Stuart McCallum – City

city(Naim Jazz)

Best known for his work with Cinematic Orchestra, Manchester guitarist Stuart McCallum develops the sound, style and ideas from his 2011 album, Distilled, which was also released on Naim Jazz.

McCallum brings particular intelligence to music which overlaps ambience, chill-out, jazz fusion, acoustic and soundtrack. It’s a sound particularly pertinent to contemporary ways of listening to music: perfect for headphones on the bus or quietly surrounding your work station. It works as background and also justifies full concentration.

Helping McCallum out are bassist Robin Mullarkey, keyboardist Sean Foran and drummer Richard Spaven. There are various guest vocalists.

Try Inhale, with gorgeous melodies tumbling from acoustic guitar strings; or North Star with it’s compelling and subtly changing two-chord pattern within the groove. Trio Seven introduces violin to the mix but against the trip-hoppy drums and electric guitar its slightly Celtic sound is perfectly urbanised.

Even when the instrumentation is substantially limited to an acoustic steel-string guitar, with its squeaks up and down the fretboard intact, as in the early stages of Effergy, McCallum still gives the instrument a gorgeous surrounding glimmer of atmosphere, a golden haze which in a way hangs over the album as a whole.

It is the sound of the modern city, albeit an optimistic one: night lights gleaming, watersides glinting, glasses sparkling, alleys dark but inviting. A romantic view, a seductive one, an unashamedly pretty one – and none the worse for all those qualities. Stuart McCallum’s particular City sounds blessed.

  • I have it on good authority that Stuart McCallum will be playing live in Birmingham in December. Watch this space.

Categories: CD review

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