Basho Records - Contemporary JazzBASHO RECORDS


Neon - Here to There





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"Pick of the Album: 'Chu Chu': Like Joe Henderson playing over Steve Reich" The Independent

"a set of pieces which manage to be both highly adventurous and listenable both musically and in terms of sound quality. If you liked Gary Burton’s work with Chick Corea, you’ll love this". BBC Music Magazine 5 stars

Label Basho Records
Release Date: 12th May 2008
Title "Here to There”
Artist Neon
Catalogue Number SRCD 23-2

1. Chu Chu - Stan Sulzmann 7:34
2. Deviation - Jim Hart 8:11
3. Round The Round It All - Stan Sulzmann 8:33
4. Here To There -Stan Sulzmann 10:26
5. Spring Step - Gwilym Simcock 8:52
6. Exciting Eyes -Gwilym Simcock 8:47
7. Say No - Stan Sulzmann 6:49
8. Sweets - Stan Sulzmann 6:59
Total Time: 66:14

Neon is a new collaboration led by legendary UK saxophonist Stan Sulzmann featuring two of the hottest stars on the UK jazz scene, pianist Gwilym Simcock and vibraphonist Jim Hart. This is fresh, vibrant, exhilarating, uplifting, melodic music of the highest order played by three virtuosi. Neon's first album Here to There will be launched on Basho Records in the Spring of 2008 and the band will be available for dates throughout the year. This is a great band for festivals, clubs and music venues whose aim is to reach beyond the conventional jazz audience.

'Sulzmann - the classy composer' John Fordham

Stan Sulzmann is without question one of the most highly respected musicians in the UK today, admired by musicians and audiences for his instantly recognisable sound, and boundless creative imagination, and is a source of inspiration to many of Britain's emerging young musicians. Sulzmann's career stretches back to the 60's, when as part of a uniquely talented crop of British musicians, he played with Graham Collier, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Gordon Beck, as well as leading many groups of his own.

Since that time Stan has been at the forefront of European contemporary jazz, and his talents have been sought by a host of discerning musicians, including Gil Evans, Mike Gibbs, Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland and Michael Brecker. Constantly in demand as a guest soloist, he has appeared with bands across Europe, including the Hilversum Radio Orchestra, NDR Big Band (alongside Chet Baker), Hanover Radio Symphony Orchestra and the New York Composers Orchestra. Further intimate and refreshingly innovative musical partnerships have developed with acclaimed British pianist Nikki Iles, American keyboard player Marc Copland and the trio Ordesa - a drumless, bassless combination with Kenny Wheeler and John Parricelli. An accomplished and distinguished composer, Stan's writing talents are internationally recognised, and have most recently found expression in writing for Ordesa, and the Stan Sulzmann Big Band. His music has been described in glowing terms 'ravishing, delicious, powerful and direct, meticulously written, sometimes echoing the imaginative and much missed orchestra of Michael Gibbs' The Guardian

'Gwilym's an original. A creative genius' Chick Corea
"a jaw-droppingly exciting pianist" James Griffiths, The Guardian

