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Matthew Halsall

A MOBO-nominated trumpeter, composer, and bandleader based in Manchester, England, Matthew Halsall draws from modal and spiritual jazz, inspired by Alice and John Coltrane and Miles Davis, among others. Moreover, he's a DJ with interests ranging from classic jazz to contemporary experimental electronic music. His leader debut, 2008's Sending My Love, was the first release on his own Gondwana label. followed by Colour Yes (2009), the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Award-winning On the Go (2011), and Fletcher Moss Park (2012). In 2014, his composition "The Games We Played" appeared on vocalist Zara McFarlane's If You Knew Her. Halsall also contributed trumpet and effects to two cuts on Mr. Scruff's Friendly Bacteria. Later that year, with the Gondwana Orchestra, he released When the World Was One and re-engaged them for 2015's Into Forever. He teamed with Los Angeles-based vocalist and spiritual jazz legend Dwight Trible on 2017's Inspirations. Two years later, the triple length Oneness, recorded in 2008, saw release. Salute to the Sun appeared in 2020, and showcasing an octet. They released a recorded performance of the album as Salute To The Sun (Live At Hallé St. Peter's) the next year. An Ever Changing View appeared in 2023. Born, raised and still based in Manchester, Halsall is one of the leading lights on the UK's boundary-quaking jazz scene. A music fan his entire life, he started playing trumpet during his early teens. He won membership as the youngest member of a local big band, but didn't find the setting a good fit. He also felt at odds with traditional education; his parents enrolled him in a consciousness-based school in the northwest of England, where he learned yoga and Transcendental Meditation. Simultaneously in the late-90s, crate-digging DJ culture was exploding across the UK, with producers on record labels like Warp and Ninja Tune exploring the possibilities of sample-based electronica. One memorable DJ set changed everything for Halsall: He witnessed Mr Scruff. play Pharoah Sanders' "You've Got To Have Freedom," its circular ecstatic themes spoke to his schooling and kickstarted a lifelong appreciation for and study of, spiritual jazz. He dove deep into studying modal and spiritual jazz in the works of John and Alice Coltrane, Sanders, Miles Davis, and others. Always a U.K. music hub, Manchester also became a hotbed of jazz talent in the early to mid-2000s, actually predating the current London scene. Halsall, in his twenties, frequented Matt & Phreds Jazz Club, where local legends including flautist/saxophonist Chip Wickham, saxophonist Nat Birchall, double bassists Jon Thorne and Phil France and iconic drummer Luke Flowers regularly performed. So impressed was Halsall, making his own musical way, he decided to document the jazz scene. He founded Gondwana Records in 2008 and issued his leader debut Sending My Love, a collective post bop effort featuring him in the company of Wickham, Birchall, pianist Adam Fairhall, bassist Gavin Barrass and drummer Gaz Hughes -- musicians he continues to work with. The album's primary accomplishment was offering a diverse but unified cast of voices revealing the power of community in jazz. That ethos has guided Halsall since. Colour Yes followed in 2009, utilizing a septet featuring two drummers and harpist Rachael Gladwin. 2011's On The Go offered a sextet's articulation of modal postbop, rippled through with deep spiritual blues. It won notice across the Atlantic as well as at home, with many reviewers clamoring for more critical and popular recognition for the trumpeter. 2012's Fletcher Moss Park, an album that appended his sextet with chamber strings, actually crossed over when DJ Bonobo selected the track "Sailing Out To Sea" (one of two tunes the trumpeter doesn't play on) for the seminal 2013 compilation Late Night Tales. The album's overall meditative and intricate understated quality, won airplay across Europe and revealed his work to new listeners. Halsall switched it up. He formed the Gondwana Orchestra (a nonet), adding bansuri flute and koto, endeavoring to initiate a new evolved, strain of 21st century spiritual jazz. The result, When the World Was One appeared in 2014 to laudatory reviews. The following year, the trumpeter and orchestra re-teamed, this time with chamber strings, to release Into Forever and a split single offering readings of the Alice Coltrane compositions "Journey In Satchidananda"/"Blue Nile." The two offerings arrived at a time when the UK's burgeoning jazz scene was gaining respect at home, and abroad too, thanks to a generation of young people who, like Halsall, had come up in club and DJ culture. In 2017, Halsall brought Los Angeles based spiritual jazz vocalist, mentor and pioneer Dwight Trible (Horace Tapscott, Build An Ark) to Manchester to record with his septet. The eight-track set was composed of standards, traditional songs, and covers by John Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby, Donny Hathaway and Burt Bacharach. While it drew positive notice in the U.K., in Europe and North America it was widely celebrated by critics and punters. Following a tour with his septet, Halsall hunkered down to work on his record label, signing new artists and releasing recordings by Birchall, Wickham, John Ellis, Gogo Penguin and others. In 2019, Halsall released the triple-length Oneness, a series of meditative jazz compositions he'd recorded with most of his current band in 2008. He reassembled his working group for Salute To The Sun, They recorded it in late 2019 and early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic quarantined the globe. The record's earthy, soulful grooves offered a balm-like respite from the chaotic period. Halsall got lots of attention and some airplay for the recording. Oneness earned scores of new admirers among punters who'd never even considered jazz before. A live version of the album, titled Salute To The Sun (Live At Hallé St. Peter's), was recorded as quarantine restrictions began to lift, and released in December 2021. 2023's An Ever Changing View, showcased a mature Halsall's compositions and a veteran band. Applying lush ambient textures and unassuming electronica to his canny acoustic arrangments, showcases Halsall at his most experimental, utilizing multiple percussionists percussion, loops, samples and beats woven into an idiosyncratic, but resonant compositional method and aquits them seamlessly. A week after its celebrated release, Halsall, with saxophonists & flutists, Matt Cliffe and Wickham, harpist Alice Roberts, pianist Jasper Green, bassist Barras, drummer Alan Taylor and percussionist Sam Bell, performed at the Royal Albert Hall.
© Thom Jurek and Andy Kellman /TiVo
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