Trumpeter Laura Jurd has in her short time as a flag-bearer for new young(ish) British jazz built up quite a portfolio music, be it her own, in collaboration or, as here, with her band Dinosaur. This new album is only likely to increase her musical share price.
It starts off in a jaunty way, all trills and curls, with the title track To the Earth, on which Jurd’s trumpet is at times very restrained, the notes squeaking out in short bursts or the quietest of vibratos, and what’s happening behind her from bandmates Corrie Dick on drums, Conor Chaplin on bass and Elliot Galvin on keyboards is, well, not that much.
It’s a strangely subdued opener, and the pace dips even further with the dirge-like feel of the aptly-named Slow Loris. The primates of the same name are nocturnal, wide-eyed and mildly poisonous, and this number - particularly Galvin’s piano descents and rises, and Dick’s drum stops, suggest something of the danger and surprises lurking in the Asian jungle.
This is no straightforward album. There are a lot of playful and lyrical, almost nursery rhyme touches - such as the opening to third track Mosking, which is a distant cousin of the Ivor the Engine soundtrack - and the largely acoustic basis for the album is interspersed with some unusual sounds and electronic whirls and beeps. The album’s very ‘up’ and positive, lots of scope for foot tapping and tunes that just grow and unwind satisfactorily to the listener. Jurd’s trumpet is foregrounded, but doesn’t hog the limelight: as important as what she plays is what should could have played, but didn’t.
Listen to Mosking here:
Held by Water is pacier, starting off with a trumpet call-to-prayer over a simple rhythm which fades as the piano comes in with a slightly uneasy set of chords that builds inexorably as Jurd’s trumpet caws and screams. The baseline under all this is simple, but super effective. Short, but the best track on the album.
Absinthe is, despite the name, eminently drinkable and unlikely to leave you in a stupor as it’s a tremendously lyrical little ballad, with a slightly thirties feel to it and unsettling keyboard sounds that brought to mind late Weimar Berlin.
Banning Street Blues I can seek going down live well on tour, while final track 07 for One brings the record to a slow conclusion, with the dirtiest of walking grooves and the thinnest of brushed drums from Dick. It is snail’s pace jazz that lumbers along, but has enough surprises in it to keep you listening until the end, not least the inevitable drum solo, which surprisingly doesn’t grate.
With a Mercury Prize nomination behind them and ten years of adulation from the music press, Dinosaur could be forgiven for taking it easy and making the short journey to ‘crossover’ jazz where the money is. But, this is a pretty challenging album - hell, at one point, I think I heard banjo - and they’re not going to make it easy for people to like them. And more power to them for that.
With music as strong and innovative in spirit as this album, Dinosaur I think are unlikely to share the same fate as their ferocious namesakes any time soon.