Pianist, drummer, composer and producer Hamish Balfour presents jazz funk, soul and electronic music, bridging the gap from classic Blue Note to Warp via Sonar Kollektiv on Running Colours, his electrifying debut album for London's Shapes of Rhythm Records.
Praised by Jazzwise for hissolo flourishes and sidestepping harmonies, Hamish Balfour should be a recognisable face to jazz addicts. The go-to keys player has performed and recorded alongside American jazz drumming legend Harvey Mason, Tenderlonious, The Temptations, Odyssey, Faze Action, Yolanda Charles' Project PH, Bassically, Nim Quartet and Yam Who. Popping up not only in the credits of many sought-after albums, but also Channel 4, ITV and BBCprogrammes for his compositions on various shows.
Over the course of eleven tracks, Balfour folds in and explores his influences, with a wide yet highly cohesive and strong palette of sounds, whilst interacting with high caliber guest vocalists such as spoken word artist and broken beat icon, Lyric L(Seiji,Nathan Haines), London Elektricity and Hospital Records' star vocalist Elsa Esmeralda, award-winning and chart-storming singer-songwriter Belle Humble (Freestylers, Paloma Faith) and soul and house mainstay Andre Espeut (Afriquoi,Simbad,Faze Action).
Responsible for all piano, synths, percussion and production on the album, Balfour's musicality shines through, a reminder of how overdue this debut album as leader is. However, in addition to the incredible vocalists, he's joined by some of the UK's finest jazz musicians: James Copus (trumpet), Pete Matin (bass), Laurie Lowe and Saleem Raman (drums) and Rob Updegraff (guitar).
Elsa Esmeralda implores us 'not to be afraid' on lead single and title track Running Colours. A perfect invitation to get stuck into this many layered album. Balfour compliments Esmeralda's soothing vocals with delicate piano intro before Lowe's bruk-easque drums and lead an irresistible groove bedded in warm synths and guitar licks.
Yes or No showcases Loose Lips legend Lyric L contemplating the uncertainty of love over a swinging mid-tempo jazz funk boogie groove propelled by tight drums and Hammond chords, closing with a flying trumpet solo from Copus, weaving around Balfour's nimble keys.
Wealth, featuring singer/songwriter Belle Humble, displays incredible depth and restraint. Humble delivers the enticing vocal with ease, as it slides over the intricate webs of jazz fusion and electronics.
Mogul is arguably Running Colours' curveball. An eastern-inspired whirlwind of all manner of synths and twisting drums which constantly morph throughout. Guitars and trumpets take turns to solo on a track that feels like a series of questions that we never quite get answers to.
Balfour's ability to merge free wheeling jazz and fusion with timeless electronic production and soulful compositions is also apparent on instrumental pieces such as Reflector 28. Here, we find the musicians upbeat, uplifting, progressive and playful, showcasing the keys whilst the bass underpins the groove.
South Of The Sun is Running Colours' laid-back moment with Roy Ayers-type vibrations as bass and drums sit in the pocket (at least to begin with), whilst a Rhodes weaves its magic. Like many of the album's tracks we take a few twists and turns before returning to our main feel-good motif.
Hamish's long awaited debut is sure to exceed the expectations of those who know him already, whilst introducing a whole new audience to his wealth of talent and originality.