Following a banner year for Pete Cunningham, best known as dextrous saxophonist Ishmael and leader of the namesake Ishmael Ensemble, 2019 now brings debut album ‘A State Of Flow’. A longplayer that builds on Cunningham’s work as proud protector of Bristolian heritage sketching loving sonic pictures of the South West in his Bristol-inspired ‘Severn Songs’ series, whilst also incubating local visual and musical talent, within the Ensemble.
These endeavours have won him acclaim and support, not only from venerated musicians and broadcasters including Caribou, Gilles Peterson & Mary Anne Hobbs, but also the UK tastemaker press and attuned jazz fans - who voted a UK Jazz Special at the BBC’s Maida Vale featuring the Ensemble ‘Session of the Year’, at the Worldwide Awards.
The new album touches on various styles of jazz, stirring ambient invocations, club-ready percussive workouts, spiralling grooves & hazy psychedelic electronica. This would be a confusing melange, but for Cunningham’s excursions as a genre-agnostic DJ – something evident in the real house shuffle of ‘Lapwing’ – which evokes walking into a smoky after hours haunt and finding a session in full, forward motion or the organic garage beats of ‘Full Circle’ and nod to trip-hop in ‘Waterfall’ fuelled by Holysseus Fly’s honey toned and evocative vocals.
This album, borne of strong vision and stronger hometown pride, embellishes Ishmael Ensemble as one of the UK’s finest new groups. As shown across ‘A State of Flow’, the future of Bristol’s musical legacy is in more than capable hands.