I know absolutely nothing about jazz, so I’m listening with my heart. Is this really what jazz sounds like? It’s like a dozen truly excellent film soundtracks, but warm and tender like it’s being played in my living room – if I had the sort of lounge with a roaring fire and oak furniture.
Laura Jurd is a 21 year-old composer-trumpeter, performing here with her jazz group and the Ligeti String Quartet. There are shades of JG Thirlwell’s Manorexia in those mournful strings, or perhaps Michael Giacchino’s Up score. The trumpet itself is understated. Flight Music has a playful, skipping quality that puts me in mind of Peter and the Wolf … well, if the wolf was very debonair and wore a waistcoat and smoked cigars. (Sorry, double basses take my imagination on strange tangents.)
This fusion of jazz and contemporary classical (with a good dollop of folk from wherever thrown in) is warm and beautiful, not cool and aloof. I can’t hear a guitar, but The Lady of Bruntal has a strident, slinky groove, so I’ll throw in a mention of prog-rock types Thinking Plague. One of the few sentences I’ve heard in connection with jazz is that it’s the “notes that aren’t played that matter”, but for me it’s the delicious combinations of sensuous chord sequences that sounds how chocolate tastes. I wanted to say it sounded how a smoky single-malt whiskey tastes, but that would imply that I even drank the stuff, and if there’s one thing Landing Ground has beyond staggering ambition, it’s a complete lack of pretentiousness.
Happy Sad Song reminds me of Stravinsky – it’s that mix of dissonance and aching beauty. Landing Ground flits off in so many different directions that describing it is as cruel and futile as trying to pin down a butterfly. The Cross-Atlantic Antics of Madame Souza is perhaps the most difficult track, but every time it strays towards downright unlikeable, it leans back on its mellow double bass, carrying me in its lumbering paws while it rushes off to growl at someone else.
It’s a strange beast, but lovely all the same.