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Christopher Hale - Ritual Diamonds (Earshift Music)

20 March 2023

Australian bassist Christopher Hale befriended Korean master percussionist Minyoung Woo ten years ago, and the pair have been learning from each other ever since. Ritual Diamonds is that relationship reaching its artistic fruition, a deft blend of Hale’s compositions and contemporary jazz sensibilities with the duo’s experiments in rhythm. Joined by a bevy of skilled Australian jazz players, Hale stretches his melodies wide enough to incorporate their ideas and improvisations while keeping the tunes accessible; Woo adds accents and rhythm lines that serve as both enhancement and counterpoint to drummer Simon Barker’s kit work. Opener “Flamenco” revolves around saxophonist Jamie Oehlers’ hard bop riffing and guitarist Theo Carbo’s psychedelic textures, painting a colorful canvas over the undulating rhythms. “Topollim Sketches” sets up a free jazz-adjacent atmosphere, enhanced by acoustic and electric six-string lines, as a platform to let Oehlers off the leash. “Minor Diamonds” lets Woo percolate the rhythms while pianist Andrea Keller and Oehlers create melodic soundscapes, turning what could have been a straightforward ballad into a lush epic. Throughout Hale and Woo stick to supportive roles, laying down a strong foundation atop which their compatriots can bounce. Ritual Diamonds isn’t some awkward nailing together of Korean drumming with electric postbop as a social experiment, but a true fusion of musical education, individual creativity and pure imagination.