Stuart McCallum‘s latest offering is highly indicative of the strength of the jazz scene that has been building in and around Manchester over the last decade. McCallum is part of a wider group of potent players spearheaded by the likes of Lamb bassist Jon Thorne (with whom McCallum also works), establishing himself as a leading local guitarist and winning wide acclaim in the ranks of the much-admired Cinematic Orchestra.
His solo debut, Distilled, arrived a year or so back, adding incisive guitar-driven ideas to the spacey Cinematics template. Distilled Live does what it says on the tin, McCallum’s subtle original studio production having been widened to include a 12-piece string section, chiming harp from Rachel Gladwin, and some probing bass work from fine all-rounder Robin Mullarkey. McCallum soars above it all, sometimes going stratospheric, driving it all along.
The lush, richly textured layers remain, but live they simmer with tension, the dynamics sharper and more exciting. In a strangely brilliant way it’s like Pat Metheny meets Madchester: this is divine jazz distilled from the dancefloor.