In praise of Nick Malcolm

Living in a medium-sized city, you get to see the local players doing different things. Trumpeter Nick Malcolm does more than most, I reckon. He’s a mainstay of the excellent Moonlight Saving Time, plays on occasion with the more rhythmically oriented Dahkla, and punches out the riffs with the Bristol Afro-Beat project.

I’ve also seen him this year doing great work in Liza Carthy’s touring band, and stepping in to Arabella Sprot’s quartet when her regular trumpet player was elsewhere. Then there’s his own quartet with Bristol’s Mark Whitlam on drums, Alexander Hawkins on piano (or sometimes Corey Mwamba on vibes) and Olie Brice on bass. As that line-up probably indicates, his own music tends more toward freebop, with lots of improvisational freedom and quick wits at a premium.

There are several other projects mentioned on his website that I haven’t heard, but every one of performances I have seen has been hugely enjoyable. He’s hardly alone in playing in lots of different bands – how else do young players get by playing jazz? – but few others slip so easily from one to another, or play with such complete commitment in every one.

The trumpet technique is impressively controlled, and he finds original things to play on the simplest songs. The quartet is a marvel of invention and interaction, and their recent CD, generously reviewed here,  is a fine document. Alison Bentley’s words on LondonJazznews about the title piece – ” a microcosm: free jazz, funk, modern classical music, swing- the more you listen, the more bewitching glimmers you hear” – apply equally well to the whole set. Oh, and he also writes, on occasion, and very well too, with illuminating things to say about key influences such as Colemans Ornette and Steve.

He splits his time these days between London and Bristol, and it is always great to see him here. But he is surely a player destined to make more of a national impact. A quartet set recorded at the Vortex in London last week and due for broadcast on BBC Jazz on 3 later this month, I think, is very welcome, if slightly overdue. Look out for it: it’ll definitely be worth your while.

P.S. a nice coincidence: in between writing and posting this, I noticed on the net that Malcolm has been selected for the “Take 5” scheme, in which a small group of up and comers are selected each year for mentoring to help with career development for young jazz musicians – launching at the London Jazz Festival on Nov 24th. So other people are noticing…

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