Colin Steele

Even in the Darkest Places

(Gadgemo)

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There’s a prevailing optimism about Colin Steele’s first quintet recording since Through the Waves marked the trumpeter’s signing with one of Europe’s leading jazz labels, Act, in 2005.

Steele has been in some pretty dark places since then, as the title of this new album suggests, much of the problem stemming from bad advice regarding improvements to his playing technique and the work he had to do to get back on track.

This hasn’t affected his ability to come up with earworm-like melodies such as the one that propels There Are Angels or let his band loose on waltzing rhythmical progressions as exemplified by Robin Song.

As with previous Steele quintet albums, the trumpeter is indebted to pianist Dave Milligan’s inspirational arrangements, which underline Steele’s Scottish folk tendencies and give the music a gospel-flavoured groove and forward motion.

Milligan’s soloing is also an uplifting presence, not least on the Scottish hard bop-styled final section of Down to the Wire, and while Steele’s own improvising often takes on a confiding tone, saxophonist Michael Buckley probes every neuk and cranny on tenor and soprano and adds to the gallus swagger of Looking for Nessie.

ROB ADAMS