Launch of a new Maltese jazz album next weekend

Next weekend, October 8-9, renowned Maltese guitarist Jes Psaila will release his new album The Hinge Project at the Palazzo De La Salle concert hall in Valletta. This new record is Psaila’s third album since his debut CD in 2014, and features Mark Attard on keyboards, André Micallef on bass guitar and Luke Briffa on drums. The record is described by Psaila as an “instrumental fusion”.

One thing that immediately stands out about this album is its evocative soundscape and, in particular, that elusive quality that musicians greatly appreciate – successfully forging a unified group sound that, while unique, is nonetheless clearly representative of its individual contributors.

This is perfectly achieved throughout The hinge project, with the rich and sometimes cinematographic sound world of the album obtained thanks to a clever ensemble game, as well as the strength of the melodic and harmonic writing.

The first track on the album, Second breath, is a strong opening to the album, with cheerful ascending chords that impart an infallible sense of freedom as they go through cycles of exhilarating harmonies.

The solo sections immediately establish the personalities of the guitar and keyboard parts, the identities of each throughout the album clearly demonstrated here, with Psaila’s maturity in note placement and sound indicating a style built over years. of experience.

Mark Attard’s keyboard playing weaves intricate melodic lines that trace tantalizing melodic progressions perfectly chosen for the album’s first track.

From left to right: Mark Attard, Luke Briffa, André Micallef and Jes Psaila

This strong opening statement of the group is perfectly followed by what if, a piece that begins with a delicate introduction to the piano featuring a masterful use of the instrument’s lower register, accompanied by atmospheric percussion and a repetitive guitar idea perfectly placed slightly lower in the mix by David Vella of Temple Studios, where the album was recorded in October 2019 (launch delayed due to restrictions on cultural events).

The third track on the album Sample 5 bursting with energy, her first section striking with how she manages to exist in an irregular time signature while still feeling extremely comfortable. The end of the first section gives additional freedom to Luke Briffa on drums, who non-intrusively introduces intriguing improvisational elements into the established flow of the piece.

Then, the album presents arguably his most programmatic work of the collection, Waiting, a track opening on a piano melody punctuated by slightly dissonant upper harmonies gently expressed in the guitar part.

The second guitar solo seems a conceptual response to the exposure presented in the confident and introspective piano solo, not in a “commercial” manner like the hallmark of many jazz records, but rather as two friends taking turns. each expressing their innermost thoughts as a stream of consciousness, perhaps while waiting for something, or someone.

Track five, Hinge, presents a playful and energetic introduction with a slight nod to South American influences before lining up comfortably with a modern jazz feel, incorporating artfully placed unison notes designed to draw attention to small harmonic research.

Despite its seemingly perilous title, the sixth track on the album, Publication date, opens with an uplifting and carefree introduction that instantly leaves the listener wanting more. This gives way to a spacious and exposed lush guitar melody with delicate delay effects.

I highly recommend checking out this album and wish you enjoy listening when you do.

The use of the cymbal here in particular is excellent and very engaging. Soon after, the introductory melody returns in a newly developed form, exquisitely performed by André Micallef on fretless bass, in an interesting contrast to his busier, more angular backing playing in tracks like what if.

The improvisations, without entering peripheral harmonic territory, nonetheless effortlessly maintain interest throughout, while the final recap of the song’s main melody powerfully creates an emotional climax to close the work.

Room with a view, the seventh track on the album, displays a subtly negentropic character, with the second section a visceral departure from the sound world established until then, and is perhaps the clearest evidence of the band’s rock influences.

I particularly enjoyed the outro, which features a magnificent synth solo containing virtuoso melodic lines and perfectly utilized pitch modulation.

The closing track of the disc, lullaby, lives up to its name, with a strong and beautiful melody that never feels indulgent or repetitive.

From left to right: Jes Psaila, Mark Attard, Luke Briffa and Andréé MicallefFrom left to right: Jes Psaila, Mark Attard, Luke Briffa and André Micallef

The gently crescendoing string play and unison playing are particularly cheerful, creating a rich texture that masterfully gives way to the album’s final chord.

In short, The hinge project is a strongly melodic, atmospheric and beautifully crafted album that, while incorporating strong improvisation, never leans too heavily on it. This expertly composed ensemble of works creates a single, centralized voice despite its collectively composed origins.

Even without the improvised sections – which are a joy to watch – the record could easily stand proudly on the strength of its composed melodies, the improvised sections, as such, working effortlessly to improve already captivating musical ideas.

While not intentionally written as a response to the issues the company has been facing in recent times (the material was written between 2018 and 2019), one can’t help but feel a long-awaited sense of serenity in listening to this record, something that can be, maybe, exactly what we all need right now.

I highly recommend checking out this album and wish you enjoy listening when you do.

The Hinge Project album launch will take place on October 8-9 at Palazzo De La Salle, Valletta. Tickets are available at www.shop.trackagescheme.com. For post launch album sales, visit www.hingeproject.com.

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