Anytime a new name gets signed to Gondwana Records, it’s worth paying attention. At present, there are 5 names on the label: saxophonist Nat Birchall, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, understated, experimental jazz trio Mammal Hands, the legendary GoGo Penguin and, most recently, John Ellis. The Mancunian pianist already an impressive CV, having been a founding member of The Cinematic Orchestra, as well as working with Tom Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and many others. As a band leader, he’s toured with The John Ellis Big Bang, and last year he embarked on a collaborative project with visual artist Antony Bankworth Knight.
The result is Evolution: Seeds & Streams, a concept album set to drop later next month. It purports to be a blend of jazz, electronic and traditional Malian musical stylings, coming together to create something unique and ethereal. If the leading track, ‘Unidentical Twins’ is anything to go by, Ellis has roundly succeeded in achieving this. It’s a deep, intriguing tune, and you find yourself examining a different element more closely with each repeat listen, from the fluttering strings to the argumentative brass to the strange visual tale woven by Knight and his animation team. This could well end up being one of the standout albums in what has already been a great year for jazz.