London based jazz pianist, composer and music educator Raffy Bushman has resumed his annual message to the listening public with the ‘Silver Lines’ EP, available through Bridge The Gap, and looks set to add more credit to his burgeoning reputation. Following two sharp focused piano trio albums, 2020’s ‘Look Up’ and ‘Beginner’s Mind’ from 2021 which emphasised his deft hip-hop application to the classic format, Bushman pulled a surprise with his third, the head turning ‘E Minor String Quartet + Rhythm’. Not only did it see him rest the keys in favour of his second instrument, the cello, but it highlighted his inventive re-calibration of the jazz/classical interchange.
Now with ‘Silver Lines’ he has shape-shifted once more, returning to his essential jazz foundations, stepping out from the tight trio format and hitting us with some authentically engaged contemporary bop. It’s a record that’s powered by Bushman’s intuitive feel, free from calculated stylising and representative of a musician who follows his instinct while keeping close to his beat focused credentials. Sure there’s a link back to Blakey’s radical swing, Mingus’s muscular punch and most of all the melodic momentum of prime Horace Silver but these are all platforms for this new EP’s lift-off.
Sticking with his regular rhythm section of Mikele Montolli (bass) and Finn Booth (drums), the ‘Silver Lines’ soundscape gets expanded with Alfa Mist compadre Johnny Woodham on trumpet and from Banger Factory, Theo Erskine on sax. Add in the nimble guitar of Nubiyan Twist’s Luke Wynter plus Brazilian percussionist Jansen Santana and you sense the scale of the ambition here. The set-up focuses Bushman’s compositional talents while the verve and vitality that he brings to the arrangements transmits fluently to the rest of the band.
Opener For Horace respectfully references the seminal sixties Blue Note vibes that permeate through the EP’s grooves. Reminiscent but not retro is the mantra with clear hints of Mr. Silver’s succinct, tight and cleanly drawn compositions but set amongst today’s dynamic language. Santana’s wristy conga beats set the tone for a bouncing latin-jazz hot stepper, crisply snared by Finn Booth’s stick-work and locked tighter with clipped guitar cross – rhythms. But it’s not all momentum, the twin brass adds that urban hustle while Bushman’s piano pulls you in with a bluesy undertow. As homages go it’s some announcement.
The EP’s title track, Silver Lines, takes the set’s catalytic inspiration and converts the fundamentals further, easing through some moody tempo shifts with an assurance and focus on continuity. From tingling electronica piano lines and shuffling broken beats to the sultry resolution of the horns, the tune hurtles to a swelling close where the trumpet and sax at last push to the surface. Bop to post-bop in an impressive six-minute summary.
Wherever you pitch up on this EP the rhythmic intent is matched with a deep melodic sensibility and that’s very Horace Silver. The mid-tempo We All Try sees the band’s brass pairing croon through a yearning song-line as an r n’ b sway shimmies beneath the harmonies. It’s emotive, a tune that manages to sound hopeful but not triumphant, wishful but in some ways also weary. The pure bop ballad I Know, You Know maintains the soulful intensity but with feelings somehow more exposed as the sax and trumpet tones gasp gently. Bushman’s solo stars, an empathic, blues bending lesson in how to keep a piece’s sensitivities in tact amidst the excitable runs and trills.
Perhaps the pivotal big band swinger Unit 31 sums up the reflective strengths of Raffy Bushman the composer which shape the narrative of this fine EP. Named after the influential London creative centre where he was musical director from 2016 to 2020, the track bubbles with the vibrancy of remembered live sessions. From elegant horn slides, to tip toeing piano and bass, to the frisky percussive pneumatics, this is unapologetically on the Jazz Messenger wavelength.
That faithfulness is a real strength that distinguishes ‘Silver Lines’ time and time again. Raffy Bushman’s music doesn’t need to scream at you and there’s no room for obliging experimentation on the collection. It’s a ‘straight no chaser’ approach that in today’s hybrid musical landscape feels remarkably fresh and guaranteed to revive.
Get your digital copy of ‘Silver Lines’ by Raffy Bushman direct from HERE