Django Bates’ Belovèd – Confirmation ★★★★

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Django Bates (p,celeste, v), Petter Eldh (b), (v), Peter Bruun (d, v) and special guest Ashley Slater (v). Rec. not stated

Try not to think of Confirmation as a sequel to this band’s extraordinary debut Belovèd Bird. Where that recording quested deep into the heart of Charlie Parker’s music, Confirmation reveals much more of Bates’ sensibility as pianist and composer. There’s only a smattering of Bird songs, and each is done reasonably straight: ‘Donna Lee’ is a song of joy and most intriguingly ‘Now’s The Time’, frenetic on Belovèd Bird, is revisited with a gentleness and good humour that surprises. But then Bates is all about surprise, not least with the closing Bacharach song, ‘A House Is Not A Home’, replete with Ashley Slater’s gorgeous vocals.

Bates’ own songs are drawn from different eras – ‘Senza Bitterness’, an intimate ballad, harks back to pre-Human Chain days while ‘Peonies As Promised’ is a song of thanks for Bates’ new post as professor of jazz in Bern. With most of this material deeply road tested before recording, and a spacious studio sound, Confirmation may surprise those who find Bates too tricksy and knotted. This is deeply considered music, played with relish for the telling detail and an emotional range that confirms, if confirmation were needed, Bates’ stature as a pianist and composer.

– Andy Robson