4th March, 2022 sees the release of Ignored Advice, the debut album from rising star quartet Estraven. Set up by double bassist Chris Hyde-Harrison and featuring the talents of guitarist Alban Claret, saxophonist Duncan Eagles (Partikel) and drummer Matt Parkinson (Howl Quartet), Estraven play songs steeped in modern jazz harmony that interweave contemporary rhythms with bewitching melodies.
The album comprises of seven tracks, all of which are composed by Chris-Hyde Harrison. Estraven are named after a character from the novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursla Le Guin. The music takes influence from both the book’s wintry setting on the frozen planet of Gethen, and from the exiled character Estraven’s selfless dedication to their cause. So now that the background to the album is established what of the music?
The first thing that stood out for me on the opening track, ‘Invocation Incantation’, was the clarity of tone from saxophonist Duncan Eagles. The tune’s main theme is set out from the first note and is coherently delivered by both sax and guitar with measured support from bass and drums: a good start! ‘Letters from The Frontline’ continues in a similar stylistic vein to the opening track but opens out with a very good guitar solo from Alban Claret. We also get to hear a wonderfully paced bass solo from Chris Hyde-Harrison before Duncan Eagles picks up the melody on sax.
The album title track is a good example of the way Estraven use irregular meters with uncomplicated melodies to hold the listener’s attention. It also makes clear that the jazz style on show here draws on European influences. ‘A Voice Beneath’ carries on that influence with rippling drum patterns over which Alban Claret weaves his lyrical guitar lines. Another enjoyable bass solo develops into a three-way section with bass, drums and guitar playing a repeating motif before the tune’s melodic line is pick-up again by Duncan Eagles on sax.
‘Safe Hex’ pick up the tempo slightly but that clarity of tone present from the album’s opening track is still very much apparent. This number has so many musical facets within its four-minute playing time that they could have made for a very disjointed track but here works very well. Matt Parkinson’s drumming on ‘Pariah’s Return’ has a processional feel about it and Alban Claret’s guitar gives the tune a menacing edge, which is assuaged faintly by the sax of Duncan Eagles. This number had a disquieting timbre that sets it apart from the other tracks on the album: an absorbing piece of writing. Ignored Advice finishes with ‘Last Mahou Shoujo’ that has a beautiful, extended guitar/bass section opening that is then further enhanced when the sax and drums come into play: a fine closing number.
This is a good debut album from Chris-Hyde Harrison’s Estraven. The tonal colours are subtle, varied, and captivating. The playing is controlled, lyrical, and consistently engaging throughout and any stylistic overtones such as rock, world or classical music are used to minimal good effect. This album has been on repeat for a few days now and I have enjoyed each and every listen. Estraven are booked in to play at Southampton Jazz Club in August and it will be fascinating to hear some, if not all, of Ignored Advice live.
Ignored Advice is available from 4th March on Bandcamp as a digital dowmload or CD.
Musicians: Chris Hyde-Harrison – bass; Duncan Eagles – saxophone; Alban Claret – guitar; Matt Parkinson – drums
Tracklist: 1. Invocation Incantation. 2. Letters From The Frontline. 3. Ignored Advice. 4. A Voice Beneath. 5. Safe Hex. 6. Pariah’s Return. 7. Last Mahou Shujo.
Recorded at Lightship 95, London on 5th September 2021.
Mixed and recorded by David Holmes.
Mastered at Abbey Road Studios.