Laura Jurd – Human Spirit ★★★★

Chaos Collective CC004
Laura Jurd (t), Chris Batchelor (t), Colm O’Hara (tb), Mick Foster (bs), Alex Roth (g), Corrie Dick (d), Conor Chaplin (b) and Lauren Kinsella (v). Rec. 9-11 June 2014

This follow-up to Laura Jurd’s critically acclaimed 2012 debut Landing Ground explores an entirely different sound-world. The all-instrumental debut brought together Jurd’s own jazz quartet with the Ligeti String Quartet in music of crisply articulated, Stravinskian counterpoint and free jazz interludes. While the songbased Human Spirit shares some of the same driving ostinatos, there’s a much edgier, rockier feel to the music-making, thanks to the hard-hitting electric guitar work of Alex Roth on tracks such as ‘She Knew Him’ and the potent bass sax work of Mick Foster.

From the hymnic ‘Brighter Days’ and monumental ‘More Than Just A Fairytale’ to the modal inflections of ‘Blinded’, vocalist Lauren Kinsella’s delivery is starkly beautiful, with each song’s expressive arc working its way under your skin. Trombonist Colm O’Hara and trumpeter add extra heft Chris Batchelor and gravitas to the front line, while Jurd regular, drummer Corrie Dick, marshals the tricky metric shifts faultlessly.

‘Pirates’ features an all-hands-on-deck unison chorus outro straight out of the Loose Tubes songbook, while the title track starts out as a sorrowing brass chorale before a block-like cut to a grungy sounding chorus riff which sees Roth channelling his best Nirvana manner. And it’s Roth who has the final word, his looping, minimalist guitar riff bringing this compelling collection to a pleasingly cyclical close.

– Peter Quinn

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