Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The first thing that hits home with Beginnings – tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo’s debut CD – is its timelessness. It’s immediately modern and wonderfully assured and yet the entire tradition of jazz’s first instrument seems to flow through it. Arcoleo has a highly personal tone on his horn and there’s an individuality about his sound that is bold and commanding. Some musicians take years to learn these lessons and others never do. Josh Arcoleo, just 23 with already plenty of road miles under his belt, definitely has gravitas, that rarest of qualities, and he has it in spades.

It’s no surprise that he studied with James Brown Alumnus Pee Wee Ellis and claims Ellis’ one time tutor Sonny Rollins as an influence, along with the great Joe Henderson. We’re talking ‘big tenor’ here. Just listen to the intro to the title track. Arcoleo and his musicians sketch what is to come quite beautifully but it still doesn’t prepare you for the majestically elegant way the music unfolds.

And there’s a more delicate strength to Phoenix, with its gorgeous introduction from pianist Ivo Neame, and to Glade. Both reveal Arcoleo’s growing confidence and skills as a writer but they also suggest that here is a musician who knows how to draw out the best of his sidemen. The space that James Maddren and Calum Gourlay create on both of these tunes is astonishing, whilst Neame plays with perfect poise and weight. And there is a nicely loose feel to Arcoleo’s entry on Phoenix before he pushes the pace and ratchets up the tension. Elsewhere, there’s a real muscularity to be found in the opening track, Dean Road, whilst Nomads’ Land bristles with electricity. In tough times like these, the music must show both its vigour and its tenderness and Beginnings is all these things and more.

When tenorist Dick Morrissey first hit the West End in the early sixties, Ronnie Scott dubbed him ‘the kid with the tenor’. There’s been a few new tenor kids come through town since then. Now there’s a new star, only he ain’t a kid. Josh Arcoleo is blessed with a voice and a vision that’s already mature and full of authority. Beginnings is one of the most complete debut albums in a long time. More than that its title warns of things to come. This is so much more than just the Beginnings.

JOSH ARCOLEO saxophones
CALUM GOURLAY double bass

Source: Edition Records

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