words by tom johnson
photograph by andy catlin
“We’re neither a jazz band or a trio” – so goes Bill Wells’ oft-recycled quip, when referring to his National Jazz Trio of Scotland; a collective who release their fourth full-length effort tomorrow. Simply titled ‘Standards Vol. IV‘, the new album is another masterful assemblage of sights and sounds, a loose and lucid journey through varying shades of outsider-pop – and an album that we’re very pleased to present here in full today, ahead of its official release tomorrow.
Whether you’ve heard the band’s previous efforts or not, the chances are you’ll still be gripped by the new record’s exquisite detail. Across its twelve tracks, Vol IV breathes with a beautiful grace, little moments of sonic wizardry underpinning beautiful, organic flourishes and compositions that reach out like sunlight creeping in to a empty room. As to be expected, the musicianship is exceptional, and it’s perhaps true to say that it gets closer to being a “jazz” record than ever before, the skittering drums adding new levels of solidity and intrigue to the whole thing.
Most pertinently, however, it’s Kate Sudgen’s sole and lonesome voice that makes for the record’s most endearing trait; her plain-stated and affecting lilt playing a key role on most tracks here, from the devilishly good opening six-minutes of ‘ Quick To Judge – Don’t Be So‘, which acts as an immediately alluring introduction, to the subtle and solemn wonder of the faint closing track ‘Far From You‘. As Wells himself says: “I suppose I like things to be very plain. I do like people who can hit notes, but I can’t stand most jazz singers because they over-sing. I think sometimes the more emotional you are, the less emotion you convey. With Kate, it’s very deliberate, it’s all very considered, and in a way people like that are the best jazz singers. It might sound quite casual, but there’s a lot of thought behind it.”
Both playful and poignant, the new record immediately seems to exist in its own special place; somewhere discreetly removed from the rush of the real world, a curious void between dreams and reality where the answers lay hidden in the breeze. Listen to the full album right here:
‘Standards’ is released on 13th April via karaoke kalk
Pre-order it here