Just 27 years of age, Gwilym Simcock is one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers working on British scene. Able to move effortlessly between jazz and classical music, he can, at times, inhabit both worlds and has been described as being stylistically reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, complete with „harmonic sophistication and subtle dovetailing of musical traditions' as well as being a pianist of 'exceptional', 'brilliant' and 'dazzling' ability.
Gwilym's influences include jazz legends Jarrett, Chick Corea and John Taylor and much inspiration is taken from the classical world, especially the work of Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky as well as contemporary composers such as Mark-Anthony Turnage who fuse together written and improvised music. Although principally a jazz artist, Gwilym is breaking new ground between genres and often uses classical reference points in his composed work - he recently devised a solo piano project using the piano works of Shostakovich as a starting point and in 2005 premiered a piano concerto especially written for him by Tim Garland. Aside from his renowned solo piano work, Gwilym has worked extensively throughout Europe playing with the cream of British and international jazz artists including Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Bill Bruford's Earthworks and Bob Mintzer among others. His own groups as a leader range from trio to big band to a 40-piece ensemble featuring a gospel choir and strings. His composing and playing strengths in are evidence in every dimension of the music for his quintet which features Stan Sulzmann (saxophones), John Parricelli (guitar), Phil Donkin (bass) and Martin France (drums). This band has been critically and widely acclaimed as engaging, exciting, often unexpected, melodically enthralling, complex and wonderfully optimistic. A previous winner of the Perrier Award, BBC Jazz Awards and British Jazz Rising Star Awards 2005 and participant in Take Five the UK's unique artist development initiative, Gwilym is currently a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist - the first jazz artist to be selected. He was voted 'Jazz Musician of the Year' at the 2007 Parliamentary Jazz Awards and is again nominated for the 2007 BBC Jazz Awards as Best Instrumentalist. He has an impressive formal education which includes stints at the Trinity College of Music (London), Chetham's School of Music (Manchester) where he studied classical piano, French horn and composition and the Royal Academy of Music (London) where he graduated from the jazz course with first class honours and the coveted 'Principal's Prize' for outstanding achievement. In November 2007 Gwilym launches his debit album 'Perception'

'Hart has developed an impressively individual voice, using a four mallet technique that allows him to switch between pointed chords and mellifluous runs with ease......' Jazzwize

Jim was the winner of the 2007 Marston Pedigree Jazz award, the 2006 British Jazz award for 'Rising star' and the 2006 Worshipful company of musicians Bronze medal. Originally from Cornwall, Jim Hart began playing Drums and Piano at age four and soon furthered this to include tuned and orchestral percussion. One of the most in demand musicians on the London scene on Drums, Vibes and Piano, he now plays regularly with Martin Drew's New Jazz Couriers, Stan Sulzmann, Gwilym Simcock, Alan Barnes, Paul Clarvis and The Matt Wates sextet to name just a few. He also busy with his own projects: Gemini, who released their debut earlier this year, and The Jim Hart Quartet.He has also played with Phil woods, Shaun Escoffery, The Herbaliser, Franco Ambrosetti, The Heritage Orchestra, Airto Moreira and many more. Jim's major project at present is Gemini. Formed several years ago as a vehicle for Jim to present his original compositions it has steadily developed into a serious working band. The release of his debut album Emergence brought great acclaim from critics and lead to a very successful UK tour in 2007. Another of Jim's current projects is The Jim Hart Quartet. The band features Jim's arrangements of classic jazz standards. There is an emphasis on pushing the boundaries of standard jazz harmony and exploring new rhythmic concepts within the framework of well know tunes. Other projects Jim is involved in include: The New Jazz Couriers, Quentin Collins Quartet, Alan Barnes/Jim Hart/Paul Clarvis Group, Chris Lowe Quintet, and Matt Wates Sextet.Jim is a founder member of the London based improvised music collective LOOP. His album 'Emergence' was the first release on their recently formed label LOOP Records.

02/06/2008 Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine 5 Stars *****

Jazz is notorious for its generational apartheid, with the likes of the Jazz Messengers, Earthworks and Simon Spillett’s veteran sidemen being exceptions, so it’s a genuine joy to hear this trio reminding us of how unnecessary that whole mindset is. As the instrumentation might imply, this is an album of lively but lyrical ballads, all original and of a high standard. Whether or not this is attributable to the trans-generational nature of the beast, it’s undeniable that Sulzmann avoids the over-predictable, while Hart and Simcock eschew the college-jazz inanities that are often the bane of their generation. The result is a concentrated set of pieces which manage to be both highly adventurous and listenable both musically and in terms of sound quality. If you liked Gary Burton’s work with Chick Corea, you’ll love this.


