The north-west of England and the Manchester scene might well have a strong case in claiming that it’s the home of spiritual jazz these days, that strand of the music that places John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane and the groundbreaking free jazz and Eastern-influenced music of the 1960s centre stage.


Scaling up, the 8-piece Gondwana Orchestra inject fresh moods and colours to trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s already impressive body of work. The most striking element of When the World Was One is the melding of Rachael Gladwin’s harp with the textures of the koto of Keiko Kitamura within the ensemble where Nat Birchall, whose recent album Live in Larissa was something of a career high, does much of the heavy emotional lifting work powered by the drums of Luke Flowers, Halsall taking a quite emotive solo on ‘Falling Water’. Seven tracks in all, recorded in Manchester in April 2012, the album opens with the title track, which immediately captures a mood effortlessly retained throughout. Birchall on soprano saxophone at first pairs with flautist Lisa Mallett as the tune unfolds after his opening statement as Taz Modi “goes fourth” with the tune’s softly unfolding modal vamps the motor quietly running beneath everything. ‘Tribute to Alice Coltrane’ at the end nods to ‘Journey in Satchidananda’ Gavin Barras’ attractively resonating double bass setting up quite a finale. An album, where modality and mindfulness are key, to enjoy. SG
Released on 2 June
Band on the Wall, Manchester hosts the Gondwana Records festival on 14 and 15 June
Matthew Halsall, top. Photo: Gondwana Records