MATTHEW HALSALL – Into Forever
aaamusic | On 08, Oct 2015
Matthew Halsall keeps on building his reputation throughout the UK and abroad with his new masterpiece, Into Forever, released October 2nd by Gondwana Records. This is where we go into his very intimate world: Halsall himself admits that it is his “most personal record to date”. It features voices, less solo parts and only two tracks featuring his trumpet-playing. Indeed, here it is Halsall the composer, arranger and producer who’s put in the spotlight. You can check it for yourself in live, since he will be next performing throughout the UK this month, including London’s Union Chapel on October 29th.
It all started when Halsall met Manchester-based soul poet Josephine Oniyama after they collaborated on a new composition – the now 9th track of the album – for the Manchester BBC Radio 3 show The Verb. Halsall confides that he had always wanted to work with singers, “but nothing quite felt right” – until he met Josephine Oniyama and then Bryony Jarman-Pinto, who have the same vision of music as he does. The album also features Halsall’s trusted collaborators like flautist Lisa Mallett, harpist Rachael Gladwin, koto player Keiko Kitamura, pianist Taz Modi piano, bassist Gavin Barras, drummer Luke Flowers (from The Cinematic Orchestra) and two percussionists Sam Bell and Chris Cruiks.
The album opens with the striking ‘Only A Woman’ – originally written as an instrumental. Oniyama, whose soul background is noticeable, then added her powerful lyrics talking about the mother-daughter bond. It offers mellow violins and touches of zen music-like harp mixing very well.
‘As I Walk’ starts inquisitively with the double bass, before letting the drums and violins in – as if tiptoeing in an unknown area. The cool Indian drum-like beat also renders a feeling of spiritual introspection – another kind of wandering. The last touch of the chord ending on a major tone instead of the overall minor feel is also a nice detail, enlightening the whole just in time.
‘Dawn Horizon’ is a one-minute minimalist interlude showcasing Halsall’s distinctive writing for strings, mixing Eastern and classical genres. In the same vibe, if more dramatic, is ‘These Goodbyes’: one of Halsall’s most personal compositions, written for his poet friend and early supporter Linda Chase. She passed away in 2011, and this piece was the last piece Halsall presented at one of her events at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.
The funky ‘Badder Weather’ sees the contribution of The Gondwana Orchestra pianist Taz Modi (from Submotion Orchestra), who gives a very nice solo and draws that album’s track towards a definitely more 90s jazz sound. Here Oniyama‘s vocal is taken to its full jazzy potential that we were already suspecting. Then ‘The Land Of’ is of a darker tone coming from Eastern scales and sounds – featuring koto player Keiko Kitamura with a kind of playing reminiscent of both Eastern and Greek music.
‘Longshan Temple’ is named after a beautiful temple in Taiwan, where Halsall recently spent some time as a guest of trumpet company P. Mauriat. The temple served as a gathering place for Chinese settlers long ago, and now worships a mixture of deities from Buddhism and Chinese folk religion – this Chinese influence can be felt in the track’s sound too, while remaining on a subtle funky background.
The enjoyable ‘Cushendun’ takes us back to the UK with a nostalgic Irish feel. The track’s name, in Irish Cois Abhann Duinne, means “beside the River Dun”. It is named after a small coastal village in Co. Antrim, in Northern Ireland, where Halsall recently holidayed with his partner. Too bad the track is so short!
‘Into Forever’, the album’s genesis song, showcases Oniyama‘s great voice again – without useless effects, simply efficient and warm. It is also the first song when we get to hear Matthew Halsall’s rare trumpet-playing, giving it a very nice colour.
And before ending on the light ‘Jamais Vu’ – featuring singer Bryony Jarman-Pinto, who also wrote the lyrics – comes the graceful ‘Daan Park’. It is named after a park in Taiwain where Halsall was sitting while thinking of this tune, watching a group of people learning elegant movements of Tai Chi. The trumpet chimes in again, adding some tension with jazzy minors making the track a very clever mix of minimalist modern jazz and zen-like music. It is definitely one of the highlights of this highly recommended album.