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Aberdeen jazz quintet Hamlet impress with their debut, Act One

ByWill Penkethman-Carr

Feb 1, 2019

Hamlet are a relatively young band, formed in the spring of 2017. They started off life by playing contemporary works and jazz standards but have now moved on to create their own original album, Act One. It is a debut album that is daring and experimental, not afraid to mix in a variety of styles, tones and moods. What we have here is one hell of a smokey, sexy jazz album. It is immediately noticeable even on a preliminary listen that there is great distinction of sound both between the songs and within the songs themselves.

If one thing is certain about this album, it is that each track has a character of its own. They don’t feel repetitive neither in melody nor tone, but they are put together smartly. The transitions are smooth and altogether the tracks complement each other well. To take an example, the mood of ‘Sunset Sunside’ is very different to its successor, ‘Switch States.’ The tranquil smoothness in the intro (accompanied by the effortlessly beautiful voice of Nadya Albersson) is slightly reminiscent of Alice Coltrane, and contrasts sharply with the hip-hop infused Scottish rapping in ‘Switch States.’

The inclusion of rap verses is quite a rarity in the jazz genre, and this seasoned with the Scottish accent produces a very interesting new surprising sound in music. These songs certainly stand out in the band’s repertoire. Hamlet play around with genres throughout the album. ‘En Route to Base Two’ dabbles with Funk; the intro to ‘Twenty3’ contains a nice focus on the guitar, and although this isn’t particularly common in a small jazz band, it’s melody is very sensual.

Throughout each track, the lively and distinctive sounds of Gavin Hunter’s Trumpet and Matthew Kilner’s sax recurs and play off each other beautifully, and is often interspersed by the solos of Neil Kendal (electric guitar) and creates a unique sound in contemporary jazz. Regarding the final two songs, ‘The Illusion’ and ‘Chip in the Wall’ (a song where it is almost impossible not to tap your feet to its solid groove), the songs vary their focus from one instrument to the next, culminating into a unity, then flicking back to a tidy solo.

The music never sounds too crowded, each element has its own moment at one point and allows the listeners to enjoy it. All of which is tied together neatly with Glassby’s drums and Campbell’s bass; always in the background and are naturally essential to the band’s personality. Each song is pulled with great finesse and is simply a joy to listen to.


Image: Louise Kendall

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