30/05/2008 Andrew Vine, The Yorkshire Post

Neon is a trio comprising saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, pianist Gwilym Simcock and vibist Jim Hart, and this debut is engaging and thoughtful. The combination of the veteran Sulzmann, a player of great heart, with his two young cohorts is a beguiling one. Simcock is a player of admirable resourcefulness and Hart’s contributions have a noticeable zest. The trio develops momentum in its performances of original material and the three-way dialogue holds the attention. Sulzmann is magisterial throughout on both tenor and soprano and his comrades are not far behind in terms of excellence. 


11/05/2008 Phil Johnson, The Independent

The unusual combination of instruments – sax, piano and vibes/marimba – for this excellent new Brit-jazz trio creates a warm and attractive impression straight away, with the rhythmic attack of vibist Jim Hart and pianist Gwilym Simcock vanishing any danger of bland chamber jazz.

Tenor saxophonist Stan Sulzmann – whose seniority appears to make him the group's guiding force – sounds superbly soulful on his own "Chu Chu", a spring-heeled, New York-style groove so good you want to repeat it indefinitely. When Sulzmann plays soprano (and flute on one track), it's less compulsive, but the trio is the thing.

Pick of the Album: 'Chu Chu': Like Joe Henderson playing over Steve Reich


09/05/2008 John Fordham, The Guardian

UK saxophonist Stan Sulzmann could have lost his own musical personality in a three-decade career of showing he could play anything for anybody, at any tempo, with preparation you could write on a postage stamp. Instead, he found an authoritative voice late in the game, and became one of the British scene's real interpretative individuals. Sulzmann has succeeded with contemporary, drummerless jazz-trio music before, in the chamber-like Ordesa group with trumpet legend Kenny Wheeler and guitarist John Parricelli. But that group (inevitably, given its personnel) gave the music time and space to breathe, and this one - with full-on piano virtuoso Simcock and the equally active vibraphone star Jim Hart - often doesn't. Perhaps the group missed a trick by not deploying more of Simcock's french horn skills (beautifully explored on the overdubbed, Gil Evans-reminiscent Sweets, which also has the most evocatively slow-burning theme) to offset the preponderance of restlessly riffing piano chords and streaming melody. But the improvising, of course, is exemplary - from Sulzmann's mellow tone to Simcock's razor-sharp articulation and Hart's luminous, Burton-related vibes sound.


05/05/2008 John Kelman, All About Jazz

Institutional education is undeniably a very good thing, despite running the risk of turning out too many players with a “cook book” approach to improvisation. Still, it limits the number of emergent artists transcending such limitations, and developing individual voices as players and writers. Scottish pianist Gwilym Simcock has, since coming to jazz late in his teens, grown at a near exponential rate through associations with Bill Bruford, Tim Garland and the chamber jazz trio, Acoustic Triangle. His debut as a leader, Perception (Basho, 2007), cemented his growing reputation as one the UK jazz scene's most exciting artists to emerge in recent years. Neon is a new collective featuring Simcock alongside saxophonist Stan Sulzmann and vibraphonist Jim Hart, another newcomer whose work on Here To There suggests he's one to keep an eye on.

Sulzmann has been an integral part of the British jazz aristocracy alongside John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler and John Parricelli, despite his previous The Jigsaw (Basho, 2004) being a transatlantic affair featuring an all-American rhythm section. He contributes the lion's share of the material here, but Simcock and Hart also get to exercise their compositional chops, contributing two tracks and one, respectively, on this bright and approachable set of eight originals.

The piano/vibes combo sometimes brings to mind the duo that started it all—Chick Corea and Gary Burton—and aspects of Simcock's two-handed technique clearly come from Corea. Equally, the trio references Tim Garland's Storms/Nocturnes Trio, although Sulzmann is a player distinct from Garland, with a soprano tone redolent of John Surman and a lighter tenor sound that works especially well with Simcock's playful touch. Hart may lack the maturity and breadth of Storms/Nocturnes' Joe Locke—yet—but his experience as an orchestral percussionist dovetails nicely with Simcock, who also spent his early years in the classical sphere.

