“Three great jazz voices entwining. Captivating.” Robert Elms BBC Radio London
What’s New is a new collaboration between three of the UK’s leading jazz musicians playing in chamber format: legendary saxophonist and composer Iain Ballamy (Gil Evans, Bill Bruford, Joanna MacGregor, Carla Bley), his contemporary, vocalist Ian Shaw (Quincy Jones, Kurt Elling, Cedar Walton, Liane Carroll) and one of the finest young pianists of his generation Jamie Safir (Claire Martin, Will Young, Alice Zawadzki, Judi Jackson).
The album focusses on the sonic and emotional connection of the voice with Ballamy’s saxophone and with the young Safir’s astonishing piano stylings, affording the three musicians more space to stretch out.
The material is about human connections – friendships, relationships, positive and otherwise – and plunders 80 years of the popular song form.
Featuring new arrangements of songs of love and hope – from the title song to Bernstein’s Some Other Time as well as the Bacharach and David classics Alfie and You’ll Never Get To Heaven – it also draws on the connection of Ballamy and Shaw who have known one another almost since the start of both their careers – Iain appeared on four of Ian's albums in the earlier days – so this work is a timely reunion.
“one of the truest records I have ever recorded”
This recording is so important to me for various reasons. A return to how it all started – under the wise advice of Ronnie Scott, thirty years ago – and a discovery of the art of the great popular song. And how to refresh these mini-masterpieces, with the indelible print of a granite melody, fused to the ever-exciting art of improvisation with other players (in this case, tenor sax and piano). In those heady days, I was given a ragbag collection of songs Ronnie had grown up to...turntable hits from Sinatra, Al Bowlly, Crosby, Nat Cole and early Ella. Writing partnerships you’d heard of, some you hadn’t.
To be able to sing these songs with one of Ronnie’s favourite horn players, Iain Ballamy – whose song choices on this collection were inspiring and meaningful – and who played with Cedar Walton and me exactly twenty years ago on my US release, In A New York Minute (that session, equally intimate, was also drumless, but with Cedar’s regular bassist, David Williams) was pure joy.
One of the pleasures of making jazz, is how it transcends generation. Jamie Safir, the in-demand pianist of our day, here in the UK and in Europe, completes this convergent, thrilling and completely live album. Each song is one or two takes.
In the beautiful Cooper Hall, engineered by Ben Findlay (Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel) this feels like one of the truest records I have ever recorded.