old hand.”
"Powerful and energetic music... Spencer is never less than outstanding... If one were ever concerned about the current state of the British jazz scene, there is no reason to worry with music of this calibre. This is an outstanding release and sure to be a hit with all lovers of contemporary British jazz."
"Spencer possesses an astonishing technical facility as a trumpeter and he plays like a man possessed throughout the album, but ultimately its his writing that impresses most of all on a series of pieces that embrace a wide stylistic and emotional range, often within the confines of a single composition."
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"A truly gorgeous record and maybe even an early contender for album of the year. "
★★★★ All About Jazz
"Trumpeter Spencer plays with precision and passion... Bold, uninhibited... An impressive debut."
Bebop Spoken Here
"A powerful statement of intent from a young musician determined to be noticed, and should get him the attention he deserves."
"Spencer’s clear focus produces music that’s strong, direct, dramatic and emotionally involving."
“Dense music, full of energy, elaborate and technically proficient still leaves beautiful spaces for expression from the soloists... A musician to discover!”
Culture Jazz (FR)
"Up and coming talent Henry Spencer displays considerable technical prowess."
"Fresh, joyful and simply beautiful... promises to become one of the highlights of the genre this year."
Musik an Sich
"A blend of masterful lyrical tones and contrasting textures and styles."
“Wildly moving pieces tinged with melancholy... an impressive statement and one for the top ten of 2017
Musik Reviews (DE)
“The compositions are compelling... a thoroughly recommended album.”
“Full of rich sound, technical skill and energy”
Jazz Zeitung (DE)
Spencer balances contemporary, improvisational jazz sounds with comprehensible melody... an authentic and emotive album.”
Soultrain Online (DE)
“Solid, yet dreamy and tinged with melancholy.”