While irregular meters and more detailed compositions could overburden Here To There with superfluous complexity, it's to the trio's credit that its deft approach to the knottiest writing remains unfailingly accessible. Sulzmann's buoyant “Chu Chu” is an ear-grabbing opener, while the stops and starts of Hart's “Deviation” lead to an early high point. Sulzmann's range-encompassing tenor solo is bolstered by Simcock and Hart, who stay out of each other's way through Hart's ethereal, layered harmonies working hand-in-glove with Simock's more propulsive accompaniment.

Harmonically, Simcock's waltz-time “Spring Step” recalls Ralph Towner's recent writing for Oregon, especially with Sulzmann's soaring soprano. But the timbre of Hart's vibes—and a solo that winds its way through Simcock's change-heavy and vivacious accompaniment with ease—lends this and the entire album a sound all its own. Sulzmann's “Sweets” features overdubbed flute and French horn, for a more expansive closer that hints at a direction, perhaps, to explore more fully with Neon's next disc.

Meanwhile, Here To There is an affirming debut for Neon's individual strengths, while creating a whole that bodes well for what will hopefully be an ongoing trio and not a one-off project.

01/05/2008 Peter Bevan

A new group combining the extraordinary talents of Stan Sulzmann on saxophones and flute, Jim Hart vibes and marimba and Gwilym Simcock piano (and French horn, too, on one track). Although it's tempered with a couple of slow numbers, it's mostly lively and exhilarating, played with tremendous zip. Their forthcoming date at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond on June 7 should be a treat


18/04/2008 Alan Brownlee, Manchester Evening News

In which piano prodigy Gwilym Simcock meets his match in Jim Hart, a vibes player of peerless virtuosity. The superhuman level of musicianship of Here To There most recalls the duet work of Chick Corea and Gary Burton, obvious role models for Simcock and Hart. Then there is the third voice of Neon: Stan Sulzmann, who was active in the Jazz Britannia era. His mature tone is magisterial and lovely (especially on soprano sax). The closer, Sweets, gilds the lily by multi-tracking Sulzmann and Simcock on their second instruments (flute, french horn). Truly, an embarrassment of riches.


08/04/2008 Chris Parker, Vortex Website

Neon is a trio comprised of saxophonist/flautist Stan Sulzmann, pianist (here also heard on french horn) Gwilym Simcock and vibes/marimba player Jim Hart, and this is their debut recording. Given their instrumentation, the trio might easily have produced a somewhat cluttered sound, but the unselfish virtuosity of Simcock and Hart (each content to play supportively percussive roles where necessary) ensures that the band's buoyancy – and where appropriate its exhilarating headlong rush – is never compromised. Sulzmann has provided five, Simcock two and Hart one of the album's eight compositions, and they range from relatively straightforward, rollicking pieces, propelled by Simcock's trademark combination of robust muscularity and elegant lyricism, and Hart's bright inventiveness, to more complex themes full of twists and turns negotiated with aplomb by all three players. Sulzmann's tenor – full-bodied, sinewy, distinctive and personal – and his dancing but incisive soprano combine with piano and vibes to produce music of considerable textural sophistication, but the overall impression left by the album is actually one of serious fun (the best sort) – all three participants clearly revel in their bandmates' (frequently dazzling) imagination and skill, and their enjoyment is irresistibly infectious. Another fine album from Basho.

01/04/2008 Jazzwise - Brian Glasser

Apparently Sulzmann was once accused of lacking warmth in his playing but it's an unimaginable accusation these days. This album bursts with life-affirming vitality, much of which comes from the expressive phrasing and gorgeous tone of Sulzmann's playing, not to mention his compositions that are an open invitation to interaction. The relative youngsters, but no junior partners, Hart and Simcock need no second bidding, delivering both telling solos and sympathetic accompaniment. Of course, the near-Pavlovian response to hearing vibes and piano in close proximity is "Corea and Burton", but even before adding the leader's sax this record is cut from very different timber: more funky and good-natured, and less cerebral - the opening track ('Chu Chu') is a real rouser, and it doesn't stand alone. Certainly the man who grew up on Coltrane now seems to be more closely aligned with the lyricism of late-period Shorter.