Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. We’re looking to Sweden once more for this instalment, turning our ears to the latest release from indie-jazz stalwarts We Jazz Records.
Finnish-Danish act JAF Trio have made their debut with one of the most technically articulate and stylistically nuanced jazz records in recent memory. Their eponymous record is one wrought in snaking rhythms, jumpy melodies and anxious salvos. It’s a smart yet skittish soundscape, one which seems to fit our interconnected, mile-a-minute modern lives to a T whilst simultaneously acknowledging much of the genre’s history which has come before it. Finnish indie label We Jazz have managed to maintain a consistently impressive output across numerous years now but few of their titles are as immediately impactful as this collection. It’s a set which feels genuinely modern; where the less convincing of jazz’s contemporary exponents feel self-conscious – either in their pursuit of anachronism or in their sometimes laboured pursuit of new sonic directions – JAF Trio manage to evoke something genuinely fresh yet not without certain parallels. Those intrigued by the more mathematical, technically complexities strands of modern jazz would do well to seek JAF Trio’s debut out.
We Jazz Records have plenty of experience in producing affordable yet impressive vinyl pressings, so it’s of little surprise that their release of JAF Trio’s eponymous debut is no different in that respect. Visual inspection promises much; the record – a fairly heavyweight slab of black wax – boasts glossy surfaces free of the scuffs and imperfections which all-too-often appear on new-purchased records. It sits flat and warp-free on the platter, as well – which is unfortunately far from a given considering the often lax quality control displayed at many active vinyl pressing plants. Such slackened standards are evidently not an issue with the pressing plant that We Jazz use, as playback is similarly excellent throughout our copy of the album. We heard barely a single flaw, however minor, across the full breadth of the album. The sonics are likewise impressive; jazz tends to be a well-recorded genre regardless but, even so, we felt this pressing sounded particularly good.
As long-standing readers of Vinyl Corner will likely realise, we’ve always spoken highly of We Jazz here. While it is true that the quality of packaging and presentation offered by their releases varies from title to title, it’s certainly never anything less than entirely consummate and often far better than that. For their release of ‘Jaf Trio’, the label has pulled out all the stops to produce one of the most attractive releases in their catalogue. The back cover proudly proclaims the striking cover art to be the first in a planned series of releases adorned with the art of Finnish artist Maija Lassila but it isn’t just in this respect that the label have produced a slick, desirable package here. The cover itself a very impressive tip-on sleeve, boasting the heaviest possible cardstock and a slick glossy finish on the front. It’s a form of sleeve design which will be familiar to those who collect vintage ’50s and ’60s pressings – particularly those released in the US – but to many younger collectors, such deluxe presentation may be alien seeing as few contemporary releases boast such impressive sleeve design. As per usual with We Jazz releases, the barcode is also wisely placed upon a slick hype-sticker attached to the shrinkwrap, which is of course vastly preferable to it being printed directly onto the sleeve itself.
JAF Trio offer a distinctive and bold vision of modern jazz. Their debut stands amongst the most interesting records of its kind to be released in quite some time and it will certainly be interesting to see how the group develop in coming years. Those intrigued by their sonic approach will find another excellent vinyl release from We Jazz Records.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!